Traveling to Guatemala was turning out to be quite the adventure. First, there was a painfully steep hike up the active Pacaya volcano where we roasted marshmallows on the fiery lava rock and now we were about to spend a sunny afternoon Sailfishing on a boat in the Pacific Ocean.
Would I be able to reel in the big one?
Sailfish are a bluish-gray billfish that are known as the fastest fish in the sea. Their name comes from their large dorsal fin that spans nearly the length of their body. They look very similar to a Marlin, but differ in the fact that the Sailfish has larger pectoral fins and bill.
Though you can Sailfish in several different countries, Guatemala is known as the world’s capital of catch and release Sailfishing. Unlike catching a marlin in Mexico, this fish will not be a souvenir from your travels. The country has made it a law that all billfish must be strictly catch and release.
There would be no fish hanging on my office wall. Phew.
At the Pacific Fins marina, we boarded their “gypsy” boat and were ready for our this unique experience to begin. Seven large fishing poles were set up surround the fisherman’s chair, a place where I hoped to be occupying shortly.
We boated about a half hour away from the dock, deep into the Pacific Ocean, about fourteen nautical miles.
When it was deemed to be a good fishing location, the guides baited the hooks with ballyhoo then moved the poles from their spot around the chair and strategically placed them throughout the back of the boat, making sure the lines did not cross.
We began trolling.
After about an hour and a half of continuos boating, I was beginning to get worried that we would not catch a thing. That would make for a really crappy travel blog story.
Then something strong started to yank on one of the lines. At least that’s what we thought, sometimes it was even tricky for the professionals to tell if what they had tugging on their pole was actually a fish and not just the current.
This catch wasn’t a five foot Sailfish, instead is was a random five pounder.
More sunbathing, with one eye open.
The next time the pole had a bend we knew we had snagged something else. Our guides quickly handed me the rod and strapped a “fighting belt” around my waist. This would hold the rod in place. I put my left hand on the pole and my right on the reel.
I started cranking.
The first couple of cranks were difficult…and so were the rest. I swear this fish had to be at least three hundred pounds. Was it a whale? After less than five minutes, I was ready to give up. My arms were tired and this beast didn’t seem to be any closer to the boat than when I started. But, the rest of the crew kept cheering me on, there was no quitting now.
The professional fisherman came next to me and in Spanish (a language I do not know) instructed me the proper way to reel in my catch. He guided me on how to lift the pole vertically to where the line was tight, then when I bring the pole back down towards being horizontal, reel my little heart out.
This made it an inkling easier.
After about ten minutes, that seemed like thirty, I saw the most beautiful sailfish right at the edge of the boat.
I had done it.
The fisherman helped to pull him aboard, the whole 100 pounds of him. This is a catch and release sport, so he was immediately released back into the water.
After all that strenuous effort I took a nap on the boat, soothed by the gentle waves.We caught a total of three sailfish on the trip, which I was stoked about. But, it was crazy for me to think that during some Sailfishing competitions in Guatemala they can catch over 70 of these fish in one day. That must take some unbelievable endurance.
It was time for some rest.
After our eventful day at sea it was time for an evening of relaxation. We headed over to Casa Vieja Lodge, one of the few luxury hotels in the area. This sportsman’s retreat draws anglers from all over the world, and tonight I was one of them.