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A Visit to the Sailfish Mecca of the World

Hot Pacific Sailfish action
was the result of a recent trip for some St. Thomas fisherman visiting
Guatemala, where the average size of Pacific Sails is ninety pounds, with a
range of 60-150 pounds.

Neptune Fishing
Supplies in Red Hook, St. Thomas organized a group of nine in which seven were
anglers; Chris Margolin, Mario Austin, Nick Pourzal, Jim Jamison, Richard
Spenceley and Stewart Loveland from St. Thomas; Richie Kirst and Chuck Evers
from Florida, and Drew Margolin from San Francisco. The common bond of being
fishermen united this group from varied professions and places.

They all met at
the Miami Boat Show. Chris Margolin said “the Big Game Room was like
Sopchoppy’s happy hour during marlin season, with many familiar faces.” The
group left Miami Saturday evening and flew to Guatemala City. That evening,
they traveled to Antigua, one of the oldest cities in Guatemala where they
spent the night. It is positioned between two dramatic volcanoes, rich in culture
from the 1500-1600’s era. Many magnificent architectural structures still grace
the city. After a day of sightseeing and a visit to the local bazaar, the group
drove to the port of San Jose on the West Coast.

Their lodging was
Villa Vella near the fishing village of Iztapa. At each arrival “home” they
were greeted on the steps by the wonderful staff with trays of refreshing rum
and cokes. Inside, fresh warm tostones were waiting. There were
fantastic meals every night, swims in the pool and beautiful black volcanic
sand beaches.

Each of the three
fishing days the group would leave the villa at 7:00 AM to board their two
boats. One was the famous forty-three foot “Captain Hook” with Captain Ron
Hamlin at the helm, and the other was “Nany”. The group would fish 8:00 AM to
5:00 PM and return to the villa for more personalized service and fishing
tales.

Ron Hamlin is
renowned for several world records; in 1999 he tagged 2,555 billfish. Of those,
432 sailfish were on the fly fishing rod. He is published author of the book “Tournament”.
Chris said, “There were so many fish – anyone can catch them on the thirty
pound tackle. However, to watch Ron captain the boat with three sailfish on at
the same time and so gracefully maneuver the boat to get all three is
astounding. It was awesome to fish with a true legend of our time.”

The waters were
teeming with whales, porpoises, manta rays, and small bait, which attract the
sailfish in prolific quantities. The peak sailfish season is November through
April, although they can be found throughout the year. The “roughest
conditions” the group experienced were typical two to three foot swells and
almost no wind chop. Most of the time the ocean is flat calm. Very different
from our predominant local conditions.

The fishing style
was to use circle hooks, which is easier on the fish because the design
prevents gut hooking and provides for easier release of the fish. This is quite
different from typical “J” hook fishing. The incredibly fast and efficient crew
kept three pitch bait rods rigged and ready. There were three teasers and two
rigged baits run in the spread. When a hungry sailfish came up on a teaser, an
angler would pitch a rigged bait to it and wait for the bite. It took training
and patience to wait a full five seconds before starting to reel and it took
restraint not to vigorously set the hook.

In our local
waters, it would be rare to see such high numbers of fish, but in Guatemala, if
you missed a few hook ups, there was consistent opportunity at more fish. The
sheer number of bites afforded the opportunity to refine fishing skills even
for the most seasoned angler. With such a vast number of shots, it was an
incredible education to learn the behavior of the species and the tackle, and
an effective means to gain confidence in this style of fishing.

At the end of
three days and 135 sailfish released, the group was ecstatic with the results.
They drove the hour and a half back to Guatemala City and returned to their
respective homes, tired but elated and filled with self-satisfaction and new
gained knowledge. Chris says he is anxious to implement these new learned
techniques on fishing in St. Thomas waters this upcoming marlin season.

I asked Chris to
use five descriptive words for the trip; his answer was “I want to go back”.

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