Call us toll-free at 1-800-661-6954

Welcome to The Fishin' Hole Canada's source for tackle and sport fishing equipment. Try us for all of your sportfishing needs...In store, on-line or toll free. You'll get hooked on the service!

The Bountiful Bones of Ascension Bay


Outdoor writer Neil Waugh with a fine Ascension Bay bonefish.

Francisco gunned the 40 horse Yamaha and pointed the prow of the panga toward three specs on the horizon – the Tres Marias, exotic, mysterious, compelling.

Up front the “chico” Jesus ducked under the gunwale and pulled his sun muffler, bandito-style, up to almost cover his eyes.

Ascension Bay had a mad on that morning and big slabs of Mexican sea water came aboard whenever the 22 -foot skiff hit the crest of a phosphorescent wave, showering us with the warm, sticky excesses of the Caribbean Sea.

We passed through a slot in the Marias then powered on toward a green mangrove creek. The further up we went the tighter it got, until the hole in the foliage was only just wide enough to squeeze the boat through.

Francisco was still running about as close to wide open as his nerves would allow and I got to thinking about all the biblical references and how I could use a little salvation about now.

But we bust through into Laguna Santa Rosa without meeting another bonefish guide coming the other way. I guess it helps to have a kid called Jesus in the boat. The sturdy Mayan cut the revs, the solid white boat came off plane and we were there.

Mud, mangroves and a million miles from the craziness of the Cancun to Tulum strip of all-inclusives, five-stars and timeshares.

Yet remarkably, only a couple or three hours away, depending where on the Mayan Riviera you’re staying, is party central for thousands of Canadian sun seekers every winter.

Separating the Mayan village of Punta Allen, where the Ascension Bay flats fishing is expedited from, is two hours of jungle track that’s probably best described as the Alberta Forestry Trunk Road on a bad day.

But traversing the great Yucatan jungle through the Sian Ka’an Biosphera Reserve (kind of a national park) only adds to the mystique of the place.

Francisco beached the boat then led me across a neck of gnarly reef rock to an even remoter lagoon. Barefooting it like all Punta Allen guides do.

At the edge of the back bay the guide froze. Then after a long while, pointed at an imperceptible commotion in a little pond punctuated here and there with mangrove shoots.

“Senior, bonefeesh,” Francisco hissed.

I saw nothing, cupped my polarized sunglasses a little tighter around me eyes, and still saw nothing.

Then I did. Three silvery, forked tails broke the surface. The bones were grubbing on the soft bottom of the pond.

Francisco gave me the cast sign, which I did, and the trio of silver bullets blasted away for the deeper water.

I’d lined them. They would not be the last bonefish I spooked on my four days of flyfishing in Ascension Bay.

But history wasn’t about to repeat itself in the next pond down.

Except this time there were four bones working the skinny water. And when I got the cast in front of them, and Francisco said “my friend, streep, streep”, one broke away from the pod and followed my shrimp imitation that was bumping enticingly along the bottom.

“Streep, streep,” Francisco urged. When I tugged the line tightened and I set the hook.

This is when a lot of things happened in a very short period of time. The bone departed in a reel tormenting run that, even with the drag cranked down, saw it go well into the backing before I got it snubbed.

Several runs later and a lot of drama in between, I was amazed - as I always am - when I saw the size of fish that was gasping in Francisco’s beefy hand. He removed the Punta Allen Poacher fly that my Red Deer River guide buddy, Garry Pierce ties. It’s amazing the amount of go in a fish that probably didn’t weigh more than four pounds. It fought like 10.

There would be flats fish and lagoon fish and cayo fish and fish in a running tide as swift as a mountain trout stream, some of which I even managed hook.

One memorable morning when the wind layed down on Ascension Bay we fished along a sandy bank that had been sliced and diced by Hurricane Dean in dead flat water.

And the bones kept cruising by almost non-stop all morning. Until the tide turned and the wind came up and it was done. That is another quirk about bone fishing that is hard to get your head around for a western Canadian trout guy. Bonefish constantly move. Trout generally don’t. So blindcasting to them is pretty much a waste of time, energy and sanity.

Another cold, hard fact of life that’s difficult to take for an independent-minded, never-ask-for-directions westerner, is that having an extra pair of expert eyes in the boat is more or less indispensible. This is especially true when they announce “nervous water coming” and are pointing at some impossible-to-see spot out near the shimmering horizon.

Even when you finally do see the fish and launch a cast their way, you’re not sure whether they’re for real or some paranormal delusion. That is until they eat your fly and head for Belize. Punta Allen is one of those end-of-the-road kind of places where there’s just enough time between when the boats come in and the town generator is shut off to wander down to one of the beach restaurants with tables set out under the palms, full of ex-pats and fishing guides, for a meal and a margarita or Dos Equis or two.

But heads up for the falling coconuts.

Punta Allen's picturesque bonefishing fleet in harbour.

Previous Fishing Articles
(1) Your Next Fly Rod
(2) It’s OK to Be Little Bitty
(3) Exploring Tundra Waters
(4) The Jewel at First Ice
(5) Fly Fishing Bucket List
(6) Guided or DIY?
(7) Pond Power
(8) Caddisflies
(9) In the Good Old Summertime
(10) A Southern Escape
(11) Springtime in Alberta - Can Thrill You to the Bone
(12) Sunny Day Rainbows
(13) New "Fishing" Year Resolutions
(14) Five Fine Places to Find Trout
(15) Catfishing Revisited
(16) Discover Squamish, an Outdoor Playground
(17) Falling for Cutthroat
(18) New Water and Old Friends
(19) My McLeod
(20) Temperature and Trout
(21) On the Road Again
(22) Tips That Will Make You a More Successful Fly-Fisherman
(23) 5 Ways to Catch Your Trout
(24) The Difference Maker - Reading Trout Stream Waters
(25) Rollin’ on the River
(26) Windy Day Pike
(27) Cures for Cabin Fever
(28) Snowbirding with a Fishing Rod
(29) Alberta’s Spring Creek Browns - Blessings and Curses
(30) A day on our foothill streams
(31) Fly Fishing Crowded Waters
(32) Fly Leaders
(33) In the Zone
(34) Learners Permit
(35) Flies of Summer
(36) Selecting the Right Boat
(37) The Italian Job
(38) Making a difference
(39) Pass the Salt
(40) Hopper Time - Fly-fishing’s Second Season
(41) Pike on the Fly - Fishing New Waters
(42) Fall brings the big walleye out
(43) Hoppertunity Time
(44) Becoming a Better Dry Fly Angler
(45) Make Your Own Fishing Adventure
(46) Early Season Fly Fishing
(47) Walleye Logic
(48) Fly Fishing in the Desert
(49) Grammy’s Fish
(50) Top 10 Trout Lures
(51) All I Want for Christmas – Neil Waugh's Yule Tide Fishing Gifts Wish List
(52) Muskies - The Ultimate Predator
(53) What to expect when fishing the West Coast
(54) Tips & Tricks for Fall Fly Fishing
(55) There’s No Place Like Home
(56) A Golden Opportunity
(57) The Observational Trout Fisherman
(58) Un-matching the Hatch
(59) Alberta Super Bugs
(60) Glass is Back
(61) The Bull Trout of the Athabasca
(62) Speed Kills
(63) Entering the Twilight Zone
(64) Old Man River
(65) The Pink Salmon of the Squamish River
(66) Small stream BT fishing
(67) Fly fishing beyond Trout: getting started
(68) In The Walleye Zone
(69) Zoo Trout
(70) Fly Selection for Beginners
(71) Fly Fisher's Christmas
(72) New Waters
(73) Big Bad Burbot
(74) Looking Back
(75) Out of Africa
(76) Finding Success on Crowded Trout Streams
(77) Mountain Peaks, Fast Streams, Fall Colours And Rocky Mountain Whitefish
(78) The Browns of Autumn
(79) Fly-Fishing Pike Through The Seasons
(80) Walleye Town
(81) River Fun - One Bite At A Time
(82) Fly Fishing Larger Rivers
(83) Going With The Flow
(84) Becoming A Better Fly Fisherman
(85) Swinging The Fences
(86) A View From The Aerie
(87) Dixieland Delight
(88) Atlantic Salmon - The Fish of 1000 Casts
(89) Do It Yourself Pink Salmon
(90) Montana's Cool Missouri
(91) Pretty Is As Pretty Does
(92) Toothy Critters
(93) Hard Water Lakers at Cold Lake
(94) Top Ten Flies
(95) Northern Exposure
(96) Home Water Lessons
(97) Chicken Of The Sea
(98) Sealing the Deal – How to Ensure You Land More Fish
(99) Deep In The Heart Of Texas
(100) Keep It Up!
(101) River Fishing for Fall Walleye
(102) After the Flood - A look at Southern Alberta rivers and streams one year after the 2013 flood
(103) Reindeer Lake - A Diversity of Opportunity
(104) Hawg Holes
(105) Saltwater Salmon
(106) Early Season Dry Fly Fishing
(107) Down a Lazy River - A Fly-rodding Adventure on the Lower North Saskatchewan
(108) The Fly Fishing Season Ahead
(111) Bright Fish from the Land of Silver
(112) Canada's "Other" Salmon
(113) Fall Walleye
(114) Wet Flies
(115) Versatility the Key to Success
(116) Grayling of the Boreal
(117) Teaching Kids To Fly Fish
(118) Size Matters
(119) Fly Fishing Small Streams
(120) Chasing Winter Whites One Lake At A Time
(121) Manitoba's Fishing Jewel
(122) The Twelve Gifts Of Christmas
(123) The Point Of It All
(124) Fishing With Friends-Big Weather Seizing The Day
(125) Fall Fly Fishing
(126) Personal Pontoon Boats 101
(127) Big River, Big Fish
(128) Bottom Bonanza
(129) Fishing Small Flies
(130) So Many Choices, So Little Time
(131) Four Seasons of the Bow
(132) Favourite Lakes - Some Like it Hot
(134) Trout Hunting New Zealand style
(135) Don’t Leave Home Without Them – 10 Lures That Should Be In Everyone’s Tackle Box
(136) Edge Walleye
(138) Smallmouth Bass – An Oft Overlooked Challenge
(139) Four Corners – Four Waters
(140) Chasing Pothole Trout
(141) Springtime Stoneflies
(142) The Torrents of Spring
(143) Drift Boat Fly Fishing
(144) Bust Them With Bait
(145) Cure the Winter Blues with a Good Book
(146) Hot Strategies for the Cold Months
(147) Cutthroat: The Angler's Trout
(148) Terrestrials
(149) Fly In For Fishing Fun
(150) Rocky Mountain High
(151) Reading the clues
(152) Where the Trout Are The art of locating feeding trout in rivers and streams.
(153) K.I.S.S. and Tell Fly-fishin
(154) Fly Fishing 101
(155) To Catch a Big Halibut, or Ling Cod
(156) The Bountiful Bones of Ascension Bay
(157) Grayling in the Eye of the Beholder
(158) Fly Fishing for South Fork Clearwater Steelhead
(159) Manitoba's Red River - North America's Catfish Capital
(160) Eliminating the Spook Factor
(161) Trust Your Electronics
(162) The Most Important Hatch of the Year
(163) Early Season Nymph Fishing for Trout
(164) Finding Success for Ice Trout
(165) Walleye can be Humbling
(166) The Secret to Landing the Big One Finally Revealed
(167) Winter Flyfishing
(168) North Saskatchewan River - An Underutilized Fishing Gem
(169) Hot Fall Pike Action
(170) Tips and Tricks to Save the Summer Slow Down
(171) Reading Trout Stream Waters
(172) Frequently Asked Questions
(173) Streamer Fishing for Larger Trout
(174) The Lure of Big Walleye at Last Ice
(175) Deep Water Perch
(176) Post Spawn Brookies
(177) A Fisher's Life
(178) The River's Last Stand
(179) The Big Ones Come out at Night
(180) Coho on the Coast
(181) Chasing and Catching Halibut
(182) Summer in the Mountains
(183) Peak Walleye Season
(184) Slow and Steady Wins the Race
(185) Last Ice Rainbows
(186) The Burbot Event
(187) Tackle Matching
(188) Ice Fishing Strategy #2 - Going Light
(189) Ice Fishing Strategy #1 - Location
(190) The Lure of Brook Trout
(191) The Shallow Water Hunt is On
(192) Hot Backswimmer Action Happening Right Now
(193) Fishing Among Giants-Pursuing Lake Sturgeon on the Prairies
(194) Adventure at Davin Lake Lodge, Northern Saskatchewan
(195) The Vesatile Plug
(196) Bead Head Flies, Plugs and Shot and other Spring Favorites for Pothole Trout
(197) Planning your Upcoming Angling Adventures
(198) Good Fishing at Last Ice
(199) Maximize the Odds - Use Multiple Presentations
(200) Daily Fish Migrations
(201) Fish Migrations - Following the Spawn
(202) Lake Whitefish - An Ice Fishing All Star
(203) Pick Your Favorite Brook Trout Lake...and Go Fishing
(204) A Look Ahead to Great Trout Fishing
(205) Wrestling White Sturgeon on the Fraser
(206) The Fun in Ultra Light
(207) Flyfishing and Leadcore Lines
(208) Embrace the Spirit of Adventure
(209) Never Stop Learning
(210) Ice Fishing is Getting Hot
(211) Jigging through the Ice
(212) An Ice Fishing Unsung Hero – The Setline
(213) Rainbows on Ice
(214) The Season of Ice Begins
(215) Red Hot Fall Pike Action
(216) Hitting it Right with Water Boatman
(217) Facts On Cats
(218) West Coast Adventure
(219) June Walleye Frenzy
(220) Aerated Lakes are Big Trout Factories
(221) First Fish of the Year Pothole Rainbows and Browns
(222) Northern Exposure
(223) Sometimes There is More to Fishing Than Catching Fish
(224) Early Season Pike On The Fly
(225) Man Overboard
Canada Boating License