Tarpon Cay Lodge Report – Rio Lagartos Estuary – Yucatan

This is our latest onsite report for Tarpon Cay Lodge which is located in a very remote region of northern Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula. To see the full cycle of a tarpon’s life, from baby tarpon found in the back creeks and ponds, to the juveniles in the mangrove estuaries, and the larger fish near the Gulf is a unique opportunity for any dedicated angler.  If you are interested in tarpon fishing at Tarpon Cay Lodge in the Yucatan peninsula between Parque Natural San Felipe and Rio Lagartos Estuary – read on!

Tarpon Cay Lodge

Marco casting at a tarpon along a magrove shorline

I am relaxing on the upper balcony of the four-story Hotel San Felipe admiring the view of this Yucatan fishing harbor and Gulf of Mexico. A cool sea breeze and the sound of the sea create a tranquil sensation in this paradise. Soon, I will be making the drive to the western side of the Yucatan peninsula near Campeche and indulge in the fishing there.

It is difficult to leave this picturesque place. Amazing beautiful, is still isolated from the rest of the modern world. San Felipe is a small port town located on the northern Yucatan’s mangrove coast and is accessible only by long winding roads through the Yucatan countryside.

The unique topography of the northern Yucatan peninsula is low-lying and almost flat land with a thin crust of soil. The jagged porous lime rock base protrudes everywhere.

If you look at a map of the Yucatan showing surface features such as rivers, ponds, hills and valleys, you’ll notice that the northern peninsula’s has no inland rivers at all, but it does have many sinkholes, called cenotes.  In The Yucatan, underground water drains relentlessly in underground caverns dissolved by rainwater, from the inland region toward the coasts. This water originates far away in the Peninsula’s interior and creates a unique ecosystem. There are thousands of cenotes in the northern Yucatan. Inland the cenotes may create a spring-fed pond, lake or swamp. When the freshwater sinkholes are located near shore, or off the coastline, the local people call them “ojo de agua”, or eye of the water. I call them fish magnets which create a center of attraction for various species and you will find them here.

Tarpon Cay Lodge

There are countless little tarpon like this in the low areas surrounding San Felipe. Friends gather these little guys up during the dry season and place them safely in the mangroves.

If you have fished Ascension Bay or Espiritu Santo Bay you know what I am talking about, as there are dozens of fresh water sinkholes in the back bays (there are also saltwater  tidal “blow holes”, but we will talk about that another time).

The fishery in this region offers incredible opportunities. This is tarpon country and they come in all sizes here. From itty-bitty babies to juveniles to giants, they all live here in the estuaries of the mangrove lined lagoons, clear turtle grass flats near shore and mysterious deep water places offshore. To see the full cycle of a tarpon’s life, from babies found in the back creeks and ponds,  to the juveniles in the mangrove estuaries, and the larger fish near the Gulf is a unique opportunity for any dedicated angler.

San Felipe is straddled by two of the most beautiful Biosphere Reserves in the world, Parque Natural San Felipe which extends more than 20 miles to the west and Rio Lagartos which extends more than 30 miles to the east. The reserves have similar eco-regions; clear turtle grass flats transitioning to mangrove lined lagoons and coastal wetlands, and dry upland forests.

You will find the four major Caribbean mangroves species here. Near shore the water has a slight tannin stain which is derived from decaying mangrove stems and leaves. Mangroves are vital to the whole inshore ecological community as they provide habitat and shelter to many species from the bottom of the food chain to the top.

The mangrove estuaries are loaded with baby and juvenile tarpon. This region is also home hundreds bird species including Flamingos, Roseate Spoonbill, Osprey, Pelicans, Frigates, Gulls, Egrets, Grackle, and Chachalaca. You may also encounter White-tail Deer, the elusive Jaguar, Margay, Coati, Gray Fox, and numerous other Yucatan mammals.  And, there are many reptiles here including various turtles, Iguanas and a small population of crocodiles.

Tarpon Cay Lodge

Mangroves in the northern Yucatan – look close

The fishing program for Tarpon Cay Lodge centers on the Hotel San Felipe which is situated harbor side in the center of this small fishing village. The hotel is not fancy, but it is clean, comfortable and well appointed. The air-conditioned rooms are more than adequate for two guests with two double beds, and private bath with shower.

Your host at the Hotel is Veto or “Bee-tow” for English speakers. With any new experience there is a feeling of unfamiliarity and uncertainty. Veto will immediately put you at ease and make you feel like you are with friends and family. You can travel here by yourself and never feel alone. I asked Veto where he learned English. Veto told me he watched a lot of American movies, especially Arnold Schwarzenegger Terminator movies. “Hasta la vista, baby” he quoted!

Veto’s main duty at the Hotel is chief chef, but he also joins in at bartending and serving. During Veto’s off time he is delighted to show you around the town and country side. Veto make take you to a cenote to fish for mojarra, a sightseeing trip to Rio Lagartos, let you lend a hand rescuing stranded baby tarpon, or take you to a bull fight, which is quite a cultural event in the Yucatan.

Tarpon Cay Lodge’s peak season is May through August.  The weather is calm and the tarpon are usually plentiful.  Tarpon Cay Lodge, like its sister Lodge, Isla del Sabalo, is a fly fishing lodge developed for one purpose and that is fishing for tarpon and offers some of the best tarpon angling available today. These fish are largely undisturbed and will respond to most well-presented flies. There are other fish available here including jacks, snappers, barracudas, spotted sea trout and snook, however consider those as a bonus species.

The fertile waters of Mexico’s northern Yucatan Peninsula represent one of the most productive juvenile tarpon fisheries in the world. Tarpon Cay Lodge is relatively inexpensive, easy to get to, and very compatible to light tackle and fly fishing.

Tarpon Cay Lodge

Veto will take good care of you while you visit Tarpon Cay Lodge

For a remote destination experience offering a pure unspoiled tarpon fishery, look no further than Tarpon Cay Lodge.  The clear grass flats and backcountry lagoons provide extraordinary fishing opportunities.

The rate for a 7 Night / 6 Day combo package is $3,295 per angler (double occupancy). This will include all transfers in a new air-conditioned  Chevy Express Super Van (seats eight including our bilingual host and driver), Lodge accommodations, meals and guided fishing.  Not included is airfare to Cancun or Merida, alcoholic beverages, and tips for the guide and staff.

See additional rate information here. You will find some additional photos on our facebook page which will give you an idea of the size of the Yucatan tarpon.

If you have been there then you know already, if you haven’t been, then go now! Just remember, Edward Johnston told you so……….Book now for the rest of this year and/or reserve your spot in 2013. Please feel free to call us with any questions you may have.

Call us now at 800-771-2202 or 352-795-3474.

 Edward Johnston 

Leisure Time Travel – Your best and most knowledgeable choice for fishing the Caribbean

Leisure Time Travel Inc.

531 N. Citrus Ave.

Crystal River, Florida 34428

352-795-FISH (3474) 1-800-771-2202

 

All Photgraphs by Edward R. Johnston

Copyright © 2012 Edward R. Johnston & Leisure Time Travel, Inc. 1996-2012

San Felipe

View SW from Hotel San Felipe

Isla del Sabalo Lodge Report – Campeche Mexico

This is our latest onsite report for Isla del Sabalo Lodge which is located in a very remote region of northern Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula. The fishery in this region offers incredible opportunities for tarpon. If you are interested in tarpon fishing Isla del Sabalo Lodge in the Yucatan peninsula near Campeche Mexico read on:

A fine Campeche tarpon, up close.

It’s just after dawn and I’m sitting under a thatch-roofed palapa looking out onto the calm-as-glass water in a fishing village just north of the town of Campeche Mexico. After breakfast we will load up the van and make the drive back to the International Airport.

It does not take long for your senses to adjust to the solitude and the vast open spaces of the northern Yucatan. The sky so blue, layers of clouds moving different speeds, and the clear waters carve a setting unlike any you have set eyes on.

I have enjoyed a wonderful week of tarpon fishing here and I am reflecting on the things I have seen, the fine people I have met and of course the great fishing.

Isla del Sabalo until recently wasn’t on the chart of many anglers. The lodge is located in a remote region on the western side of the Yucatan Peninsula north of Campeche.

The tall thick mangrove forests found here is reminiscent of the heart of the Florida Everglades. And like the Everglades, there are many pristine rivers flowing out of the mangrove jungle.  It’s a beautiful area with abundant wildlife. You will find many species of birds, turtles, fish, two species of crocodiles, but most importantly, the area is home to lots of small tarpon.

Marco and Edward with a double hook-up to tarpon.

The fertile waters of Mexico’s northern Yucatan Peninsula are one of the most productive juvenile tarpon fisheries on the planet and the local waters here are abundant with tarpon. The grass flats are crystal clear and will remind the seasoned angler of the classic tarpon fishing at Homosassa or perhaps places in the Florida Keys or Biscayne Bay. The peak season at Isla del Sabalo is like most other tarpon destinations is May through August, although there is a good tarpon fishery in the many unspoiled rivers here year-round.

Each morning we would turn out of bed before sunrise. Hot coffee and a Mexican breakfast would be waiting for us in the main dining palapa.  After breakfast we would load our fishing gear into the spacious 18 foot panga’s and make the run to the prime fishing zone. We did not have any trouble finding the fish. Each morning the “poons” were there, rolling, jumping and smashing bait fish.

An 8 or 9 weight fly rod is all you need here and the tarpon are eager to consume a well-presented fly. The great thing about this vast undisturbed fishery is that you should have plenty of opportunities to hook fish.

 

Marco and Edward with a fine pair of tarpon

You will find some additional photos on our facebook page which will give you an idea of the size of the Yucatan tarpon.

The accommodations at Isla del Sabalo are situated on the beach facing the Gulf of Mexico. The clean guest rooms are comfortable and well appointed with plenty of room for two guests sharing a cabin. There is a full private bath with shower and hot and cold water.

Housekeeping service cleans the room daily and replaces towels and bottled drinking water.

If you have been there then you know already, if you haven’t been, then go now! Just remember, Edward Johnston told you so……….Book now for the rest of this year and/or reserve your spot in 2013. Call us now at 800-771-2202 or 352-795-3474.

***

Fly-fishing the Yucatan for tarpon is as good as it gets.  The rate for a 7N/6D combo package is $3,295.00 per angler (double occupancy). This will include all transfers in a new air-conditioned Ford Super Van (seats eight including our bilingual host and driver), Hotel accommodations, meals and guided fishing.  Not included is airfare to Cancun, alcoholic beverages, and tips for the guide and staff.

Additional rate information is located here:

Please feel free to call us with any questions you may have.

Edward Johnston

 

Leisure Time Travel – Your best and most knowledgeable choice for fishing the Caribbean

Leisure Time Travel Inc.

531 N. Citrus Ave.

Crystal River, Florida 34428

352-795-FISH (3474) 1-800-771-2202

All Photgraphs by Edward R. Johnston

Copyright © 2012 Edward R. Johnston & Leisure Time Travel, Inc. 1996-2012

Cenote near Isla del Sabalo

Cenote near Isla del Sabalo – I was informed by my guide that this particular cenote drains directly into one of the little creeks where we fished.

 

 

A Week at Casa Blanca Lodge

Edward Johnston, of Leisure Time Travel, has visited the Ascension Bay area in the Yucatan peninsula twenty-nine times in the past twenty years and has caught 80 permit with a fly rod at Ascension Bay. Edward Johnston is very familiar with Casa Blanca, Pesca Maya and Grand Slam Deluxe Fly Fishing Lodge which are located at Ascension Bay, and Playa Blanca and Casa Redonda Suites, both which access Ascension Bay and the remote Espiritu Santo Bay.

At Leisure Time Travel, we’re committed to seeing that our anglers are in the right place, at the right time, on their dream fish. Why take chances with your precious time? We’ve been there numerous times. There is no substitute for first-hand experience.

 The folks at Casa Blanca as always were great. Our story below:

Casa Blanca Lodge Dolphin Super Skiff

Casa Blanca Lodge Dolphin Super Skiff ready to go fishing

Ascension Bay offers the angler one of the best places in the world to catch a permit on the fly and is one of the finest saltwater flats’ fisheries in the world. Ascension Bay has a rare combination of environmental ingredients which create the ideal foundations for an abundance of wildlife. The flats of Ascension Bay are surrounded by a series of small freshwater springs and creeks which feed the brackish mangrove estuaries. These areas are used as feeding grounds for flats and reef species. Along the coast, a complex chain of submerged islands and little cays provide the ideal habitat for a shallow-water coral ecosystem. The coral heads absorb the brunt of the pounding waves, which creates a tranquil setting in the flats even if the outside ocean is rough. The crystal clear waters offer Permit, Bonefish, Tarpon, Snook, and a host of other species.

Ms. Noini with a nice Ascesnion Bay permit

Our group “Team Homosassa”, led by Edward Johnston of Leisure Time Travel visited Casa Blanca at Ascension Bay during the month of November a few years ago. Despite the fact that three days of fishing were hampered by strong northeast winds and a cold front “Team Homosassa” caught thirty very large permit

THE STORY
 

ARRIVAL DAY – The undulating coast line of the Yucatan peninsula became visible from about 100 miles out in the Boeing 757.  As we neared Cancun the Caribbean water colors stair cased from the deepest blue, to azure, to aquamarine, to palest green where the waters lap the famous coral sand beaches.

The first breath of Gulf air became fact. The warmth of the Caribbean was apparent. Once through customs we were quickly back into the air to our final destination, Ascension Bay. Soft trade wind clouds floated in a clear blue sky. Islands appeared with luxuriant vegetation shading white sand beaches.

A fine rain scattered on the windshield as we started our decent toward Casa Blanca. The water below was a myriad of turquoise and blues. We could see palm trees spread far along the shore. The coral reef edged deep blue water. The lumbering Cessna Caravan landed at Punta Pajaros (Pa-ha-row-s) just a short distance from the lodge. “Team Homosassa” was on the ground. Fourteen eager anglers were ready to tangle with all Ascension Bay had to offer, especially the wily permit.

DAY ONE – Our first fishing November day was great. The sky was clear and the weather was very nice with warm temperatures and a prevailing wind. Our group caught eleven permit that day.

DAY TWO – A cold front moved in slowed things down. The wind changed to the northeast and started too blown hard. Thunder clouds spread over the whole heaven and only occasionally was the sky clear. Light showers in the afternoon became torrential the evening. We caught two permit.

DAY THREE – A Total blow out. It rained hard and steady. The wind was so high it was extremely difficult to fish. No permit. We did have a great party that night!

DAY FOUR – The wind was still from the northeast but staring to slow down a bit. The temperature had dropped considerably from the beginning of our week. The main bay was still muddy from the turbulence, but there were areas of clear water. We caught three permit.

DAY FIVE – The morning was fresh. The clouds parted and the sun burst through. There was still a mild breeze from the northeast but the water cleared and the tide was right. Most of the casting was into the wind, but we caught 11 permit. All the permit caught on this day were big fish. Most of the permit were in the 15-20 pound range, but one was in the mid-thirties and another whopper permit was approximately 40 pounds. An exceptionally good day.

Phil Clark and Tomas with a nice Ascension Bay permit

Phil Clark and Tomas with a nice Ascension Bay permit

DAY SIX – Last day. The wind shifted to the west with a mild breeze. There were plenty of permit but they were very spooky. We caught three permit one of which was well more than thirty pounds.

CONCLUSION

I would consider this an average fall week at Ascension Bay. Sometimes you will get balmy weather for weeks at a time, but this is fall and cold fronts affect the Caribbean. The angler rarely gets perfect weather for the entire trip. I tell my clients if you get more than three good days of fishing out of six this time of the year you are lucky.

We woulkd like to arrange your next trip to Casa Blanca, Playa Blanca or one of the other fine lodges at Ascension or Espiritu Santo Bay. Remember, there is no substitute for first-hand experience.

Tight lines !

Edward Johnston

 Leisure Time Travel – Your best and most knowledgeable choice for fishing the Caribbean

Leisure Time Travel Inc.
531 N. Citrus Ave.
Crystal River, Florida 34428
352-795-FISH (3474)
1-800-771-2202

All photographs by Edward R. Johnston
Copyright © 2012 Edward R. Johnston & Leisure Time Travel, Inc. 1996-2012