Truth is the grandkids are just fine and aren’t worried about their grandparents as they are 3, 3, .2, and .2 years old, but if they ever get curious it will be nice for them to know their grands were out fishing, big time. Naturally we have the pictures to prove it. Hopefully it will entice them to want to come with us and do a little fishing as well.
The fishing trip, aside from being refreshing, exhilarating, satisfying and fun was also wildly successful. As I think about it, I can’t think of very many fishing trips that could be called fully successful. Sure, we’ve caught fish before, enough to feed ourselves for a day or two, but never like this.
We also have some new friends here in Mexico, Hector, Mony, and Flaco who own and operate the chartered fishing boat. Their contact info is firstname.lastname@example.org, tel #0443221181011.
We agreed to meet at the boat about 6:30 or 7:00 AM to get started. The commute from our boat wasn’t too bad as their boat was a mere 25 feet or so away. It was still dark, but the sky was clear and stars were giving way to the upcoming sunrise.
We took an ice chest with beer, ice, and water and made up some chicken salad for lunch so we were about set. They brought down a huge ice chest full of crushed ice and several armloads of fishing poles and gear. A word about the poles and reels, the poles were short, maybe 4 feet long and thick, tapering to the width of your little finger. The reels were big, larger than anything I’ve every owned. They look like they could pull your jeep out of a mud hole.
We pushed away from the dock and attended to some pre-fishing business like topping off the gas tanks, and pulling into what can only be described as a 7-11 for pangas. On the shore, with a nice walkway down to the water, we pulled up and people carried down two big blocks of ice and a few bags of lunch makings –tacos, cokes and water. The place was hopping that morning with pangas all around, everyone in good spirits.
After that it was a trip out the channel, into the bay and headed to the west, near Nuevo Vallarta at a pretty good clip. Keep in mind we are calibrated to think that 6 or 7 knots over water is pretty good, this boat was doing 25 knots without trying hard, so nautically speaking it was a blast. There had been numerous cell phone calls and VHF radio discussions that were too rapid for me to understand but the story came together when we headed right for a panga that was headed for us. The bait man. We’ve been seeing a bunch of these little boats around with coleman type lanterns hooked up to propane bottles and really didn’t get the purpose. These guys fish all night under the lights to catch bait fish with nets and sell them to the charter boats. This explained a lot as Gayle and I had been looking everywhere for live bait. There is no store. You have to go out to where the bait boats are. They don’t come into shore until their catch has been sold.
The bait was transferred into our live bait well and we were off, stopping at one other bait man and buying a few more little fish. The bait is a small perch looking fish about 6″-8″ long and vigorous.
We then went charging out into the mouth of Banderas Bay, not all that far from Yelapa, a place we’d been before. After getting out there, we started trolling with various baits and lures dragged behind the boat without any hits at all. Seemed like the normal thing to do as there were 10 or more other boats out there doing exactly the same thing.
At all times Hector was looking around, sometimes using binoculars and seeming to be looking for a sign of some type. Birds, he said give away where the Tuna are so look for birds. He saw some so we went there.
When we got close he said he could see the fish. I couldn’t but all I could do was stand back and watch. They rigged the lines with nothing more than a big hook through the nose of the soon-to-be unfortunate bait fish. Flaco casted his line out a ways and just let it sit, a moment later something smaller than a speeding car but just as fast hit the bait and the fight was on. Flaco set the hook, engaged the drag on the reel and handed it to Gayle.
I can’t tell you when the fishing pole instincts happen, she and I grew up in about the same place, the Gulf Coast of Texas near Houston and Galveston. She didn’t need any coaching or instructions or told what to do, or how to flippin do it. She grabbed that pole and started cranking the reel. I think it may be some sort of Texas Gulf Coast DNA or something as it all came back in a hurry. She played that fish till it ran out of energy and got close to the boat where Flaco was ready with the gaff. A gaff is a stick with a sharp hook on the end, he snagged that Tuna and into the boat it came, flapping around, bleeding and throwing fish blood all over all of us. Flaco literally beat the fish to death with a couple of whacks to the head using a really short but heavy baseball bat and put him in the fish tank.
No time for much congratulating as Hector had hooked another one and handed the pole to me. I did my best, and got the next one into the boat as well. After each fish was caught and killed, Mony was right on them with a knife to gut the fish, removing stomach and other internal organs so the meat would not be ruined.
After a few minutes of quiet (maybe 5) Hector moved us on to the South, all the time watching the water for sign of fish.
One surprising thing about the waters here is that the recent hurricane had sent lots of debris into the water and it would sometimes collect together rather than spreading out. Sometimes a large patch of wood chip looking debris would make a little island, floating around.
Most boats steer clear of these debris fields and just keep on trolling, but Hector would aim right for them, then circle around the little islands and start throwing baited lines into the edges.
First one, then another, then another. As each line was thrown out, it was immediately hit by Dorado (Mahi Mahi). I think we had four of them on at one point. The Dorado is a rather odd looking fish, with a rather big head followed by a long tapered body. The eyes are big and bug eyed, the mouth has two rows of small teeth, the body is green and yellow luminescent colored. When hooked they go crazy, jumping, running deep, and slicing through the water around the boat trying to get loose. They keep their flat sides toward the boat so it is that much harder to reel them in. These guys fight like crazy.
During the fight you can look down into the clear water and see them, and their buddies as well, a whole school of these big fish right under the boat.
The skills involved here are pretty interesting to watch, it’s mostly time management. Hector gets us from place to place quickly with his pair of outboards, Flaco moves around the boat like a nautical Tarzan looking at the water and pitching freshly baited lines in just the right places, usually getting a hit and setting the big hook.
Mony quietly field dresses the catch, keeps them on ice and manages the storage of the Tuna and Dorados. As time permits she cleans the catch, removing thick flanks of fish meat, packing them on ice in plastic bags. Everyone knows what to do, even when Gayle and I were both reeling in fish they were tossing baited lines in the water inviting more action.
I can’t say enough about the gaffing of the fish, they even let me take a turn at it and I found it to be pretty challenging to snag a 30 pound fish that clearly didn’t want to have anything to do with us. The fish are pulled close by the fishing line, but still have enough power to go charging off away from the boat or under it, possibly making their escape.
You reach out with the gaf hook and snag the side of the fish, bringing it into the boat. The Dorados in particular were pretty good about flapping their fins around so that it slapped your bloody legs and the deck of the boat. This is where the little bat comes in as it’s time to whack the struggling creature on the head with enough force to kill him humanely.
After setting the fresh kill into the fish box Mony comes along with a sharp knife and removes the internal organs of the recently deceased fish. Later, as time permits she comes back and fillets the meat into individual bags.
One of the benefits of this kind of hunting is the immediate reward of a nice bowl of sashimi to snack on between stops.
After some hours we were really beat, and it was time to enjoy the pleasant boat ride back to the marina with no regrets whatsoever. This was the first time that either of us had hired a professional crew to help us catch fish and it was fully worth it. When you travel to other places and have an opportunity try this sort of thing out. It’s fully worth it.
At the end of the day here’s what is important to us. Grilled Tuna and Shrimp, cooked on the grill attached to the aft end of Gone Bambu.