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It isn’t every day that a genuinely new fishing opportunity in this hemi¬sphere is created, but that is what is happening down in Mexico, where a new lodge is coming online in Espiritu Santo Bay, just south of the sleepy lobster fishing village of Punta Herrero in Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve. Appropriately called Espiritu Santo Bay Lodge (ESB), it is scheduled to host its first guests this coming April. The permit fishing is expected to be off the charts. Bonefish, tarpon, and snook should be plentiful as well.
The reason the lodge is generating excitement is because of its remoteness. Though located in Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve, where close to a dozen lodges now operate, it is tucked away all by itself at the very bottom of the reserve. Only one other lodge currently fishes Espiritu Santo Bay, and that is Playa Blanca Lodge, which is allowed to operate only two boats. ESB has been granted the right to operate four boats, bringing to six the number of skiffs (not lodges) operating in the entire bay.
The lodge is scheduled to be booked exclusively by The Fly Shop in Redding, California, which previously booked and operated Paradise Lodge west of the village of Punta Herrero. Paradise Lodge relied heav¬ily on the fishery in some inland lakes, which have suffered greatly from overfishing and netting. The Fly Shop has now closed Paradise Lodge and has no plans to resume operation there.
Anglers familiar with this area know that Espiritu Santo Bay shares
many characteristics with its sister bay, Ascension Bay. Both are shallow, which makes it difficult for all but the most shallow-running ves¬sels to navigate, and both have very clear water, making them both almost perfect places to sight-fish. The primary differences between the two are in size and accessibility. ESB is approximately half the size of Ascen¬sion Bay and it is much less heavily populated. The latter has more than 6,000 thousand people living along its shores, and there are nine official lodges operating there. In 2015, 180 boats had permits for providing fish¬ing, snorkeling, bird-watching, and touring activities. Espiritu Santo Bay, on the other hand, is almost devoid of tourism activities and population. The only human settlement on the entire bay is a small community of about 95 lobster fishermen and their families who live in Punta Herrero. In all, only seven boats have legal access to fish in the bay.
“This combination of remoteness, lack of human population, and limited access is what makes ESB unique, and one of the most pristine places left in the region to target fish un¬touched by human influences,” is the way Pat Pendergast at The Fly Shop put it. “Robust and healthy populations of bonefish, permit, tarpon, and snook abound in its flats, creeks, and lagoons. And nobody has better access to or more intimate knowledge of the bay than the guides at Espiritu Santo Bay Lodge, who have spent years guiding there with the former Paradise Lodge. Over the course of the past three seasons these guides have been on ESB nearly every day of the season, logging literally thou¬sands of hours learning every nook and cranny of this remarkable, re¬mote fishery. The lightweight, super-shallow-draft Hells Bay skiffs the lodge owns can enter many flats that the larger pangas in use throughout the region cannot negotiate. Between August 2014 and August 2015, these guides are proud to have logged 201 days on the bay. In that time, they averaged 1.5 permit per day, registered 12 grand slams, and helped bring countless bonefish, tarpon, snook, and barracuda to the boat. For permit fishermen, especially, there may be nowhere else on the planet that can compare to ESB. The populations of fish are amazing; especially in the prime permit fishing months when water temperatures are ideal and schools of fish abound on the flats of ESB.”
Is the bay indeed this pristine? In the past, there has been netting in ESB, a development Angling Report editor Don Causey can attest to, having explored the bay on a multiday journey more than a decade ago, during a period when enforcement was not at its best. Offsetting that negative information is the recent success The Fly Shop guides have had in the bay. Resources wax and wane with pressure. Our bet is Espiritu Santo Bay is going to be a bang-up success. We hope the first anglers in will files reports.
Postscript: You can get more information on Espiritu Santo Bay Lodge or book a trip there by contacting The Fly Shop at: 800-669-3474. Web: www.theflyshop.com. Trip prices have been pegged at $3,950 per per¬son, double occupancy, plus recommended guide and lodge tips of $400 to $500 per person. Fees include round-trip air charter transfers from Cancun to a nearby landing strip and subsequent auto transfer to the lodge, air-conditioned accommodations, all meals, beverages (soft drinks, juices, mixers, and bottled water), hosted “Happy Hour” beer and margaritas, fishing license, six days fully guided fishing, and 15 percent Mexico VAT.