Leg 2 of the 2021 Los Sueños Signature Triple Crown may have wrapped up but that doesn’t mean we aren’t still reminiscing about the great time we had. From traveling with the Jaruco team to catching up with the Uno Mas winners, the tournament was just another silver lining for 2021.
As we say goodbye to 2020 and look to 2021 with hope and excitement for new things to come, we can’t do this without looking back at the significant stories of the year. Our editors curated the top five stories that had a significant impact for us and our readers. These are the features that motivated, educated and took us away to wide open waters for the time we were reading. We hope you enjoy.
In a very direct sense, the pending new Texas state record bluefin tuna was a victim of the coronavirus.
Whether or not fish can actually catch this disease, who the hell knows, but the trip that resulted in greasing the biggest bluefin in the history of the Lone Star State was the result of being cooped up in the house awaiting the virus to run its course. Captain Robert Nichols, who runs the Rock Mama, a 55’ Hatteras based out of Galveston, Texas was gracious enough to tell us all about this fish of a lifetime.
So many times, I’m asked about how much a captain should get paid. Sometimes, I’m asked by the captain and sometimes I’m asked by the owners. There seems to be no rhyme nor reason on what a captain should or shouldn’t make.
Back in the day, there was an unwritten rule that a captain should make a grand per foot. I don’t know who came up with that…but it was ignorant.
The InTheBiteCaptain of the Year Cup presented by Hatteras is the world’s foremost competition for professional sportfishermen. The world’s only quantifiable metric for comparing the tournament success of captains, winning an InTheBite Captain of the Year Award is a major achievement. The Cup is composed of five divisions that span the sportfishing world: East Coast, Florida, Gulf Coast, Hawaii and International.
We look back on the 2019 winners who pushed past challenges, beat the odds and showed us what it takes to be the best.
What type of steering system do you have? While most sportfish crew would answer hydraulic, there are many variables today that differentiate the design, components and operation of a vessel’s steering system. Learning about your boat’s system can assist when it comes time for maintenance, ordering repair parts and performing bleeding (more about this later).
Live bait is both the best bait and the worst bait. Nothing entices a fish to bite better than a wriggling and writhing forage fish dangling from the hook. Nothing gives anglers more trouble than catching, keeping and rigging livies. That’s right, you can’t live with live bait, and you can’t win without.
Photos and Story by Scott Kerrigan
For those passionate about fishing, ensuring that your kids enjoy time on the water is a very important—some might say life-altering—consideration. For those who make a living as charter or private boat captains, creating a kid-friendly fishing environment is that much more important. The difference between creating a lifelong angler and a kid that will never fish again can be something as simple as making sure that the tackle and the target species are age-appropriate.
By Keith Bowen
During the 2017 WMO, I fished with Capt. Ricky Wheeler on the Exile 65 Paul Mann out of The Canyon Club Marina in Cape May, NJ. After a classic crashing teaser bite, a plug was pitched on an 80W standup combo and it was ‘game on’ with a decent sized Blue Marlin. I quickly got in my Smitty Built harness and got ready for a fight. Between fishing in Costa Rica and New Jersey, I had caught about 20 Blue Marlin in the past but after one jump, it was clear this was my biggest to date. Everyone was extremely excited during the controlled chaos as there had not yet been a blue weighed in and we were in the right Calcutta’s.
During a two-day fishing trip out of Port Aransas, Texas, the Quantified team —Wills Scott group out of Beaumont, Texas — reeled in a massive haul. All were standup except the swordfish. This was the first trip on Quantified. Justin Drummond was captain with mate DA Hughes III.
By Winslow Taylor
The Bahamas are a boater’s paradise, full of diverse opportunity for recreation — much more, in fact, than many people realize. If you are an InTheBite subscriber, chances are when folks say “I’m headed to the Bahamas for vacation” and that is followed up with plans to go to Nassau or Atlantis, you are going to roll your eyes. There is nothing wrong with Nassau, it’s a fun spot.
The Atlantis makes a delicious $35 coffee/bagel combo and it’s a good fuel stop on the way to elsewhere. These popular “mainstream” destinations hardly convey the real Bahamian experience. When it comes to the Bahamas, one of the coolest experiences is one of the simplest: leaving the United States, crossing the gulf stream, and seeing the clear blue water on the banks as the depth goes from the thousands to the teens.
Having your own boat in the Bahamas, whether it’s a 150-foot yacht or a 23-foot center console, gives you a sense of freedom and flexibility that is unmatched in any other boating destination. Not only is the scenery spectacular, but the fishing from the flats to the deep is superb, with different species to target year-round depending on the island(s).
Exact trip planning depends on the vessel, itinerary, and person count (things that are different for everybody), but generally speaking, it’s important to properly plan out the logistics and provisions. The major islands, and even Marsh Harbour, have grocery stores that rival those in US, but the off-the-beaten-path islands require more planning.
Furthermore, US beer is expensive, so if you enjoy a cold domestic you should provision accordingly!
Although there are two seasons in Florida (1) hot and humid as hell and (2) a little less hot and humid, the Bahamas can be a four-season, year-round destination with different islands and fisheries best showcased in the different seasons. Although I spent a few months in the Abacos shagging grass, island hopping, and watching the wind blow, I have spoken with some well-traveled professionals for their take on where to go and what to do/target throughout the year.
The following provides some off the beaten path Bahamas perspective that might be of use in your next trip to the islands. The information is broken down by season and destination. With apologies to the many activities and locations left out, here is a breakdown of the seasons of the Bahamas.
Cat Island is 130 miles southeast of Nassau and 300 miles from Fort Lauderdale. Cat Island is home to Hawk’s Nest Resort and Marina on its southwestern tip. The island boasts lodging, a protected marina, and an airstrip. One of the best attributes of Cat Island is the ability to fish in the lee whichever direction the wind decides to blow. The winter wahoo fishing is phenomenal and blue marlin are no stranger to the spread.
Cat Island is definitely a destination where you need to properly provision and don’t forget to bring some bikes for local transportation. Coupled with the phenomenal fishery, diving, and true Bahamian experience, Cat Island and Hawk’s Nest Rest & Marina should be on your winter to-do list!
In the Berry Islands and close to Chub Cay is Great Harbour. The fishing from Great Harbour is similar to Chubb (30 miles to “The Pocket”), but Great Harbour is a more economical location to keep your boat. Talking with Capt. Ben Brownlee, who has spent many seasons throughout the area, he explains that from Great Harbour you can fish right in front for wahoo, the deep dropping for snapper and grouper is insane, and there are always some marlin around.
Also, with the right wind, you can hit up The Pocket. Great Harbour is the largest island in the Berry’s and provides more opportunities for small boats to explore and cruise. While you’re there make sure to go to Flo’s restaurant and cliff jump into the blue hole!
San Salvador is very much off the beaten path, but it’s famous for the massive wahoo captured there every winter. Many world records have come from its depths and it’s not uncommon to see fish in excess of 80-100 pounds. Mixed in with the big wahoo are the occasional yellowfin and marlins. Although the island is rustic, there is commercial air service, which makes traveling and keeping your boat there a breeze.
Not only is the fishing excellent, but San Salvador’s history is unique as it is believed to be the first land Christopher Columbus visited in 1492.
Also in the Berry Islands, Chubb Cay is a year-round destination with an impressive fishery from the flats to the deep. It is definitely a first-class destination and conveniently located approximately 30 nm from Nassau, 75 nm from Bimini, and 125 nm from Fort Lauderdale. Access to the pocket is closer than Great Harbour and it’s the place to be on an east-southeast wind. Ben reports that double-digit marlin bites are not uncommon and you have a decent shot at slamming out when the water is right!
Personally, I think the Abaco Islands are one of the coolest destinations for fishheads and cruisers alike. It’s also a great “intro” area into cruising the Bahamas. You can leave Florida in the morning and be checked in and fishing by lunchtime, weather permitting of course. There is no shortage of great marinas and accommodations, with each island offering its own unique character.
There are two airports offering commercial flights from the mainland (Marsh Harbour and Treasure Cay), with Marsh Harbour even having direct flights from Atlanta and Charlotte. Marsh Harbour is great, not only because of the travel options, but it’s also easy to stay well provisioned. Marsh Harbour has a Maxwell’s Supermarket which has everything you would find in the US.
In the spring there is no shortage of gaffers and the blue marlin really start showing up in April, you can’t go wrong trolling off the lighthouse, and your never far from a quick run in for lunch. One of my favorite activities is conching in the Sea of Abaco. Just get some snorkel gear, tie a line behind your boat, and get dragged through the water looking for conch on the bottom. Once you see one (or more), release from the line, dive, capture, and repeat.
Eleuthera – Cape Eleuthera
Pete Zabinski has been traveling the Bahamas since he was a kid, and one of his favorite spots is Cape Eleuthera Resort and Marina on the western tip of Eleuthera. Cape Eleuthera has a great marina with equally amazing accommodations. Not only that it’s only 50 nm to Nassau if you need to pick up/drop off folks, and there are two airports with commercial service on the islands.
Eleuthera offers a true Bahamian feel, and no visit to Eleuthera would be complete without visiting glass window bridge. The marlin fishing gets firing in the spring, and it’s a good jumping off place to the Exumas and the Abacos.
Clarence Town – Long Island
Clarence Town is another one of Pete’s favorite locations. If you are in the Exumas, you might as well keep heading southeast to Long Island, which is another true Bahamian out island. Clarence Town is the capital, and another amazing destination for pelagics as well as bonefish on the flats. Flying Fish Marina is the place to be, and no trip to Long Island is complete without checking out Dean’s Blue Hole.
It’d be easy to write a whole book on what to do in the Exumas. It’s an amazing archipelago that is easily accessible by air from the mainland, but also by boat from Florida. If you want to get away from a 100% fishing oriented trip and explore, then the Exumas are the place to be. You can island hop every few days and check out everything each island has to offer. From the “natural aquarium” at Staniel to the sharks on the dock and the bubble bath at Compass Cay.
It truly is one of the coolest places in the Bahamas. There are some great accommodations on the main island, but if possible, try to branch out to the various islands. Offshore, bone fishing, diving, golf, doing absolutely nothing…Exumas is top of the list!
Andros – Fresh Creek
Andros is the largest and least explored island in the Bahamas. It sits on the edge of the third-longest barrier reef in the world and is a short 20 nm run west from Nassau and about 100 nm from Bimini. Andros, with its expansive flats has phenomenal bonefishing and the barrier reef with its numerous blue holes, lends itself to some amazing diving.
Again, talking with Pete, he emphasized that Andros, specifically Fresh Creek is “Old Bahamas,” where the tourist factor is nearly zero. You can grab your gear, rent a car, and explore the island or use your boat to check out the endless shoreline. Summertime lends itself to meat and marlin fishing, and it’s a short hop from Florida that lets you skip the craziness of Bimini.
West End is an awesome, low-key destination that is a stone’s throw from Florida. At only 55 nm from Palm Beach, you can pretty much head over for lunch. Hell, in North Carolina we run that distance just about every time we go offshore. Old Bahamas Bay has a first-class marina and great accommodations to keep the entire family busy. As a side note, the runway at West End is recently opened so you can there in about 10 minutes from the mainland.
There is decent snorkeling just outside the marina, and the beach at the resort is protected so it’s perfect for kids. Just down the road Blue Marlin Cove and Bootle Bay offer more fishing-oriented accommodations, with great marinas. From West End, it’s a quick run-up to Mantilla Shoals (“The Corner”) where you can catch anything from limits of tuna to marlin!
West End also makes a good jumping off point to the upper Abacos which has some unparalleled diving and spearfishing opportunities.
At 45 nm from Florida, Bimini is another great short trip. Although in summer Bimini can seem like Miami/Ft. Lauderdale 2.0, in the fall the crowds thin and it’s a great destination to get away for a long weekend. Although not prime fishing season due to the warm water temps, Bimini has awesome snorkeling, spearfishing, reef fishing, and bonefishing.
If you want the party scene you can hit up the casino at Resort World. Resort World also happens to be a Hilton Property, so if you have Hilton points you can score some free rooms. There is a huge casino as well as all the usual accoutrements. If you want a laid-back spot check out Bimini Sands on South Bimini, it has a great marina and a more traditional Bahamian vibe.
Make sure to check out the SS Sapona for a cool snorkeling spot, and if you’re going to head offshore you can make the short 20 mile run up to Isaac Cay where the tuna show up. There is no question Bimini is a great spot to enjoy a long weekend in the islands!
It’s easy to give Nassau a hard time, but there is no denying it’s convenient, nice, and plenty of fun. Barring a hurricane, fall is my favorite time in the Bahamas, it’s warm, it’s not too crowded, and usually the wind isn’t horrible. Nassau gets a bad rap for being overpriced, but there are many ways to keep the cost down. If gambling is your (or your friends’) thing, it’s not difficult to get a comped room at the Atlantis or the Baha Mar.
The Baha Mar is nice and willing to give some deals to try to lure some of the Atlantis’s clientele over. Nassau has some great marinas (Bay Street, Atlantis, Hurricane Hole, and Lyford) and it’s an easy jumping off point to Andros, Chubb, Eleuthera, and Exuma. Also, there are plenty of islands between Nassau and Spanish to cruise and enjoy. If you’re looking for a fun Conclusion: Now you have read some of our recommendations, all you need is a chartbook, some fuel and you can go find your own favorite spot. That’s the beauty of the Bahamas.
It’s close enough to be accessible, but far enough away to truly get away from it all…if you want to!
Do you have any comments or questions for us? We’d love to hear from you.
The Jaruco crew (L to R), Chase Edwards, Newt Cagle, Dale Wills, Edward Barr, Kieran Pullman, Lotte Doherty and Captain James Brown. “I’d like to give a big thanks to the entire Jaruco team for hosting me during Leg 1 of the Los Sueños Signature Series in Costa Rica. The max effort of the crew and fishing on a one-of-a-kind 90-foot rocket ship blew me away. It was truly a privilege to be a part of the team,” says InTheBite Publisher, Dale Wills.
The Jaruco crew in continuous communication throughout the day. (L to R) Newt Cagle, Kieran Pullman and Edward Barr.
Surprise! Stewardess Lotte brings out a birthday cake for angler Jim McGrath (Grand Slam Tackle) as the Jaruco runs between fishing spots.
Deckhand Chase Edwards prepares the mud flaps for duty.
Marine artist Steve Goione’s line runnith over.
All smiles, stewardess Lotte delivers the mid-morning snack.
Deckhand Edward Barr serves up the Zman HeroZ 10˝ jerkbait dredge in green lantern color. “We have caught around 600 fish over the dredge, and the baits are incredibly tough,” says Barr.
Capt. James Brown, commander-in-chief.
John Riggs (right) of Riggs Yacht Sales & Capt. Dale Wills of InTheBite keep the team on a positive vibe.
Do you have any comments or questions for us? We’d love to hear from you.
Krazy Salts — Capt. Keith Greenberg
By Elliott Stark
The Galápagos is such an amazing place that describing a trip to these islands is difficult. Whereas recounting the catch statistics in many places provides a pretty good indication of the experience, here it doesn’t scratch the surface. Talking of only the number of giant ass striped marlin you catch in the Galápagos would be kinda like describing a culinary tour of the best restaurants in Italy solely in terms of how many calories you ate.
Just as recounting catch information provides an inaccurate summary of the trip, describing the impact of the experience of visiting the Galápagos perhaps requires a bit of context. These islands are literally in the middle of nowhere. They are 583 miles west of continental Ecuador… from there, next stop China. This remoteness has influenced the region’s fisheries and wildlife and its history.
That the Galápagos is teeming with life is not news. Charles Darwin could have told you that in 1835. He was taken enough with the inhabitants of these islands that his experience here shaped his postulation of the Theory of Evolution. Though Darwin, an English naturalist, is the historical figure most famously associated with the islands, Las Islas Galápagos were discovered by the Spanish ships that were blown offshore when trying to sail to Peru in 1535.
For islands that are so remote, the Galápagos have found themselves strategically positioned for the interests of a number of groups. The period between their discovery until the late 1700s, the islands were a hideout used by English pirate ships who attacked the Spanish treasure fleet. In those days, the waters off of Peru and Ecuador were ground zero for ships loaded with gold from the Incan empire en route to Spain.
In the late 1700s, the Galápagos provided a base of operation for whaling ships in the Pacific Ocean. Sperm whale oil passing through the Galápagos was involved in powering the Industrial Revolution. The Galápagos were annexed by Ecuador in 1832, visited by Darwin in 1835. During World War II, the islands were home to a US naval base for radar operation. By this time, the islands’ importance lie in protecting the Panama Canal.
In 1959, the islands were designated a national park. In the late 2000s, Tim Choate set up his fishing operation—which was largely the first time many outside of Ecuador considered fishing the islands. These days, the Galápagos is largely a tourist economy. In 2018, an estimated 275,000 people visited the islands.
Looking at a map of the Pacific, it’s immediately apparent that the Galápagos are physically isolated. This isolation is central to most everything about the Galápagos. A volcanic archipelago, the islands share a similar origin with many Pacific island chains—Hawaii and the like.
The Galápagos sit at the intersection of three major ocean currents. The Peru Current brings cold, nutrient rich waters northward along the Pacific Coast of South America before spinning westwardly into the path of the Galápagos. The warm Panama Current runs from the north, the result of the Pacific Equatorial Counter Current’s deflection off of the coast of Central America. These currents intermix with waters deflected to the ocean’s surface by upwelling of the deep water Cromwell Current that flows into the Galápagos from the west. Places in the world where deep waters are deflected to the surface are generally among the most productive, the Galápagos is no different.
The combination of isolated islands bathed by a combination of ocean currents from diverse sources contributes to many of the islands’ unique characteristics. It’s tempting to think that it was one of these currents that delivered a land tortoise to the island. A million years later, the tortoises have grown to gigantic proportions (fun fact: did you know that if you place the InTheBite Monkey close to a giant tortoise to take a picture of them, the turtle might hiss at it? When they crane their heads out to hiss, their necks look like giant, thick Slim Jims. It is true.)
The intermixing of currents also contributes to the region’s incredible fisheries. Relative to the normal striped marlin haunts on this side of the world, the striped marlin here are gigantic. The upwelled nutrients support sardine populations that feed them and the throngs of sea lions, frigates, boobies, and all kinds of other birds.
Juan Kayser and his family own and operate Galapwonder charters out of San Cristobal, the easternmost island in the Galápagos. Operating out of a 37’ Bertram, Galapwonder offers a diverse charter regime to clients. Juan was a more than gracious host for our trip in February.
On the trip were Dale Wills, his ten-year-old son Zachary, and myself. Our itinerary included two days of marlin fishing and a day of excursions in the park. The third day of the trip included hiking in lava fields and into caves within them, snorkeling around León Dormido (a rock formation whose silhouette looks like a sleeping lion), and bottom fishing.
While it might sound odd to go snorkeling instead of striped marlin fishing, it was really quite an experience. The rock feature juts out of the ocean to perhaps 300 feet or so. Beneath the waterline is a sheer drop that is covered in coral. Grouper, snapper, all kinds of reef fish cling to the wall. The area is a cleaning station for hammerheads and other sharks. We also swam with a sea lion, a bunch of turtles and some manta rays. The volcano was a wild and interesting experience as well.
Accommodations for the trip were provided at Kayser’s hotel, the Galápagos Planet. A charming, 30 room facility, the place has an in-house restaurant that sits on the pool and features a custom built, wood burning pizza oven. The hotel was in the process of launching a new menu at its restaurant—The
Lobster Shack. Highlighted by great pizza and the fresh seafood for which Ecuador is known, it is a wonderful place to round out a day’s fishing.
The hotel is about three blocks from the marina. Between the boat and the rooms is the town’s boardwalk, complete with bars, restaurants, souvenir shops and beaches piled high with sea lions. Boats are moored in a protected harbor. Getting onto and off of shore involves a short water taxi ride to or from a dock.
The Galápagos’ primary claim to fame in sportfishing circles are the mobs of very big striped marlin. The fishing season here runs from January through June, with February and March being typically the peak. The fishing generally involves running to banks offshore. Once on the grounds, the presence of bait is betrayed by flocks of diving booby birds and frigates. The sight of the birds mobbing a bait ball is one to behold. Even 30 miles offshore, sea lions get in on the action, alternatively lounging around on the water’s surface and attacking bait while porpoising through the water.
When you hit it right, it does not take long for the reports of the great striped marlin fishing to be borne true. There is so much bait in the water that the ocean seems alive. The striped marlin run much larger here than in their other haunts on this side of the world. Kayser estimates the average fish to come in between 150-200 pounds.
Galapwonder’s normal arsenal for targeting the stripes here is pulling lures on Alutecnos 50-wides and a bridge teaser on either side. For those who have spent time fishing in Cabo and wonder if 50-pound gear is overkill for striped marlin, but these fish are a bit different. They run larger than those in Cabo and even those that are caught on the mainland of Ecuador—some 600 miles away. The fish come in fired up and ready for action and fight like they mean it. If they are able to get into the current that runs beneath the surface, it can take some doing to wench them out… especially if you hook a 200-pound striper on a 30.
On the first day our trip, we caught two striped marlin and a hand full of dolphin. While we only got two to the boat, we had 11 bites and saw more than 20. Many of the fish we saw were in groups of two to five, tailing on the surface or lazily swimming about. There was enough food around that they seemed full and content to watch us pass by without committing to eat a lure or a ballyhoo that we packed down from the states.
A couple of the fish that we pitched to switched nicely enough, but dog boned the ballyhoo instead of eating it… swimming along with the boat, rather than cooperating as they could have. The two or three other boats fishing that day experienced the same type deal. The day was a blast. We saw all manner of life and got a good feel for the place. The first marlin we caught was Zachary’s first time tangling with a marlin. The second weighed 200-pounds and could well have eaten your garden variety Cabo striped marlin.
The next day we ran to another bank. We followed the same type of program. Upon arriving at the bank we found the birds who were sitting, diving and raising hell on a bait ball. We trolled around, but didn’t find any willing participants. We saw a pile of striped marlin around the birds, cruising lazily around in small groups. Next thing you know, Zachary yells, “There’s a marlin!” This one looked a bit different than the others—thicker fins that were more purple than blue.
It was a swordfish basking on the surface. It was not giant, maybe 60-pounds. It’s dorsal and tail fins sticking out of the water as it lounged around. We trolled around him a couple of times, hoping for something that was probably not going to happen. Then we thought it might be possible to snag him with a popper on the spinning rod (a redneck approach? Sure, but it sounded like fun). By the time we managed all of this, the fish, of course, faded from view.
While standing on the bow, ready to sling a popper at something—dolphins, sea lions and birds were mashing bait all around the boat—it started raining boobies. The things were dive bombing in every direction and we were about in the middle of it. The things crashed close enough to the boat that I had visions of the newspaper headlines, “Florida man impaled by bird while trying to snag swordfish with popper.”
We wound up catching three striped marlin on our second day. We saw a bunch more and quite a few more lazy bites. For lunch it was dorado ceviche, made the way that Juan and company prepare it at the restaurant. We’ve published the recipe in this issue. It was a wonderful day rounded out by a couple beers in the pool and the chef’s run-through of every item on the new menu for dinner.
Fishing in The Galápagos
The Galápagos has a good run of big tuna in some years. Given its dependence on ocean currents, some years the tuna show up in great numbers, others they do not. There is also a bit of variability in the fishing between the different islands. While San Cristobal, where we fished, gets mostly striped marlin, with a few blues mixed in, the Island of Isabela—which is a bit to the west of San Cristobal—gets a consistent run of big blue marlin each April. Fish in the neighborhood of 400-pounds are common, with reports of substantially larger fish being somewhat common.
Isabela also gets a number of black marlin. The fish are not common enough to target, but when they see one it tends to run large. They also get good numbers of tuna, a solid wahoo bite at certain times of the year and encounter swordfish with regularity. The average fish, Kayser reports, is of the 80- to 100-pound variety.
With all of the incredible fishing opportunities in the Galápagos, you’d imagine there to be a fleet of 100 boats and a contingent of those from the mainland traveling in and out each season. This is not the case. There are not many operations fishing in the Galápagos and private boats are not permitted to fish within the Park’s boundaries. If a private boat comes to the area, it may transit between the islands with ranger on board, but may not fish within the reserve.
If you want to fish the area, it must be on a registered boat with a permitted operator—such as Galapwonder. The permit system is an interesting one. Its origin lies in efforts made to conserve the islands’ fisheries. There used to be a very active number of artisanal commercial fishermen operating in the Galápagos. As a way of conserving fisheries resources without displacing livelihoods, the Galápagos set up a permit system whereby the commercial fishermen were given operating permits to run boats in the park. Through time, these permits have come to allow them to operate the sportfishing boats that work within the park.
The permits are tied to the holder. The permit holder can then register his boat and fish in the area. Companies can enter arrangements with permit holders, but each permit holder is entitled to register one boat to operate. Galapwonder is planning to upgrade its boat for the 2021 season, but the avenue by which it happens is much more complicated than simply buying a boat and bringing it to the islands.
The regulations that govern access to fishing are complicated. They effectively limit access to fishing in these waters. In many contexts limiting entry to sportfishing activities is a bad deal, but the fact that there are still areas that don’t get covered up with boats is somehow part of the charm of the Galápagos. As a result, if you want to experience the Galápagos and its striped marlin fishery, you’ll have to do it with a licensed permit holder and fish with a park ranger on board.
Beyond the difficulty in registering boats to fish, there is the setting of the place. The boats in San Cristobal are moored in a protected harbor. Getting to them each morning requires a boat taxi ride that is an easy deal, if you don’t accidentally step on a sleeping sea lion. Returning to the fuel dock is a trip back in time.
The fuel is delivered to the boat in the form of a pickup truck carrying two or three 55 gallon barrels. From there, gravity takes care of the rest, pushing the fuel through the hose (which is tossed to the boat) and into the tank. Similarly, the islands do not have haul out capability. Bottom work is done on certain beaches at low tide.
The Galápagos are a wild and rugged place, endowed with a certain charm that is all their own. The fishing here can be great, but it’s worth the trip even if you don’t fly 15 striped marlin flags per day. There is much to be seen (did you know that sea lions really seem to enjoy barking at and biting one another, even without much apparent provocation?) It is easy to see why Charles Darwin enjoyed them so much.
Getting to the Galápagos
The first Europeans ever to discover the Galápagos were blown offshore of Peru. Charles Darwin got here on a Beagle… a wind-powered ship by that name. Fortunately, visiting the islands is much easier these days. There are regular flights to and from the islands into and out of Guayaquil, Ecuador—a city that also has a full-service international airport. Kayser explains that some groups fly down to Quito, Ecuador, a city through which the Equator passes. Quito has a good tourism infrastructure with quite a bit to do, but does not offer flights to the Galápagos. After spending a couple days enjoying Quito, these groups fly to Guayaquil to board a plane to the islands.
For more info on traveling to Galapwonder send us a message.
By Elliott Stark
As we all sit here awaiting the world’s return to normalcy, the fact that the world is more connected now than ever before is an inescapable conclusion. Everything is interwoven. Events and decisions that are made in one place can affect many others—even those that live on the opposite side of the world.
While much of this interconnectedness–and the impact that personal choice can have on others– has been focused on the health side of the equation, there are many aspects to consider. Fishing is something that is normally considered an individual activity or one that is accomplished by a small crew of people—after all part of the charm of going fishing is that you’re not doing it at the mall surrounded by 5,000 people.
Unlike the iconic image of a lone fisherman walking down a deserted beach or stream, the sportfishing industry is far from a singular entity. It rather depends on an interconnected web of commerce and purchase decisions made by people across not only the United States, but the world. As with most any business, those within the sportfishing industry rely on a series of transactions to generate the revenue they need to keep going. For many businesses around the world Covid-19 and its associated decreases in travel, consumption, and overall economic activity has interrupted the necessary chain of commerce.
As we wait this deal out, there may be nothing that we can do to speed along the freedom to travel—you couldn’t jump on a plane to your favorite international destination today if you wanted to (even if you flew down there on your own private jet, they might not let you in). There are however decisions that we can make to help sportfishing businesses weather this time of lost income and general uncertainty. For many, the essence of this movement has been captured in the phrase “Postpone, don’t cancel.”
Postpone, Don’t Cancel
If you have a trip on the books that has to be moved because of the pandemic, consider postponing it rather than canceling it. This helps charter businesses considerably. Will Drost, who operates Maverick Sportfishing (https://www.mavericksportfish.com/) out of Los Sueños explains it like this, “For us the best case is for clients to plan long range trips. We know that nothing in our industry hasn’t been affected by this, but we appreciate that most of our clients have been postponing instead of canceling trips. For our situation, everything is in place for postponing trips—airline companies have been issuing credits for displaced travel.”
Captain Kiwi Van Leeuwen who, with his wife, owns and operates the Sailfish Oasis Lodge in Guatemala (https://sailfishoasis.com/) provides a bit more context. “All of our clients have rescheduled instead of canceled, we are thankful for that. For us, it’s best if clients can reschedule for later this year instead of the same dates next year. If that happens (rescheduling for the same dates next year), we effectively lose those days. We are hopeful to be back in business by October. We feel that the Guatemalan tourist industry is in a relatively good position because the government acted early and closed the borders. We hope that this will mitigate the impact that we feel in the country a bit.”
The Charter Industry is Particularly Vulnerable
The men and women who own and operate charter boats and fishing lodges depend on visiting anglers for their livelihoods. While most within the general public might think of a fishing trip as a vacation– an optional trip that can be cancelled without too much inconvenience, the money spent by charter guests is the lifeblood of charter boat businesses and the livelihoods of those who operate them.
Operators in this segment are particularly impacted by the virus. This impact is felt on two levels. The first and most obvious lies in the impact of the travel ban. If you are physically prevented from visiting an area, you most certainly cannot fish there. This leaves operators and lodges forced to close their doors—even if it is the peak of their season. Have you seen the tuna videos coming out of Venice, Louisiana in the days leading up to when the marina was closed? It was the best it had been in years.
The travel bans, and decreased travel in places where it is not banned outright, effect fishing operators all over the world. Those international lodges that rely on US customers suffer from closed borders. There are also travel restrictions in the states as well—you can’t get into the Florida Keys without proof of residency. Marinas are closed and fishing has ground to a halt in many of the hotbeds of the charter industry—the Gulf Coast of Florida, Venice, Louisiana, Ocean City, Maryland, the Outer Banks, South Florida—you name it.
Restricted travel is but the first level of vulnerability faced by fishing operators. The second layer is less obvious, but no less daunting. For many, a fishing vacation is considered a luxury item. What is the first thing that is cut back when someone feels an economic pinch? Luxury items.
How does that happen? The economic impacts from the pandemic are widespread. Beyond those whose jobs or livelihoods have been directly affected to this point, many others have tightened their purse strings as they worry about what the future holds. Economists describe this level of impact in terms of consumer confidence.
As a general rule, when things are good and consumers (people who buy things) are confident that they will continue to be good into the future, people spend money freely. When consumers face uncertainty—such as that caused by the virus and how long its impacts will last—they tend to spend less money. When they decide to spend less money, the fishing trips and other “optional” items are the first to go. Both of these scenarios- restricted travel and dampened consumer outlook– impact the bottom line when it comes to businesses in the sportfishing space.
What Can You Do?
Let’s start with a couple of conclusions. The men and women who operate sportfishing businesses provide a hell of an important service to all of us. Unless you have your own boat or happen to have a good buddy that does, about the only chance for the average person to fish offshore is by hiring a fishing guide. Many of the people that now currently own boats can trace their desire to purchase one to an experience fishing with a guide or lodge. They are also the type of local, small businesses that every community needs.
The second consideration has two facets: Charter boat owners face bills and overhead whether they are chartering or not. Bills such as dockage, maintenance and overhead must be paid whether there are clients coming down the docks or not. Beyond the fact that bills are due whether clients come or not, charter fishing for many operators is a seasonal affair.
In most places, operators make the bulk of their income for the year during their high seasons. For some—like operators in the Bahamas, places like Destin, Florida that depend on spring break business or sailfish operators in Costa Rica—the high season is now. The effect of closures for these men and women is doubled. Not only are they forced to close now, now may be the time that they earn the money they need for the rest of the year.
Captain Adam Peeples runs One Shot Charters (http://oneshotcharters.com/) in Destin. He explains the situation like this, “The big thing for us is that we don’t know when we can get back to work. Having to refund deposits hurts. The beaches are closed through April 30. Right now I have a good May and June on the books, but if the closures are extended it could really hurt. The optimal situation for us right now would be for customers to be flexible. Without knowing when things will open, if they could reschedule to come down when they’re able that would really help.”
“The charter community here typically spends quite a bit of money over the winter time getting the boat ready for our spring break business. The average charter guy’s financial situation tends to be pretty tight—you do this because you love it not because you’re going to get super rich. You spend the money in the winter time to recoup it in the spring. The spring break season in Destin is lots of bottom fishing—four and six hour trips, but it’s a lot of business. Being down March and April, I might be down 60 or 70% on the year. Its recoverable if we have a good remainder of the year.”
“The consensus around here is that this is worse than the BP Oil Spill or the recession (of 2008).”
Now is a perfect time to….
If you and your family have been fortunate enough to not have been financially impacted by the pandemic, now might be a good time to consider planning a fishing trip. Thinking about—and better yet starting to plan for—a future fishing trip makes the time of being stuck around the house in quarantine that much more palatable. This is a direct benefit to you.
More than that however, putting a deposit down for a future trip can inject some cash into a local fishing business that could probably really use some about now. You can think of it in whatever terms you like, but the deposit could well be used for groceries or a mortgage payment for your favorite charter captain and his family. Not only can a deposit now inject some cash, having a day booked in the future helps with providing the confidence that every small business owner could use about now—that there is hope for a solid rebound once all of this craziness subsides.
Sometimes things are about fishing. Sometimes they are about humanity. Then there are times when the two interconnect. That fishing and humanity intersect so tangibly shouldn’t be surprising anymore—after all, it seems like just about everything in the world depends on something else these days.
If we can help you with any charter recommendations in the United States or beyond, shoot us a note…