NICARAGUA-TARPON, SNOOK & MORE!

Whenever and wherever in the world you travel to fish, always you must be prepared to accept both the good and the bad. Regardless of how much time you spend in researching the optimum times of the year to fish, prime moon phases and a host of other variables, or even how much you are prepared to spend on any particular trip, when you arrive at your chosen destination you simply have to take what nature throws at you. In my last but one blog I wrote about how our week in Sri Lanka was severely impacted upon by unseasonably strong north-easterly winds, which simply was bad luck. I have just returned from a week at Rio Indio Lodge in Nicaragua, a trip when we experienced that all-too-rare combination of ideal weather plus outstanding fishing.

Jim Butler & Rito  with one of many rainbow bass

Jim Butler & Rito with one of many rainbow bass

Once again we flew to Central America via the USA, spending a night in San Jose before taking the short flight across the Nicaraguan border to Rio Indio Lodge. This was our second group trip to this amazing jungle lodge. During the last trip, January 2013, we focussed on the prolific snook spawning run, and you can read about how we got under the Memorable Trips section of this site.

Within an hour or so of arriving at Rio Indio we were fishing. We started off working light lures amongst the dense vegetation flanking the various rivers and creeks in the area, and first cast I hooked and lost a fish, probably a small snook. During the next hour or two myself and boat companion Jim Butler pulled together a respectable haul of various freshwater species including rainbow bass.

Doc Khanna with a chunky rainbow bass

Doc Khanna with a chunky rainbow bass

Jim Butler with a nice light tackle snook

Jim Butler with a nice light tackle snook

About an hour before sunset our captain, Rito, suggested a move to the mouth of the river near where it flows into the Caribbean, saying that this area had produced some big snook in recent weeks. Those of you who know me will know I am passionate about snook fishing, and given the choice I will target these premier league gamefish before most others. Over the years I have caught plenty of snook at locations throughout the Caribbean and Central America, but never caught one better than 10lb, which had remained a lifelong goal. Well to cut a long story short Rito rummaged through the box of lures I had brought with me, selected a home tied chartreuse bucktail jig and indicated the optimum area to cast and work it. Within 10 minutes I hooked up and following another 10 minutes fighting what clearly was a very big fish, it made several spectacular jumps, Rito slid the net under what my certified Boga Grip confirmed was a 21lb snook-not a bad start to the trip!

Fish of a lifetime, my first day 21lb snook!

Fish of a lifetime, my first day 21lb snook!

For the rest of the week I elected to alternate between fishing the jungle back country for big rainbow bass and snook, and the ocean outside of the river mouth for tarpon. March is the second best time of year to target migrating tarpon off the coast of Nicaragua, with September/October being regarded as prime time.

One of many good tarpon caught by Jim Butler

One of many good tarpon caught by Jim Butler

A nice tarpon is brought to the boat, note the circle hook

A nice tarpon is brought to the boat

That said, during our trip the area within a short run of the lodge was thick with tarpon, with our group releasing as many as 11 fish in a day, and losing many others . The killer technique was drifting both live and dead baits rigged on circle hooks, which always give you your best chance of getting a solid hook up in a tarpons hard mouth. In addition to tarpon each day we caught plenty of 20-30lb jacks, sand sharks and barracuda.

Rito removes the hook from a good fish

Rito removes the hook from a good fish

Jim & Rito with one of many 20-30lb jack crevalle

Jim & Rito with one of many 20-30lb jack crevalle

The average size of tarpon caught was between 80-120lb, but bigger fish were both caught and lost. This trip my personal luck really was on something of a role as aside from that first day snook of a lifetime I got my biggest tarpon, a massive fish that Rito estimated at at least 180lb. I have had numerous tarpon guides have called 150lb, but this fish was much, much bigger, certainly nearer 200lb than 100lb, and I feel 180lb was a fair call.

My biggest ever tarpon, estimated at 180lb

My biggest ever tarpon, estimated at 180lb

The rainbow bass, aka guapote, fishing was excellent. March is the dry season, though we did experience a few short heavy down pours. Dry season is prime time for bass fishing in the jungle interior as when the flooded interior starts to dry out the fish naturally drop back into the deeper channels. Casting into the darkest holes and overhangs using a selection of light lures we caught plenty of bass up to a solid 5-6lb, all of which fight hard on light spinning rods. I had brought a couple of limited addition Rapala ‘Angry Birds’ lures with me to try out as something of a joke, and the bass loved them!

Tiger bass caught on limited addition Rapala MaxRap Fat Shad Angry Bird

Tiger bass caught on limited addition Rapala MaxRap Fat Shad Angry Bird

Angry Bird scores again!

Angry Bird scores again!

As you will see from the images illustrating my previous trip to Rio Indio, last trip while casting for snook I got a big bass on a light spinning outfit in Lake San Juan Negro in the middle of the jungle. They say history never repeats itself, well it did on this trip! Casting a Rapala Skitter Pop in Fire Tiger in almost exactly the same spot I hooked up with another big tarpon on my light bait casting rod. For me it was the fight of the trip, with the fish cartwheeling around the spectacularly beautiful and becalmed lake for 30 minutes before I brought her boat side for Rito to grab the leader and hold her for a brief photo-session. She was a gorgeous fish that we estimated at 50lb.

50lb tarpon caught on light spinning outfit in Lake San Juan Negro

50lb tarpon caught on light spinning outfit in Lake San Juan Negro

Lunch time dermatological foot spa  treatment, included within the package price!

Lunch time dermatological foot spa treatment, included within the package price!

Tarpon caught on Rapala Skitter Pop in Fire Tiger

Tarpon caught on Rapala Skitter Pop in Fire Tiger

Of course we are going back next year, and this time we plan of going in October to coincide with the very best tarpon fishing, which sounds truly spectacular. Numbers will be limited so if you think you might be interested please contact Anglers World Holidays as soon as possible. This really is a very special trip based at a world class eco-lodge set within a totally unspoiled/un-developed National Geographic location. The food, guides and local flora and fauna are amazing, and after the first few nights you’ll even start to get used to the early morning wake up calls from howler monkeys!

A good machaca caught on Rapala Skitter Pop

A good machaca caught on Rapala Skitter Pop

Tarpon, the ultimate light tackle gamefish

Tarpon, the ultimate light tackle gamefish,  note the circle hook

Does this count as fly fishing!

Does this count as fly fishing!

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