Your day of fishing starts with your either being picked up at your dock or meeting Alex or your booked guide in town along the oceanfront. All boats are located within a few hundred yards of one another and whether you are fishing with Alex or one of the other guides the boats are easy to find. A typical fishing day has you departing Xcalak at 8:00 AM and returning to Xcalak around 4:00. The boat ride to the fishing grounds lies less than 30 minutes away.
WHAT TO EXPECT DURING A DAY OF FISHING
Anything! Alex is a big proponet of “Luck Favors the Prepared”. You might see schools of permit making their way across the flats, you may see multiple big Barracudas closely behind them. You may come across a 6# bonefish when you least expect it or run in to a solo tarpon or snook in a back bay! Jacks will pop up at a moments notice and demand a quick cast.
If you want to bring 4 rods fully rigged with you a day (Bone, Permit, Tarpon/Snook, Cuda), bring em! You wanna bring a spinning rod rigged with a Cuda lure for in between Permit sightings, bring it! You want Alex to carry your Permit rod while you wade for Bonefish, of course!
You will be out in the heat and hydrating is key to your enjoyment of a good day. Drink at least 3-4 liters of water a day. You will be provided with 2 liters of water fishing with Alex, feel free to bring more or even bring a sports drink (Or go buy some Gatorade powered to travel with and add some to your water bottles).
Nothin is cooler than getting home and having people say , what the heck, I thought you were going to Mexico! If you can cover up well enough for that, you have succeeded. Long pants, long sleeve shirt and more will help ensure your first day is as comfortable as your last day. Everyone is well aware that you will not be as focused (Which is key when sight fishing) when you are thinking about that damn sunburned neck that is bothering you.
Feeling over heated, tell Alex or the guide you are fishing with. We will all happily stop the boat and allow you and/or everyone a quick swim to bring the temp down. Its good to do this right before motoring to the next stop and take advantage of the wind to cool you off. That is always a nice time-out for everyone!
The fishery of Chetumal Bay is a picturesque shallow water flats fishery. Our main area of concentration lies in the back bay located directly behind Xcalak. The boat ride to the fishing grounds lies less than 30 minutes away. Our two main targets are that of permit and bonefish. If you have ever wanted to chase permit there might not be a better place to do so. The Chetumal Bay fishery has been proven as one of the most reliable and consistent permit fishies and its uniqueness in many ways makes it one of the best places to chase permit in the world. The fishery of Chetumal Bay has long been a hot spot for permit and with the Navys construction of the Zaragoza Canal in 2002 a fish super freeway has been installed bringing in large numbers of permit to the Bay and increasing the daily water exchange and supporting a healthy populations of shrimp and crabs. Water depths range from less than 1 ft to over 5 ft and much of of opportunities allow for us to get out of the boat and chase fish on foot. Opportunities for Barracuda and Jacks are also provided on a daily basis. The fishery also supports opportunities for Baby Tarpon and Snook with most of our chances at these species being in the small local lagoons.
You've been dreaming of the moment you step up on the deck. You've been dreaming of the opportunities swimming your way. You've come ALL this way and you paid your hard earned money to get to these moments. Make them count!
CASTING PRACTICE - Starting a month out from your trip it is recommended to begin going out a coupe of times a week and practicing casting with the rods you will be casting here in Xcalak. Practice is a KEY element in your success you wish to achieve. Go out to your local grass park or pond, strip out 40-60 feet of line, tie on a heavy fly (Clip off the hook) and practice casting in all directions. With and against the wind. Work on a single haul at first, and then incorporate a double haul, it will dramatically improve your enjoyment and success on the flats!
A fact that will benefit you while permit fishing it that it pays to be able to deliver a fly (Make a cast) in a quick amount of time is extremely beneficials. Being ready, being prepared, having enough line stripped out, having enough line out of your rod tip to make a quick cast will benefit you in the spontaneous opportunities that arise while permit fishing. Sure, there will be times when we see fish from a distance, maneuver the boat, get ready and even get out of the boat and chase the fish. There will also be plenty of times when its "Permit 20 feet from the boat, CAST". Being successful when chasing permit relies in not missing opportunities for you never know which one is going result in a hookup. "Luck favors the prepared".
SETTING THE HOOK - "THE STRIP SET" If you are coming down for your first trip to the salt, Id ask for you to take part in a little lesson on strip setting. Get you and a friend together, and pull of 50 feet of line. Have one person holding the rod in their hand and stripping the line in with the rod tip down. The other person is standing only 10' away and letting the fly slide through their hands. The person stripping, now closes their eyes and waits for the slightest feel of tension, applied by the person with the line in their hand. When this happens, execute a strip set by pulling straight back on the line WHILE keeping the rod tip down. The rod tip does not come up UNTIL the strip set has been completed. To simplify the action/move - you are essentially continuing your stripping motion with a continuation of your stripping hand back behind your hip.
COMMUNICATE - Talk to your guide and your fishing partner. Establish what 30 feet of line looks like to you, and to your guide. Point your rod when the guide see's a fish and keep pointing till you see it. Let your guide know that you DO or you DO NOT see the fish.
SET EXPECTATIONS - You guide will typically start each day with the question "What do you want to fish for?". Be honest with your guide, and be honest with yourself. Maybe its your first day, you havent been in the salt for a while and chasing bonefish all day is a good call to get your casting down and get your eyes used to spotting fish. Maybe your a devout permit addict and all you want to do every minute of each day is chase permit. Maybe you just want your line to come tight? All of these thoughts should be considered before you step on the boat and communicated with your fishing partner for the day. In addition, be realistic. Dont ask your guide to chase bonefish, then 30 minutes in to it say lets chase permit. And vice versa. Know that dedicating yourself to certain parts of the day is necessary to a successful day on the flats. An honest expectation of a day would be to communicate with your guide that "we'd like to chase permit for the first few hours of the day, then depending on what we see either switch to bonefish or make another plan, if we see barracuda while permit fishing we'd like to take some casts at them if we aren't seeing permit."
TAKE RESPONSIBILITY - The guides are working hard, poling the boat, adjusting for the wind, searching the area for fish. Take responsibility for the first 10-20 ft of your 9-3 O'clock. Maximize your opportunities by not letting that fish swim in to "your" zone while your guide is scanning out further.
TEAM FISHING - You, the guide and your fishing partner are a team. Not your turn to fish, help scan the water from standing on your seat. Your fishing partner is casting at a fish, help manage their line so they can keep their eyes on the fish. You see the fish but your fishing partner doesn't, stand over their shoulder and point it out.
BE PREPARED - Rig your rods the night or morning before, not on the boat. Tie and check your knots and your leaders, if you doubt them, change them. Doubt the fly on the end of your line, change it. Put sunblock on before your turn to fish, drink a liter of water before you are on the front of the boat fishing, clean your glasses before its your turn to fish. Prepare yourself each and every day so that when THAT opportunity presents itself - A permit 15ft off the front of the boat, a bonefish that just came out from behind a mangrove, a tarpon that just so happened to swim across the flat you are poling while searching for permit, a school of Jacks that comes bullying their way across the flat, a 30# Barracuda that you see sitting in ambush. aHave as much line out the tip of your rod as you are comfortable with to eliminate the need for too many false casts. Quick shots will be required, be ready. Have the right rods rigged, have knots and flies on that you have confidence in, and be ready for every opportunity that mother nature gives you. They can be very fleeting, and if you are not prepared, you will likely miss it.
THE FISH & GEAR
Special Notes & Reccomendations
We recommend all leaders be fluorocarbon.
We recommend over-lining all of your rods up to 10 weights. 8 & 9 weight rods will cast and load better in the conditions you will most likely face while in Xcalak.
If you were to bring one rod to Xcalak, make it an 8 weight if you plan is to chase mainly bonefish and some permit. Make it a 9 weight if you want to chase mainly permit and somebonefish. You are completely covered to fish for most all species we will encounter if you were only to bring an 8 & 9 weight. You can bring a full selection of 7-10 weight rods to cover any and all species, but an 8 and 9 weight would have you covered in Chetumal Bay
Considered by many as "the holy grail of fly fishing", permit are an addiction that is well fed in the waters of Chetumal Bay. If you enjoy the thrill of the hunt, you'll enjoy chasing permit. The number of opportunities you will typically get fishing in Chetumal Bay help increase your odds greatly.
If your main goal is permit I recommend starting our day on the water as early as possible. The first few hours of each morning are prime permit hunting time with typically calmer weather which helps in spotting tails and seeing waking fish along with the fact that this is the first opportunity for the fish to start eating again. As the day progresses the hunt for permit does not stop. Again, if you are committed to catching a permit, we will do it all day. A light to medium wind is preferred which allows for us to get a little closer to permit for the wave action helps camouflage the movement and sounds coming from us and the ponga. Here is where your casting practice will pay huge dividends.
A permits behavior changes a lot when it leaves the comfort of its home in deeper water and moves in to the shallow of the flats. Permit are know to convey a nervous, frantic attitude while on the flats for a bit of their comfort level is gone. The only reason they have come to the flats, is to feed. Their amazing eyesight and four nostrils allow for them to get a good close inspections of your fur and feather presentation. Permit will regularly swim directly up to your fly and do a thourough inspection before deciding NOT to eat it. Your patience and calm at that point is absolutely critical. The best thing you can do when a permit refuses your fly is simply present it to them again. Or, if time allows, change your fly and hope for another shot at the fish.
Here in Chetumal Bay I like to use a slow stripping method of fishing for permit with our fly focus mainly on Mantis Shrimp patterns and fleeing crabs. Many of our encounters with permit allow for us to place the fly close to the head of the fish, and make a slow stip away from the fish. Permit will strike while your fly is sinking but only if it sees it, so it's best to cast close to the fish. A slow strip of the fly (Think Shrimp or Crab) gives us direct contact to the fly and allows for the angler to become aware of any pressure indicating the permit has eaten the fly.
We like to do a lot of wadeing to permit whenever possible. When the opportunity arrises where we have spotted the fish at a long enough distance, we like to allow for our angler(s) to exit the boat (in 2-4 feet of water) and approach the permit on foot. Chasing Permit on foot does two things – 1 – allows us to get much closer to the fish (15-30 feet) and - 2 – often allows for multiple shots at the fish.
Permit fishing in Xcalak exists on a year round basis. Good weather and cooperative fish ("Happy Fish") tend to be the decisive factor in success on any given day. Mix that with a little skill and a lot of luck and you chances are even better. Alex will tell you more than once during your time on the water, "Luck favors the prepared". Permit are a fish of Murphys Law and if you aren't ready, there they will be.
While the permit are truly around all year, there are some months which tend to be seasonally better due to the wind factor. April through August are prime time for permit opportunities but you will be counting on weather (Wind and Rain) to be on your side for we are also entering Hurricane Season at this time. When you book a trip during this time and the weather gods are in your favor, odds are you will be getting the best permit opportunities you have ever had. October to end of November are also prime months and are quickly becoming the official start to the fishing season.
If there is one thing you must due in the pursuit of permit, it is not giving up. Time spent fishing for permit increases your chances day by day. If you are an optimist, a little stubborn and known to not give up easily, you'll make a good permit fisherman.
Moving/Waking fish - Fish moving by itself or in a school. Gauge the direction they are going. Wait for them to come in to your casting range. Lay the fly 3-4 feet in front of their direction and begin a slow to medium long stripping motion. You feel a click, or any kind of pressure, STIP SET!
Tailing Fish - These are happy fish. We will likely be getting out of the boat and pursuing on foot. We will make our approach as stealthy as possible moving in to your casting range of the tailing fish. We want the fly to land as close to the fish as possible, without landing right on top of them. The perfect cast drops your fly right in front of their face, within 1 foot. Again, slow to medium long stripping motion waiting for any feel or sight that the fish ate the fly, STRIP SET!
Fly-Fishing Equipment for Permit:
Rod: 8 to 10 wt, 9 feet long, fast action, designed for saltwater. If you had one rod for permit, make it a 9 weight rod loaded with 10 weight line.
Reel: Solid and designed for saltwater with good disc brake, capacity 250 yards of 20 # backing
Line: 8 to 10 wt, weight forward, floating, tapered, designed for warm saltwater. It is recommended to overweight your fly lines. EX: Put a 9 weight on your 8 weight, a 10 weight on your 9 weight, and so on.
Leader: 9 to 12 foot 16# Fluorocarbon leader with 12# tippet in gear bag.
Flies: Becks Fleeing Crab #2-8 , Senior Raghead Crab #4-6, Casa Blanca Crab#4-6 , Puglisi Mantis Shrimp Tan #1, Veverkas Mantis Shrimp #6&8 - This fly has been the best producer for the past three seasons
Fly colors: Light Sand, Tan, Brown
Arguably the most sought-after of all saltwater fish the bonefish could be called the pound for pound champ of the saltwater flats. The ice breaker for many people on their first saltwater fly fishing trip and the fish that ruins many trout fisherman is indeed the bonefish. In the waters of Chetumal Bay, you will chase bonefish on multiple flats, bays and lagoons. The bonefish here average 2-4 pounds but larger fish are available. We are continually searching back bays and lagoons for their presence. Each year we see and catch fish approaching the 10# mark.
Why bonefish? They regularly take a well presented fly and follow that up with a blistering run where you will hear the hiss of your line as it tears through the water. We chase bonefish in different water levels but the most exciting finds them in water 2 ft or less giving us the classic sight fishing opportunities. Their silver bodies attuned with green or black vertical stripes are at one point easy to see against their backdrop. You will undoubtedly witness their ability to shift their position and virtually disappear garnering their well earned nickname "ghost of the flats".
We will bonefish from the ponga and also wading in areas we know they are in to an area where we believe we will see cruising, waking & tailing fish. The object is to get our fly in front of the bonefishes projected path, and move it in small twitchy (Think shrimp) strips and watch the bonefishes reaction. As opposed to a lot of permit fishing, you will see the bonefish eat your fly and with a decent to good presentation, they will actually eat your fly - STRIP SET!
BONEFISH TAGGING: There is an active bonefish tagging program being orchestrated by Belizean Addiel Perez. If you catch a bonefish with a thin yellow tag located just below their dorsal please take a picture of it or write down the # and where roughly it was caught. Addiel is gathering very valuable information to help sustain the populations of bonefish here and in Belize.
Fly-Fishing Equipment for Bonefish:
Rod: 8 wt, 9 feet long, fast action, designed for saltwater
Reel: Designed for saltwater with good disc brake, capacity 200 yards of 20 # backing
Line: 8 to 9 wt, weight forward, floating, tapered, designed for warm saltwater
Leader: 9 to 12 foot tapered 8 to 16 #
Flies: Crazy Charlie, Gotcha, Bonefish Bitters, EP Micro Crabs, Veverkas Mantis, Shrimp Patterns on #6 to #8 saltwater hooks
Fly colors: Light colors like sand, tan, pearl, olive, brown
TARPON & SNOOK
Here in Chetumal Bay and the surrounding lagoons we have limited access to mostly Baby Tarpon in the 5-20# range. Our fishery exists around cenotes & blue holes in the bay along with surrounding lagoons. If you are hoping to have a shot at some of the large (100#+) migratory tarpon that move through the area then plan your trip in early June to end of July where spots in the bay and ocean front are regularly visited by the migrating fish.
The best times for snook would be from mid-December trough February which coincides with the snook migration. During this time we find snook along some mangrove shorelines and also cruising the flats. The local lagoons have a resident poulation of snook year round as well.
If your focus is having multiple shots in a full day of tarpon fishing, spending a few days in Mahahual with Nick Denbow (Catchafish.net) is the way to go. Nicks access to the many large alkaline lakes to the North of Mahahual provide for consistent opportunities for small to large tarpon (5-90#) and snook up to 30#. Fishing for tarpon and snook in this area will usually entail casting at rolling or cruising fish and also casting at structure. If a fish get behind your fly continue with a medium paced stripping motion that entices the fish. Upon any sign that the fish has eaten your fly you will need to engage a strip set of the strongest proportions. Both species have plate like bony mouths that driving a hook in to with a good strip set is mandatory.
Fly-Fishing Equipment for Tarpon & Snook:
Rod: 8 to 10 wt, 9 feet long, fast action, designed for saltwater
Reel: Designed for saltwater with good disc brake
Line: 9 to 10 wt, weight forward, floating, tapered, designed for warm saltwater
Leader: 6 to 8 foot tapered 20 to 25 wt, with 15 to 20 inches of 40 to 90 wt hard shock tippet
Leader Option #2 : 7-9 ft of straight 50# mono
Flies: Cockroach, Yucatan Sabalo, Deceivers, Seaducers, Clouser Minnows, Poppers on #2/0 to #4/0 saltwater hooks
Fly colors: Red, white, purple, black & silver. Red & Black combo most popular.
Barracuda may be the most underrated saltwater species to catch on a fly. Chetumal Bay is home to thousand and thousand of bonefish, and the Barracuda are well aware. Expect to come across multiple medium to Grande sized Barracudas (10-25#) in a day of fishing whether you are targeting them or not. Keeping a Barracuda rod handy or launching a Barracuda lure from a spinning rod is a great way to spice up the day.
You'll want to place your fly or lure close to the front, or beyond, the barracuda - but hopefully in a way that doesn't pull it towards his face. Make a few small strips (or a couple of quick pops of the spin rod) to get his attention, when he makes ANY move towards your fly or lure, start stripping or reeling it faster and if you see them accelerate to the fly, try to keep it away from them. Odds are you will witness the Barracudas amazing ability to teleport to your fly or lure seemingly appearing with your fly in his mouth while torpedoing out of the water when only a fraction of a second ago he was 15 feet away. Oh-my-god, its impressive.
If you see a fish behind your fly, DONT STOP STRIPPING/REELING!
Fly-Fishing Equipment for Barracuda:
- Rod: 9 or 10 wt, 9 feet long, fast action, designed for saltwater
- Reel: Designed for saltwater with good disc brake
- Line: 9 to 10 wt, weight forward, floating, tapered designed for warm saltwater
- Leader: 9 ft 20# leader with table wire leader
- Flies: Red, white, green, white deceivers & Needle Fish Flies, Poppers
- Fly colors: Red, white, purple, black & silver
Jacks are most encountered while pursuing other fish - Bonefish, permit, cudas - and will eat ANY fly which gets in front of them. When a Jack is spotted, they are almost always moving fast, get your fly as close to the futon of the group of jacks as possible and start stripping FAST!
During a day of fishing you may also catch mangrove, gray and mutton snappers, trigger fish, boxfish, remoras, needlefish, triple tail and many other species that live in the waters of Chetumal Bay.
RECOMMENDED FLY BOX
Below is a detailed list for your fly box and links to purchase the recommended flies. Click on the fly for a direct link where to purchase each one. Alex buys most of his flies from Hills Discount Flies but also lists here a coulple of other quality sites for purchasing flies for your trip.
- Turneffe Flats Charlie Tan Size 6
- Crazy Charlie Shrimp Pearl Size 6
- Crazy Charlie Shrimp Tan Size 8
- Chili Pepper Size 6
- Micro Crab
- Becks Sili Legs
- Puglisi Mantis Shrimp Tan Size 1
- Mantis Shrimp size 4 or 6, & 8
- Becks Fleing Crab Size 2 & 6
- Casa Blanca Crab 2 & 4
Tarpon & Snook
Barracudas & Jacks
- Passport & Drivers License
- ATM Card (Best Exchange Rates) You can pay for fishing with US Dollars or Pesos(15-1). Best to get pesos for food & rooms. Most banks allow you to order pesos (1 week delivery time) and you will likely get the best rate possible.
- Credit Cards
- Airline Tickets
- Rental Car Confiamtion
- RX Drugs
- Copies of all your ID's (Passport, Drivers License) and Credit Cards. Front and back. This is good to have in case you ever were to loose them. Who of us knows our CC #'s or the phone # to call in case of need?
- Shirts - Long Sleeve lightweight, breathable sun blocking shirt in neutral colors. Preferably with hood. Try not to wear anything too bright, muted colors are best.
- Shorts - Comfortable quick drying shorts
- Pants - Long sun blocking in neutral colors with pants with fabric belt.
- Sunblocking hats. Baseball or other.
- Buff (s)
- Sun Gloves (Not for everybody)
- Rain Jacket. Small,lightweight, packable.
- Rain pants. (Not 100% ness)
- Wading Booties
There are two very different kind of wading boots you can bring.
Lace up, wear them ALL day, boot like boots. These shoes are best used for long bonefish wades/walks. You will wear socks with these shoes.
Zip up, neoprene, fast on and off. These are best for permit wading and a few hours of bonefish walking.
When I was a client, I really liked to be barefoot as much as possible. Its just such a nice feeling. And, you can also feel the line under your feet which is very helpful when casting form the boat. What I eventually ended up doing was keeping one pair of boots #1 and a one pair of low profile dive booties. If we were going on a long, possibly deeper bonefish walk, Id put on pair #1. If we were chasing permit, I'd be barefoot and slip on my dive booties the moment we spot fish and get out of the boat. Also, with the mentioned foot wear, you have your choice of socks or what I have used very successfully, are neoprene wading socks. You will want your shoes a little big to wear these but it makes the fit very comfortable and helps immensely in keeping small rocks and debris out of your shoes.
All of your gear should be tried and and worn around your home. Even if its 20 below and snowing sideways, turn the heat up and wear your clothing and gear around for a few hours to get the feel. Dont make the first time you try something on, minutes before you go for a walk on the flats in them.
- Mexican Fishing License (LINK) Every angler MUST have a Mexican fishing license to fish with guides in Xcalak. STATE = Quintana Roo TOWNSHIP = Othon P Blanco
- GOOD pair of polarized sunglasses and backup. A large lense is preferred to cover your eye area as much as possible and let in very little light.
- Clear glasses, lenses for early morning and late evening fishing (Optional)
- Glasses cleaner and wipes. (A good small cotton wash cloth can suffice)
- Hemostats (With backup)
- Hook sharpener
- Small pocket knife
- Wading pack (Reccomened to be chest height or simply wearable around your shoulders)
- Line Cleaner/dressing & Pad
- Waterproof Boat Bag
- Tape Measure (Optional)
- Fly Reels
- Fly Rods
- Leaders/Tippet Material
- Fly Boxes
- Sunblock (Coppertone Sport in the blue bottle, cream is better than spray. Best Sunblock, hands down, no questions asked. Alex is a Ginger and has done the testing for you) Picture of bottle below.
- After sun lotion
- Small first aid kit (Band aids, neosporin, Cloth tape)
- Lip Block WITH sunscreen
- Insect repellent - OFF Family lotion, available at the Chedraui in Tulum. Best bug repellent Ive found and Ive done some due diligence - Picture of bottle below.
- Garbage bags (1 or 2)
- Sports Tape &/Or Duct Tape
- Zip Locks Baggies (Med to LG)
- Camera, extra flash cards and extra batteries, camera battery charger
- Small Flashlight (Head lamp works best of something on a lanyard)
- Binoculars (Optional)
- Journal, Books, pens
- Snorkeling Gear (Optional)
- DONT FORGET TO BRING YOUR LUCK!