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Mexican Payoff: First Surf Success

by Alan Luecke
(Kansas City, MO)

My fishing hole

My fishing hole

The story of this winter has been the weather and we're not done yet. On my recent trip to Isla Mujeres, Mexico I got to experience the tropical version. The reason people go there is because it's boring -- 80 during the day, 70 at night and lots of sunshine and big puffy clouds.

This year the temps were slightly cooler and everything else was in constant flux thanks to the southern trailing edge of a big continent-wide cold front. Over the course of a week the wind blew from every point of the compass at speeds from 5 to 30 mph. The seas went from gentle swells to huge breakers on a daily basis and the island got close to 5 inches of rain, along with some nice sunny days. I'm a little tired just remembering it.

The upside was a wide variety conditions on my little stretch of rocky coast. Every foot of exploitable shoreline on the island is reserved for revenue production. The only free area is the rocky windward shore which is usually so windblown and treacherous that the only fishing possible is in small tide pools sheltered by rock structures. Every year I hope for new discoveries, and every year I fish the same three spots. This year's crazy weather was a gift (to me, my wife not so much). I caught fish in seven different tide pools and holes, and finally some in actual surf! The main reason was the calmer seas and low tide which allowed access to some spots which are just too dangerous in normal conditions.

I've always packed a long rod for the surf, but until now it's was always more hopeful than useful. There is always a lot of surf but the rocks are too rough and the water too strong to get in position. Also, swinging an 18ft rod into 30mph gusts doesn't work anyway. Thanks to this year's strange weather I had one morning of low surf and soft winds blowing out from a stretch of sandy beach. I rigged the Daiwa Kiyose 53MF with size 4 level line, 5X tippet, a AAA shot and a size 10 circle hook with Isome Sandworm. Standing knee deep I was able to cast out past the line of white breaking water and bring the hook in just off the bottom through the area being churned up by the waves and where there were, hopefully, fish looking for things go eat. There were! Over the course of an hour I caught three Yellowfin Mojaras in the 10 to 12 inch range. Saltwater fish are tough and these were smallmouth strong. Three is not a big number, but after five years of zero it was great. The trade winds returned the next day and that was that.

The tide pool fishing was the usual fun with the added benefit of greater access because of the calmer seas. This was balanced by me having to decided how long I was willing to fish while standing in wind blown rain. Again the Daiwa Kiyose 33SF with Isome was the go to tool for the job.I started out catching the usual suspects in the usual places and considering the conditions I was happy to be fishing at all. When you drop into a routine it can be easy to expect the routine. The routine was broken when I started catching new fish. Over the course six days I caught eleven species including two new and two that I had caught before but misidentified. This years class: Tomtate Grunt, Sailor's Choice Grunt, Cesar Grunt, Schoolmaster Snapper, Yellow Seachub, Yellowfin Mojara, Sargent Major, Notch-tongue Goby , Banded Jawfish, Slippery Dick Wrasse and Bluehead Wrasse.

My identification game has been greatly impoved by a free app from The Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute call Shorefishes of the Greater Caribbean. Of course what I really do is just send the pictures to Vern B., my birder friend who knows all things ID.

I'm going to Florida in April and hoping winter will be over.

Comments for Mexican Payoff: First Surf Success

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Feb 16, 2019
Fish ID
by: Vernb

As usual, Alan always throws me a challenge for fish identification. If I can’t be there, it sure is fun to try identifying them. The reference to birding is to years of identifying bird species and knowing small details to look for. However, Alan is the one to go to for ID of micro fish.

Feb 17, 2019
Thank You Alan!
by: Les Albjerg


My last two fishing trips were in blizzard conditons! Reading your write-up of fishing in Mexico was a nice respite from the weather here right now. I just love the pictures, and seeing those salt-water fish makes me really want to give it a whirl. This year I am hoping to get to the Oregon coast and see if I can catch a surf perch on the Kyogi 21. Your persistence has me motivated to really go after the steelhead again this year in April on the Salmon River up near Stanley. Not balmy weather however! Last time I went last year we began the morning fishing at minus 11 degrees! It was sunny and calm however. Would rather have it cloudy and in the 20's or 30's. I mention this because it always seems we are almost always hoping for a different kind of weather! Ah, the life of a fisherman.

For the past two years I have enjoyed your Mexico stories, and was looking forward to this year's report. It didn't disappoint! Again thank you!

Feb 21, 2019
cool fish
by: bill piatek

Nice change of pace Alan! We just got back from 2 weeks in NW Costa Rica in Playa Hermosa. Would have been ideal for Tenkara as the fish were all in the wash tearing through tiny sardines. Small jacks and ladyfish mostly. These were bigger ladys than I have ever seen, mostly 3-6 lbs. Great fighter.

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