Black and Blue...
Its Thursday evening, and its been an exhausting but exciting day. All I can say about the fishing is “Wow”!
Today, as in our past trip to northwestern Costa Rica, we hoped to have an opportunity to do something many will never do. In sportfishing, catching a Grand Slam on your own boat can be a once-in-a-lifetime deal. The species vary, but in Costa Rica, an offshore Grand Slam is catching three fish of differing billfish species. The candidate fish are Sailfish, Blue Marlin, Black Marlin, Striped Marlin, and theoretically Swordfish, but they’re apparently pretty rare here.
So we start the day off by catching and releasing a Blue that Jamie estimated at 250 lbs. What an amazing bite - the fish’s whole head basically came out of the water, slashing Keith’s pitch bait and it was game on. After about a half-hour fight the crew brought the fish to the side of the boat, cut the leader and the fish swam off healthy. Got some good if not great shots of the fish jumping near the boat once hooked, but no really good release shots. Maybe next time, I figured.
Then, fishing slowed down like it has a tendency to do through the Noon hour. Saw a few sailfish, a couple came up on the teasers and we caught one or two. Then, around 2:40, all hell broke loose.
“Fish on the left teaser, left teaser! Its a Sail!” When billfishing in Costa Rica, spotting the fish early is imperative, as seeing the fish drives what rod & reel combo and more importantly what bait will be “pitched” or presented to the fish. With Pacific Sailfish running up to 150 lbs or so but Blue Marlin running up to or over 1,000 pounds for the luckiest of anglers, you can’t very effectively use the lighter tackle on the heavier fish. It can be done, but its much harder…
So, Keith pitches a bait to the Sailfish as it moves from the left side to the right side of the spread, bill and dorsal fin plainly visible. We’re trolling teasers at about 20 feet and 40 feet from the transom, so when the fish shows up, you know it. Its actually sight fishing, which is one of the reasons I love it.
As Keith is setting up for the strike on the Sailfish, two more fish show up in the spread, all over the teasers. Two fish are hooked, both on light tackle - Shimano TLD-20 reels and 20# mono. Having a triple on is a dance at best, and during the fight one of the fish was jumped off, the line retrieved and the rod stowed. Keith finishes up with the first sail, and then starts fighting what he expects is the second sailfish. All that went by the wayside when the fish breached fifty yards or so from the boat. “Its a MARLIN!” was the call, and it was game on.
Got lots of photos, but the fish stayed away from the boat if it was up top, and sounded about a dozen times. We were fortunate to have been fishing in only 300 feet of water, so the fish couldn’t go down where it normally would - like a thousand or more feet down if it could get there.
Long story short, Keith fought the fish for an hour and a half, and on much lighter tackle than you’d normally use for Marlin. And, the fish turned out to be much bigger than originally thought - over 600 pounds. Got the fish to the boat, leadered it up to the transom and then released. Its hard to describe how big the fish was but I’ll give it a shot. First, from the tip of the bill to the tip of the tail I’d say the fish was 10 feet long. Around its shoulder, maybe 4 feet, and with big dorsal fin and bigger tail. Simply amazing.
Funny thing is, this might not have been a Blue, but a Black Marlin, given its markings and the way its pec fins looked in most of the pictures. It doesn't really matter since we didn't have time to catch a Sailfish, which would have given us the Grand Slam. Next time...