Baby Tarpon – Campeche, Mexico
I’m staring out the window dumbfounded by the 1 1/2 feet of snow and high winds. This time last week, we were spanking tarpon in Campeche, Mexico. The baby and juvenile tarpon fishing of Campeche is not a complete secret in the fly fishing world, but it deserves more recognition.
I heard about Campeche six years ago at a fly fishing show and vowed to visit one day. That trip happened last week beginning 6 December, not exactly prime time for the flocks of northern snowbirds, but it turned out to be well timed. We experienced the coldest early December ever in the Midwest and there we were, basking in 80 plus degrees and hammering fish. Further, the weather was excellent with light winds during our fishing time.
We booked through Tarpon Town Anglers and Raul Castaneda. This was the best guiding/outfitting service I’ve ever used – anywhere! Raul did everything in his power to ensure we had a pleasant stay and great fishing. The prices were reasonable and fishing was awesome. We stayed at the Ocean View Hotel and were dropped off right infront of the hotel each afternoon when done fishing.
The mornings would find us close to shore and the endless coastal mangroves, creeks and rivers, to sight fish for tailing/rolling baby tarpon in the 5 – 10 pound range. It was very much like bonefishing, visibly seeing moving fish and trying to intercept them with the fly rod. We hooked a bunch and landed a few – pretty typical with tarpon of any size. These fish required an eight weight fly rod with floating line since they were in 2 – 3 feet of water.
At midday we would move off shore if the winds were light (which they were 3 out of 4 days) and search for schools of larger juvenile fish. Our guide Juan was excellent at spotting fish and we found lots of moving fish each day. There fish required a nine or ten weight. I used a 10 NuCast Smokin’ Hot Fly Rod coupled with a new Blue Crush Saltwater Fly Reel (from NuCast). I found the ten very handy when trying to land these juveniles in a prompt fashion.
These off-shore fish go about 10 – 30 pounds and were extremely powerful. Just like their big brothers off the Florida coast, juveniles hit, jump and run like the big boys, but you can land them in 10 – 15 minutes and go back for more! Did I say land? We probably landed one our of every five fish we hooked in four days of fishing.
We probably averaged (my wife and I) hooking 15 – 20 fish per day and lost most of them. Raul says the months of January through May are best for big numbers, but we thought the fishing action was superb in the beginning of December. Flies were somewhat standard, including Red/White Deceiver, Black/Purple Death, Cockroach, Weighted Toad Flies (weighted w/barbell eyes), and Gurglers in Tan and White.
I can’t wait to go back again and many of my friends are licking their chops after hearing stories and watching some of our videos.