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Fly Fishing in Cozumel, A Bonefishing Flats Fishing Adventure

Man holding a Barracuda

As the chill of winter settles in, many anglers find themselves yearning for warm, sunny days and the excitement of fishing in a tropical paradise. If you're like me and can't stand the cold, then Cozumel, Mexico, should be at the top of your fishing destination list. In this blog, we'll explore the beauty of Cozumel, its incredible flats and lagoons, and the thrilling fly fishing experiences it has to offer.

Cozumel Fly Fishing; A Hidden Gem

As I flew into Cozumel, the first thing I noticed was that the water really is different in the Caribbean. Turquoise, Aquamarine, just crystal clear, all of it merged together over sand and green. This was my first trip, of now many, to Mexico, and I was there for a fly fishing trip. The best part was that it was January and 27 with a wind chill of 15 when I left Charlottesville but when I landed it was a balmy 82 degrees.

Cozumel is known for its beautiful blue waters amongst the diving and snorkeling community, but it's usually a stop over on a cruise ship on the way to Cancun or Playa del Carmen. Reefs surround the western and southern part of the island, and this pristine waters certainly loaded with tarpon and bonefish is a nature preserve, and no fishing is allowed. However, on the northern part of the island there is a flats fishing paradise left relatively undisturbed. Tailing bonefish cruise the northern lagoon, and snook and baby tarpon inhabit the thick mangrove beaches and sandbars that intersect the flats.

Cozumel Flats Fishing

As I boarded the flats boat of my guide Miguel of Uno Mas, I wasn't sure what to expect, but I was super excited. As we boated the couple of miles north and east from the marina to the end of the island, I explained to Miguel that my saltwater experiences were limited to striper fishing in the Chesapeake Bay and a brief stint in St. Petersburg, Florida catching baby snook, but this lagoons and flats thing was all new to me. I had never been fishing for bonefish, and frankly didn't know what the big deal was. During the ride, I was just struck by the beauty of the water. It really was nothing I had seen before, other than on TV. 

We pulled up to some mangroves where Miguel said he had seen a lot of tarpon and snook activity. With fly rod in hand, it was fishing time. My mind was sharp, but my fly casts were not! I was too full of adrenaline with seeing a school of tarpon and I couldn't adjust my angle well enough, I was either catching mangroves in the backcast or landing the fly too loudly and spooking the fish. Finally a tarpon took the fly and I set...but a trout set! My muscle memory overrode my knowing you have to strip set. Again, adrenaline got me.

Expert guides know more than just where the fish are, and Miguel is a guide who knows people, too. "Amigo, cervaza?" and we head to another spot. A cold one down and now I'm really ready to catch a fish. We pulled up to the next spot and I was told when you're fly fishing the flats in Cozumel sometimes you just look for the muddied up water and the large schools of bonefish are working in that water. This took off the pressure as this was a little more blind casting and you look for the flashes in the murky water. After about ten minutes I felt a bump and I luckily remembered to strip set. Now I know what these bonefishing enthusiasts have been talking about! Even on an 8 weight the rod doubled over and the line just went. That bonefish put me in my backing twice before we landed it. It wasn't huge, but they are built like a football and just run when they are hooked.

Later that trip we found some schools moving in clearer water and were able to sight fish these fish polling around the lagoons. As we worked around one corner of mangroves I spotted a good sized snook cruising a little dark corner and made a good 70' cast before Miguel even saw a thing. That snook exploded on the fly and I felt vindicated after the tarpon disaster in the mangroves in the morning. We finished that day with three bonefish and a snook, along with a small barracuda and mangrove snapper. It was an amazing day and I have been back to wade the lagoons and stalk the flats for bonefish several times, and I can't wait to get back to Cozumel again in the future.

-Interested in a Trip to Cozumel? MRO is gathering a list for travel groups to Florida, Mexico, and other Carribbean Destinations- 

Fly Fishing Guide, Tackle and Flies

Shore fishing in Cozumel is a bit complicated so decide if it is worth it to you to pack all of your gear and fly it down there. You cannot fish within 50 meters of another person and most beaches are private access so finding a spot is difficult. Most places will chase you off of the sea walls and piers, and it drops off to the reefs on the west side. Again the south side is a preserve and there are ocean waves on the eastern portion of the island. Fly fishing Cozumel is best done by charter boat. I cannot recommend Uno Mas Fly Fishing enough. Miguel is a wonderful guide, and his English far surpasses my terrible Spanish, so do not worry if you aren't fluent.

-Rods: 8 and 9 weight, stiff flex, floating lines. Winds aren't too bad, but the 9 weight helps and there are tarpon around

-Flies: Crazy Charlies, Clousers, Gotchas, Merkin and other Crab Flies, and Shrimp Imitations

-No Fishing License is needed on shore and your Captain provides on with the boat

Explore Cozumel

If you didn't get enough fish on the trip, you'll feel right at home in the warm waters of Cozumel's beaches. The reefs in the area are absolutely stunning, and many are just off the beach. Many restaurants and beach clubs surround these spots so you can feel secure with belongings and get some great food and drinks. Boat tours will take you offshore for around $50-60 and some include booze! If snorkeling isn't for you, then exploring the downtown area is a good option. There is a great tourist infrastructure with the cruise ships and the Mayan ruins are worth exploring. ATV tours can be taken through the nature preserve on the south of the island or take the ferry to Playa del Carmen, an upscale town on the Mayan Riviera. 

Fly Fishing Trip or Vacation?

While I was blown away by the flats fishing in Cozumel, I would say that this, in my opinion, shouldn't be a week long hardcore fishing trip. The fly fishing area is limited to the northern lagoon and you will fish all of the areas in a few days. That said, there are only a few guides in Cozumel, and the bonefish and snook are not as spooky as other places I have fished as the pressure is quite low. I like Cozumel because it is easy to get to, the people are super nice, and the snorkeling and food are great if you are willing to look for it. The whole place is very laid back, and a taxi anywhere is $10. I would highly recommend staying on the beachfront the first time and most resorts will have airport shuttles, so a car is not necessary. Uno Mas even picked me up from my resort when I stayed north of the marina. A couple days of fishing and a couple days exploring and snorkeling and you get the feel for the island, and the people that call it home. 

October through February are high season, though the island never seems crowded and lodgings are available both along the beaches and in the jungle area of the southern island. March to September the island has less tourists, but the fishing season is year round, and if you are going to be in the 90's here in July, you could also be in the 90's bonefishing in Cozumel with a nice breeze and even better view. 

-Interested in a Trip to Cozumel? MRO is gathering a list for travel groups to Florida, Mexico, and other Carribbean Destinations- 

Palm Tree on A Beach


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