October 29 – November 05, 2023 #35
Another week flew by for us on the beach. Hard to believe we’re in the last couple weeks of the 2023 season. Hopefully everyone is still enjoying some leftover Halloween candy. Always buy more than enough (extra) for your visiting trick or treaters. While we don’t have much in the way of costumes or festivities here, I bought myself a bag of candy to keep up. Chiara and I wrapped up a couple quick days over in the Bahamas to check out the fishery and see the wonders of Crooked Island. It’s a special place with little pressure, fewer people, and a ridiculous amount of delicious Bahamian fried delights. This is a recipe that I think any diehard angler would enjoy. We look forward to future collaboration and hosting in this part of the Caribbean.
We joined up with returning guests last week on Thursday and it was great to catch up with another group of close ESB patrons. We had two Brians, two Roberts, Mike, Dennis, and close friend Jim Rector for our fishing days.
Our fishing, or most fishing relies completely at the mercy of mother nature. While we usually stay optimistic about forecasts, realities come forth and settle in. The entire Yucatan region as well as where we visited in the Bahamas is getting hit with tough conditions. Rain with more rain, and an extra side of rain. Tiny slivers of any light in the sky are greeted with another rainy onslaught. We’ve been in a drought for much of the year and seems the order is finally up and we’re trying to make up for lost time and lack of water. There’s plenty of water, the jungle stays saturated, and frankly I wish it would just stop raining. The last two weeks have experienced heavy rains, and it doesn’t look like it’s letting up any time soon. I’m in Mahahual as I write this report waiting for guests to arrive by ground transport. From there we hand off and load clients up and continue the drive up to the lodge. Our normal charter flight was cancelled due to the weather, which of course adds a nice logistical hiccup. You can’t have it all.
The beginning of the week wasn’t great but manageable. Monday was mostly cloudy with isolated pockets of rain and little visibility. Jim Rector knocked off a super grand slam with guide Alex. Nothing new there with that combination. The rest of the group saw a few permit but not many. Most permit are deep in the backcountry river systems on the northside. Ensenada bay is a staging ground for a few fishing moving through. Tabascanoes southwest has pushes of bigger singles in shallow water, but it translates to a long day staring into the grey abyss hoping for a permit to expose itself with nervous water. This isn’t a great time of year for permit but I would say we are below our weekly average and this obviously comes from weather patterns. We need consistency to see them let their guard down and stack on the flats in typical permit fashion. Too many swirling weather patterns, varying winds, and tides that seem to have gone off the rails with even highs and lows. When things level out these fish will return but it’ll take time. With the amount of freshwater pulsing through the system this will become tougher for chasing permit and bonefish. This is a truthful statement and while it doesn’t paint a pretty fishing forecast it’s honest. The point of any semi-informative report states facts and conditions not a greased sales pitch of how good it is. You can’t have some good without the bad I suppose. Even the best permit fishery in the western world hits a wall at some point. Perhaps it’s Mother Nature’s way of keeping things in check and I believe she’s also fighting to maintain a healthy balance.
We were able to grab a few bonefish here and there with most fish located on a higher tide. Inside river one to the mouth holds the normal small schoolies that bring that needed “tug”. River three and inside river 4 hold bigger fish. Mixed winds allowed us a brief shot at Rio Locos (river 3 ½). Bigger fish reside here, and you have the shot at legitimate monster Yucatan bonefish. There’s not many but they patrol the short mangrove lined flats working against the tide as food passes through. Robert and Robert were chasing snook/tarpon and what they thought was a small tarpon turned into a monster bonefish over 8 pounds. They’re here, hard to find, but nonetheless a true trophy. I can make myself hoarse trying to explain the incredible bonefish we have. Often, they become overshadowed by permit, tarpon, and snook. Bonefish in my opinion stay the backbone of any healthy flats fishery and they are the heroes of Espiritu Santo. A couple weeks ago we saw some pushes of big bonefish northside around the small lobster village. I’m sure they’re still trickling in, but it’s been a little off. This upcoming week we’ll continue to work bonefish northside and we’ll have to take advantage of a higher tide that can keep some of the freshwater stacked and not leaking in.
We had low tides at different times throughout the week, and I was glad to see a decent enough fall that let us chase snook and tarpon. The north river systems stay the stronghold, Tarpon hotel, and small creeks down by 4 and 5 have some fish moving through. Flamingo bay on the southside is a great option now when we can get access. I hope we have some more tidal fluctuations that can flush these fish out to exposed area to place a fly. No fish here like freshwater but tarpon and snook don’t seem to mind the brackish transition zones. It does get to a point where the baitfish can’t handle the fresh and when they vanish so do the tarpon and snook.
As the week wore on the weather got worse. Starting Wednesday through the remainder of the week we didn’t have a day where all the boats finished at 5:00 PM. Beaten, soaked, and cold turned into an early day that became highlighted by a warm shower and a drink. Weirdly enough some of my coldest fishing days have been on tropical flats that get pummeled by unexpected temp drops and driving rain. You never see those images displayed in magazines. One of the frustrating things was the difficulty of crossing the bay with big water and tough winds. When we couldn’t cross, we were stuck with staying close to the boat launch and fishing around the red lagoon system. Red lagoon was dubbed “dead” lagoon, and this came from way too much freshwater leaking through. This lagoon system is the lungs of the bay and stays connected through channels and wetlands almost 12 miles south. When rain piles freshwater in the estuaries it leaches out through Red Lagoon. Saturday greeted us with more tough conditions, and I called off the day of fishing much to the relief of guests. It gets to a point where you ask yourself how much is worth it to punish yourself for a couple hopeful shots at any sign of life. We called and got the heads up our plane would/could be cancelled. Fearing the road conditions to the lodge we snorkeled through and had guests overnight in Mahahual to get an early morning start to Cancun.
Solo permit was landed on a small raghead #2
Tarpon and snook hit toads, EP baitfish, and small sardine imitations.
Bonefish ate any small shrimp pattern sizes #2 – #8
Needlefish flashed at anything and pelicans nipped tarpon offerings that were false casted too much.
Mike enjoyed his first triggerfish on a small bonefish shrimp.
WEATHER & TIDES:
Strong rains and heavy cloud cover dictated most of the week’s weather patterns and higher am tide with an afternoon fall. Winds swirled mostly northeast to east.
Chef Luis and sous chef Angel kept us well fed with our normal delicious cuisine. Emmanuel and Freddy kept the grounds tidy and in working order.
I’d like to take a moment to give thanks to our head manager Martin. He grabbed our shuttle van early this morning heading to Cancun for some much-needed R&R. He’ll hang out for a couple days before he takes off to Patagonia to unfold another seasonal page. Turn and burn in this profession. One week standing thigh deep in puddles on the road and then the following week sitting in a drift boat with guests on the Collon Cura River. Martin is an amazing individual whose pain threshold is higher than anyone I know in the world of remote managing. Entertainer, MacGyver, and a Nobel peace prize candidate are a few ways to describe him. I give my deepest and sincerest thanks; our gratitude extends miles and the appreciation to carry the torch we lit at ESB. I’ll see him soon enough where we’ll be camping and fishing on some remote river in Patagonia. I look forward to the red wine, asados, and trout looking up.
Our crew is coming in hot with ground transportation and after we have a quick bite in Mahahual we’ll snorkel up to the lodge for another week. The weather looks grim, but I’ll share that any day with the incoming guests. Hard to call them guests at this point, multiple trips having created lifelong friends.
If it swims, we’ll catch it and if we don’t, we’ll sure give it hell.
I’m confident will have some great moments on the bay chasing whatever we can get ourselves into. In the meantime, check in with our friends at The Fly Shop to get the latest happening in our neck of the woods or to check another destination you have in mind. Stay safe, get outside, and enjoy your week. In due time we’ll rally again for the next fishing report.
From a very special place in the Yucatan,
Saludos desde el Caribe Mexicano,
Dane & Chiara