Thursday, February 14, 2019

Yucatan in the Fading Light

We took a few weeks off work to explore the Yucatan Peninsula  - from January 21st  to February 11th.  With 2 or 3 day Air BnB cabin stays in Akumal, Tulum, Valladolid, Merida, Chuburna, El Cuyo and Holbox.  

What a typical Air BnB stay in Mexico looks like.  We budget from $45 to $70 a night for places like this.  $45 can be a little sketchy and $70 places are often very nice.  We typically book the stays about 8 weeks in advance.  We rarely end up with a dud and sometimes end up with a real gem where we wish we had booked 4 or even 5 nights.  

Didn't really know that the east coast of the Yucatan could have so much pounding surf --- but well it was truly winter after all. This particular location ended up producing some really remarkalble fish the following morning.  I get up every morning early to fish for a couple of hours before the world wakes up.   Though the eastern shore of the Yucatan has very little public access to the sea due to resorts and several large preserves.  It took a lot of map reading to find any access to the water in the entire 183 km south of Cancun.  

No boat needed. No guide needed.  No bait needed.  This is a Jurel or Yellow Jack.   Anything with that lunate tail pulls real real hard.  Someday I hope to put some of my fly fishing friends on these.  Although it is in some ways easier to just throw a credit card and hire a fishing charter guide - I find more satisfaction in finding the fish on my own.  

Nice solid Mangrove Snapper on artificial lure.  It is rare to fool more than one of these in a given area.  They wise up to your fake ass lures pretty quick.  These are the large sets of rocks just off the beach at Tulum.  

The ocean pounded directly at the foundations of some of these cabins on the beach at Tulum.
That sea is coming for us.  Am I happy that I cannot afford any sort of property on the water anywhere ? 

The Houndfish.   The thin man with the blue teeth is a master hunter in the surf here.  

Society for the Effects of Humidity on Hair. 

Another typical cabin stay.  This one in the jungle at Camp Akumal.  

Mayan civilization at Uxmal.  Much bigger and quiter than Chichen Itza.  More ruins and far less vendors and people.  

It was easy to imagine and feel the ancient Mayans moving through these spaces. 

Get up at 5 AM everyday.  Hit the water.  Your only real shot at the bigger open water fish from shore happens around first light - or maybe, maybe if the Gods are smiling again at dusk at some locations. It took a lot of perusing of various maps to locate any access to the water amongst the resorts, preserves and private property.  I actually would not recommend the eastern side of Yucatan as a fishing destination at all.   Way to challenging to find legal access to the water and the few available locations get fished hard by the locals and rightfully so.  I'm not sure how the resorts get away with generally denying the locals any access to the water for long stretches of coastline.  

A sizeable Bar Jack from shore at Akumal was an unexpected first and a dream come true for me.   Slide them up on a wet rock for a quick photo and get them right back in.  

A hefty Horse Eye Jack from shore at Akumal. My favorite species of fishes - the Jacks or Trevallies - because of the enduro slugfest style of fight they dish out.  Nothing in your freshwater fishing life really prepares you for these.

Name this species of fish and get a free burrito. (Mahogany Snapper) You'd never want it to happen - but - big fast moving lures get hit by territorial reef residents .... occasionally.  This trip resulted in 14 species of fish - 13 of which were from shore on my own.
(Houndfish, Bar Jack, Horse Eye Jack, Jack Crevalle, Blue Runner, Mangrove Snapper, Mutton Snapper, Mahogany Snapper, Pinfish, Snook, Tarpon, Ladyfish, Sea Trout and Barracuda)

Catch and Cook. A few of our Mangrove Snappers made it to the dinner table.  Bri can really work some magic with some simple ingredients and a kitchenette.  

The newish thing here and in Belize as well - the constant tide of dead floating sea grasses washing up in huge  decaying masses on the beach.  It is ever present with the right prevailing wind - and ugly and very concerning.  

Welcome to Crocodile country.  I don't wade fish or even put my feet in the water at all in the dark here - though this was less than 800m from a swimming beach and less than 400m from a place where people get in the water with phosphorescence nearly every night.  
View of a nice 10 foot American Crocodile from up on a bridge at Boca Paila - and there was a much larger Croc on the next point.  All the closer I am going to get.  Keep a healthy fear when wading in these areas but try not to let the presence of crocs occupy 100% of your brain space.  

The magnificent and massive everglades-sized Sian Ka'an Preserve.  Horrific rutted and flooded roads for 3 hours with rental car and no fishing allowed but the wildlife watching was spectacular.  How we did not rip the ground effects off our rented Nissan Sentra I will never know.  

City of Merida.   In my opinion - this city should be on everyones travel list.  A truly unique - old old city on at least  level with the fun and funk of New Orleans and then some.   We have to go back and spend a full week.   

Governor's Palace at Merida. The large paintings tell the horrible story of the conquest and enslavement of the Mayans by the Spanish. 

New friends from a great 3 day stay at the Pantera Negra.  Really knowledgeable hosts Jean Pierre and Gina made the Merida stay our favorite of the trip.  They introduced us to a whole bunch of eccentric artsy ex-pats from all over the world who are making lives in Merida.  Merida has a lot of great "cantinas" that start serving drinks and tapas at about 4 pm.  

When you find your tribe. 

The pool at Pantera Negra Every place having a dip pool seems extravagant but you'll end up using them.  

With no public shore access for the first half of our trip -  I panicked and hired a guide for a half day out of Progresso.  This photo is a snip from a 3 minute battle with a very nice 40 lb. Tarpon.  Which I subsequently then lost.  

Sea trout on the flats of the Ria behind Chuburna. 

More of the very special city of Merida.  Very old city and very fun.  We got to watch a full match of the ancient Mayan ball game at the town square and also got to watch the Superbowl with new friends. 

The deck for eating breakfast at Pantera Negra  They serve you an amazing local breakfast every morning.  

The director of the Chichen Itza Inn showing us the hives of the local stingless bee.  

Cooking class outside Valladolid.  

Wandering the edge of the water just west of El Cuyo.  DIY fishing in a strange country involves a lot of walking and searching and trying to get lil' bits of information here and there about the local scene.  I make friends on the jetties and always give away lures and often a fish as well.  

The simple lures worked that worked the best.  It is very important that you fish with lures that sink - because sometimes you need a way to keep the diving Pelicans from getting to them.  And again - single hook lures are way less hard on the fish. 

I had a dusk session standing on the jetty at El Cuyo where the fish were hitting lures in the rough murky surf for well over an hour straight.  No another soul in sight and the small Snook, Jacks and Ladyfish were ripping lures off the surface. It does not get any better.  I gave this Snook away to the locals.  

Huge amounts of anything that floats washed up for miles at any location where there are not workers cleaning the beach constantly in front of all resorts.  The very dark side of our plastic loving culture.  Water bottles and flip flops were over represented.  

A very lively back water at Holbox.  I walked out here at 5 AM in the dark with hundreds of glowing yellow spider eyes watching me along the jungle path.  Spiders with glowing eyes !!! 

New Social Critics fishing club shirts are out.  I have a few extra and I may have one in your size.  Contact me if you want one. 

Lots of shells wash up in winter.  A view looking west here toward Rio Lagartos - with 36km of uninhabited shoreline. Well except for a few military cocaine police boats I'm sure.  

Here is the place where I spent 2 seconds with a very large Barracuda. 

Add for a tattoo shop in Tulum 

A tale for everyone's dance with addiction. 
A daiquiri ice colored Jack Crevalle south of the border. I shall die happy. 

A tail for my dance with addiction.  The strong Jurel or Yellow Jack. More than once on this trip I could see two Jacks rise up in the face off a big clear curling wave chasing my lure.

Tulum was not my favorite.  It's pretty much drowning in boutique tourist shopping.  But it did have a shop of handmade items that were really nice. 
Oh I am super impressed with your 401k but this guy wakes up to the Caribbean every. single. day.  A house of a real human smuggled in between the hashtag yoga dress shops at Tulum.  

In the fading afternoon light at Punta Coco, Holbox.   The real fisherman shows up.