Bonefish, Tarpon and permit, the three most coveted game fish in Caribbean fly fishing, and if you have a little luck, and a career day, you can catch all three in the Costa Maya area. Do it, and you can claim the crown jewel of salt water fly fishing, the Caribbean Gram Slam. This is a dream fishing trip that all hard core fly fishermen aspire too, but only a very small few, ever accomplish. Its hard enough to even catch one, much less all three, but no matter, a guy can dream, can’t he?
In the Costa Maya area, that dream is a little easier to fulfill, because in our waters here at the tip of the peninsula, where because of its unique geography, the angler actually has a much better chance of having that dream day. That is why so many hard core fly anglers travel the long trek from the Cancun airport, to visit the Costa Maya as a fishing destination, staying for several days, and all the while, hoping for that special one day. Many of the cruise ship passengers however do not know that they too can take a shot at that same dream day, as a ship excursion. You just have to know how to do that and lucky you, I know just the guys, and so fly fisherman, and fisherwomen like Natalie who often out fish their guy, listen up.
Costa De Cocos “Fisherwoman”
So first, why is the area so ripe for someone to catch all three of the grand slam fish? First is the location. At the tip of the Costa Maya shore line is a small fishing village called Xcalak, about a 45 minute drive from the cruise ship port in Mahahual. Xcalak is located in a marine preserve area, where any commercial activity, including sport fishing, is limited and heavily regulated. If you are fishing the waters off Xcalak, you can be sure, you will be one of the very few that day. It also just happens to be at the mouth of Chetumal Bay, the shallow waters between Mexico and Belize, and the perfect habitat for bonefish, making it one of the western Caribbean’s very best blue ribbon waters. Xcalak’s protected waters, provide an extension of that perfect habitat for bonefish. More fish, more chances!
Chetumal Bay Bonefish
The subterranean make-up of the shore lines in that same area, are limestone, and have large porous openings that connect the ocean with the wetland mangroves that surround the Xcalak area. These openings provide conduits for the mangrove’s nutrients to exchange with the ocean and also tunnels for tarpon to migrate in and out of the mangroves to feed. The result is there is a large amount of tarpon activity in the same general area. Again, more fish, more chances.
Guide David Randall With Permit!
As I said, for Caribbean fly-fishing, a Grand Slam is catching a bonefish, tarpon and permit, all in one day of fishing. However, there is something called The International Game Fish Association (IGFA) and they define an “Inshore Grand Slam” as catching any three of the following species on the same day: bonefish, tarpon, permit, or snook. Having said that, the Western Caribbean has one of the heaviest populations of both permit and snook, and very large ones at that!
Costa Maya Tarpon
Snook live their early live’s in the wetland mangroves around Xcalak, and then migrate into the ocean from there. Permit, also in the entire western Caribbean, prefer shallow waters and away from non-natural activity, which causes them to actually migrate to places like Xcalak, where the preserve designation provides the more tranquil shallow reef waters they prefer.
So yes, if you put all these variables together, you can see why fly fishing the Xcalak area is where you go if you are really good and want to take a shot at actually getting that Grand Slam. And yes, you can come to the Costa Maya area for a cruise ship day visit, and get in a full day of fishing, if you do it with a company that knows how to both, fish the waters, and navigate the hour trip to and from the port, to Xcalak. David Randall and his guys over at the Costa De Coco’s Eco-Resort are just those guys.
David’s fly-fishing service has been in the area for longer than we’ve had iguanas and paved roads, so if anyone knows how to fish the area, it is him and his team. Read about him here in one of many published articles about David’s place. http://www.costadecocos.com/articles/index.html His cabana lodge is located on the edge of Xcalak, and right on some of the very best fly fishing most will ever fish, right off their shore. The shallow calm reefs are a great place to start your day. From there, it is just a few minutes ride into the wetland mangroves for the tarpon or snook, or over to Chetumal Bay for a school of bones, so if you catch the permit early, your chances just went way up for the slam!
David’s service includes a curb side driver to and from the port, as well as the guide and all the gear you’ll need. They charge $400 US for a boat with two fishing, or $200 each. For a single person, it is $300. They have been transporting cruise ship anglers for many years, so no worry, they know how to do both; how to put you on fish, but also, how to get you back and forth easily and safely. A driver meets you outside the port, and drives you the hour trip, mostly all along an inland paved road that travels the mangrove jungle shoreline, with the last few miles through the little village and to the Costa De Cocos Hotel/ Restaurant and Micro-Brewery. Yes, as if catching the Grand Slam is not enough, capping the day with locally made cold craft beer or artisan aged whiskey, and a great lunch, will make it even better! It is also a great place for “fishing widows” to hang out if they want to go, but not fish. They do a great snorkel trip through the manatee preserve area many like to do and then meet back at Cocos when the fishermen return for lunch and some cold micro-brew beers.. Really good day for anyone, not just the fly fisherman.
To do Xcalak fishing as a cruise ship excursion, your ship needs to be in port at least 6 hours. The longer your ship is in though, the more enjoyable your day will be if you plan to leave as soon as you dock, and not return until your required time. There is plenty to do at the Cocos if you have some extra time, that’s for sure. So if you want to take a shot at the big ‘un, the Grand Slam of fly fishing, contact David at his private email, firstname.lastname@example.org and set up a fishing day when you are in Costa Maya for a day. Or contact me, and I can set you up as well. (I talk to David a lot, since I order my beer and whiskey from him too!)
Keep your lines tight and your drinks cold. Cheers!