Miles Tam in Mexico December 2013

“Dos cervaza por favor” it’s probably the first bit of Spanish I picked up in the first few hours after hitting the tarmac in Mexico. Which means “two more beers please”. Tequila is as common as mount franklin water and the fish are as abundant as sandflies at the Dungeness boat ramp! But just like every other holiday, our destinations are always decided on how good the fishing is the area! It comes down to culture, food and fishing, and our top two countries on our hit list were Kuala Rompin Malaysia and Cancun Mexico. But after a few trips to Asia recently, a new and fresh culture hit was in order!

Research, research, research! Soooo many options for fishing, for both flats fishing and its world famous sailfish grounds straight off the coast of busy Cancun! You don’t travel half way across the globe and not do any of it! Firstly the Yucatan coast has to be one of the safest places I have visited and the people are so friendly. With endless flats loaded with bonefish, permit, snook and world-famous tarpon, we really had to plan a stay at a lodge for a few days to really experience this first class fishery. Also, the sailfish fishing is rated on par with Kuala Rompin in Malaysia, along with the thought of stepping on a game boat on the Caribbean Sea enough reason to book a charter!

Part one will take us aboard Kianah Sportfishing Charters out of Cancun which has the reputation as one of the best charters for sailfish and deep sea jigging! They use only the best gear, all custom built rods and top shelf reels along with the biggest range of knife jigs. We chose a half day jigging as well as trolling for sailfish. We couldn’t have picked it any better with us onboard in the middle of the peak of sailfish season. The lead up to our charter saw no less than 20-30 sailfish landed each day in less than 8 hours of fishing. If that’s not enough, the crew supplied all the food and as much beer as you can stomach! We got picked up from Isla Mujeres, a small island off the coast of Cancun and had the game boat all to ourselves along with our skipper and two deckhands.

First up… jigging!

Now I jig a lot here in oz at the reef, but what we had install was a whole new level! When we pulled up to get the jig rods ready and load up a knife jig, I think our decky forgot to look at how small and insignificant we are. He opted for the “harden up Amigo” approach and tied on a knife jig that was a gram or two off 500 grams… It was here I probably worked out why there was only Alicia and myself onboard one box of knife jigs would be enough weigh the boat down! The thought of a new species and thinking I may never be here again made me jig that knife jig like it was my last fishing trip ever! With the chance of catching oversized amberjack, huge snapper, and one of the tastiest fish I’ve ever eaten, the grouper, my enthusiasm had that 500 gram jig whizzing vertically like a metal slice!

The jig hit the bottom and the anticipation of that first hit was something I will never forget. It would have been my third rip when I thought I had either snagged the seabed or bloody pulled the plug out of the ocean! It was a very hostile welcoming to Mexico a double hookup with Lou (Alicia) and myself battling monsters from down deep. You could hear the deckies calling the two fish for amberjack, and big ones at that. The power from these fish are amazing, with long, burning, unstoppable runs with mere seconds to try to make up some line before it does it again. Yes, amberjack are caught in Australian waters, but are mostly found further down south. But these ones can speak Spanish…

After a long and tiresome battle I finally caught my first fish in the Caribbean Sea, an amberjack nudging the 20kg mark and not a bad start, I must say! Lou landed a fine amberjack and quickly retreated to the cabin to regroup and crack our celebratory cervaza! The Mexican coast doesn’t have bulging reefs or outcrops like we do; it remains relatively flat and the average depth for a lot of it is only 30m. They do have a shelf, but even that is quite flat with a steady drop to deeper water; however, the fish don’t need much to congregate here.

After about my seventh amberjack, I hooked something a little different, with plenty of headshakes and a different type of enthusiasm to get back down to the bottom. After winning the first third of the water column the fish subdued and became a hefty deadweight to the surface. It spiraled through the water column and had different colorations to the amberjacks we were introduced to earlier. You beauty! My first grouper! Now, I know what your thinking, a cod right? No, these guys are the equivalent to our coral trout and are usually big! They taste just as good as well! It’s a cool feeling holding a fish that you probably will never see again, and a proud milestone to one’s angling career.

By now I felt like my physique had morphed into the likes of a Sonny Bill Williams or Matt Scott, and was a little relieved when the skipper yelled out, “OK chikos, let’s go troll for sailfish.”

It was a short 30 minute trip to the prolific sailfish grounds which gave me just enough time to put a small dent in the cervaza situation and plenty of time to jump up on the tower and watch the boys set the teasers and baits out! There were birds everywhere, and in every corner a game boat was seen trolling for the same prize. Over there, due to the huge numbers of sailfish, they actually do snorkeling charters to swim with them! We would have seen 3 or 4 25-30 foot centre consoles with 10 people on board charging into bait balls and watched them all jump into the water to get a glimpse of these fish up close and personal! Crazy, eh!

But, unlike the previous few weeks with record number sailfish, today was not going to be that easy! We trolled for hours for not a bite nor a follow. We talked to the other boats who had been there all day and had nothing to show for their efforts. It gave me time to talk to the deckies one-on-one and find out a bit about where they live and what other types of fishing they like.

A few hours had passed we were all sitting on the lower deck munching on some snacks when Lou said she needed to go to the bathroom. She took about four steps into the cabin when the skipper on the upper level starts screaming all sorts of jibberish holding the steering wheel in one hand and setting the hook into a fish with the other! We were on! I told Lou, “It’s gonna have to wait if you want this one!” and without question Lou jumped into the game chair and found herself attached to her first sailfish.

We cleared all the other lines and teasers and Lou took her time to subdue the fish. The start of the fight was filled with their notorious jumps and twists followed by a short dig down deep, but the skipper showed every minute of his experience to keep Lou attached.

She looked like a pro and by now we had the sailfish boat side. We had a minute to get organized with cameras and positioning to get some quick snaps before we released her back into the water. It was a beauty, and a better than school size fish too, but more importantly Lou’s first sailfish from the Caribbean Sea. One, two, three and up she came onto the deck. But unfortunately this sailfish bared the scars from an encounter with another predator, with one side of its body bloodied and at early stages of healing, so we couldn’t quite get a good pic of the fish in all its glory.

Well, we didn’t bag the numbers that the previous clients were getting, but we at least got one! And that brought us to the end of our first fishing charter in Mexico! Do yourself a favour and Google “Cancun Beaches” or “Isla Mujeres Beaches”, then you may only just come close to fully understanding how magic these waters are. The water is a different echelon of blue and the sand is sickeningly white and just teeming with fish. They do have strict fishing regulations, which has helped maintain this beautiful place, along with the support of local fisherman who actively practice catch and release.

Stay tuned for part two of Mexico’s Fishing Mecca, as we take you down the Yucatan coast to one of my favourite locations we visited in Mexico. A little place called Punta Allen, where we spent a few days at a fly fishing lodge. We tangled with the bountiful bonefish, snapper and snook in some of the most breathtaking flats you have ever laid eyes on. Until then, Hola Amigo!

Do it cos ya love it!