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Saturday, October 23, 2010

Jigging in Cancun…finally!

Well it has been a long summer, and with the cold weather approaching and a scheduled business trip to Cancun I decided to make some calls to see if there was any jigging to be had. In years past I have avoided going to Cancun for vacation and a big reason for that is that I haven't found a good charter boat that really likes or knows what they are doing when it comes to jigging. Frankly, there are a lot of "take a gringo for a ride" outfits out there and so I was skeptical that I would find anything.

After some digging, I did come across one that looked promising- Kianah's Sportfishing Cancun. Still skeptical, I emailed Alex Ojeda ( the owner to pressure test their claim to knowing about jigging. Well wouldn't you know he emailed me right back with a direct phone number, so I called him to get the scoop. Alex explained that they have been jigging there for a number of years, and that they are all set up for it. They outfit the boat with great conventional gear (Avet, Accurate, etc) and have enough OTI jigs to sink a small barge…this was getting good. There was one small warning that he did leave me with though- the good jigging season really doesn't start until November, at which point it lasts through the springtime.

Well what was I going to do, just sit in my hotel room? Obviously not. We set a date and time and I was off to get my gear ready. Because we were going to be jigging in deeper water (300-400 feet) with fast current I brought along mostly longer, bottom-weighted jigs like Nagamasas, Jack Knives, and Long Hammers as well as some others like Flat Sides, Labos, and Andamens. The weights ranged from 250-400 grams. I paired these jigs with two set ups- Stella 8k with a No Limits spool on my 52EX, and a 20k on my custom 450g Synit.

Arriving at the boat, I was greeted by the captain, two mates, and two others who would be joining us. One was Edwin Castro, a self-described jigging addict, and the other was Gustavo Silva Mendoza, a teacher and proprietor of a local tackle shop called El Sabalo Cancun. With introductions out of the way we shoved off for the 45 minute ride to the drop.

Upon arrival we were told "Listo!" (ready), so we dropped…and dropped…and dropped…and dropped. The combination of deep water, 15kt wind, and a fast drift was making a proper drop very difficult. Eventually I found a combination that worked and I was able to hit bottom at a reasonable angle. The first few hours were brutal- ripping 300-400 gram jigs through 400 feet of water…and all without much to show for our efforts. This is when the captain stepped up and told us to reel in (I actually half expected the old "Well, that's fishing amigo. Time to head in." line to be the next thing out of his mouth). He then pointed the boat in the opposite direction as home and hit the throttles.

We ran for another 30-40 minutes to another drop, and this one looked good immediately- the screen lit up and I knew it was what we had been looking for. About half way up I got hit and immediately felt the familiar tuna tempo on the other end of the line. When this little blackfin came up I instantly knew why marlin prowl these waters- it looked like a little snack with fins.

After getting set back up I dropped to the bottom and was instantly hit. The fish pulled line and then almost felt like it went slack. Reeling like mad I was able to take the slack out and got tight on it again.
This fight was much different and had both myself and the crew playing guessing games on what it was. When we got color the captain yelled "Sierra!". I held my breath- I knew that with 80# flouro the chances of the fish making it to gaff was slim. Luckily the fish cooperated, and as the mate pulled it over the side the others looked at me and said "Bueno suerte!" (essentially, 'that was lucky!')

We made a steady pick of fish on this reef for a little while before Edwin hooked up to something more substantial. His rod doubled over and started screaming. With some sizable head shakes it was back to the guessing game for all of us…that is until the fish broke the surface. "Vela!" was the call all around…it was a sailfish! Edwin fought the fish for a few minutes, but unfortunately it was not to be. During one of its many somersalts across the surface, the fish threw the hook. Edwin was bummed about the loss, but psyched for the hook up.

As the day was winding down I knew that my chances of finding an AJ were starting to dwindle. Not looking up at the captain for fear that he would call the day at any minute I continued to drop and rip. During one of the pauses in the retrieve, the donkey attacked. While it was no monster, it put up a great fight (especially after ripping heavy jigs all day) and was a perfect way to end the fishing day.

The guys on board told me that during the regular season, anglers can expect as many as 20 of these fish per day…each.

Feeling good about pulling out a great off-season day, the captain pointed to boat home and hit the throttles.

Back at the dock, we made Blackfin and King Mack ceviche, shared a couple of cervesas, and toasted to our catch and the great day on the water.

So I am excited to report that there is one more spot that we, as jiggers, can put on the map of places to go. Cancun has always offered great things for our better halves- shopping, great hotels, beautiful water- but now it offers us the possibility of getting out to do some jigging too. I know that this will not be my last time jigging in Cancun.