The Sian Ka'an Biosphere Reserve is a 1.3 million acre national park, founded in 1986 to protect and preserve tropical jungle, forests, mangroves, savannas, coral reefs, cenotes (underwater caves) and a smattering of Mayan ruins. Designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, it is Mexico’s largest wetland nature reserve.
Sian Ka'an marks the end of the Mayan Riviera just south of Tulum. Its endless stretches of untouched mangroves, jungle, lakes, lagoons and deserted Caribbean beaches are home to an extraordinary array of birds and wildlife in an ecologically protected environment. Sian Ka'an is home to many exotic creatures, including 103 known mammal species (such as jaguars, tapirs, manatees, ocelots, crocodiles) and 336 known bird species (pelicans, falcons, vultures, cormorants, storks, and hundreds of exotic birds), amphibians and reptiles.
There are very few inhabited spots along the coast, and development is tightly regulated, which gives this 50-km stretch of Caribbean Sea coastline a feeling of remote tranquility and relative isolation. The atmosphere is in stark contrast to the rest of the Mexican Riviera further north – it is the anti-Cancun. The wild road from Tulum through Boca Paila to Punta Allen at land’s end is one for the adventurous and boasts fabulous views of sea, sky, sand and jungle. Sian Ka'an is truly deserving of its Mayan name, meaning ‘where the Sky is born’.Sian Ka'an is also an ideal place from which to explore the Meso-American Reef, the largest coral reef system in the Western Hemisphere (and second-largest in the world after Australia’s Great Barrier Reef). It extends over 450 miles from the northern coastal waters of the Yucatán Peninsula in Mexico, along the coasts of Belize and Guatemala, down to the Bay Islands off the coast of Honduras. The Meso-American Reef was recently identified as one of the Top 10 coral reef ‘Biodiversity Hotspots’ in the world.
It contains some of the most highly-developed coral formations in the world (more than 65 species of stony coral), supporting an amazing diversity of marine life. More than 500 species of fish have been recorded along the reef, many of which support the livelihoods of local fishermen residing along the Caribbean coast. It is not uncommon to see dolphins while snorkelling along the reef and sea turtles lolling on the beaches. The Sian Ka'an, and the Punta Allen area in particular, are world-class sites for saltwater flats and fly fishing, and attract light-tackle anglers from around the globe year-round.
Not simply for serious birdwatchers and fishermen, the Sian Ka'an Biosphere Reserve has much to offer anyone with an appreciation for, and a love of unspoiled nature.
Other species of game fish
Ascension Bay boasts one of the world’s most diverse varieties of game fish for the light-tackle saltwater angler. Saltwater fly fishing is evolving in and around Ascension Bay. Anglers will find that they can catch all kinds of different species on the fly. Shark, needlefish, jack, dorado, triggerfish, and snapper are all waiting for the intrepid angler.
Barracuda is a powerful, predatory prize game fish living in Ascension Bay. It grows to about 1.8 meters in length and up to 30 centimeters in width. The Barracuda has powerful jaws and span, fang-like teeth. It is caught as both a food and game fish. Barracuda is usually eaten as fillet or steak. It is especially used for preparing Ceviche, a type of citrus-marinated seafood salad. Barracuda’s taste is span, like tuna or salmon. However, a few species of barracuda carry ciguatera, a kind of nerve poisoning, and cannot be eaten. Anglers need to use tough rods to hook Barracuda and then make lengthy efforts to reel one in. But be careful – the Barracuda’s sharp teeth and span jaws can still bite as a reflex action even when it is landed.
Barracuda – can be caught all year round, but especially in December, January and February.
Snook is perhaps the most under-rated and under-fished game fish in Ascension Bay. Snook is reclusive, tending to shelter near mangroves, but is fairly common in many areas of the Bay. It is also quite large (up to 1.2 meters in length and weighing nearly 23 kilograms). Aggressive and cannibalistic, especially when young, snook often tries to swallow fish of the same size. Once a snook is hooked, anglers need a lot of skill to manoeuvre it into open water. This is where the real battle to secure the powerful and thrilling snook begins.
Snook Tackle (Fly Fishing)
(Fly fishing) Rods
· 9- or 10-wt. with fast action
· Fully anodized
· 3 to 3.7-meter tapered saltwater leaders in 3.6 – 6.8-kilogram class
Flies for Snook
Snook target surface flies energetically. The following surface patterns flies work well:
· Whitlock's Swimmin' Frog
Flies listed in the tarpon flies section also work well for subsurface patterns. So do the following flies:
· Whitlock's Sheep Fly
Snook can be caught all year round
Horse-eye or Big-eye Jack is another popular game fish in Ascension Bay. It can grow up to 101 centimeters long and weigh a maximum of 13.4 kilograms. Jack has – as its name suggests - large eyes, and is considered a span fighter by anglers. Jack is often caught while moving quickly in schools. It tends to swim in schools and frequents reefs in open water as well as brackish water. Horse-eye jack will often swim up to scuba divers.
Jack fish can be caught all year round
Bonefish (locally called “macabi”), which thrives in Ascension Bay, is among the world's best game fish. It is highly sought after by anglers. It weighs two to three pounds on average and offers good eating and large catches. Bonefish is likely the spanest and fastest-running saltwater fish. Ascension Bay bonefish is smaller on average than Bahamas, Florida Keys or Seychelles bonefish. But since gillnetting was banned in Ascension Bay, the bonefish population is increasing in size and numbers. Many 2- to 3.5-kilogram fish have been caught in the Bay. In addition, “trophy” sizes (heavier than 3.5 kilograms) are captured here at least once a year.
· 7- or 8-wt. with fast action
· Fully anodized
· A weight forward floating line that
· 3 to 3.7-meter tapered saltwater leaders
Flies for Bonefish
· Crazy Charlies #6 (silver, amber, crystal pink, crystal chartreuse)
Bonefishes are numerous all year round, but in May, June and July, anglers can catch the largest ones. Also, anglers can catch them from February through to August.
The ultimate prize catch for saltwater anglers is permit, a game fish. Permit is to flats anglers what Atlantic salmon is to fresh water anglers. Permit – found in Ascension Bay and at the lagoon mouths - attracts the attention of serious flats anglers. Permit is unusual, unpredictable, and has a reputation for avoiding capture despite anglers’ best casting and retrieving efforts. Yet permit is actually far more “catchable” than most anglers realize. Ascension Bay is world-famous for permit fishing. It provides the ideal ecosystem for permit to thrive, and the permit population that swim in these waters is unparalleled anywhere else in the world. Various sizes, including schools of pan-sized baby permit to permit weighing over 13 or 18 kilograms (this includes several line-class records) are waiting for anglers in Ascension Bay.
Permit Tackle (Fly Fishing)
(Fly fishing) Rods
- 9- or 10-wt. with fast action
- A three- or four-piece rod is easier to travel with
- A spare rod is a good idea
- Fully anodized
- Featuring smooth, span drag systems
- In a size appropriate to your rod
- Large enough to accommodate a minimum of 183 meters of 9-kilogram backing Large arbor design is a good idea
- A short belly, weight forward floating line that performs well in hot weather
- 3 to 3.7-meter tapered saltwater leaders in 3.6 – 6.8-kilogram class
- Some fluorocarbon tippet material in the same weights
Flies for Permit
- Bauer's Fur Crab #6
- Turneffe Crab (olive) #6
- Raghead Crab #8, #2, or 1/0
- Del's Permit Crab #2
- Popovic Ultra Shrimp # 4 or 1/0
- Bauer's Mantis Shrimp
Can be caught in May, June, July, October and November; numerous in December, January and February
Anglers visiting Ascension Bay prize these large coastal game fish. Tarpon can reach nearly 91 kilograms in weight and nearly 2.5 meters in length. Tarpon is an elusive fish, residing in tricky-to-access hidden “lakes” in the far reaches of Ascension Bay. Smart anglers can discover pods of baby tarpon, each weighing from seven to nearly 14 kilograms. In the fall, anglers can hook larger migratory fish (upwards of 36 to 45 kilograms) as they swim into the bay. A few of these bigger fish stay in Ascension Bay year-round. It is possible for anglers to catch several tarpon a week while fishing for bonefish and permit. Tarpon readily grab flies and their fiery, acrobatic antics create an unforgettable fly fishing experience. Experienced anglers always keep a tarpon rod rigged and ready in the boat!
- 0- to 12-wt. with fast action
- 0- to 12-wt. with fast action
· Fully anodized
· Featuring smooth, span drag systems
· In a size appropriate to your rod
· Large enough to accommodate a minimum
of 229 meters of 9-kilogram backing
· Large arbor design is a good idea
· A short belly, weight forward floating line that performs
well in hot weather and a clear intermediate sinking line
· These incorporate a shock tippet section married
to a class tippet section by a series of special knots
· Rio Powerflex Big Game Leaders (sold in packets of three with pre-straightened shock tippets; ideal weights are the 7.25-kilogram class tippet / 27-kilogram shock tippet leaders)
Flies for Tarpon:
Tarpon flies should generally be tied on 1/0 & 2/0 size hooks.
Flies should be dressed heavily to maintain neutral buoyancy.
They should also create an appealing silhouette that moves water.
Tarpon can respond to just a few variations in shape and color.
Anglers should note that brightly-colored flies work best from November to March.
Dark flies work best from April to October when the water is typically clear.
There should be some color contrast between the water and the fly.
Flies that work well include:
· Paradise Sunset (orange, yellow & grizzly)
· Paradise Purple (black & purple)
· Prince of Tides
· Paradise Cockroach
· Grim Reaper
· Borski's Orange Butt Tarpon
· Red & White Tarpon
· Lefty's Deceivers in various contrasting colors
· Tropical Punch
· Mini Crystal Poppers (these can produce brutal top-water strikes by tarpon,
particularly during the fall months)
Tarpon – can be caught all year round, but more numerous in May and June. From June through to December, bigger migrant tarpon can be caught. Baby tarpon can be hooked in October and November.