Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Agua Nervioso

I arrived at the lodge after driving two hours south along a notoriously rough dirt road.  The lodge manager set me up with a wonderful Mexican omelet and introduced me to my guide, Manuel Esquivel. Manuel, a local Mayan and one of the most experienced guides in the region, evaluated my box of flies.

"Is going to be very hard today, my friend," he said. "The lagoon is like chocolate milk."

Manuel's statement came as no surprise.  The horizontal palm fronds, intense surf and inshore whitecaps I'd observed on the drive south from Puerto Aventuras painted a bleak picture. Booking a guided trip in February in the Yucatan - or almost anywhere in the tropics - is a roll of the dice.

I was hoping to catch some snook and baby tarpon.

"I will try my friend.  The tarpon, I think they will be gone.  The snook, perhaps, but is cold today. Maybe too cold.  I am sorry for the conditions."

We loaded up the panga and headed out into the lagoon. The wind was intense, but Manuel set us up at the north end of a mangrove stand so we could drift south along the beach. The tide was out, the mangrove roots were almost dry and the few snook we found were holding in a few inches of water along the sandbars.

I threw cockroaches and deceivers. We got a few follows, but I wasn't able to connect.

It became clear right away Manuel was an excellent guide.  Despite the less than ideal conditions, he worked his tail off to put me on fish.  He poled that panga all over the bay and lagoon in search of baby tarpon in wind-sheltered coves.

Hours went by.  No tarpon in sight. The snook still had lockjaw. 

We decided to switch gears altogether and try the bay, parking the boat on a small secluded creek outlet between two bonefish flats. The tide was rolling in and the sun began to warm things up.

Manuel pointed toward the creek outlet.

"Mira. Agua nervioso."

Finally, some fish on the feed.


We were able to salvage the afternoon and landed about a dozen fish.

Ready for some irony?

I spent hours searching for baby tarpon with one of the most experienced guides in the region and came up blank, so I packed up my fishing gear and headed north with my wife and son to an all-inclusive "eco-resort" near Playa del Carmen.  

Our hotel is located between a cenote (natural spring) and the beach.  Although the cenote is part of a nature preserve, I couldn't help but scope it out while crossing the foot bridge to our room.  

It is chock full of baby tarpon...and there isn't a thing I can do about it.


  1. I've only been on the Caribbean side of Mexico once and I wasn't fishing. Did a snorkel of a cenote and when it got to the sea there sat a 50-60 pound tarpon. First one I had ever seen.

    I feel your pain.

    1. Thanks man. Seems like they love to hang out anywhere fresh water meets the salt.

      Will be heading back soon - specifically for baby tarpon. Probably Holbox.