Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Thanks, Captain Butch Constable!....

With these great photos by Captain Jon Cooper, a special day on the backwaters of the Loxahatchee River has been recorded. To wit, both Jon and I scored a " Loxahatchee Snook Slam" fishing with Captain Butch Constable of Jupiter, Florida (1-561-74SNOOK). This particular slam consists of a tarpon snook, fat snook, and common snook caught on the same day. Can you identify each of the snook species in the line-sider trio photo? Want to read more about the what, why, and wherefore of a 50- plus snook day? Stay tuned for the story in an upcoming issue of Florida Sport Fishing Magazine.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Field Test Results- Okuma Aveon Spinning Reel

I've started off the bonefish season with a new complement of spinning reels from Okuma Fishing Tackle Corporation. The specific reel I chose was the AE-40 Aveon aluminum spinning reel- and I'm delighted I did!

This reel performed remarkably. The first thing that I noticed was the incredible casting distance(s) I was getting. I believe that the long spool design as well as the even way the line laid on the spool were responsible for this.

On the two bonefish hooked yesterday, the Aveon's drag system worked beautifully and was smooth as silk. I always watch the rod tip as a smooth drag indicator and on this impressive reel, the rod tip stayed bent, but absolutely still! I liked the way the drag adjustment worked on click-increments, making me feel this reel was like a Swiss watch.

There were three other features that made operation of this reel delightful. The infinite anti-reverse as well as rapid retrieve ratio made "coming tight on the strike" quite easy; it also helped during the fight to get in as much line as possible per turn of the reel handle. The grip handle on this reel was extremely comfortable, ergonomically efficient, and a pleasure to use all day.

Flatsfishingonline.com will be filing more field reports on the Okuma spinners as well their baitcasting (plug) reels. The latter models will be given the requisite workouts as the flats tarpon season unfolds. I also plan on testing these products outside Florida in Belize and Christmas Island.


An Editorial on Angling, Travel, and Elitism...

An American author I have a good deal of respect for stated that there were "...two Bahamas." He writes that Nassau, Paradise Island, and Freeport were the places where tourists go and were extensions of Miami. He then concludes, "the other is the outer islands, the real Bahamas."

After I encountered these statements, I asked Bahamian guides and citizens about their feelings and ideas about the real Bahamas. Most of them had not the slightest idea what I was talking about. When I asked about Nassau, Paradise Island, and Freeport specifically, the general feedback I got was that this "real" Bahamas thinking was indeed curious and would be the same as excluding New York, Washington, D.C., Las Vegas, and Miami from a map of the real U.S.A.

Although many Bahamians live on other islands, this does not imply that they are proud of all of their island nation. In fact, it's up to Bahamians to determine the real Bahamas, not an American. For instance, traveling anglers will find none other than the fabulous Pinder brothers offering flats fishing charters out of the Freeport/Lucaya area on Grand Bahama Island. I have fished these flats as well as the more isolated flats of Water Cay on GBI's north side. The bonefish-in both cases- were swimmimg over real Bahamas flats with real Bahamian guides with an equally joyous American angler.

It sometimes happens that when outdoors writers choose to live in rural country environs, they take a kind of "wilderness mind-set" with them in their travels and subsequent writings, and often imply that any other vaguely populated or well-travelled destination might not be the peak experiences one can attain. The problem with this point of view is that it simply does not speak for the actual views of many other traveling anglers, as well as lodges and citizens of the destination country. I have spent and will spend many hours on remote Pacific atoll flats, such as Fanning Island. Their beauty is striking and should be experienced- but from an angling point of view, I've gotten far better dollar-spent and effort per hour results for trophy bones right off the Miami skyline.

The point, here, is that good traveling and fishing is where you find it, not where someone tells you where it should be. Catching a permit on fly should not have a mandate to travel to southern Belize and drink from a chalice to celebrate your catch. Be open to the fact that nearby Key West might be a better, cheaper, and more exciting alternative that may offer far greater chances at trophy-sized permit. I delight and celebrate the fact that Key West offers so much when the fishing day is over...and so might you. This is only one example in our big, wide world. When it comes to angling and travel, be your own judge!


Bonefish Time!....

In a stern rebuke of superstition, Friday the 13th featured beautiful weather and excellent bonefishing in South Biscayne Bay. I started off the morning by hooking a monster that ran one hundred-fifty yards into a 15-foot deep channel. As the arbor of my reel started to show, I gave thought to pulling anchor-bear in mind this was only 30 seconds into the battle-but, alas, the fish successfully cut me off.

As the tide ebbed, I ran to another spot about two miles away. After a few minutes, I spotted a pair of fish headed my way. I made a good cast 3 feet in front of them, and the fish were all over my shrimp in seconds! The line tightened, I struck, and the line flew off my reel in a repeat of the first fish's long run. This time, there was no deep channel to cut me off. In a long battle of about ten minutes, I finally released a beautiful 9-pound specimen. I saw more fish on that flat, but they were slightly spookier in the last stages of the outgoing tide.

I called Captain Jon Cooper on my cellphone to check on his results. Jon was fishing the ocean side of the Bay with his angler, Harold Berliner. He reported an excellent "tide" of fishing, with Harold going 3 for 6 fish hooked.

I reflected that spring is indeed an excellent time for bonefishing in Biscayne Bay!


Sunday, April 08, 2007

Islamorada Does It Again...

Although I've recently heard reports of East African coast giant bonefish, we still need to consider the actual landings and recordings of world-record and pending world record bonefish. My recommendations for best bet still continues on certain select flats in two places: Biscayne Bay and even more, Islamorada. In fact, these two locales are the least expensive destinations for North American anglers seeking a large bonefish!

I've long stopped figuring out why certain places hold trophy bonefish- the fact is, they simply do...and this has stood the test of time. In Bimini, the small habitat rules out frequent shots at big fish. That does not mean ignoring the motus of Tahiti or the vast deep flats in north New Caledonia.

Ironically, my sense is that the best current shots at trophy Pacific bones lies on a few flats on the airport hub island of Oahu, Hawaii- this is traditonally the jumping-off island for distant bonefish in more exotic, pristine climes. Fortunately, bonefish are not wilderness snobs and the giants are often caught within sight of Miami's skyline, as well as "downtown" Islamorada and Honolulu. Some anglers still seem to think farther away is always better, but in the case of big bones, it "ain't necessarily so."

It's clear from the record books that big bones come in all sizes and shapes. Mr. Schroeder's 16- pound 3- ounce bonefish is a short fat fish, while Vic Gaspeny's well-known 14 -pound 6-ounce bonefish is enormously long!

For big bonefish, forget the hype and stick with the facts!


Friday, April 06, 2007

A New Keys Bonefish Record?...

Huge Bonefish Caught in Florida Keys Weighs in at 16 Pounds, 3 Ounces; World Record Pending
Wednesday, 04 April 2007
For Immediate Release

ISLAMORADA, Florida Keys - A Connecticut school administrator caught and released a monster bonefish in the Florida Keys last week. It may be the heaviest certified bonefish ever caught on rod and reel in the Western Hemisphere.

Bob Schroeder's 16-pound, 3-ounce bonefish was brought in alive and weighed on an International Game Fish Association-certified scale at The Worldwide Sportsman dock in Islamorada March 19 and then released.

Samples of the mono leader and 10-pound Power Pro braided line were sent to the IGFA along with required documentation to determine if the catch qualifies for a world record in 12- or 16-pound-test line categories. Approval or denial of the record is expected by mid-May or earlier, according to Rebecca Reynolds, the IGFA's world record administrator.

Bob Schroeder shows off a 16-pound, 3-ounce bonefish he caught, weighed and subsequently released alive off Islamorada in the Florida Keys on March 19, 2007. The fish is pending world record certification and maybe the heaviest certified bonefish ever caught on a rod and reel in the Western Hemisphere. (Photo by Paul DiMaura via the Florida Keys News Bureau)

The existing IGFA record for 12-pound-test line is a 16-pound bonefish caught in Bimini in 1971 by Jerry Lavenstein. Islamorada guide Tim Borski holds the current 16-pound-test line class record with a 14.25-pound bonefish he caught off Islamorada in 2002.

If certified, Schroeder's bonefish will be the third largest on record at the IGFA. The two larger bonefish - a 19-pound fish caught in 1962 and a 17-pound fish caught in 1976 - were caught in South Africa.

Schroeder and Captain Paul DiMaura of Islamorada and Martha's Vineyard, Mass., had planned on fishing for redfish, but the wind was so brisk they decided to try bonefishing on Islamorada's flats. The pair fishes together often, almost always casting flies.

"It was blowing so hard we put the (fly]) rods down," said Schroeder. "Paul saw the fish about 100 yards away and stopped the boat. The wind was at our backs and probably if the adrenalin hadn't kicked in we might have picked up the fly rods."

Still, Schroeder had to make an accurate long-distance cast with a live shrimp in a gusty wind.
"It turned out to be one of those classic perfect shots," he said. "The shrimp landed far enough in front of the fish not to spook it. It came by and ate the shrimp."

"The fish pulled most of the line - more than 200 yards - off Schroeder's spinning reel while DiMaura "poled like crazy," said Schroeder.

"When it got to the boat and we could see the shoulders on this thing, I got more instructions than the space shuttle," laughed Schroeder.

DiMaura was humbled by the catch. He has fished the Islamorada flats since the 1960s and was a professional guide during the 1980s. He still maintains his captain's license in the Keys.
"It could have happened to anybody and it happened to us, and I appreciate that," said DiMaura. "It was being in the right time and the right place."

DiMaura was also proud of the series of photos he took while Schroeder released the bonefish. After very careful handling, the fish swam away.

"Happily, the fish is still out there," said DiMaura.

Website: http://www.fla-keys.com/

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Caribbean Odyssey...

Caribbean Odyssey
(As seen in November/December 2006 Issue of Florida Sport Fishing Magazine)

Jan Stephen Maizler

Jan Stephen Maizler

Entry to a new angling destination often involves anticipation and adventure. Yet, when a sense of magic enters the mix, the experience becomes especially memorable. Little Cayman Island’s Southern Cross Club embodies all these qualities and more.

I’d taken a quick two-leg flight on Cayman Airways from Miami to Grand Cayman to Little Cayman. Upon arrival at the island’s compact airport, I was whisked away by van to the Club-mere minutes away.

My midday arrival was on May fifth and I was informed by the Club’s friendly intake staff that a double soiree would be underway later that day: the Club was having a traditional ”Cinco De Mayo” celebration. The prospect of a Latin bash would be fun, but platformed on top of that was a concurrent party celebrating the eleventh anniversary of owner Peter Hillenbrand’s purchase of Southern Cross Club. Come sunset along this resort’s beach and pier, feasting, festivities, and fireworks would begin.

This would leave an afternoon free for some creative angling and exploring on my own. As I gazed around at the sugar-white beach, sunny bungalows, and blue sea, I felt my stay at this resort was going to be a great experience. The good choices that create great experiences often rest on thorough research, something traveling anglers should always keep in mind.

Although many anglers are familiar with Grand Cayman Island with its posh resorts and striking beaches, fewer are familiar with its sister islands of Little Cayman and Cayman Brac. Both of these latter islands lay south of Cuba in line with Miami along the famed Cayman Trench and its fish-filled waters. Though these islands are known to offer world-class diving and snorkeling, they offer fine fishing as well. Little Cayman has the smallest population of the Cayman Islands and the real possibility of the least fishing pressure. In addition, Little Cayman has a unique combination of island-ringing sand flats, reef flats, and an inland lake that offers fine chances for a flats grand slam.

The proximity of the Cayman Trench’s deep drop right outside of the barrier reef makes blue water fishing a ten-minutes-from-port proposition. All of these marvelous features are topped off with peaceful and safe social conditions that make unlocked doors the norm. This made Little Cayman and Southern Cross Club my odds-on choice to visit one of the most well rounded islands in the entire Caribbean!

I decided I’d spend the afternoon exploring and fishing around Owens Island, which was alluringly situated perhaps a mile offshore of Southern Cross Club. I took one of the Club’s complementary kayaks and loaded it with three bottles of water, a fly rod, a spinner, and a small box of terminal tackle. I eased the vessel off the beach into the clear water, got it to a floatable depth and climbed in. The flats began right off the beach and were topped with a lush turtle grass carpet. Later, the shallows would transition to sugar-white flats surrounding the island.

I did see a few bonefish on that paddling expedition, but “’yakking and jacking” came closer to describing the fishing as I reeled in countless bar jacks and yellow jacks. Leading these fast moving fish a good distance with a rapidly retrieved jig or fly was the recipe for success. In what seemed like an hour, four hours had passed and it was time to paddle back to the Club: the afternoon was nearing an end.

As dusk arrived, the yellow and white tones of the beach transitioned to a soft orange. As I watched from my porch, a slow trickle of people headed towards the Club’s dive boat pier where the party was starting to take shape. As the sun dropped notch by notch over Little Cayman, the more the moving figures became silhouettes.

The growing laughter and enticing aromas of a festive Mexican buffet lured me up to the pier as well. As I waited for a rum and coke at the thatched pier bar, my peripheral vision picked up what seemed to be two tails that popped up out of the flats not thirty feet away. Somewhat amazed, I rescanned the area with my Double Bird Dog Power Gaze. Sure enough, the tails were still there…and they were long, blackish, and scepter-like.

A voice from behind me said, “ yeah, they’re permit and they tail right along this beach every dusk when conditions are right.” That’s how I met Buck Buchenroth, who was to be my fishing guide for the next three days.

The evening became a merry-go-round of angling dreams and personal sensations: talks with Buck about early tuna bites, getting a flats grand slam, spicy enchiladas, frijoles, and tamales, and overhead, multi-colored astral bursts of fireworks that would light up the Little Cayman sky and give way to the purple star-studded dome above us. It was a night to remember.

FISHING DAY #1- An Introduction To The Deep And The Flats-

Five-thirty a.m. came quickly. I could hear Buck firing up the engine on his twenty-five foot center console. Since he’d made it clear that the tuna “bite” was early and short, I dashed from my front door to his boat, a distance of only one hundred feet. When I hopped aboard, all the rods and rigs were in place. In moments, we cast off. The run to the blue water would be quite short: a quick shot from the dock through a break in the barrier reef and into the deep blue water took only ten minutes.

As soon as we were riding sapphire seas, he pointed to some wheeling gulls and diving frigate birds two hundred yards away. “ There’s our tuna “, he said. As we reached the halfway mark to the action, Buck let out blue plastic squids rigged below large drail sinkers on fifty-pound conventional tackle. He instructed me to troll these baits well astern at least fifty yards. Within moments, there were strikes on both rods. Double hookups were the norm until the action slowed down about twenty blackfin tuna later. As the low light action abated, I could feel the warmth of the early morning sun on my shoulder. Buck said, “ that’s it for now.” He gunned the throttles and we were back at the dock at 7:15 a.m. for an early breakfast of fresh fruit, yogurt, eggs benedict, and plenty of hot coffee.

Our next plans were to meet after breakfast and a short rest about two hours later and wade-fish the flats that lace the island. The method was to truck over the roads and stop at the roadside to park and walk through the many secret trails that Buck had cut through the scrub to the breathtaking beaches. Our target fish were bonefish, permit, and large barracuda cruising the sand and rubble flats. After a few hours of ocean flat hunting, Buck wanted me to sample and experience Little Cayman’s famous landlocked lake for tarpon.

Exactly two hours later, Buck’s pickup appeared through my bungalow window: I was to learn that Buck’s exactitude was one of the characteristics that made him one of the best guides around. I brought two nine and one-half foot, eight-pound test spinners rigged with shrimp I’d taken from Miami. Buck brought a heavy spinner rigged with wire-leadered tuna belly strips from the earlier trip. In the next few hours, I caught one bonefish, two barracuda of fifteen and twenty pounds, six bar jacks, and five yellow jacks. I also lost two more bonefish to some rocky points despite the length of my rods.

Buck then drove us to the inland tarpon lake where Southern Cross Club keeps its own aluminum rowboat. As we walked on the pier through the primitive mangrove jungle and mud flats below, I thought I was in Jurassic Park. As we eased into the boat, there were fish rolling everywhere around us. I switched my bait to a one-eighth ounce yellow/orange Spro baby bucktail and a twelve-inch piece of twenty-pound fluorocarbon leader. My results for that excursion were three fish jumped and three fish averaging ten pounds leadered and released.

Although Buck said that marked the end of our fishing for the day, he advised me to walk the beach at dusk slightly west of the club and look for bonefish tailing right in the surf’s edge. I followed his instructions and caught two more bonefish that evening less than one hundred yards from my bungalow.

Fishing Day #2- Grand Slam Day-

Easterly winds of 10 knots and a 9 a.m. high tide created a perfect permit morning for our second day of guided fishing. Within ten minutes of leaving the Club with Buck’s pickup truck, we were walking through some sea grape scrub onto a long beach flat comprised of sandy strips with multiple grass patches.

We saw some disturbed water headed our way and I lined myself up with what I hoped was a good intercept point to make my presentation. As the fish got closer, a bunch of black sickle tails popped through the wind-burnished surface- they were permit! When the fish got within casting range, they slowed and milled around the bottom. Since they were in a meandering pattern, it took three ultra quiet casts to hook up. Within minutes, I’d released a permit…small, but still a permit.

At that point, Buck insisted that we leave the flats and head for the tarpon lake. He said I could be sure this was to be a grand slam day. We arrived at the lake, where there were less rolling fish than the day before. In addition, the baby silver kings seemed slower to strike. In the ensuing hour, there was only one soft bump. Then we both saw a tarpon strike aggressively at a minnow near a tree stump. Within seconds, my bucktail landed in the remaining boil and I had an immediate strike. Ten minutes later, we released a fifteen-pound tarpon at the side of the boat. That made two of the three species I needed.

Buck and I met up four hours later at the low tide. We took his whaler style-skiff across the Sound and found a large school of mudding bonefish. In two minutes, I completed my Grand Slam. I released 6 more bonefish for good measure, and we called it quits with high-fives and big smiles.

Fishing Day #3- A Day of Inshore Diversity-

On our last day, we spent the day poling the Sound in Buck’s flats boat. We started the day with catching and releasing a seven-pound tailing bonefish. As we poled the mud flats and sugar-sand flats we tallied another ten bonefish releases, three large yellow jacks, one large boxfish that we ate later, and a bunch of mutton snapper.

We topped off the afternoon snorkeling the beautiful reefs off Little Cayman’s west side. The blue clarity of the water was so striking that the only place you’d swear you could find that color was in a dream. A bit later, we caught a few yellow-green and blue queen triggerfish, simply to enjoy their beauty close at hand and release them.


In retrospect, I cannot recall a Caribbean fish and dive resort with such a diversity of gamefish. Southern Cross Club is a safe, stable, well-appointed destination that is so easy for traveling anglers to reach. The Club has a venerable history of habitat management by rotating all of its fishing areas.

The facility itself has approximately ten oceanfront bungalows with breathtaking views. Each unit is decorated in tasteful Caribbean motifs in air-conditioned comfort. Their meals are absolutely outstanding. One day, lunch consisted of pepper-dusted boxfish chunks, smoked turkey and Swiss cheese on just-baked baguettes, fresh French fries, lobster bisque, and topped off with chocolate cake with coffee or tea.

Amenities include complementary bicycles and kayaks for land and sea exploration. The beachcombing potential, exquisite reefs, and huge bird colonies make this an island paradise for do-it-yourselfers. The Club has two excellent and uncrowded dive and snorkel boats- ideal for anglers that enjoy this as well as non-angling family or friends. For a taste of the relaxed island beat, snooze in the shade of a palm tree, wade the crystal clear lagoon, have a float in the freshwater pool, or walk the beach under star-studded sky.

Southern Cross Club has an extremely high staff to guest ratio. This gives rise to a level of service quality that keeps guests returning again and again. If you want to bring children, you’ll be pleased to know that the Club has designated family dates- just contact them for these exact times. All of these marvelous features make Southern Cross Club a must-visit destination for first-time or seasoned traveling anglers alike.


Many different carriers fly to the Cayman Islands. I personally was extremely pleased with Cayman Airways, but your research will turn up multiple and satisfactory alternatives.


Southern Cross Club
P.O.Box 44
Little Cayman Island
Cayman Islands, BWI
Website: http://www.southerncrossclub.com/
Email: scc@candw.ky
Telephone: 1-345-948-1099
Fax: 1-345-948-1098

Craig Buck, Southern Cross Club
Email: socrossclub@cox.net
Telephone: 1-800-899-2582

Captain Buck Buchenroth can be reached through the above contact data.

A Casa Blanca Adventure

Welcome to Mayan Land

(As seen in January/February 2007 Issue of Florida Sport Fishing Magazine)

By Jan Stephen Maizler

It was deep in the middle of a star-studded night. The only sounds that could be heard were the collective whooshing rattles of coconut palm leaves pulsated by the Caribbean sea breeze. I made my way through dunes and valleys of sugar sand towards the grass-thatched ocean pier- its spotlight cast a yellow luminous orb over the greenish rolling wavelets.

As I walked along the pier’s concrete approach towards the well-lit pot-o’-gold at the tip, I was filled with the anticipation of a nighttime game fish encounter. The metallic clicks of the fly, spinning, and baitcasting outfits I was carrying played second fiddle to my heartbeats and sculpted stride in this orchestra of excitement.

As I neared the edge of the lit water, I made my movements slow and subtle-no different than the reverent sneak of a trout angler on the cusp of his stream. As I gently put down the three outfits, I gazed into my target area. And what I saw screamed, “Yes, yes, yes!”

I was witnessing a nighttime game fish grouping that was a “first” in my angling career: the expanse I was about to cast into was a fishbowl of tarpon and permit! The silver kings-seemingly everywhere- were on the move from top to bottom. They’d glide through the light, roll over the waves, and then suddenly strike at a pilchard with a lunging flash. In contrast, the permit finned patiently on the surface as they faced into the incoming tide. Suddenly, one of the larger fish out of perhaps twenty struck into a clump of seaweed. Two crabs were dislodged, but it seemed that their usual rapid sideways retreat was prevented by their disorientation. In barely three seconds, the permit engulfed them.

I breathed deeply to quell my excitement. Slowly, I leaned over and picked up my plug rod. It was loaded with 12-pound test mono and topped off with a 40-pound fluorocarbon leader and a one eighth ounce yellow-orange Spro baby bucktail. I felt that the lure would match the hatch, and the outfit itself had the beef to fight some gamesters I was seeing that weighed up to around forty pounds.

After testing the drag and free spool tension, I flicked off a cast in front of and slightly past the group of permit. I began my retrieve immediately and swam the lure slowly across the surface in front of the lead fish. Before the lure could reach its intended target, a tarpon rocketed into the lure with a vicious strike. I struck the fish hard and it went airborne, sending frothy water in all directions- I could see permit start scattering from this sudden melee. I dropped my rod tip to bow to the leaping silver king, but its vicious headshakes threw the lure.
As I reeled the lure close to the rod tip, I saw the group of permit hovering at the edge of the lit-up water. I flipped another well- placed cast at the school and began my retrieve. As my bucktail came even with the permit, a smaller fish of about ten pounds peeled off from the group and inhaled the Spro bucktail. I struck the fish and could see its head shake violently as the hook dug in. The fish began a long run of about fifty yards and slowed down. Under the pressure of the plug outfit, the permit made two shorter runs and then slowly surrendered. I eased the fish towards the pier until it was beneath me. I had to lie down on the wood to reach Sir Quicksilver for an effective release. After removing the lure, I breathed the fish for about a minute. After it seemed to regain its stamina, I let go of its tail. It swam slowly through the light into the safe obscurity of the darker water.

After this victorious battle, my magic fishbowl was a quieter place. I sat down under the thatched roof on the circular concrete bench to give the area a ten-minute rest. The fish did return and I succeeded in jumping two more tarpon in the next half-hour.

I slowly concluded it was time to quit fishing. I felt satisfied for many reasons. I stood in the midst of this starry sultry tropical solitude and relished the realization that I was on the beach of an exotic Mayan island offshore of Mexico at the five-star Casa Blanca Lodge. But the best part of this experience was knowing that the action I had took place on the night of my arrival day and that the actual guided fishing would not begin until tomorrow!

Great Beginnings-

As my trip to Casa Blanca and its sister lodge Playa Blanca began to take shape, the efficiency of their operation quickly manifested itself. The first part of this process was query contact with Lily Ann Prevost, the Office Manager of Outdoor Travel, Inc. in Harlingen, Texas. She sent me brochures, DVD’s, and their specially published Travel and Outfitting Guide. After reviewing these items, all questions were answered and it was simple to set up the travel times and itinerary.

Casa Blanca lies on an exquisite coastal island at the southern edge of Ascension Bay. On this same pristine land twenty miles to the south, Playa Blanca Lodge sits perched on the northern fringes of fish-filled Espiritu Santo Bay. All of this magnificence is on the Quintana Roo/Caribbean coast of the Yucatan peninsula approximately 100 miles south of Cancun. These wonderful facilities are blessedly in the midst of the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve, which guarantees the future preservation of this remote habitat as well as its prolific numbers of fish, birds, and animals. The Mayan name, Sian Ka’an, means “birthplace of the sky”- this gives an idea of the reverent tribute these people gave to this region.

A large part of the pre-travel excitement was the knowledge that I’d be heading to a destination that featured dense jungle, shallow bays, secluded lagoons, rocky beaches, and sugar sand beaches that fronted the exquisite sapphire and emerald-colored Caribbean Sea. I was also eager to encounter the hummingbirds, frigate birds, pelicans, caimans, foxes, dolphin, turtles and most importantly, the bonefish, tarpon, and permit that abounded there.

Fishing in Paradise-

The guide that was assigned to my photographer, Art Blank, and myself was Agustin. He was very experienced and very exacting. I found it reassuring that he had over 15 years experience guiding in this expansive bay. His fishing rig was a 16-foot Dolphin Super Skiff powered by a four-stroke 50 H.P. electro start Yamaha with tiller handle steering. His skiff easily handled the tackle and equipment we loaded into it and floated in only six inches of water.

Before we got underway, I was sure to let Agustin know the exact fishing goals for our stay- not surprisingly, it was to sample as much variety of light tackle fishing the area offered. Since it was November, we understood that the possibility of changing weather would also affect our choices. It did indeed transpire that over the next five days, the weather went from calm to windy and sunny to cloudy, but the diversity of the habitat always provided us with a productive fishing spot.

The first day started windy and we only had to snake through the mangroves for sixty seconds before giving fishing a try. On our way through the creek, we spotted a large caiman sunning itself and a huge tailing bonefish. We then entered into the spacious Laguna Pajaros and the skiff immediately slowed down. The guide pointed to a large mud one hundred yards downwind. As we eased over, we pulled out ultralight spinning gear armed with tiny white Spro bucktails tipped with shrimp. In another minute, we had our first double header Casa Blanca bones next to the boat.

We enjoyed this action for a while and then asked for shallower action further afield. Agustin ran his skiff through some creeks and into the open bay. We ran for about ten miles to a series of shallow yellow and green flats. Agustin cut the engine, lifted it, and began poling. Throughout the day, we spotted bones every few minutes. However, the high winds and a bit of gray ghost skittishness that I attributed to a shifting barometer limited our results from fantastic to excellent. It would turn out that day #2 would be a gratifying repeat of the prior day.

We woke up to day #3, which featured light north winds and china blue skies. Agustin felt this was a perfect day to run to the blue holes to the north of Casa Blanca. He told us that we’d have to hunt up some live crabs. We pulled up to a sandy beach and began a bait-catching adventure that was fun in its own right. After we’d put a dozen into the bucket, we climbed back into the skiff and only ran for 15 minutes before slowing down. Agustin eased the skiff upwind of the hole and cut the engine. We drifted for a few minutes until we were within 70 feet and Agustin quietly lowered his anchor. We did not need him to point out that there were fish everywhere. Balao were flipping all around the boat while every minute a large mackeral would skyrocket through the bait. Then we saw large tarpon rolling. Urging us to be quiet, Agustin baited us up with small live crabs. In about 60 seconds, he said, “2 0’clock and 50 feet out…permit!” Art and I saw the fish and cast. In a picture perfect repeat of the first mornings’ casts, we had a double-header hookup but now with large silvery permit.

After arduous battles, we landed both fish, each of which was about 20 pounds. While there seemed to be no more obvious permit, there were loads of game fish. I pulled out my plug rod and jigged the area with a white bucktail tipped with shrimp. I ‘ll have to admit I lost count of the mutton snappers, cero mackeral, lane snappers, blue runners, and barracuda that I caught. The sun set as two sated and satisfied anglers headed home.

Day #4 was taken up with Agustin running us to Playa Blanca via the ocean for our visit to the sister lodge. The bulk of the day was taken up with touring and trekking around this destination- a wonderful experience. We had a couple of hours left upon our return to Casa Blanca. Art opted to go with Agustin to pole the ocean flats for permit, while I chose some solitary wading for bonefish around the lodge. As their skiff disappeared to the north, I found a nice school of bones. Since I was using ultralight spinning, I was able to cast a weighted fly into their midst with the tiniest plop- the hookup was immediate. After landing a nice 4- pound bone, I repeated this conquest 30 minutes later. When Art returned, he said they saw permit, but a tree stump the fish were swimming around prevented a good presentation.

Our last day featured perfect weather. We ran to the blue hole immediately and Art caught a nice permit. While the prospects were enticing, we opted to finish the day on the flats. Agustin zipped us into a lagoon and within 30 minutes was poling us towards a large tailing permit. When the moment of truth arrived, I made a perfect cast. The line came tight and I struck. About an hour later, we were posing and releasing a 25-pound permit. Agustin then poled us towards the mangroves featuring water less than a foot deep. We topped off the day with three more bonefish. The fishing had been marvelous!

The Operations-

The managing owner/partner of these two lodges -Casa Blanca and Playa Blanca- is Mr. Bobby Settles. Ho told me that the mission of both operations is to “provide comfortable accommodations, superior food and services, and quality fishing in a sustainable habitat that produces great action year after year.” After sampling both of these wonderful destinations, it’s clear that he has created two destinations that operate with “Swiss watch” efficiency in the midst of a Mayan wonderland.

Casa Blanca-

Casa Blanca is the lodge that features the most structured dedicated fishing program. The facility is set along a stunning rocky beach point that contours into a protected sand beach where its 11 flats skiffs are moored. This venerable destination quickly stabilized any outlaw netting in the Biosphere by employing the locals and integrating them into their hotel and fishing operations.

Casa Blanca lies only five minutes by boat from their private landing strip. This lodge has a long sturdy pier that has multiple functions. It serves as the boat-based staging area for arriving and departing guests. This structure is also the landing point where both lodges receive their supplies and fuel brought in by large reliable pangas on a regular basis. The pier also doubles as a nighttime fishing hotspot for certain unnamed angling fanatics that can’t get enough fishing. Well-appointed and strong trucks transport guests and supplies to Playa Blanca which is about one-half hour to the south. Tom Hamilton is the manager in charge of the fishing, the boats, and all the logistics functions. He made it clear that his purpose was to make sure that all guests were pleased and happy.

I was impressed that the configuration of buildings at Casa Blanca mirrored their purposes so well. There are eleven rooms-all of them air conditioned- that are set conveniently close to the pier, boats, dining room, and the relaxing centralized palapa and patio. Maria is the manager in charge of hotel operations that govern all the services and amenities for traveling anglers. She emphasized that “no item or desire was too small...we want our anglers satisfied.”

The staff scores 100 per cent in how you’re treated. This begins with a delicious ice-cold margarita that is served to you as you board their pier from your transport panga. It continues with delicious breakfasts of local fresh fruit and dishes of your choice through dinners of fish, chicken, steak and lobster all the way to after dinner cigars and perhaps a massage to top off a day of great fishing under the shining tropical sun.

Playa Blanca-

This wonderful facility also features a dedicated fishing program with 6 flats boats situated at the nearby Laguna Santa Rosa dock. This lodge has achieved its own beauty, which is desirably and distinctively different than its sister to the north. This facility has a beautifully spacious layout that features 7 rooms and the elite stand-alone Casa Redonda, 400 meters to the north. The entire property is bounded by a sugar sand beach lapped by the Caribbean Sea to the east and the primordially stunning Choc Mool Mayan ruins to the west.

Playa Blanca has unique appeal to anglers traveling with non-angling friends or spouses. The bountiful offerings of kayaks, snorkeling, eco-trekking, exploring the ruins, or simply relaxing makes each day at this destination a pleasurable adventure. When you arrive, you’ll be pleased to meet the delightful team of Max and Clara. Like their counterparts to the north, he handles fishing, fleet, and logistics while she handles hotel operations.

You fly from your American city to Cancun. Guests making their own flight reservations must plan to arrive in Cancun no later than 2:00 p.m. and schedule their return flight from Cancun no earlier than 11 a.m. The lodge provides the transfer flights, which offer spectacular views and take less than an hour.

Casa Blanca Lodge
Telephone: 1-800-533-7299, 1-956-428-5666
Website: www.casablancafishing.com/
Email: outdoortravelinc@rgv.rr.com