The bottom line is Tarpon adventure on a budget … total costs well under $400 per day. It comes with North American comfort standards, delightful private beach, unusually interesting fellow guests at Canadian owned Casa de Celeste Vida Home
Last year, my wife and I visited the Mayan ruins, the Cenotes and some fishing villages of the Yucatan. She absolutely fell in love with Celestun, and I figured that there must be Tarpon nearby. Anyhow, she said, “We’re coming back next year for my Birthday in late March”, and I started to research the area.
We had gone there originally to see the Flamingos. Flocks of Flamingos are THE current draw to Celestun (Ria Celestun Biosphere). There are many other birds and birders love the place. It all looked good, but there was no talk of Tarpon in the Celestun estuary. However about 30 minutes south by boat is the Isla D’Arena area where there was plenty of talk about Tarpon and even professional tarpon guides came there from Campeche. Google Earth provided the satellite pictures. The amazing Canadian ladies at Celeste Vida found a local fisherman, Cando, to provide transport and even a translator to come aboard because “my Spanish” is an oxymoron
In a small fishing port north of Celestun there was a still-water “pond” on the edge of town that was alive. Snowy Egrets were in profusion feeding, flying and perching. The calm water was dimpled by baitfish escaping something. Cormorants worked the area. There was a lean-to that had a sign identifying it as related to the Biosphere, but no personnel around. There was apparently a stream feeding the pond, and Cando set off to find a possible road that we might use to get upstream.
A short geography lesson is that there are no streams in the Yucatan. All fresh water is underground. The waters that look like streams or ponds are estuaries that have been cut off from the sea. However, at Spring tides when the wind is strong, sometimes the sea breaks through. Tarpon are known for thriving in such places until they are ready to join the reproduction dance, and they then escape on a Spring tide.
Instead of a road, Cando found an old gentleman who said, “Tarpon? No problem”, but you have to get here early. The next day we met his truck on the beach with the moon still up, and set off directly in two john boats into the mangroves which were 50 feet behind the beach. The half hour passage through the mangroves was twisted and narrow-usually the width of the john boat and a bit less for height. Holy flying white Egrets! We would poke around a sharp narrow corner, and POW two dozen of them would leap into the air hawking and flapping. After a half hour of this extraordinary jungle treat, we were in a “pond” as alive or more so that the one I had seen in town.
The pond was lined by solid mangrove growth with roots into the water Something was definitely happening in those roots. Tails were slashing the surface in the shade of the mangroves. They weren’t shy, but they were lazy. A short cast didn’t put them off so you could measure a fly cast with good accuracy and they wanted that. Two feet out from the Mangrove roots and they weren’t interested. Put it closer….put it right on the back edge full of roots, and suddenly there was 20 lbs of very upset Tarpon flying through the air.
Leader is much more important than fly choice. I’ve got to put in a plug for Blue Sky furled leaders because you have to throw a pretty tight loop that stays tight all the way through the leader tip in order to get in there past the overhangs and whatnot. I used a double looped furled leader about 5 feet long connected to four feet of 40 lb. fluorocarbon and tipped with 18 inches of 50 lb.
As the sun got warm, the fishing slowed down from “Are you kidding?” to merely amazing. I love these strong fish and their acrobatics. Plenty jumped above head height. All just shivered in the air regardless of how high or how many times they jumped, but I was done. It was time to have a sandwich, cast to one or two more, and then head back through the magical mangroves with a stupid grin pasted to my face and the tails still slashing.
This can all be arranged with an email to Casa de Celeste Vida Home
. This is adventure travel with a North American bed, kitchen and a private beach where the sun sets into the sea, and good restaurants in town – a fifteen minute walk. Plus there are more than enough Tarpon to send you home with a grin and a great story. If you want to fish with me, book in April. I’ll be back.