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Mexico Tarpon Fishing Trips

Campeche, Mexico


Catching Baby Tarpon in Campeche Mexico

What A Thrill

Campeche, on Mexico's western Yucatan, is a very safe community. It is
also very warm year-round. Not much for beaches, but baby tarpon galore!

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Dawn just outside Campeche. Calm seas. Tarpon Time!
Mangroves
Tarpon will move up and down these tiny creeks, and often sit in the holes at the ends of them.
Mexico Tarpon fishing trips around Campeche is for “baby” tarpon ranging from 20 inches to over 20 pounds. These are the PERFECT sized tarpon. In fact, they are the most perfect sport fish on the planet in my opinion, so that’s why I chose Campeche in the first place. These are not the giant tarpon of the Florida Keys that I’ve targeted in the past. These smaller tarpon jump more, feed more readily, provide more “sport,” and you can catch a bunch of them without needing resuscitation yourself. They don’t kill you like the epic battles of the giant fish. You land most in 5 minutes or less, but still get the eats and runs and jumps. This is mostly sight fishing. We catch them with 8-weight fly fishing gear, and fairly light spinning gear. Fly fishing here is a blast, and tarpon readily eat flies presented with floating lines. Spin fishing is very productive since casts can be generally further. There are three basic fishing patterns/places: Mangrove shorelines, "creeks", and offshore sea grass depressions. We find tarpon cruising just along the front of the mangrove shorelines. These are sporadic, and the fish generally on the move. Right next to the mangroves and around some of the smaller isolated islands, we see them holding in small openings where you can cast a fly. It is all about accuracy. There is plenty of casting room, and it is all sight fishing. We either see the fish holding in the clear water, see a roll, or see the telltale bubbles and vibration from the tarpon just under the surface. “Nervous water” that often means a tarpon or two to cast to. Along these same shorelines are mangrove “creeks”, some winding for hundreds of yards back into the mangrove jungles. These creeks are magnets for both bait fish and the tarpon that eat them. The mouths of the creeks always demand some casts, and often tarpon can be seen swimming down the creeks right into the openings where we are casting. As the guide poles up these small, tangled waterways, roll-casting with the fly rod or making short underhand casts with spinning tackle is often necessary. Some creeks are not much wider than the boat, and there are mangrove roots and branches everywhere. There’s tarpon in most of them too! They provided shelter from the wind, and fish to see and cast to when the going gets tough on the “outside."

Details Of My Feb, 2011 Trip


The hot pattern on this trip was the “outside” water further out from the mangroves that was 5-8 feet deep. My guide Juan found areas where there were huge schools of tarpon moving, rolling, jumping, and feeding. At times, we were surrounded. At other times, he had to move the boat around for hundreds of yards and search for pods of rollers. Some of the schools contained dozens of fish. Some contained hundreds! These schools were definitely “epic!”

(Wednesday.) Day one began with me and Juan searching some mangrove shorelines for cruising fish. We found a couple of small groups, and I missed a clear shot at one of the groups. I also caught a small fish at a creek mouth. About mid-morning, he headed well off the shore into 6-8 feet of water with some slight incoming tidal current. Shortly thereafter, he says to me, “Jim, many, many tarpon coming!” They sure were, coming right at us! A whole pod of ‘em!

There was a moderate wind, and I had chucked flies since sunrise, so I picked up the spin rod and fished it throughout the morning. Tarpon from 5-20 pounds ate soft plastics fished just beneath the surface. They rolled and jumped around us for several hours. I’m not much of a fish-counter, especially when it’s really good, but Juan said I jumped 14 fish, or something close to that. I brought four to the boat for a release. That’s typical for spinning gear and mid-sized “baby” tarpon. There is simply no good place in a tarpon’s mouth for a hook, so you lose a lot when they jump. Three or four quick jumps and a thrown hook works for me! We worked those moving schools for 2-3 hours until they disappeared to the bottom aas the afternoon winds picked up. Again, very typical behavoir. Tarpon don't come up and roll in the wind very often. Reasons are unknown, and another book of speculation. They just go down, and don't feed as readily. We had our fun, and it was time to head for home, about an hour boat ride in the 20-foot Panga with a 60-horse. The boats ride smooth even in whitecaps and small waves.
offshore%20large-resize
This is the largest tarpon I hooked, though I jumped some equal and larger.
offshore
This was a typical fish caught offshore of the mangrove shorelines in slightly deeper water of 6-8 feet deep. They readily came to the surface to take flies and soft-plastic lures, and nearly every "take" was clearly visible.
(Thursday) Juan poled me along the mangroves early, looking for singles and small groups. We saw fewer than yesterday. As the tide began to rise like yesterday, we again headed a little offshore to the deeper water. The winds laid down to near-glass calm, and Juan parked us right in the middle of some huge pods of happy, rolling tarpon. 5-pounders. 10-pounders. A few 20-pounders. Then began what was to become the best 4 hours of baby tarpon fishing I’ve ever had. It was just crazy-good. Fantasy Fishing. I jumped 30 fish on both fly and spin. It didn't matter what I tossed at 'em. Anything that moved in the schools was gobbled up on or near the surface. I'd see a follow, flash, or boil on the fly or lure nearly every time. There were some casts where I'd hook a fish, it would jump off, and another tarpon would eat it again. I don't rememver how many I got to the boat (not a high percentage), but I do rememver Juan saying over and over again, "Jim! Jim! Many tarpon! They're coming! 2:00! 10:30! 12:00! Over here! Look, look!" It was pure madness. I couldn't keep up with all of them. One of those days I don't need any pictures of. They're in my mind. I'll never forget this day
(Friday) After yesterdays dream day, I took a break the next morning and decided to fish the afternoon and evening instead. My wife wanted to see a little of the "city", so we slept in, ate breakfast, and did the tourist thing in Campeche. Its a pleasant, laid-back sort of place where most people don't really get going until mid-morning.

We met Juan early in the afternoon to go fish along the mangroves for the rest of the day until dark. Juan put me on fish, and I managed to get a few "just right" casts to some with the fly and bring three 10-pounders to the boat. The afternoon wind made casting a challenge on the outside of the mangroves, but it was calm back int he creeks, where I caught a couple more smaller ones on spinning gear. I also jumped a couple of beauties blind casting at creek mouths with flies. It was a busy and productive afternoon/evening. We arrived back at dark.
flyfishing creek
Often you are roll-casting with the fly rod inside the smaller creeks where tarpon roam and hang out in the shade of the mangrove canopy.
creek baby
Often you are roll-casting with the fly rod inside the smaller creeks where tarpon roam and hang out in the shade of the mangrove canopy.
(Saturday) Day four was a bit windier from the start, but the routine was similar. Tarpon were scarce along the mangroves though, and the creeks didn’t show much more promise. At 11 am, after four hours on the water, I had nothing to show for it. Hmmm, sounds like tarpon fishing to me. So, we headed out to the “glory hole” once again, and sure enough, we finally found some fish despite the moderate chop on the water. I hooked several on the fly, and some more on spinning gear as the wind increased. It was nothing like the fantasy day, but I did stay busy casting to fish for a little over an hour. The wind eventually howled, the tarpon disappeared, and we were done. We looked at a few creeks on the way home to port, but didn’t find anything promising.
(Sunday) This was my last full day on the water. The mangroves early were tough again, and the fish not numerous. I did catch one, but it was just a prelude to moving out to the deeper water and bigger schools. We arrives, and they were there! What followed was a replay of yesterday. I cast my flies to the pods of rollers, and they ate them up when I got it on 'em. The wind blew the whole time, but Juan did his best to position me for a down wind cast. We hooked-up, chased the fish, hooked-up again, and repeated that for a few hours. Once again, the tarpon disappeared around 2pm, but Juan ran down one last group where I landed a fish in the 12-15 pound range. We high-fived, and headed for home. It was to be my last, but I didn't know it at the time.
creek baby-2
This is a typical baby tarpon I caught in the creeks with both fly and spin gear.
Mangrove shoreline
The mangrove shorelines extend endlessly north of Campeche. The guides pole along the shoreline looking for "sweet spots" for cruising tarpon or fish holding in small openings in and under the mangroves.
(Monday) Day six, my last day, was planned so that I could return to port by 11 am or so to prepare for departure from Campeche. We stopped at the area we had done well in on Friday evening, and the tarpon were there. I got my fly right on some noses three different times on the first stop, and the fish just swam away without even a glance. No interest. Hmmm, must be tarpon again? They were just moody. As we moved to other areas along the mangroves and way up many creeks, we only saw a few fish, and they ignored everything I threw at them. Even the bait fish were just sitting still in the waters. Everything just seemed to be at a standstill. Bottom line, I never had a bite on my last morning of fishing. Juan hunted his butt off trying to find happy fish. We both just shrugged our shoulders. So it goes. I had a great trip anyway.
Flies I used included Clousers, Toads, and Deceivers. Any fly around 2-3 inches long with some white on it drew strikes. Traditional "Keys style" tarpon flies were also very effective. Crab patterns worked too. All I fished was floating lines. A sink-tip would be useful in the deeper water off shore, but I chose to spin fish when I needed to get down. I used 6-9 foot leaders with a 50lb. butt, 20 lb. class, and 40 pound bite tippet. A simple 3-peice leader turned over nicely.

Spin fishing was good with sluggos, twister-tail grubs, Storm Wildeyes, Zoom Flukes, and even a fly tied on with a large split-shot just above it. I used 30lb. braided line with a 40 pound mono. leader.
Up creek
Creeks and openings like this exist along miles and miles of mangrove shorelines, and provide plenty of casting room for fly or spin.

The area around Campeche also has ancient Mayan ruins like this found at Edzna, about an hour from Campeche on paved roads.

Re-exposure
We travelled from SLC to Houston, then connected to Merida, MX. where our host, Raul, picked us up and drove us the two hours to Campeche. Email me for trip details. I will be making return trips and will be happy to have some company!
Campeche waterfront
This is the waterfront just across the street from our comfortable hotel.