November 12 – 19, 2023 #37
ESB Lodge had a wonderful closing week here in the Jungle. Sad to say the end has arrived for the 2023 season. Joining us for the last hurrah was a crew of returning faces that make the yearly effort to squeak out the closer. It was a busy week for guests and the lodge. Chasing fish, slurping cocktails, and holding back the lodge crew as they sensed their seasonal freedom approaching fast. You as a guest would never know a wavering enthusiasm from my guides or staff. Whether it’s day 1 or day 266 we take it seriously and hold professionalism at its highest level.
I should have titled this report simply “SNOOK”. They’re here and it was a full-blown week of catching and seeing a lot of snook. Droves of fresh fish poured into the system and trickled through the northern shoreline from Santa Alena (Maria) down towards 3rd river. The freshwater in the system is getting much worse now as it continues to seep into the bay. Saving grace for the fishery was due to lower tides and mostly north winds to grant us protection and cleaner water in the north. You can see the lines of the red water working its way towards the mouth. I would say the bay is fishable from river two (maybe…) working east past river one and back north. Everything from river two down is unproductive and loaded with red water. Southside back east is appropriately blown out along with fresh water. Red lagoon is living up to its name and acts like a garden hose of freshwater that isn’t getting turned off any time soon.
This was probably one of the best weeks of snook fishing we’ve had in the past seasons. BIG fish, some over 20 pounds were landed. They worked through the mangroves and log debris as they continued with their migration. Steve Cart had one of those days/weeks we all dream of. He landed double digit snook multiple days, had plenty of shots, and was “tired” of catching too many snook one day. There was a debatable moment where he even considered taking a rest from the snook onslaught and hanging out at the lodge. Fisherman instincts and nice weather the following morning led him to a super slam last Friday. One guest enjoyed landing their first snook and quickly realized the respect these apex predators deserve. I expect the snook will continue to come in the following weeks and as the fresh water works out, we’ll see more come in. Close friend Terry got a personal best snook with guide Victor. Outside the bay closer to the lighthouse held the largest snook that were hunkered down in muddy water.
Tarpon are around milling in schools in the same areas we find the snook. It was a very solid week for juveniles, and everyone got to land a few. Mike and Ethan Scott ran down deep into river 5 despite freshwater and I quote saw a “metric – ton”. They don’t mind the fresh water as much and with very low tides and good light they beat them up pretty good with a gurgler. Using strong tidal rivers, you can feed line similar to a trout stream and lightly twitch the gurgler for a topwater explosion. I fished the last day with Steve and Fernando and we searched around the tarpon hotel. We didn’t see that many and came back outside the small cut. Fernando handed me a sandwich for lunch, and I noticed movement under the boat. A school of almost 100 tarpon had surrounded us. Sandwich went flying, cursing, some Cajun slang thrown in, created perfect pandemonium as we grabbed a rod and chased them. I was too rattled to do anything productive, can’t quite remember but I think I hooked my boatmate and sure as hell didn’t catch any of the tarpon. Fernando, a little disgruntled, suggested we try lunch again, very much to my relief. After lunch we circled back and harassed the tarpon that were doing laps. Between laps Steve and I stayed busy pounding a massive root ball that had big snook circling underneath. Chaotic desperation runs in my fishing veins and it’s an emotion I’ll never let go.
It was a great week to catch your fill of big bonefish, they were loaded on the northside and plenty of shots. You could fill your fishing days with seeing these fish move through river one back towards the boca. Skip and Rich had a wonderful afternoon picking off singles pushing though and landed an easy 25 bonefish. Terry also jumped on the bonefish wagon and had a few days with more than a dozen fish landed each session. Snook guru Steve Cart thought he had his sights on another snook cruising through the mangroves and realized it was a big bonefish hovering around 6 pounds. I was outside river 3 ½ the last day and we quickly patrolled the bank for snook and a solid 4 pound bone nailed my snook fly tied on 50 lb. It’d be a safe bet that the group landed multiple fish at 5 pounds or greater. You haven’t experienced ESB at its finest until you’ve rigged up a 7 weight and sniped these precious tailing fish.
Permit were nonexistent in the bay, and we found a small school outside along the north bank. It was a school of smaller fish, 10 pounds at the most and they were eager enough to eat smaller crabs. I would say the fishery needs another couple of weeks before we see permit show back up. I strongly encouraged guests to pass up chasing permit so they would chase other species that were healthy in numbers. The obvious benefit of ESB is our strength in diversity and when one fish becomes tough, we chase something else.
Our weather for the week started out with heavy rain and a low cloud cover. Midweek we welcomed clear skies, sun, and completely slicked out conditions. Last day started with some clouds and cleared up in the afternoon. Wind direction was mostly north and northwest. Tides were low in the am and returning in the afternoon.
Permit were landed on a small bead chain raghead color tan #4
Snook/Tarpon: Gurglers, toads, EP baitfish, EP peanut Butter. Hot colors were chartreuse/white, white/grey, everglades (light olive) black/purple.
Bonefish ate snook flies, shrimp patterns #2-#8, and small floating shrimp tied by Mike Scott.
Chef Luis and sous Chef Angel overfed the crew with delicious cuisine and we loaded up on our last night with the celebratory lobster dinner and homemade lava cake. Pancho kept the rooms clean and served breakfast and dinner. Emmanuel and Freddy kept the lodge up and running made sure everything stayed in working order.
That’s it for now with our season wrapping up. You’d laugh if you saw the mayhem around here. I can hear three different genres of Mexican music blaring from various Bluetooth speakers. The smell of fresh paint, Clorox, WD40, and gasoline fills the air as we begin checking the boxes of our breakdown list. Various banging noises erupt periodically as we shuffle around materials for upcoming repairs. Motors get their freshwater bath and Corrosion X spa in anticipation for next season. We’ll be back again before you know it to open for the 2024 season. I have a quick trip back to Michigan to have a beer with my dad, kiss my mother, swap bags and head to Patagonia for a few weeks prowling rivers and small streams laden with big trout. We did it again for another season and ESB knocked it out of the park. Chiara and I are so immensely proud of this place, and I thank our staff and hard-working guides and rock star managers. We stay humble and eternally grateful. I also thank our partner in crime, The Fly Shop staying solid and helping facilitate everything. We couldn’t do it without them.
I hope everyone enjoys some turkey and has wonderful holidays with family and friends. Stay true to yourself, get outside as much as you can and enjoy the great outdoors. Happy Holidays and we’ll see you next year!
“We have reached the time in the life of the planet, and humanity’s demand upon it, when every fisherman will have to be a river-keeper, a steward of marine shallows, a watchman on the high seas. We are beyond having to put back what we have taken out. We must put back more than we take out.” – Tom McGuane
From the best place in the Yucatan,
Saludos desde el Caribe Mexicano,
Dane, Chiara, Negri, Canela, Lucia