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December 12, 2013

Tarpon on the Mexican Coast

Hunt the silver king where the Gulf of Mexico meets the Caribbean.

Big Silver

The next morning we caught a break, both in luck and the weather. We hadn’t been cruising the tarpon grounds long when Vega spotted a rolling fish. Fortunately, Nichols spotted it too. Unfortunately, it was Nichols’ turn on the casting deck, not mine. He laid out a 75-foot cast in the tarpon’s apparent path, and almost immediately his line straightened and began burning off the reel. The 75-pounder took the fight aerial, went long, and took to the air again, amazingly strong given the warm water temperatures. A classic 20-minute battle ensued before the fish rolled boat-side, and the leader hit the tiptop, solidifying an ­official catch — just in time for the seas to kick up.

We continued cruising the bait schools, as ­visibility waned and conditions worsened, but this time, ­acquainted with the search game, we put out some swimming plugs and trolled them in our wake. What we found were not tarpon but a variety of reef species ready and willing to hit our lures; snapper and mackerel came steadily over the gunwales, and kept pretty interesting what was rapidly becoming tough fishing.

It’s All Good

We knew we had an ace to fall back on, and it wasn’t long before we headed to where conditions were likely right for some fast, if not giant, tarpon fishing. It was good to have the option, and once again, we headed for the mangroves.

Perhaps the best aspect of tarpon fishing in Holbox is that it is not, like tarpon fishing in many other places, an all-or-nothing place. Some days are red hot, and big fish will hit just about anything you cast to them. For this reason, it’s a place many anglers return to year after year. Some days, between waves of migrating fish, or when it weathers up, it’s like tarpon fishing in most places: tough, with few shots and lots of hunting. But, when it’s like that, there are options. And perhaps most alluring of all is the slower pace and relaxed atmosphere — yes, even in the giant-tarpon fishing — in a remote and beautiful place that shows you the best of what Mexico has to offer