While parts of the US have been plunged in drought and others inundated with snow, the Yucatan has also had it’s share of extreme weather. Our rainy season typically stretches from July to through October, but this season it didn’t end until well into January. Throughout that time we saw unprecedented levels of precipitation that left homes flooded, roads impassable, and our fishery swamped with fresh water. Our veteran guides who have been here for over 25 years have never seen anything like it. With months of yellow water in the bays, fish populations moved from their normal locations to seek the salt. The mangrove studded backcountry turned solid black and red as landlocked lagoons bled and mangrove tannins seeped into the water. In the most remote stretches, baitfish died by the thousands, scooped up by frigates from above and smashed by hungry tarpon, snook and barracuda from below. Mangrove spiders hatched by the millions, harmless but nasty looking, their webs spanning every mangrove tunnel. Crocodiles forsook their traditional haunts and took to the open water of the bays to find fish. On occasion they competed with our fishermen for their catches.
It was tough on fishermen too, but we’ve finally come out on the other side. That first beautiful week of sunshine our sodden guides were giddy as children, all smiles and ready to go at first light. The tropical sun has been out in force for a solid month now, the roads have dried out, spiders are withdrawing into the shadows, and most importantly, the bays have cleared and the fish are back in force. In the last few weeks the permit have been uncommonly hungry, with lots of first time permit fishermen coming up large, and veterans making up for lost time, with tallies like 10 for the week for a single angler. The rivers at the back of the bays continue to flush fresh water, and the backcountry is showing signs of revival, though the most remote stretches like our tarpon lagoon still harbor dark water. The fish are there, and hungry, but finding them remains a challenge. We are all wondering how long the backcountry lagoons will take to be back in prime condition. The hope is that this event will turn out to be the equivalent of a marine forest fire, devastating at first, but ultimately rejuvenating. It certainly seems to have had that effect on Ascension and Espiritu Santo Bays.