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Remember “La Zona,” that tremendous golden dorado fishery at the base of a hydroelectric dam on the Uruguay River, which marks the border between Argentina and Uruguay? The fishery was developed by Marcelo Perez of Untamed Angling (www.untamedangling.com) who has had this fishery all to himself since 2004. Not any more. As we have reported before, the ruling that allowed fishing at “La Zona” from the Argentinean side also allowed a fishery to be developed on the Uruguayan side of the river, and that second fishery is now up and running. The operator on the Uruguayan side is Luis Brown of River Plate Anglers, principal agent J. W. Smith of Rod & Gun Resources (800-211-4753). Brown calls his operation Uruguay River Tailwaters, and he has a web site devoted to it: www.riverplate dorados.com.
At press time, Dawn Smith at Rod and Gun sent me this snapshot report about some recent clients: “The first two groups at Salto Grande raved about the fishing, hosts, food and accommodations. Fishing group leader Bob Basel said his group averaged 60 to 70 fish per boat per day (two fishermen per boat). What impressed him most was the average size. He estimates they caught 25 fish over 15 pounds and they landed and weighed three monsters from 30 to 34 pounds, all in four days of fishing. ‘I have been on many fishing trips and this was one of the top trips of my life,’ Bob Baesel said afterward.
Indeed, the reports we are hearing indicates that the dorado fishing below the dam on the Uruguay River is actually getting better than it was in 2004. There are two possible reasons for that. First, Luis Brown has worked to reduce the harvest by local commercial fishermen who used nets to devastating effect below the so-called restricted area immediately below the dam. Some commercial fishermen have also been known to slip into the restricted area at night and string trotlines across the river. All of that activity has come to a near-complete halt. At the same time, there was a recent flood at the height of the spawning season that, fortuitously, dispersed the eggs of spawning dorado. The eggs are usually concentrated in the channel directly below the dam where various predators feast on them. The dramatic increase in the number of eggs appears to have led to the emergence of a huge year-class of new fish.
Whatever the cause, there are far more fish in the river than there were as recently as a year and a half ago. Most of those new fish weigh upwards of two to four pounds – a perfect size to catch on a light fly-rod. In that connection, a new wrinkle here is wadefishing in the rocks well below the hydroelectric dam. The wading is particularly appealing to experienced anglers who enjoy, but then tire of, catching large fish by blindcasting from a drifting boat. If any Angling Report subscribers book a trip with Luis Brown, we’d appreciate an on-site report on this new wade fishery. Apparently, both Untamed Angling and River Plate are offering it.
Just be prepared for a hefty bill if you decide to book this trip. Most agents package a trip in this area with other activities (fishing or birdshooting nearby) because trips to the restricted area below the dam are limited to four days per week. You can count on the fishing below the dam costing roughly $1,000 per day. If you like to catch big fish and lots of them, not to worry – the experience will be worth $1,000 a day. If you go, do file a report and let the rest of us know how things went. We are particularly interested in having a report on the River Plate operation, with attention paid to the lodging, food, guiding and general trip logistics. We understand River Plate has all that down pat, but an on-site report would be good to have in our database. Enjoy! – Don Causey.
(Postscript: Luis Brown says he received some calls late last month from booked anglers worried about the possible presence of infected sand flies capable of spreading the disease that has emerged among clients returning from Tsimane Lodge in Bolivia. We had a page 1 report on that development last month. We told Luis we would be happy to point out that his dorado operation on Uruguay River is many hundreds of miles from the eastern jungles of Bolivia where an outbreak of leishmaniasis has been reported. The habitat surrounding the dam is simply not sand fly country. A big dorado may break your arm below the dam on the Uruguay River, but you aren’t going to get leishmaniasis there. End of story.)