“Fish on!” was called out across the boat. It was my turn in the fighting chair – 9th in a lineup of 9 on our charter in the Bay of Banderas. Everyone else had caught yellowfin tuna, so I was expecting that was what was on the line. But immediately it was clear this was something very different. The line on the spool started running – fast. The spool was at max tension, but it did nothing to slow this fish as it dove deeper and deeper. The two Mexican crew running the boat looked at each other and started speaking in Spanish, too fast for me to understand. El marlin negra – black marlin – is what they think was on the line.
Black marlin can grow to 10+ feet in length and hundreds of pounds – a whole different story than the 20-40 lb 3’ yellowfin tuna. The captain stopped the boat and they told me to go slow, a long fight was on my hands.
The fish kept running – 100 feet, 200 feet, maybe 300 feet of line spooled out. The line was going straight down, and was so tight you could play piano notes on it. As he kept running we started worrying the spool was going to run out of line. Finally he stopped and I worked hard to bring that line back in. It was a full body work-out pulling the rod up and then coming down, cranking the spool hard, repeated again and again.
Then the fish started running again, careening way off to the side, and the line started running out – losing 100-200 feet or so of my progress. At times I could only stop and rest, shaking my numbed arms to bring some life back into them. I was out of breath and drenched in sweat. This was more of a workout than I imagined fishing could possibly be.
Eventually I passed the torch to the next in the line-up – Natalie – and she fought the fish for a while. In the end, four different people took a turn, but as we were transferring to the 4th person, the marlin (we think) snapped the lead on the line, and we came up empty handed. It sure would’ve been great to see what it was. But, the experience was worth it in itself, and we had some delicious yellowfin tuna for dinner that night.
We’re in Puerto Vallarta currently, having gotten here the easy way – on a Boeing 737. This is our second time in PV together, and it always strikes such a sharp contrast to Seattle. The constant sun and heat, the cheap and delicious food, the simple way of life the locals here lead. While we have no plans to leave the PNW for sailing, Mexico is a special place.
Natalie was first in the lineup and caught a beautiful yellowfin tuna (and a bonito, which the boat caught a bunch of and made into ceviche).
Mexican Boats – A Picture of Necessity
It was interesting comparing the 46-foot fishing boat we were on to our boat. The fishing boat was clearly equipped precisely for its task – with no superfluous luxuries or expense. This is in stark contrast to most boats in the PNW. A single electronic display on our boat is more than the entirety of electronics on this boat. They have no chartplotter, no nav, no electronic speed displays. Of course no AIS, PLBs, or radar like many PNW boats consider essential. They navigated simply by experience, and if their engine overheats they grab a bucket of seawater and throw it in the hold. A screwdriver was jammed into the throttle to help hold it in place. No freshwater onboard, the fish are cleaned with seawater.
Admittedly a fishing boat is purposed towards a very different task than an ocean-going sailing vessel. But it was a reminder of how little is really necessary to have fun on the water, and also a reminder of how fortunate we are in the US with all our electronic gizmos.
Puget Sound Fishing
We learned some new fishing tricks, and hope to catch a salmon in Puget Sound or BC this year. The pelagic waters of Mexico also gave me an appreciation for how different it is here – the sea here seems teeming with life in comparison to the PNW. The PNW has fantastic sea life, but I would have to say the Bay of Banderas seems to have more. The boat caught 10 bonito (small fish good for ceviche) and 8-10 yellowfin tuna in the span of a couple hours. Later we saw a pod of dolphins – several dozen – leaping out of the water and swimming in our bow wake, and two manta rays.
In a way it made me sad for Puget Sound – the salmon population there is so low that some of the magnificent Orca whales are believed to be suffering from food scarcity. The salmon fishing season last year ended early and quotas were extremely restricted. The salmon are hurting because some of their spawning grounds have long been closed off by human-built dams which provide electricity that could just as easily be provided by lower-impact solar and wind power.
The town of Sayulita a short distance north of here dumps their sewage into the ocean because they don’t have adequate sanitation facilities to treat it. The US has much better environmental controls, yet Puget Sound recently had millions of gallons of sewage overflow into it due to a plant failure. So our problems are not that different.
Spending a lot of time on the water, we witness how resilient the ocean is, but also how important it is that we respect it.