Most people that go Light Tackle and Fly Fishing in Cancun think of 4 species to target; Tarpon, Snook, Bonefish and Permit and although these are considered the big 4 or also when caught in one day a “Super Grand Slam” there are plenty of other species that can be caught in these waters.
I’ve made a list with fish that are commonly caught in the Cancun Nichupte Lagoon and Isla Blanca, starting with the big 4 and a little bit about their behavior and how to catch them.
Also known as ‘the Silver King’ can reach lengths up to 8 feet and weigh well over 200 lbs. There are 2 species of Tarpon, one is native to the Atlantic, the other to the Indo Pacific. The tarpon we are fishing for in Cancun are considered “Baby tarpon” weighing anywhere from 2 to 50 lbs. They are a lot of fun to catch on light tackle, 10 to 15 lb test line or Fly rods, usually 8 or 9 weight rods.
It is important when fishing with spinning rods that when you get a bite to set the hook pretty hard, once or twice. When fishing with fly rods the key is to always point your rod to where the fly is, almost keeping your rod tip in the water. When getting a strike, the most common mistake is lifting the rod to set the hook. Tarpon have a very bony mouth so you have to “strip set” the hook to make sure it penetrates into their mouth. When fighting Tarpon both with spinning or fly rods it’s important to always keep your rod up so when the fish jumps (and they will) you can lower your rod (or bow to the king) to give your line slack so it won’t break the line.
They are usually moving in schools and often roll on the surface and when they do it’s quiet easy to spot them. Catching them… well that depends on your skills and of course a bit of luck. This beautiful fish has a very distinctive black lateral line and their fins are bright yellow. Here in the lagoons they can weigh as much as 25 lbs although 5 to 10 lbs is more the average size down here.
Snook are ambush predators and lay usually motionless near the mangroves waiting for a prey to swim past. They’re known as a hard pulling fish and sometimes jump a little as well though not like Tarpon. They can be caught in shallow waters of a foot deep but also in the channels of the lagoon where depths can be 6 to 8 feet.
This species is probably pound for pound the strongest and fastest moving animal of any saltwater fish. Bonefish have a lot of nick names, Bones, Gray Ghost or Silver Bullets just to name a few.
These fish are masters of disguise and can change colors according to the bottom color which makes it so hard to spot them. You can find them in the shallows roaming around in schools or in water about 6 feet deep “mudding” around. This is what they do when looking for their favorite food (shrimps and crabs) they nose dive into the bottom trying to find them and this behavior makes the water look like a mud cloud in that area.
Late spring and the summer months are the best time to fish for these hard fighters in the Cancun and Isla Blanca waters. Average size of these species here is about 3 lbs but bigger ones are caught on a regular base on Fly and Spinning outfits.
To many fly fishermen the Permit is the highest prized fish of them all, as they are so hard to catch. They are very spooky on the flats and very picky when it comes to actually eating the fly or jig you’re throwing to them.
When you are lucky enough to hook one, you better hold on to your rod because these fish make long fast runs. These fish are mostly bottom feeders like Bonefish looking for crabs and shrimp but also feed on small fish. They can be found in small schools and the bigger ones usually cruise solo.
Permits can be distinguished by their elongated dorsal fins and anal fin. Quite often when feeding these dorsal fins and tails stick right out of the water often referred to as “a tailing fish”. Isla Blanca is a well known destination when you specifically want to target these fish, they are small in size but plentiful in the summer months. Average size in Isla Blanca is around 5 lbs while the Cancun lagoon holds the big ones averaging around 12lbs.