Thursday - I have a standing appointment with Capt Enrique every january to go out and get the one marlin per year that we've agreed to limit ourselves to taking. I've explained this before and won't belabor you with that, again. I couldn't make our appointment this year due to a voyage North. Capt Lucero was nice enough to honor my Betty check this last week.
We headed over to Cerralvo Island to get some sardines. (footnote #1 there are sardines at the island, bait size, and this is an improvement over the last two years of El Niño bs). While cruising over to the island Enrique mentioned that the shark guys were starting to see large numbers of small dorado on the buoys outside. We netted a tank full o' 'dines and trolled up and down the beach for cocinero to use as bait for our eventual prey. Working' our way up the food chain.
While doing this we took a couple of nice size sierra, confirming that the water temps were about right for February. We only got one cocinero, and one smallish bonita, but then we were looking for only one marlin. Enrique seemed somewhat distracted from our planned goal. He kept talking about the pargo lisa at punta perico. (footnote #2 there haven't been any lisas to speak of at pp in the last couple of years, El Niño).
After an hour or so of unproductive marlin trolling Capt E said that he wanted to go try some pargo, and then go back out for marlin. At Punta Perico we set up the drill. Using 30 lb. Fluorocarbon leader, with a #1 live bait hook, connected with a palomar knot (critical as it is the smallest of the functional terminal tackle knots), enrique carefully threaded the hook into a dead bait and set it on the gunnel. He flung a hand full of dead sardines in, lay the hooked bait on top of the pile, and started hand lining out slack line to ensure that the hooked bait would present as closely as possible to the chum baits. We had only drifted 15 feet away, and we could see brownish red fish circling the bait pile. "Get ready" advised E as he gently held the line to identify any change in the hooked baits' status. He grabbed the line firmly and pulled tight, saying only "Ok".
Not my first rodeo.
I was ahead of his instruction, having put the reel into gear and reeled up the slack between rod tip and Captains' hand. He let go and I was fast to my first liso in a couple of years. 30 yards escaped my reel instantaneously, even with a stiff drag, I looked at the smiling capt. And said "Boink!!". Two seconds later the line went slack, having been rubbed in half by the rocks. "Boink" said enrique, and we set about preparing for our next effort, me checking the leader and tying on a new hook, he choosing the next bait in which to hide the hook. 3 times we hooked lisas, 3 times we repeated "Boink" to each other. On the 4th try we hooked and boated a nice clavellino snapper, and next a 10 pound cabrilla. Although these are challenging fish they have no where near the tractor pull type of power that the lisas have, but they are attracted by the bait piles.
Glad that there were finally lisas at P.P., but still thinking "Marlin" we called several of the other pangeros on the radio to check out their days, and Efrain reported that he had hooked a marlin about a mile offshore of where we were pargo fishing, and out we went. "If there is one marlin, there is more" Enrique sagely informed me... me not sure which of us he was trying to convince.
Sure enough after about 15 minutes of trolling some outside force started to seriously effect the behavior of my cocinero. Line was peeling slowly but steadily from the reel when I locked it up and E gunned the boat a bit to assist the circle hook in it's quest for penetration. Hard hooked we were, and a 40 minute struggle began. Although there are typical patterns to a marlins' fight, this one made the decision to be atypical. It fought down and strong, no jumping, no airborne waste of energy. As we had not seen it hit there was some speculation as to whether it might be a thresher shark, or perhaps something large but not marlinish.
After a half an hour or so the line started up, and we could see the tell tale thrashing of a marlin bill on the surface some 60 yards or so away. As we closed on the fish it revealed itself to be a nice striped marlin, maybe 135 pounds. Enrique sunk the gaff, donned his fish glove and grabbed the bill, while I grabbed his belt from behind to make sure that any subsequent movement of our physical chain would be in a boatward direction. Marlin in the boat, we breathed deeply as aging men do, and high fived each other on completing the 9th year of our tradition.
There will come a year when we don't get our winter marlin. Most likely because I will have gotten too old, but it was not to be this year. We smiled and enjoyed each others' company, and the beautiful surroundings, and the warm sunshine as we always do. By gawd, there are still plenty of totally satisfying moments left.
Points of interest:
While El Niño is still with us to some extent there were some very positive signs: sardines at Cerralvo Island, sierra when there should be, pargo liso beginning to show at P.P, small dorado on the buoys. Although still a little early to predict the year, these are very good signs.