SALTWATER FUN: ROCKS, DOCK AND BEACH
by Alan Luecke
(Overland Park, KS)
Our trip to Isla Mujeres Mexico this winter featured much improved weather compared to last year's five inches of rain. My fishing began as usual with rocky tide pools on the windward shore. Over the last year considerable sand washed into the area filling many of the holes half full. There are still plenty of fish but not quite the aquarium like conditions of the past.
The sand comes, the sand goes. A new hole had formed next one of my familiar rocks and consistently produced some of the nicest fish of the trip. Sand Drum in the low teen range had taken up residence and were a nice surprise compared to the usual smaller fish all around.
We had several days of lower than normal wind speeds and I was able to get back to the beach I fished last year. I caught several of last year's Yellowfin Mojarra plus a Bar Jack which is a new species for me.
Encouraged by my success, I climbed down to a little strip of sand between a seawall and a shallow rock covered flat. Like most beaches, a narrow trough of slightly deeper water ran parallel to the waterline. I started working this area and caught a cool Hairy Blenny. A few minutes later to my complete surprise, udder amazement and absolute delight I got into my first school of Florida Pompano. Pompano have been my unsuccessful goal on every Florida trip, but were totally unexpected in these rocks. I caught three. And then, like the lab rats with a cocaine dispenser, I kept pulling that trigger for another hour and half without a bite. Pompano deserve their reputation as hard fighting fish. A 12 inch fish bent the rod like an 18 inch bass. The Kiyose handled it just fine, but good big fish technique was required.
It's hard to beat Pompano, but an accessible dock on the bay side comes close. A few years back I had great fun on a large, empty commercial dock including a fixed-line Barracuda. It was only 16 inches but who's counting? Alas, the economy marches on and the dock is busy and roped off. Just down the coast is a rickety little dock that I assumed was part of a nearby restaurant. Turns out, it's at least semi-public and no one seemed to mind an old gringo standing out at the end with funny looking rods.
I caught seven species off the dock including the biggest fish of the trip. A Red-tailed Parrot Fish in the 18 inch range took a Power Isome Sandworm next to a piling. I ran it back and forth till it gave up and then took some pictures with it on top of the water. I didn't have a long net and the dock was 4-5 ft. off the water. I was right to think it would break off the 5X tippet when I pulled it up.
The ocean is full of fish and you never know what will turn up. I fished 2-3 hours a day for six days and ended up with 18 species and 8 of those were new. My Isla Mujeres total is now at 30 species from only a few small locations. This trip pushed me over 100 species total.
The I've settled into a standard saltwater rod selection: Daiwa Kiyose 33SF, 43MF and 53M, Daiwa Keiryu X-24 and my old Kiyotaki 18 for the micros. The standard rig is 4.0 or 4.5 Hi-Vis line with 5X tippet, two BB shots and a size 10 or 12 circle hook.
As always, special thanks to Vern B. for crushing the long distance fish ID.
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“The bitterness of poor quality remains long after the sweetness of low price is forgotten” - Benjamin Franklin
"Be sure in casting, that your fly fall first into the water, for if the line fall first, it scares or frightens the fish..." -
Col. Robert Venables 1662
As age slows my pace, I will become more like the heron.
The hooks are sharp.
The coffee's hot.
The fish are slippery when wet.
Beware of the Dogma