We are so often asked about fishing the saltwater in January or February and we always try and explain to clients why Los Roques is so reliable at this time of year. The first section of this piece explains why this is the case compared to destinations further north. I will then explain what takes place at Los Roques in March and subsequent months when the fishing can still compete with any Caribbean destination.
Tides are affected by winds and sea currents, which even though stable, impact the tides and the accuracy of predicting them. Depending on these factors, the levels of water change on the flats but not dramatically. For example, if winds are strong, there is more water entering the flats. The moon phases have little effect at Los Roques and are hardly a consideration. Los Roques benefits from a huge number of flats and beaches to fish and these are chosen each day depending on the wind and tidal conditions.
Why is Los Roques so reliable in January and February?
There is a solid explanation for why Los Roques consistently delivers good water temperatures and levels of water on the flats and therefore reliable numbers of bonefish in January and February. It is all related to its location which is 12 degrees north of the equator, 80 miles off the northern cost of Venezuela. Being so close to the equator the sun arcs overhead in perfect 12-hour intervals therefore ensuring more stable sea currents and winds than other locations where the sun and temperatures do not perform equally all year around. These destinations have to be targeted in a short and accurate season, otherwise the fishing can be unpredictable and cold fronts passing through the United States can impact the weather and the fishing thus causing disappointment.
Los Roques enjoys constant trade winds creating currents that circulate the water and replace overly warmed surface water while oxygenating it at the same time. Since warmer water holds less oxygen than colder water, this turn over and oxygenation keeps the surface water quality high in areas directly exposed to the wind. This means that the flats on Los Roques are always kept fresh but rarely suffer from overly cold water caused by cold fronts. It makes for the perfect flats environment and this creates the reliability in the early months of the year.
Furthermore, another aspect that separates Los Roques from most other locations is the variety of flats and beaches where bonefish can be found. It means that there is always somewhere good to fish no matter the tide or time of year.
Calendar of the fishing at Los Roques
The level of the water in January is generally high so guests see fewer tailing fish than in other months. Make no mistake however, you will see tailing fish and there will be plenty of cruising fish on both the flats and beaches. Most important, you would be very unlucky not to be out there for full days of fishing with no weather disturbance, which is so often the case elsewhere. Another advantage of fishing this month is that the fish are totally unpressured having been hardly fished since November. Finally, January and February are great months for fishing baitfish patterns, something Los Roques is famous for and is rare elsewhere. The takes you get are fast attacks rather than the crab/shrimp ‘pick up’ takes you get on the flats so a good strong leader is necessary. I enjoy the variety of doing both and it is great fun to spot big bones hunting the beach and see them attack a baitfish pattern with gusto!
The level of the water starts to reduce in February with good levels on the flats for longer hours. Los Roques is fished based on the guides understanding of tides and wind and February is very productive. Guests and guides take advantage of the rising tide to find and cast to tailing fish at least 3-4 hours a day. The bottom line is its a great month with little pressure on the flats and good levels of water for bonefish on the flats always with the option of the beaches.
March, April and May
March has good water levels on the flats with longer rising tides than February; it is a month in which one can actually see lots of bonefish tailing close to each other. There are long periods of the day with virtually no water on the flats therefore guests fish deeper water flats and beaches until the right rising tide when the bonefish feed madly, almost recklessly on guests un-weighted flies. This is another factor that makes Los Roques a unique destination and perfect for the angler who wants to wade for the big tailing bonefish.
April and May are similar to March and the wind starts to slow down.
June, July through October
This is the part of the equation that really separates Los Roques from most locations especially those in the Caribbean. It can be effectively fished in the summer months and on until October. Why? It has to do with the relative area of the surface flats that allows the highest level of water turnover from trade winds and, therefore, the optimum conditions for bonefish regardless of the time of day. To summarise, there are tailing bones all day on the rising or falling tide! They are more aggressive in the rising tide up to the point that fly selection is not even critical to success, but guests certainly enjoy the challenge of catching fish on the falling tide in which bonefish get shy and begin to play games on outgoing water. They can be tailing just as they did when the tide was rushing in, but they are definitely more difficult to fool. It requires skill and fly selection becomes critical on the falling tide. Furthermore, further north in the Caribbean, there can be the risk of hurricane season, something else Los Roques does not suffer from.
I understand why most people fish the winter and spring, but one can encounter incredible weeks from May to October. As October goes on, the tides begin to rise and the water gets deeper.
November and December
The level of the water on the flats is high all day so during these months you do not see many tailing fish, only cruising fish which are just as catchable if not more so. With higher water levels it is common that the famous Los Roques baitfish are more in abundance and this makes for great conditions for tarpon and permit. For those most focused on mixed species and who want reliable shots at good-sized tarpon, this is the time to come. The bonefish are still there in their usual numbers but you fish for them in deeper water or along the beaches using baitfish patterns. Wading on the flats may be limited to 50% of your day because much of the wading will be from beaches and edges. For instance, you may get on the flats for 2-3 hours everyday when the tides are right. Although that may sound like a disadvantage, it certainly is not. The winds are down in the autumn months and the large tarpon are cruising! You will be fishing more from the boat and now not only watching schools of bonefish swim by but also the tarpon and the elusive permit. There are days when you will not wish to leave the boat because the fishing is so interesting and things are happening.
I hope this piece brings some clarity to the fishing at Los Roques and why it is such a reliable place to enjoy your saltwater fishing. Although Los Roques is considered a mainline bonefish destination, be prepared for cruising barracuda, tarpon (both small and the occasional large one – up to 100 lbs), jack, Spanish mackerel and the occasional permit. With thanks to Chris and Ramon of Sight Cast for helping make sure this piece is accurate.