The fishing in Costa Rica has been hotter than the heat index on a black sand beach and during the past few months the fleet out of Los Sueños has seen a quite a few 30+ bite days. A week prior to Leg III of the Signature Triple Crown Series, Capt. Lance Hightower along with mates Justin Ringer, Diego Esquivel, Chase Travers, Kristie Evans and adventurous owners Jerry and Donna Reynolds aboard their 64’ Weaver Vaquero found a frenzy of sailfish and proceeded to set a new record for the most Pacific sailfish released in a single day of fishing.
“There was a big body of fish offshore, holding in an area out of bounds for the tournaments, and we were running 60 miles or so each way to get to the fish. We missed last year’s FAD season because of COVID, so I told the boss that we should stay offshore and fish for a few days while it was good. We had 60 bites the day prior and knew the fish were there,” says Capt. Lance Hightower.
So, the crew loaded up the boat to spend a few nights offshore and ventured out to the same area they found previous success, but by 10:00 a.m. that first morning they only had four fish to show for their efforts. “I picked up and started running when the radar started marking quite a few birds. They were diving on bait balls and I could see sailfish cutting the surface everywhere. It was a lock and load situation. I called everyone in on the radio at about 1:00 pm and they all 50 or 60 bites that afternoon but had to leave early not wanting to chug home in the dark. That afternoon we released 96 sailfish from noon to 5:45 pm. Little did we know that was just the start. While drifting offshore that night I could hear sailfish jumping in the distance and see their shadows darting through our underwater lights, that’s something I’ve never seen before.”
With sailfish literally swimming around their boat, the group managed a few hours of sleep as they dreamed of another full-throttle bite.
“The fish had been pushing farther and farther offshore and we started about 70 miles offshore on the second day. We put ‘em out and I set the clock from 6:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. It was nonstop after that. By noon we had 101 fish, which surpassed the boat record, my personal record, and the most sailfish releases I’d ever heard of in Costa Rica, and we still had five and a half hours of daylight left. We didn’t catch a single or pair all day, it was all multiples, and I attribute that to the sonar. With a hooked fish in view we could look for other fish traveling together. Normally the morning bite is good then it tapers off a bit before picking up again in the afternoon, but we were covered up from sunup to sundown. The 164 release we managed on day two consisted of 32 triples, 12 quads and the rest were five bangers. The boys had 250 ballyhoo rigged and another 100 prepped, everyone did a great job, and everything just came together,” Hightower says.
Rather than navigating home in the dark, the team celebrated their lofty achievement with another night offshore. Waking up still on top of the fish, the team started at daybreak one again. “After hitting 70 releases by noon we all decided it was time to head home. It was a dream trip to say the least and in two and a half days we released a total of 314 sailfish and one striped marlin. I give all the credit to everyone on the boat, the mates are great and the owners love spending time offshore.”
Prior to this unfathomable day, the Pacific sailfish daily release record was set in Guatemala in 2006. “Before that trip my personal best day was 88 pacific sailfish while working as a deckhand in Guatemala.” That was on the same day that Ron Hamlin set the previous record with 124 sailfish.”
Congratulations to Vaquero for their remarkable achievement and seemingly out of reach 12-hours of fishing that may never be matched.