June means summer. Summer means tournaments. Nothing says tournaments quite like InTheBite.
Grab a copy of the latest June Issue, hitting the docks now!
June means summer. Summer means tournaments. Nothing says tournaments quite like InTheBite.
Grab a copy of the latest June Issue, hitting the docks now!
by Elliott Stark
Ask anyone who has ever spent much time fishing in Venezuela and the conversation always goes the same way. It starts with an exclamation. “I love Venezuela. The fishing is…” They then spend the next few minutes spinning outlandish-sounding tales that would seem farfetched were they not similarly repeated by other captains who fished in Venezuela. Stories about having multiple blue marlin, multiple white marlin and a sail or two in the spread at the same time. Stories about weeks filled with multiple double slams.
After talking about the fishing, they then transition to “The people are…” The next few minutes describe the hospitality and friendliness of the Venezuelan people. Most also provide recollections of some of the amazing fishing talent that gathered to fish the La Guaira Bank. The captains who fished there were too many and too influential to mention here.
Next, inevitably comes the expression of regret. “What a shame what has happened there…” After the almost mournful statement of sadness, whoever is doing the talking will usually recount the lead up of events that resulted in their departure. The story usually involves describing a fair bit of back and forth – “The fishing was good and the experience was so great… but it just wasn’t safe any longer…” There is usually an underlying sadness in these recollections – it seems as none of those who spent a lot of time fishing in Venezuela ever actually wanted to leave. Most describe their eventual departure as being forced out by circumstance.
After the stories and the expression of sadness at having to leave always comes the same thing – “I sure hope it gets better. I’d go back in a second.” Most anyone who has ever spent time in Venezuela, it seems, dreams of one day returning. With the return of political and economic stability there will be a trail of sportfishers steaming south from all over the United States, the Caribbean and Central America. This stream of boat traffic will be matched in size and franticness of pace by only by the Spanish Armada (Columbus first visited Venezuela in 1498).
What’s Happening in Venezuela
Before going any further we must make one thing clear. While most of those reading this may have only thought of Venezuela as it relates to fishing, everything else pales in comparison to what is happening to the people of the country. Venezuela is in the midst of a crushing economic depression and a humanitarian crisis of historic proportions. There are shortages of food, medicines and other basic necessities. Crime rates have sky rocketed, the country’s public health care system has collapsed. There are reports of mass hunger. By some estimates, 80% of Venezuelan households lack access to sufficient food.
Economically, the country is gripped by one of the worst economic depressions in the history of Western civilization. The country is experiencing hyper inflation of its currency of disastrous proportions. The International Monetary Fund estimates that inflation will reach 10,000,000 percent in 2019. Yes, that’s 10 million percent. (Inflation is an economic term that describes the increase in prices for goods and services and a decrease in the purchasing power of a currency. To put this into perspective, at 10,000,000 percent inflation it would take $10 million dollars in cash to buy something that costs one dollar.) The result of such hyper inflation makes money near worthless. It is also causing a shortage of cash (because people need to carry a backpack full of cash, and wait for hours in line, to buy a loaf of bread and some eggs).
The situation is so bad that is has caused a mass exodus from the country. The United Nations Refugee Agency estimates that some 3.4 million people have emigrated from Venezuela since 2014. This is the highest rate of fleeing from a country in modern history – higher even than from people leaving Syria.
President Hugo Chavez was elected in 1998. Upon his death in 2013, his hand chosen successor, Nicolas Maduro, took power. Chavez nationalized the oil and gas industry in Venezuela, forcing out private industry. Populist social programs designed to redistribute wealth and corrupt moves to pay for military support lay at the base of the regime’s popularity. Between these programs, state sponsored television and intolerance (jailing and worse) of political dissent, Chavez’ regime was able to maintain control.
With the continued tanking of the Venezuelan economy – now recognized as the world’s worst performing economy, and the shortages of food, medicine, and other necessities, support for Maduro has waned. A challenger – Juan Guiado (a 35-year-old leader of the National Assembly from La Guaira) – has named himself interim president. The Venezuelan Constitution states that the President of the National Assembly has the authority to take power in the absence of a legitimate president. Guaido and his supporters claim that when Maduro changed the elections and the rules last year – invalidating his claim to victory – this mandate was due in 2019. Guaido has consolidated support from the many factions that oppose Chavez/ Maduro’s regime within Venezuela and has been recognized as the legitimate leader of Venezuela by 65 countries – including the US, the European Union and much of Latin America.
While the outcome of all of this is far from certain, it could well be a watershed moment in the political history of the country. Guaido has also provided something that has been in short supply in Venezuela for a long time. A vehicle for hope.
How Did Venezuela Get Here
Venezuela was once, not too long ago, the richest economy in Latin America. The country is blessed by an incredible base of natural resources – including the world’s largest oil reserve. It was this bounty that was central to the stories of boats buying fuel for three cents per liter in Venezuela. Oil – its price fluctuation and misguided economic policies surrounding it – is also at the heart of the Venezuelan economic meltdown.
Hugo Chavez was elected president of Venezuela in 1998. Chavez’ “Bolivarian Revolution” was marked by increasingly populist foreign and economic policies. Much of his emphasis was on distribution of wealth downward – something that resulted in mass popularity. In 2001, Chavez passed laws designed to redistribute land and wealth. In 2005, large ranches and estates were taken by the government. In 2006, Venezuela forcibly nationalized oil and gas, banking and most large industry. With the government owning most large industry, the country lost a majority of its private employment options.
At the time of Chavez’ election in 1998, the price of oil was $7 to $9 per barrel. By 2004, prices soared to upwards of $100 per barrel. With oil producing more and more money, the government of Venezuela (which owned the economy) became less diversified and more and more dependent on the high price of oil for economic health. The country bet its entire stake on oil – nationalization of (government-owned) industry killed manufacturing and productivity fell sharply. Venezuela exported oil and imported nearly everything else – becoming virtually entirely dependent on high oil prices for economic health. By 2012, oil accounted for 95% of all of Venezuelan exports.
Despite the amount of money pouring into the country from high oil prices, the Venezuelan government borrowed heavily from 2004 to 2014. The public debt increased six-fold during this period. In spite of all of the oil money and the funds borrowed, the government did not create a sovereign capital fund or other savings mechanism to hedge against a fall in oil prices.
In 2014, oil prices fell. Because of the country’s high rate of borrowing (and because much of its collateral for loans is tied to the price of oil), capital markets for Venezuela tightened and the country no longer had access to loans. Debt sets in shortly thereafter and cash was soon in short supply. Because Venezuela relied on imports of most everything except for oil, it needed to import food, medicine and other necessities.
Without access to loans, the country did not have the cash to purchase these things. With fewer imports coming in, prices on basic goods began to rise. To combat rising costs, the government established price controls (mandating the price of what goods could be sold for). This cycle led to inflation, the devaluing of the Venezuelan Bolivar (the nation’s currency), and longer and longer lines for increasingly scare necessities. The recession that began in Venezuela in 2013 continues unabated – it is recognized as the largest recession in the history of the western world.
The Political State of Venezuela Right Now
Hugo Chavez died of cancer in 2013. Nicolas Maduro, Chavez’ vice president, was his hand-selected successor. He inherited a corrupt government, a pile of failed economic policies and a situation that was spiraling out of control on many levels. Maduro’s presidency is largely an extension of the Chavez regime. As economic and social problems continued to pile up, hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans took to the streets to protest against Maduro in 2016. In the lead up to the 2018 election, Maduro jailed leaders the National Assembly (Venezuela’s legislative body) and appointed a new governmental body to administer the election.
While Maduro claimed victory, widespread claims of vote rigging and voter coercion opened the door for Juan Guaido – the leader of the National Assembly – to question the validity of the election results and proclaim himself interim president until a new, fair election can be held (something which the Venezuelan constitution grants him authority to do). Guaido, who favors a market economy, was immediately recognized by some 65 countries around the world as the acting leader of Venezuela. The United States and others have made it imminently clear that Guaido should face no harm from the Maduro regime.
While the outcome of all of this is far from certain, Guaido provides hope for a people and a nation who have long suffered. While the economic and social problems and the political turmoil of Venezuela will not be something that can be overcome tomorrow – how Guaido’s challenge to Maduro’s regime will play out is far from certain – there is for the first time in a long time a tangible vehicle of hope.
The eyes of the world are watching. Many displaced Venezuelans around the world are watching. And the sportfishing world is watching too… In addition to the prayers coming from around the world, there is hope for Venezuela.
The Venezuelan Perspective
Rafa Martinez Tovar is a displaced Venezuelan currently living the Dominican Republic. Martinez’ family has been intimately involved in Venezuelan sportfishing for generations. “My grandfather was one of the founders of the Playa Grande Yachting Club in La Guaira. I have been fishing since I was six… and I am 43 now. When I was a child, I remember fishing with the greatest light tackle anglers in Venezuela – Aquiles Garcia, Gildo Bellini and Rafael “Pantaleta” Arnal. They won eight ILTTA (International Light Tackle Tournament Anglers) tournaments – still the most in history.”
“We took our boat to the DR four years ago,” Martinez says, describing the Keep Fishing, a 45-foot Rampage convertible that now fishes out of Cap Cana and Casa De Campo, “and we opened the charter service to be able to cover the boat expenses.”
“I was the third generation of my family working in the family business – the ferry company Conferry. The business turned 60 years old last August and for the first time in its history, it is not transporting people and cargo to Margarita. We used to move three million people a year back and forth to the island. Isla Margarita is home to The Margarita Hilton & Suites (once Hilton’s hotel top performer in the Caribbean for more than seven years), a radio station, a newspaper, the ferry terminal and the Margaritas Professional Basketball team Guaiqueries de Margarita. My grandfather founded the team in 1975 – it was one of the best teams in the Venezuelan Professional League. They took everything from us. That’s why I had to come to the DR.”
When describing the situation in Venezuela, Martinez is somber in his analysis. “A cartel has the country kidnapped. It’s not a single dictator, it’s a whole network. It’s a political mixture that is not easy to untangle,” he reflects insightfully. “I think Guaido is the way to go. It’s a matter of time before things change. We are positive that things will change – it’s when, not if. Six months ago, we didn’t have this view. It’s going to take time, but it’s not impossible. Guaido will reestablish the rule of Law and Democracy in our country.”
“We’ll need our people to come back – many of those who would be prepared for the recovery have left. As soon as the rule of law and democracy are reestablished, lots of our people will return.”
The situation for many Venezuelan ex-pats is understandably sensitive. When I asked if it was ok to publish his name along with the article, he didn’t hesitate. “Go ahead buddy… there’s not much more that they can do to me. VAMOS BIEN Y LA VIRGEN DEL VALLE NOS ACOMPAÑA!!!”
Jose de Veer is another of Venezuela’s displaced sportfishing community. From Puerto La Cruz in eastern Venezuela, de Veer now works as first mate on the 65-foot American Custom Black Gold that fishes out of the Dominican Republic. “All of the problems in Venezuela really effect everyone. I am almost five years living outside of Venezuela – I moved because of all of the problems,” de Veer says.
“I was working as a diesel mechanic. The problems for me started with getting parts through customs. I started to get calls from customs asking for money to get parts out,” Jose describes. “My family owns a 38-foot Bertram, the Doble Linea, that has been fully customized. Our plan was to fish it together as a charter business and live there. Now it sits there idle. My dad doesn’t like to fish without me.”
“My family is still in Venezuela – my mom, my dad, my sister and grandpa. I visited them in August 2018. I hired a guy to dive my boat and he wouldn’t accept money for payment. He said he no longer took money because it couldn’t buy him anything. He wanted some food. I asked him what he’d charge me and he said, ‘A bag of rice, a can of sardines and a bottle of rum.’ That’s what I gave him. It is really sad – people don’t believe me when I tell them about it.”
“It’s the same way with fuel. It’s less than penny to buy 500 gallons of fuel – the tip is more expensive than the bill. The people are really, really hungry. It is really bad now,” he describes. While fuel may be cheap, the basic necessities are increasingly scarce and expensive. “My dad used to live very well on $150 per week. Now everything is really expensive and it seems like prices are doubling every day. What they air on the news is so sad… and everything is true. The government is trying to get rid of the middle class – they only want rich and poor people.”
“My family just went four days without electricity,” de Veer says, describing the massive country-wide 100 hour black out that occurred mid-March. “They lived on the boat running the generators, with extension cords running to the house (for the freezers). We were lucky to have the boat.”
As for his vision for the future, de Veer shares optimism about Guaido. “I think he’s doing a great job – I hope it works. He’s the only one with the balls to do it. He’s talking to the world,” he reflects. “People are dying without medicine; they are hungry and they are poor. Even if he succeeds, it will need time to change. The situation won’t be solved tomorrow – it will take time, patience. People need a chance to relax.”
Que viva Venezuela.
ITB-Digital contributor Michael Marks of Hawaii was nice enough to write out an account of an epic, unexpected run in with a pack of ravenous bigeye. Check it out… Thanks for the story Michael and keep em coming!
The anticipation had been building for a few weeks as a plan was hatched, and the moving parts all started to come together. The crew was solid and consisted of Captain Cyrus Widhalm, part owner of Honey – a beautiful custom 40-foot Buddy Davis, co-owner of Honey Mark Rodrigues, deckhand extraordinaire Nick Watson, owner of the tournament winning El Jobean, Larry Peardon, Brian Cibulka, owner of Relentless and yours truly.
The 4:30 wake up and raw anticipation that comes with the pre-dawn loading up of the boat for a 2-day-overnight trip down to South Point had peaked at about 6 am….and slowly given way to a lot of blue water and zero action.
The opelu at the secret submerged bait buoy were essentially unattainable. They were everywhere, but getting decimated by predators as soon as they bit. An hour and change of work turned into two measly baits.
We resorted to running south for a bit and jumped into ono lane. The run proved to be scenic and beautiful as we skirted alongside the prehistoric looking cliff filled shoreline, but the onos refused to play ball as well. Four hours and not a touch.
As we continued to push south, Captain Cyrus made the call to head outside to “B” buoy. There were some skiffs around, scattered birds and little tunas breaking water occasionally. The general liveliness of the area gave us renewed hope.
We busted out the small gear, rustled up a 4-5-pound aku (skipjack) for bait, bridled it up along with an opelu and sent them back out for a swim. The fish finder showed some serious signs of life. Consistent stacks of medium sized marks down deep that looked like potential tuna, and some big solo marks that looked the part of marlin.
We worked the area. Hard. And after a few hours, and a number of tricky tactics to get the opelu down deep and face to face with the tuna when we marked them, we had nothing to show for it.
The excitement we had first thing in the morning pretty much left us. Frosty IPAs and an assortment of other adult beverages were the only things driving the positivity at this point. All of the other skiffs that were dropping bait at the buoy for tunas seemed to be striking out as well, but Captain Cyrus was convinced that there was just too darn much life underneath us for nothing to happen. Finally, after a number of hours turning fruitless laps around the buoy, he finally proved to be right!
Out of nowhere, a blue marlin showed up directly behind the boat. I mean directly in the props, lit up bright blue and trying to put his bill in the exhaust pipe. Captain and deck hand Nick quietly slid down from the bridge trying not to spook the fish and brought the baits right to it. It turned, ate the port side bait, and then spit it back at us as soon as he felt any pressure, and promptly left. SHIT! Now we had proof there were hungry fish around, but it definitely stung to see one just feet behind the transom and not get bit. [Read more…]
Cool video from Wire We Here fishing for marlin in Costa Rica with Capt. Scott Jones. Check it out!
Photos and Story By Michael Marks
The amount of variables, outliers and wild ass decisions that go into a successful fishing trip are ridiculously hard to quantify. It seems like many times as fishermen, we zig when we should have zagged, but on this particular trip we zigged, and zigged, and kept zigging ourselves right into an unbelievably successful trip. And the fact that I’m starting to write this with a cold glass of Johnny Walker in hand, while watching Thursday night football (Bengals v Texans), on a ridiculously comfortable sport fisher 120 miles out in the pacific shows that, when it all comes together….it truly all comes together….
This particular trip had been planned for months in advance. Due to a successful auction bidding at the Houston Big Game Fishing Club’s annual banquet, we had a 4 night trip booked at Cebaco Bay, Panama to chase black marlin, throw poppers at tuna, cluck at roosterfish, or whatever else our hearts desired. Unfortunately for us, and millions of Floridians, hurricane Irma showed up, turned every normal wind pattern within 1000 miles of the Caribbean completely upside down, including the standard winds offshore of Panama, and then decided to beat up Florida. A mothership trip to Cebaco Bay was no longer in the cards, so we needed a new plan.
After too many hours on the phone with United, Cebaco Bay, and the fishing squad, we rearranged everything and came up with a new course of action. Instead of leaving on Thursday evening, I exited Honolulu on Saturday night bound for San Jose, Costa Rica. New game plan was hitting the offshore FADs outside of Marina Pez Vela/Los Suenos on “Mi Novia” a beautiful 2009 47’ Viking owned and operated by good buddy, Chris Bays. Everything about the new plan sounded off the charts….accept that the weather looked terrible and there was a 12’ south swell running when we were supposed to leave. Interesting.
I arrived in San Jose Sunday morning, took a quick puddle jumper to Quepos, was on the ground by 2pm, and in the water for a quick surf at the nearby beach break by 3pm. The swell was just starting to show. The boys, Chris and Houston fishing friend, Edward, got in that evening. A few drinks and dinner were followed by an early night.
Got up early Monday with plans to surf a fickle left point but the tide was out of whack in the morning so I loitered around for a few hours. Did I forget to mention that Mi Novia had been having all sorts of engine issues for the prior 5 months? Ideas as to the cause of the issue varied from fouled fuel injectors, to alignment issues, a bad running gear, or potentially even deranged satanic elves. After buying the boat just under a year ago, poor Chris had dropped close to $50K into figuring it out, and while I was thinking about this point break shaping together, he had a meeting scheduled with some key mechanics that would essentially figure out if the vibration Mi Novia had been having would keep us under 8 kts the whole trip or if it was isolated to a certain rpm.
All told the sea trial went well, essential moving parts checked out, and we were given a clear bill of health to go fast….as long as not between 1400-1650 rpm. Fair enough. Game on! To celebrate, Chris threw me off the boat as I was trying to get dropped off outside the point break on the way back to the harbor. Ended up surfing a 150-yard long head high lefts for 3 hours with one other guy. Things were clearly starting to look up!
The plan at this point was to leave Tuesday night….or maybe Wednesday depending on the weather. Tuesday morning started with a Flor de Cana-induced hangover and indecisiveness. The swell had picked up considerably, and the point was looking to shape up and properly fire with the low tide. However, with the clean bill of boat-health, thoughts were swirling to leave around lunchtime, slow-ride it out to the close buoys (70 miles) in the light because it was rainy season and there were reports of lots of debris in the water, or to leave that evening and 8 kt it out overnight to be at the 70 mile buoy at first light. The decision was made, and as much as it hurt my soul to watch the point absolutely firing while we were leaving, this was meant to be a fishing trip from the get-go, not a surf trip.
The ride out was boring. No bites and the fish finder decided to go on strike after working during the sea trial the day prior, but when we came across a debris field about 40 miles out that was literally stacked with—trees—like proper freaking trees, not just branches, but things with roots that had been growing in the ground for 30 years…. We congratulated ourselves for not leaving in the middle of the night, and I felt better about missing the waves.
That first night sucked. 12’ of open ocean south swell, and 15kt winds blowing from the west. We put out the sea anchor, which put us directly sideways to the open ocean swell. I’ve never jumped on one of those silly mechanical bulls before, but I think trying to sleep that night would have been similar to riding a bull after taking 2 Xanax. Everyone was bucked out of bed and onto the floor at least 3 different junctures. It was highly unpleasant.
Morning was a joyous sight, knowing that we could get underway again. We were just about 2 miles off the 70 mile buoy at first light and started circling at 6am. As we got the lines out, I was adjusting the positioning of the tag line on the long corner as we came up on the buoy. Out of nowhere, the line was ripped violently out of my hand by our first marlin bite of the trip. I was lucky to dump the line immediately and retain all my fingers, and the fish quickly removed the hook from its face.
We continued to work that buoy for another couple hours, taking another 5 strikes, but all were very short lived. No one actually ended up putting on the fighting harness….the bites all seemed to be pure aggression bites, with the fish not trying to eat….so we headed to bluer pastures. Leaving a 6-bite morning after growing up on Oahu, where a 6-billfish-bite-day happens as often as a solar eclipse, was kinda hard to stomach, but the tales of 20 bite days in this area drove us further offshore.
The next buoy out at 80 miles was dead, so we made the executive decision to head to the 120 mile buoy. We tagged our first marlin of the trip and a sailfish on the 5 hour troll out which lifted everyone’s spirits. Then we got to the 120 buoy and shit got crazy.
We arrived at the 120 mile buoy at 2:30pm and within our first 1 hour at the buoy we went 4 for 5 on blue marlin. After the first strike, we never had a chance to get a full spread out before taking another strike. At the time, I decided that it was literally the best trolling bite one could ever ask for. The one fish that we missed in that first hour came when I was clearing the short rigger with another fish hooked and ripping line off the long corner. I had the short rigger lure at the clip, and as I reached to grab the leader and pull the lure in, another marlin popped up a few feet behind the transom, grabbed the lure, and ripped the line out of my hand. I narrowly missed finger loss for the second time that day, and although we tagged the fish responsible for the original bite, my fish shook itself free shortly after.
All told, after going 0/6 at the first buoy, we went 7/10 at the 120 mile buoy in 3.5 hours and ended up 7/16 with 2 sailfish released. As you would expect, spirits were VERY high, and celebration was due.
There was one other boat fishing the buoy that we spoke with. They had fished a buoy 13 miles further out that morning and registered 20 bites, but headed to the 120 after the bite at the outside buoy slowed and ended up with 4 fish in the afternoon as well. Now we had options.
As the sun set, we threw out the sea anchor and talked about our options for the following day. The bite we came across at the 120 was nothing short of legendary…..but 20 bites in a morning at a buoy just 13 miles away was, well, very tempting. A rum-fueled debate followed. The primary topics discussed were: You don’t leave fish to find fish, and that the captain of the other boat was full of crap, because how in God’s green earth would could anyone drive away from a 20 bite morning.
Night #2 was surprisingly similar to night #1. The open ocean swell was still solid and kept up at 10-12 ft. The wind continued at about 15kts. And we proceeded to get our asses handed to us yet again. How pleasant. The only real difference between night 1 and 2 was that all 24 of the remaining eggs decided that their time on earth was well overdue, and committed suicide by kitchen-counter dive at some point in the night. That made for an enjoyable start to the morning after being a human pinball all night.
In addition, the current flipped in a major way overnight, and instead of being right near the buoy that we fished the prior evening when we woke up, we were 10 miles away, and just 12 miles away from the buoy that the other boat fished at the prior morning. We flipped a coin and headed out to the new buoy at 133 miles out.
For the first hour we were ready to punch ourselves in the face for that decision. At this particular location there are 3 buoys placed on a seamount. We had 2 of the 3 marked on our GPS. Both had lots of bait, but no predators and no bites. We were dejected, annoyed, and questioning one another’s sanity for deciding to leave the other buoy from the day before. As we were making our minds up as to our next stop, 1st deckhand and local genius, Melvin Mora Fallas, busted out a map that showed a 3rd buoy on the same seamount. This. Saved. Our. Day.
It’s amazing how concentrated the fish are in these waters. The 3 buoys on this seamount are all within 2 miles of each other. All 3 had plenty of small tuna right on the buoys, but only the last of the 3 held marlin.
As soon as we made a pass on our newly-found buoy we hooked up. We then went from 1 of 1, to 3 of 4, to 7 of 11, all between 7 and 10 am. The bites were exceptionally aggressive. These fish were very, very hungry, fought like hell, and simply weren’t messing around.
At day’s end, we ended up 10 for 21. Highlights included 5 doubles, 2 of which had the second fish biting right off the transom while clearing lines. Sadly, we never were able to get both fish off the doubles. A solid 450lb fish (definitely on the larger side for Costa Rican waters) that fought like a demon, caught by Edward on 50 class stand up gear. And a number of fish putting on absolute fireworks shows behind the boat and doing a wide variety of gymnastics maneuvers for our amusement. The afternoon bite slowed considerably, but at the end of the day we were blessed with an at-dark long corner bite that put us at 10 fish released for the day. Getting into double digits of tagged blue marlin in a single day would have to make the saltiest of the salty smile.
All the charts prior to departure showed the offshore weather improving starting tonight, and with the swell declining as well, we had high hopes for a calm and relaxing night after getting beat senseless the last 2 nights. Unfortunately that was not in the cards. I woke up at 3:30am, as a result of flying out of the bunk and hitting the floor yet again. The boat was pitching worse than any of the prior nights and the only way that I was able to effectively remain horizontal and not airborne involved laying on the ground and wedging myself in between the bunk and the wall. Staying put in the bed was just not happening.
Morning finally came and it all made sense. We found ourselves in the middle of an open ocean storm complete with thunder, lightning, side-ways rain, and plenty of new short period wind swell mixed in with the ground swell to liven up the ride.
We pushed the 5 miles back to the 120 mile buoy, where we caught all our fish on day 1, as best as the conditions allowed. With high hopes for a solid morning bite, we dropped lines, and were treated to a bite that can only be described as legendary.
Without getting too far into the details, we started trolling just after 6am and went 4 for 4 by 7:30am. Then we were greeted with 2 back-to-back triples, catching 2/3 and 1/3 respectively. By 8:30am we were 7 for 10. By 10:30am we had released 10 fish out of 15 bites. It was at this point in the morning that everyone on the boat agreed that we were officially at adult Disneyland, and that life could only get crappier from this point forward. The bite slowed through the rest of the morning, and had essentially shut off by the time we left the buoy at 4pm to begin the overnight cruise back to the inside buoys.
All told, we finished the day with 15 tagged fish out of 22 bites, which was an official record day for “Mi Novia” and left everyone with sore backs, legs, and arms, but smiles that greatly outweighed the discomfort.
We motored through most of the night back toward the inside buoys with the intent of fishing the 70 first thing in the morning before an early exit to get back to harbor. The ride in was uneventful and calm, but as soon as we threw out the sea anchor it was déjà vu all over again. I woke up on the floor again around 2am and stayed there til dawn. The coffee maker, which had a very secure spot in the kitchen and had survived the prior 3 nights without issue, decided that its time on this planet had come to an end and hurled itself at the kitchen floor creating yet another lovely mess to start the day with.
Daybreak came and we were greeted by another squall with heavier rain than any we had seen so far. We were 2 miles from the 70 and trolled over to find, of all things, a freaking sailboat doing laps on the buoy. We spun a few as well without a bite and decided to head in to the nearest of the buoys, the 63. On the way over we took a double sailfish bite that both shook free, and then hit our first blue of the day about 5 miles off the buoy. Interestingly enough, Edward was in line for the next fish, but uncanny as it may be, he was in the head at the time of strike, so I brought it in.
The 63 was definitely holding fish. We went 3 for 5 in the first 90 minutes in the midst of a torrential downpour, and were then greeted by the highlight of the trip. First the long rigger went, then the long corner, and then the short corner. All stuck firmly on the strike unlike our 2 prior triples, and all 3 fish headed in different directions. We had a chance…And we pulled it! A triple with all 3 fish tagged and released!! Got mine in first, then Eddie’s, and then Chris’s. This was a first for everyone on the boat including Tico deckhands, Melvin and Yiyo, who have 60 years combined experience fishing Costa Rican waters.
The energy and excitement was through the roof!!! What a way to end an unbelievable trip….in 3 hours at the 63 mile buoy we were 6 of 8, and 38 for 68 in 3 days and 3 hours of fishing. Chris’s initial reaction was, “It doesn’t get any better than this, keep the lines in, we’re headed home.”…..but the temptation of trying to get to 40 tagged fish nagged at us and one more pass around the buoy was in order. And just like that we took a double. It felt like it was destiny….Eddie and I went to work but mine shook off 30 yards from the boat and dashed our hopes. We decided to call it after Eddie tagged his and make our way back to Quepos. We got 1 last shot out of nowhere on the way back in, but that fish decided that instead of running away from the boat at the initial strike, that it wanted to hang out in the boat with us and made a mad greyhounding dash at the transom. We couldn’t get away fast enough and it threw the hook. 40 was not meant to be….but complaining would just be rude.
All told this was hands down the best trip that any of us had been on. A ton of singles, 6 proper doubles, and 3 triple strikes. Records set for the boat were, most blue marlin tagged and released in a single day at 15, most fish caught in a single trip for the boat at 39, and the only triple blue marlin strike with all fish being released for anyone on the boat. All told we were 39 for 71 on Pacific Blue Marlin and 2 sailfish in just under 3.5 days of fishing, and come to think of it a 55% hook up rate on blue marlin is pretty darn decent as well.
I’d like to thank a number of folks for making this unbelievable trip happen, first and foremost Chris Bays for planning the adventure and for having us aboard his beautiful boat, Mi Novia. To Melvin Mora Fallas and Didier “Yiyo” Guzman, the best damn crew anyone could ever ask for. Also, a huge thank you to Brett Crane of Crane Lures, Jon Niiyama, and John Lau for hooking us up with some absolutely world class lures to put behind the boat. To Jerry Meredith of Seamount Harnesses for the best stand up harness that money can buy. And to everyone who I’ve fished with along the way, especially Larry Peardon, Robbie Brown, Pat Murphy, Jesse Eurich, Wayne Akimoto, and Alan Faulkner….it’s always a learning experience, and I truly value and appreciate the knowledge, and insight that you and many others have passed on to me over the years. Aloha.
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