Photos and Story by Lane Forrer
A Brief History
In all of their travels, the Polynesians and South American cultures never settled the Galapagos. It’s debatable whether they found them, but there are no archeological remains of people prior to Europeans. Curious. So many currents collide in and amongst the archipelago that anyone might have arrived and called it home.
The whalers and merchantmen of the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries called them the Enchanted Isles because the entire archipelago seemed to appear and disappear due to the strong currents and sea mist that dominate the climate in this part of the world. Before modern navigation electronics, the Galapagos were a treacherous place. Of course, Darwin’s visit and his later publication based on his observations solidified the historical significance of these Enchanted Islands. It’s hard to explain why no one settled the islands until roughly one hundred years ago. But today we’re blessed with a virtually unspoiled land and seascape. And the fishing is unbelievable.
The volcanic origins of the islands has created a series of seamounts and shelves that disrupt currents, create upwellings and hold bait like nowhere else. All of the population centers of the islands are within 90 minutes of marlin grounds. Virtually every day of the year, you can find bait balls with scores of seabirds diving on them and sea lions, dolphin and marlin keeping everyone honest from below.
Striped marlin are the most prevalent billfish by a long shot, but blues (some monsters), blacks and big sailfish are always around in smaller numbers (swordfish are around as well). It doesn’t take a fisheries biology degree to look at a chart and say the Galapagos are probably a pretty good spot to fish, so sportfishing has a long history in the islands.
As with many locations on the fringe of the world, foreign captains and fisherman paved the way for sportfishing. Names like Tim Choate and Alan Star can’t be left out and even the legendary Zane Grey spent time there. Today, there is a new generation of individuals pushing the sport and using what they learned from the foreign captains and crews. With both local knowledge and imported knowledge, they capitalize on the best year-round marlin bite on the planet.
The stripes here are big, averaging over 200 pounds, and are plentiful. Fishing is fishing and every day is different, but several dozen raises a day are not uncommon at all. At certain times of year, the currents and moon provide opportunities on the edges of the archipelago to look for big female blues, some well over 1,000 pounds, making the islands a new, relatively unknown hotspot for grander-hunters.
Where to Fish and Why
There are several boats that operate at a high level out of either Puerto Ayora or Puerto Baquerizo Moreno. The Tesoro out of Puerto Ayora, owned and captained by Nicolas Shiess, fishes more days a year than anyone else. All billfish in the islands are 100-percent catch and release and fish must be kept in the water, with no lifting of fish for photos permitted. A small price to pay for some of the best marlin fishing around. The crews here get more shots at fish than almost anyone else, so they are the best at getting bites.
All in all, the Galapagos is a great destination for fishermen of all levels of skill and interest. They are a perfect destination for families as those not into fishing can explore the natural wonders available. It’s also one of the top diving and surfing destinations in the world. The logistics of a place like the Galapagos are complicated.
All flights come from the Ecuadorian mainland and connect though Quito or Guayaquil. Private sportfish boats currently cannot enter the islands, but yachts can, and local boats like the Tesoro offer yacht support.
There are also large yachts available for charter that can act as a mothership, providing a unique experience for guests. The Enchanted Islands are perfect for owners and guests whose boat is undergoing maintenance or who are relocating elsewhere. Guests can fly in either private or commercial, and there are professional agents that can handle all of the logistics.
There are first class hotels and restaurants with all the touristic infrastructure to make for a great trip. It’s a perfect off-season destination, and any fisherman would love to fish one of the world’s most prolific fisheries.
Lane is a fisherman and guide, as well as a photographer, marine engineer and biologist. He has worked as a professional engineer in the marine industry for close to 20 years and chose to settle in Quito, Ecuador, where his wife is from. They have various interests in the outdoors, from the Andes mountains to the Amazon rivers to the Pacific coast and, of course, the Galapagos islands. Quito is the perfect location for an adventure-seeker and angler, situated in the middle of the outdoor playground that is Ecuador. Lane mostly fly fishes and has a few projects promoting sustainable catch-and-release fly fishing with indigenous communities for various species in the Amazon and on the Pacific coast.