October 20, 2017

2017 Mazatlan (Day 6)

This was our last day in Mazatlan. We were not going out without a bang. With the current still heavy and our big fish targets basically impossible to catch, evident by two wrecks that had fish marked but nary a sniff, we decided to fish Sealion Rock and the galleon wreck for more species potential.

It was a great decision as there were plenty of life around Sealion Rock. On arrival we saw a school of Green Jack puddling on bait and that continued the entire time we were at the rock. I threw the Gomame jig into the school but none wanted to hit the large jig. Instead, a Snapper came up the the surface and hammered the lure. I had the fish to the boat, but in the process of grabbing the leader, the fish shook off. It was most likely a Pacific Dog Snapper.

We started dropping chunks of shrimp into the deep outer wall of the rock. A few drops later, something beautiful came up the line.

Species #772 - Mexican Hogfish (Bodianus diplotaenia)

Apparently, these were more common in Cabo area but rare in Mazatlan. Captain C had only seen a few caught in years of fishing the area.

We adjusted the boat position again and found something even more rare.

Species #773 - Spotted Head Sargo (Genyatremus dovii)

Rare as they may be, perhaps the current was just right or we were anchored directly over the right structure, I would catch 2 more that day, George would catch 2 and Josh would catch 1. We all caught our lifer Spotted Head Sargo that day. And it was a huge accomplishment. In the past, it would be spectacular to even catch one a trip.

We decided to move to the galleon after a while. The fishing was much slower at the galleon. George was once again trying hard to find a Mottled Soapfish, and Josh was just simply happy to find more lifers, but the Vacuocua Croaker or the Mexican Lookdown was what he'd like to catch. Finally, Josh caught his Vacuocua Croaker and we all celebrated. And I got lucky with two Mexican Lookdown that kept Josh yearning for more.

Species #774 - Mexican Lookdown (Selene brevoortii)

Our species party was promptly ruined by Finescale Triggerfish. Either a school moved in or they suddenly started to bite. While they are hard fighter and willing biters, we were being intercepted on our species effort. Bring that it was almost 1pm and too late to move to another spot, we decided to call it a day.

After the panga fishing, George wanted to go back to the rocky point to catch a Bumphead Damselfish. He might have caught one yesterday but failed to take any photos. I decided to join him for a chance to find a Giant Hawkfish casting among the rocks, or maybe a Longfin Silverside that Josh caught yesterday. Josh decided that his 35 lifers on this trip was quite satisfying so he went to the aquarium and a walk around town instead.

When we arrived at the point, George had trouble catching the Bumphead Damselfish because he was using too small a splitshot and the bait simply wasn't getting deep enough to the right targets. If the bait was too high, it was just intercepted by juvenile Panamic Sergeant Major and Mexican Night Sergeant. When George finally put on a larger splitshot and plunk his bait deeper, he caught his Bumphead Damselfish.

George then tied on a tanago hook and poked around the tidepool for a Longfin Silverside. It took more time for him to tie on the hook, and put on bait, than to catch one. In fact, he needed my eyes to put on the tiniest bit of bait on the tanago hook. After he caught one, I borrowed his tanago rod to catch my own as well.

Species #775 - Longfin Silverside (Atherinella eriarcha)

With our targets met, we returned to the hotel. If there was a Giant Hawkfish in the area, I simply couldn't find it. It will remain as yet another new nemesis of mine.

It took more time to get to the rocky point and back than the time we spent at the tidepool. We arrived at the hotel just a minute after Josh stepped in. Instead of the pool, we spent some time to pack before dinner. It was another great dinner at Mr. Lionso Playa Bruja. I skipped the tortilla soup to save space for an entire order of coconut shrimp which I shared half with Josh in exchange for his tequila shrimp. I'm going to miss the food...probably more than the fishing!

And so our Mazatlan adventures came to an end. I had been quite nonchalant about species fishing since January. But this trip - with a knowledgeable and accommodating captain, great food, fantastic company and some really cool fish, my wanderlust and thirst for new species might just have been rekindled a bit.

October 19, 2017

2017 Mazatlan (Day 5)

We're on our second last day of panga fishing. We figure we would focus on the wrecks to find White Snook, Orangemouth Weakfish and Blackblotch Pompano. We headed north a long ways to some deeper water wrecks that Captain C knew well. But with a drop in the swells and a switch of the current, the deeper current was moving much too fast to fish properly.

At the first wreck, we caught a few Spotted Rose Snapper that were suspended over the wreck. However, if there were larger fish, they were not biting. Captain C and I did managed to land 3 Mexican Barracuda. It would have been a lifer for Josh, and in fact his hook and bait was likely cut off by one. But the school moved on quickly and we didn't see another one landed. We decided to move on after a while.

At the second wreck, there were fish on the graph but again, these fish would not bite. And so it went for the rest of the day...wrecks and reefs with fish showing on the bottom that simply would not bite.

We were on a more comfortable boat with some seat cushions up front...and Josh and I ended up doing a lot of this between moves...such is the life on a slow day of fishing...

Everyone actually went liferless after a whole 6h of panga fishing. Captain C tried hard and I think he was very hard on himself for not getting us into feeding fish. We could tell because he didn't get his usual celebratory Modelo cervaza when he returned to the marina.

As a group, we discussed the possibility of fishing the shore spots in the afternoon during low tide. Since we were liferless, everyone was game to fish the rocky point. On the way to the point, we drove along the Malecon. It was evident that the tide is low and the swells has calmed down significantly. It might just work out at the tidepool.

While the outer rocks were still pounded a bit, the inner areas were perfectly fishable. The tidepool looked really good.

I looked down and could see a number of Damselfish species around the rocks. I also noticed what appeared to be a Butterflyfish coming in and out of the tidepool. But it was a complete surprise that my first hookup was the Butterflyfish! Usually they take a lot more work to catch since other species are quickly to the bait. I must have dropped the bait directly in front of the fish.

Species #768 - Threebanded Butterflyfish (Chaetodon humeralis)

As great a catch it was, it wasn't the Giant Damselfish that I'm after. That Giant Damselfish had escaped my efforts on the last trip to Mazatlan. Not only did they mostly refused my bait, but the one solid hookup that I had pulled me under the rock and cut the 2lb fluoro I was using. This time, I wasn't taking any chances. I was using 8lb fluoro and #16 hooks. If I hook that buggah, he's not escaping.

But of course, other fish were jumping on the bait much quicker. I was catching a couple of Banded Wrasse and lots of Mexican Night Sergeant until something else came up. Brown-coloured Damselfish are a pain in the arse to ID. But this guy looked different. It had brilliant blue-violet eyes and a more olive body and fins. There were also those pearly white spots on the scales toward the lower back half of the fish. Josh caught one earlier as well so we took some photos. It is always a good practice to photograph fish that looked slightly different...and this time it paid off because this is a new species!

Species #769 - Bumphead Damselfish (Microspathodon bairdii)

Now...if only these guys can leave me alone...

I had to plunk the bait deep toward the base of a rock to reach the Giant Damselfish that I saw. They were mostly hidden under their rocky cave and only came out to chase other fishes away. But with a bit more tempting, one finally came out to take a nibble. I missed the initial hit, but with more persistence, I finally hooked it! It is so beautiful. The deepest sapphire blue with snow white edged caudal fin and this juvenile had turquoise blue spots on the back. Perfect as perfect can be.

Species #770 - Giant Damselfish (Microspathodon dorsalis)

Of course, Josh was trying for his Giant Damselfish as well, but keep hooking up Tinsel Squirrelfish. Since I had yet to catch that species, I went over to his tidepool to poach one. But as lifer hunting rule dictates, a previously difficult lifer will become too easy to catch once that cherry had been popped. And on my dip into Josh's tidepool, up came a magnificent adult Giant Damselfish specimen...one that Josh had been trying to catch for the past too many minutes. Sorry Josh...

But he took revenge on me by catching Tinsel Squirrelfish one after another. I must have caught another dozen fish of non-lifer kinds before I finally flipped a Tinsel Squirrelfish into the air, which promptly unhooked in the air and flipped into a deep tidepool behind me...forever out of reach. Such is my luck...

But persistence always pays (if you have enough time to keep trying). Another 10min later, I finally had one in hand...and then another. And the second bugger poked me in the hand with one of its spines. That searing pain felt too good...only because it was a lifer.

Species #771 - Tinsel Squirrelfish (Sargocentron suborbitale)

Finally, Josh caught his Giant Damselfish. He poked around the the tanago hook for some micros and found a Longfin Silverside. I had already caught 4 awesome lifers on the day and felt no need to try for more (yeah, you read that right). We were quite content and goofed off a bit.

We called it a day, took the air conditioned bus to the hotel and celebrated at the pool. It was followed by a 10oz rib eye steak, salad and baked potatoe at Roy's for only $12 USD. Life can't be this good, can it?

October 18, 2017

2017 Mazatlan (Day 4)

We decided to take a break from panga fishing and spend the day to fish from some shore spots. It also gave us time to sleep in a little which was much needed.

We started the morning fishing a small beach area that has a rocky bottom about 30 yards outside. There were a lot of small bites, some of which were Largemouth Blenny.

Aside from the Largemouth Blenny, our group also caught Yellow Snapper, Pacific Spotfin Mojarra and a couple of new species for Josh - the Mexican Barred Snapper and a juvenile Jack, which at the time he did not ID as a Bigeye Trevally.

Finally, one of the small bites turned out to be a Banded Wrasse.

Species #766 - Banded Wrasse (Halichoeres notospilus)

It was high tide and our intended rocky point was still pounded by the heavy swells. We tried to fish the foamy white water but it was impossible to fish without our rigs being swept and snagged. We tried for a couple of times and decided to fish in a smaller, sheltered tidepool closer to the beach.

There were a number of species in the tidepool. Josh caught a lifer Pacific Frillfin Goby quickly.

I caught a couple of Bigeye Trevally back-to-back so I called Josh over to try catch his lifer. But they were simply not cooperating for him. I was hoping to find a Giant Damselfish by blindly drifting small bits of shrimp under a float. However, I was simply catching one Mexican Night Sergeant after another. Then the Burrito Grunt moved in and it was grunts after grunts. The tide was not dropping fast enough for us to fish the prime spots for the Giant Damselfish. We decided to move and fish at a marina dock instead.

An interesting taxi ride later (where we took a scenic detour due to road construction), we arrive at the marina dock. The dock is private, but George has connection with the owner of the charter and we had permission to fish it. George saw a Guineafowl Puffer a few days ago so I prepared a high-low rig hoping to find one by soaking chunks of shrimp. At the same time, I was fishing a lighter rod and smaller hooks trying for any smaller species that were around.

The fishing was much slower than expected. We caught the odd Beaubrummel and a few Chameleon Wrasse. I had a stronger fish bent out my #16 hook and I wondered if it was a Snapper, a Jack or perhaps it was the Guineafowl Puffer. A few more smaller fish later, something else appeared on my line. I was lucky that it was lipped hook just well enough, but not deeep enough, such that the fish did not bite through my light leader and I was able to lift it 10 feet up the pier.

Species #767 - Longnose Puffer (Sphoeroides lobatus)

I had constant bites on the larger high-low rig, but most of them were tiny nibbling bites likely from Wrasses or Damselfishes. Finally, I had a good hit that bent the rod solidly and the fish started to run off with the bait. It felt like a larger fish that gave a couple of decent run. I finally saw the disk shape and was hoping it would be a new Skate or Ray species. But upon further inspection, it turned out to be a Haller's Round Ray (Urobatis halleri).

It was getting too hot for George so he left early while Josh and I stayed to fish a little longer. Josh sent out baits to try for a Ray, but the Rays decided to take my baits again and I caught a second. After the tide has switched, the bites completely stopped. It was getting way too hot on the exposed pier at 2pm, so Josh and I called it a session.

It took a good hour of bus ride to return to the hotel. Luckily, we got on an air conditioned bus so there was plenty of time to cool off.

Before we left for a swim, I made some ceviche with the Threadfin Jack fillets. A little salt and pepper, some lime juice, a bit of soya sauce, a touch of mango puree, chopped hot green peppers and avocado. After our swim, the ceviche was ready. Delish!

After the appetizer, we took the remaining fish fillets to La Zarapes. We had Coconut Snook and grilled Pompano as usual, plus the addition of Colorado Snapper Veracruz style. Everything was fantastic as usual...and we have leftover Coconut Snook and grilled Pompano for next day's lunch.