Goodbye January, and hello to the shortest month of the year. I can officially say that my boat will be back in the water next month! Albeit late in the month, but still next month. Use these winter months to make sure you check your life raft; if you are due for a re-pack don’t wait too long. Don’t forget about your EPRIB, check the dates, you may be due for a new hydrostatic release or a new battery.
2015 was the year of the shark. You actually couldn’t get away from them. They were spotted cruising our local beaches. They were caught bass fishing around bunker pods. They were caught from our local wrecks out to our offshore canyons. However, 2016 turned out to be the year of the marlin. You didn’t have to go 80 miles out to get in on the action. On six different trips I had a shot at a marlin. In the previous five years fishing the same area (Coimbra Wreck) I never raised nor spotted a single marlin. White and blue marlin were being caught from 20 fathoms out all the way to our canyons. For the most part tuna fishing was very slow offshore, however, it wasn’t unheard of for boats trolling for tuna to raise several marlin in a single trip. On August 24th while fishing on my buddy’s boat, once again fishing the Coimbra area, we came tight on a blue marlin. I was fortunate enough to be on the rod from start to finish. We were able to bring the fish boat side and we safely sent him on his way. What a thrill! I’m already counting down the days to get back out there. The fish was actually caught on a Penn 80 which is a very large reel.
Personally, because I don’t take my boat out to the canyons, I only fish 30 and 50 size reels while trolling. Like most people I don’t have an unlimited amount of money so instead of buying bigger reels I wanted to make sure the reels that I do use can handle just about anything that may come my way where I like to fish. So this winter I decided to re-spool six out of the eight reels I troll. I want to have the confidence in my gear if I’m fortunate enough to raise a few marlin like I did last year. Each 30 sized reel was spooled with 400 yards of 130lb Jerry Brown Hollow line and 100 yards of 80lb mono top shot leader. The main line and leader will be joined by a loop to loop connection on each end. I have these reels re-spooled by a local tackle shop. These reels will now allow me to put some serious pressure on anything that may come tight. 500 yards will also give me plenty of time to clear other lines without panicking about be spooled.
You may be a little angry with me - perhaps you are pumped to catch a marlin but you realize that it’s only February. Sorry, but I can help. If you have a couple of bucks and you can take some time off from work, you can catch that marlin before the month ends. I’m very fortunate that my wife hates the cold and she loves to fish. So when we go on vacation it’s a warm destination that has great fishing. A few years ago we decided to go to Cabo San Lucas. A co-worker had just returned and recommend a hotel that she knew we would love. She was spot on. We spent a few days at Marquis Del Sol. The hotel was actually located in San Jose Del Cabo. It’s a 20 minute car ride to Cabo San Lucas. The minute we got to the hotel my heart was beating a mile a minute. When you check in you are outside in an open air lobby staring at the turquoise color of the Sea of Cortez. Every room has a balcony that faces the Sea of Cortez. As we were unpacking - scratch that - as my wife was unpacking I was on the balcony watching schools of fish explode up and down the beach. It didn’t take long for us to hit the beach and bend a rod. We caught tons of jacks, barracudas and several other fish that I couldn’t identify. That night I couldn’t sleep. I kept on thinking about what lies ahead in the morning. We hopped in a cab and headed to the marina. The hotel actually booked our fishing trip for us. It was part of a package deal. That made me a little nervous. I was worried that they would book us on a charter boat that would just take us out and not try hard enough to put us on some fish. That worry didn’t last long.
Despite the boat resembling an old Bertram that you would have seen in the movie Jaws and most of the gear having seen better days, we pushed off the dock and made an hour long run down the beach. It was time to put the spread out. The captain pulled back on the throttle, bringing our speed down to 6.5 knots. We only trolled a total of six rods. We weren’t specifically targeting one species so the spread contained a mixture of feathers, cedar plugs, Islander-type lures, and a couple of old large Black Barts. We had the spread out for no more than 10 minutes before we were hooked up with our first striped marlin. I jumped on the rod, and half an hour later the captain and the mate released the fish boat side. It didn’t take long before Gina was into her first marlin. Once again the fish came boat side and was released in great shape. We had several other opportunities as well. The fishing was so incredible that later that afternoon we had three striped marlin in our spread at the same time. Most of the marlin we caught were estimated to be around 150 pounds.
When the marlin bite died down it was far from over. The rest of the trip was spent catching yellowfin tuna. With a big grin on my face the captain asked Gina and I if we wanted to drive the boat home. What a way to end the trip - the captain and his mate relaxing in the cockpit while Gina and I were up in the tower taking us back to the marina. The most amazing part of the trip was where we caught so many of the fish. We weren’t more than three miles off the beach! So to put things into perspective, imagine fishing the Fire Island Reef. Instead of catching black sea bass and porgies, you would be catching marlin and tuna! Most times when you are on vacation, there is no need to retain fish for a meal. However, before we left the hotel the morning of our fishing trip, the concierge informed us that the chef would be happy to cook our catch. We ended a great day of fishing by dining on our tuna prepared a few different ways.
Did you know… If a billfish is caught by a hook and not retained, the fish must be released by cutting the line near the hook or by using a dehooking device. In either case, the fish must be released without removing the fish from the water. If you plan on releasing a billfish you are not allowed to remove the fish from the water in order to take a picture. You could be fined up to $5oo. A properly released billfish has an 80%-90% chance of survival.