Fisherman Magazine | by C. Boyd Pfeiffer
Costa de Cocos Variety Pack
My wife Brenda cast the spoon, the lure making a long low-trajectory arc through the Mexico sky, landing in the open water far from shore. She started to retrieve. I was concentrating on catching, or trying to catch, one of the large snook cruising the mangroves along the shore where we drifted. I shouldn't have bothered. Minutes later, Brenda "whooped." The light-spinning rod bent into an arc and the line started to sing. Barracuda! Running circles and half circles around the boat, the cuda swam, jumped, danced and raced along the surface, typical cuda action, but bringing new meaning to the word fun while fishing .. Brenda grinned, and played the fish.
It was her first barracuda during her first trip to Mexico, and our first experience at Costa de Cocos, the southernmost camp you can find on the Yucatan peninsula and still be in Mexico. Near the boat, our capable guide Alberto Palomo grabbed the line and reached for the tail of the fish. With his other hand he lifted the belly of the big fish and we posed for pictures. It wasn't a whale, but it wasn't a shrimp either, about 3 feet of muscle and action with a big smile full of teeth at the front end. After photos, we released it.
The barracuda was just one of a variety of fish that we caught in our weeklong trip, using both fly and spinning gear. The location boasts a lot of fishing in a small area, although. that small area borders the huge Chetumal Bay that is on the border of Mexico and Belize. There are 35 named flats, numerous unnamed ones, the breakers over the Turneffe Islands reef only a half mile off shore, and a maze of inlets, species, there are the aforementioned barracuda, bonefish, permit, tarpon and snook. And that does not take into account the mix of reef species such as grouper, more cuda, rock hind and red hind, yellowtail snapper, and who knows what of tropical species that are rooting around in the coral. Our thrust and emphasis was more on the shallow water species, throwing flies and bonefish jigs to bonefish, trying cuda with spoons, fishing snook and tarpon with jigs and flies.
While a fly-fishing mecca, this luxurious camp also caters to any fisherman interested in light tackle and big fish. Camp owner David Randall bought five acres here in 1988, started a dive camp and moved here permanently in 1989. He added fly-fishing and light tackle sport just eight years ago. The results have been spectacular, and this might be one of the best spots in the tropics to go for big bonefish to 14 pounds, such as the one that Will Bower of California caught in 1998. There are larger fish, and catches during a week of fishing often include several bonefish in the 7 to 8-pound range. Typical flat, skinny-water bonefish jigs in basic colors such as tan, brown, yellow; chartreuse, and pink work well, along with flies from sizes 2 through 8 in the same colors. There are also huge permit, taken on crabs or jigs or crab flies, depending upon whether you are using spinning or fly tackle. Snook are also a favorite target, cruising the mangroves and ranging from a few pounds up to the camp record of 22 pounds. Tarpon come in two sizes: the smaller from 5 to 35 pounds found in the lagoons and coves, and huge tarpon from 150 to 200 pounds for those with the guts and willingness to risk their spinning or casting tackle. These monsters are found in a blue-hole pocket in the middle of the reef, only a few minutes south of the camp.
You can fish from the wide and open casting platforms in the bow and stem of the stable pangas, or get out and wade, searching the flats for bonefish and permit. Both methods have advantages. The boat fishing offers a higher vantage point from which to spot fish, while wading allows easiest, more perfect position to present a fly or light jig to the fish without the possibility of scaring them with the boat. Most of the skinny water flats and shorelines favored by bonefish and some permit are best fished by wading. Most of the deeper muds where large schools of bone fish feed, or the deeper water where larger permit, tarpon and snook reside, are best fished from the boat.
While I concentrated on fly-fishing, Brenda mixed her weapons, taking bonefish on jigs as well as flies and trying for snook and tarpon on spinning gear.
We favored light spinning tackle with rods of 7 feet freshwater or light saltwater size reels spooled with 10-pound test line. You can also try casting gear, which would be far better on the reef and a must for the big tarpon. Casting gear ~ works fine for the small tarpon (to 35 pounds) and the bigger snook and cuda. For that stout rods, wide spool reels for the line capacity and 20-pound test line is best. But if there is a secret to this shallow water fishing it is in spotting fish. That's where a good guide comes in. Our Guide, Alberto Palomo, almost seemed to sense fish, more than see them. Or at least he could see fish long before I, looking at the same ?pot, could see anything but water. Bonefish will typically look lighter or darker than the shallow bottom, or if in very shallow water, will show their tails as they feed on crustaceans or: the b0tt:0m: Permit are similar, but the long dorsal fin along With the tail will show two fins out of the water instead of the one with bonefish. Tarpon can often be spotted rolling on the surface, gulping air. Snook are usually the dark shapes that lurk under the mangroves that lace the shorelines. The best time to schedule a fishing trip here depends in part on what you wish to catch. Bonefish are best from March through July. Permit, often fished for at the same time as bonefish, are best from March through May. Look for the best in tarpon fishing in June and July, and the best snook fishing at the tail end of the year, November and December. But you can catch all of these species, along with snappers and a host of reef fish, all year round.
The big plus of this type of fishing is the opportunity to take big fish on tackle that you would ordinarily use for catching a yellow perch, largemouth bass, croaker or shad. Best of all, it is in an idyllic setting warm in the winter, not overly hot in the summer, with cool tropical breezes, food that is outstanding (four course meals for dinner) and with a pleasant staff that will cater to your every whim. It is not so much a fishing trip as a vacation, but then that is what fishing is supposed to be anyway, isn't it?
The Fisherman Magazine