Tabasco Fly Fishing | Bozeman Fly Shop – Fins and Feathers Bozeman
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Tabasco Fly Fishing | Bozeman Fly Shop

All I knew about Tabasco, Mexico was that the region is well-known for world renown hot sauce in both red and green varieties. The added benefit for me is that the area is also home to some relatively untapped Tarpon and Snook fishing. When Yellow Dog asked if I wanted to join them on an exploratory trip to this corner of the Yucatan, you have to know that my reaction was immediate and yes. I love Tarpon and I love hot sauce.

It turns out that Tabasco hot sauce is actually made in Louisiana and has no connection to Tabasco, Mexico! That was just one of many things I learned during the 8- hour drive from Merida to Villahermosa in the back seat of a mini-van. Mexican prisons along the highway do not look to inviting either. Also, I learned that it is much quicker to fly to Villahermosa than drive.

We met up with our host, Paco Marroquin of Fly Fishing Tabasco, at a Wal-Mart in Villahermosa and made our way to the Hyatt for a quick bite before back-tracking to Frontera. Villahermosa is a big city full of Latin America traffic that belies comparison to anything here in the USA. A quick departure to the country was at the top of my list that first night.

Frontera is a small, Mexican town located along the banks of the Grijalva River in the state of Tabasco. Oil production and support services are the primary economic drivers in the region; both of which are currently depressed as compared to only a few years ago. Still, there are plenty of services in the town including restaurants, hotels, bars, and shopping options for all of the necessities. We stayed right on the town square in a modest hotel that was comfortable and clean.

Tabasco Fly Fishing with Fins & Feathers of Bozeman's fly shop and Montana fly fishing outfitter

The fishing here is about an hour’s drive east along the Usumacinta River and its tributaries with the primary focus being baby Tarpon and some Snook as well. Active netting along the river surely is partly to blame for reduced Snook catches in recent years. However, the baby Tarpon are thriving and prevalent throughout the areas we explored on the edge of the Pantanos Biosphere Reserve.

The typical day here starts with a short ride in a panga up the river and away from most development. Baby Tarpon are found throughout the main stem river and the myriad tributaries. Mangrove trees line the river edge and give one the feeling of fishing a jungle more so than any kind of flats fishing typically associated with Tarpon fishing. Monkeys, Ringtail cats, crocodiles, and birds of every color are readily seen during the day. The occasional fisherman checking nets op hand-lining for jacks and snapper are the only people one is likely to encounter on the water.

Tabasco fly fishing with Fins & Feathers of Bozeman's fly shop and Montana fly fishing outfitter

The numbers of baby Tarpon here is staggering, literally. In the three days that we fished here, we ran into everything from single fish to schools numbering in the hundreds each day. These are small-sized Tarpon ranging in size from 2-10 pounds with some larger fish mixed in as well. We saw a few fish that were in the 30-50-pound range over the three days, but never did get in a situation where we were able to target these larger fish. Regardless, the action is non-stop with hookups and fish landed numbering well over the 20 mark, per angler on a typical day. There were times when we were surrounded by schools of fish that were 100 yards deep in every direction.

This was a much different style of Tarpon fishing than I had ever experienced and I think that most anglers would feel the same, despite their experience level. Fly color and size was much less important than keeping the boat 50+ feet from the feeding fish. As such, anglers that are comfortably able to cast 70-90’ will hook into dramatically more fish than one that is most comfortable in the 30-50’ distances. We were able to target feeding fish for hours at a time so long as we stayed well outside “normal” casting distances. The less experienced caster will still have plenty of opportunities but the typical setup will result in one or two hookups per school as compared to several when casting from longer distances.

Tabasco Fly Fishing with Fins & Feathers of Bozeman's fly shop and Montana fly fishing outfitter

The water is muddy in places and tannin-stained in others so sight-fishing to cruising fish is not the norm here. However, nervous water created by cruising fish is easily identified in the lagoons and river mouths. Feeding Tarpon are also easily spotted by their trademark splashy explosions while chasing baitfish along the mangrove edges. So, although this isn’t classic sight fishing along sandy flats, this is very much a visual angling experience.

Tabasco Fly Fishing is setup to host groups of 2-4 anglers, but are able to accommodate groups of up to 8 anglers. Fishing is from new, 22’ Pangas fitted with rear-mounted trolling motors that are used to maneuver along the Mangrove edges. These boats are awesome to fish out of and we fished with two anglers at the same time throughout most of our trip. Paco also has a bass boat with a casting seat on the front deck that he can use when he has anglers that aren’t able to stand all day or have poor balance.

Anglers will want to bring a range of Tarpon flies tied in smaller sizes (1/0-2) including Toads, Peanut Butters, EP Tarpon Streamers, and Clouser Minnows. A variety of fly colors should include white, chartreuse, purple, tan, and reds to cover the various water conditions. Rods in the 9’ 8 weight range were preferred here and skilled anglers can get away with a 7 weight when conditions are ideal. Typical fly line choice here is a floating weight forward, but anglers should also have a reel setup with a clear, intermediate sink tip line as well. A heavy-duty reel with a fully-sealed disc drag is essential to help handle these powerful fish in the mangrove forests.

Tabasco Fly Fishing with Fins & Feathers of Bozeman's fly shop and fly fishing outfitter

I had no idea what to expect when I was invited to join this trip. All I knew was that we would be going after baby Tarpon somewhere along the northern coast of the Yucatan. As it turned out, this was one of the more unique angling experiences that I have come across. The river system, the people, and the angling experience were just terrific and I hope to get back there again soon.

I would recommend this trip as a 2-3-day excursion to tie into a trip to Holbox or Ascension Bay as flights from Cancun to Villahermosa are readily available. Guests can stay in Villahermosa at the Hyatt if they prefer luxury accommodations, but should expect a daily drive of over an hour each way.

Yellow Dog Fly Fishing is now booking trips with Tabasco Fly Fishing and you can contact them to learn more about pricing and trip options. Contact Fins & Feathers’ Bozeman fly shop to learn more about the recommended flies, gear, and terminal tackle needed for this or any other saltwater destination. We travel extensivley and offer hosted fly fishing trips around the world in addtion to a full range of Bozeman guided fly fishing day trips and Monatana vacation packages.

Tabasco Fly Fishing with Fins & Feathers of Bozeman's fly shop and Montana fly fishing outfitter