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So, what is the latest on that new tarpon-fishing operation down in Xcalak, Mexico, headed up by guide Jan Isley? We mentioned this new operation in the January issue (see pages 10-11), and noted it was being booked by Fishing International. Isley, we are told, has now had about eight people fish with him in the greater Xcalak area. To date, he’s had to focus on bonefish because the tarpon fishing has been slow, Fishing International’s Bob Nauheim said at press time, indicating that he was not surprised at that. "I don’t expect the tarpon fishing to really get rolling until around April 1," he said.

Here at The Angling Report we must confess to a bit of skepticism about offering tarpon-oriented trips around Xcalak. Yes, there are some gigantic tarpon in a hole in the reef right out in front of Xcalak and there are some moderate-size tarpon in a bay on the northern end of Amergris Caye across the border in Belize. There is also a single deep flat in Chetumal Bay that holds some tarpon. Trouble is, all three places have their limitations.

As for the hole-in-the-reef fish, these tarpon have a graduate degree in fly avoidance and, exceptions aside, can reportedly only be caught with live bait. The tarpon in Belize tend to be more cooperative, but at this writing the bay has been closed temporarily to anglers from Mexico. Even if it were open, we don’t think there are enough large fish there to base an entire trip around. The same goes for that flat in Chetumal Bay.

We hope Isley proves us wrong and he makes a great success out of his tarpon-oriented trips, but we view Xcalak as a bonefishing spot with moderate permit and limited tarpon fisheries. That’s the way the other Xcalak operation, Costa de Cocas has been describing the fishery, and they are doing a bang-up business apparently. Guide Mark Cowan, who helped get the fishing program going there and now helps with the booking, says 80 percent of the people who have booked Costa de Cocos have re-booked. The place is almost fully booked for the coming season.

But tarpon-oriented trips? We’re going to be curmudgeons and say, "Prove it…!" Knowing Jan Isley, he probably will. After all, he is the former Florida Keys guide who established the first major flats fishing operation in Ascension Bay to the north. It’s entirely possible that he has found some new flats no one knows about down there around Xcalak where bruisers are laid up by the hundreds. Time will tell.…

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