April 25, 2015

2015 Mazatlan (Day 7)

Where I go I just don't know
I might end up somewhere in Mexico
When I find my peace of mind
I'm gonna keep you for the end of time

If only I had known about this spot from the start of the trip...

That was what I said as we were fishing this location...and I continue to say it upon returning back to Canada...If only I had know about this spot from the start of the trip...

With only a morning to fish before we had to leave for the airport at 12pm, George suggested a shore spot where Captain C had taken George to fish in the past. This location is no real secret. In fact, I had identified it as a potential spot to catch a number of reef species while scouting on GoogleMaps. But if only I had fished it early...or spoke to George about fishing there...

There were a lot of species to be caught in this area. George promised that we would catch a Pacific Frillfin at the minimum.

I started poking around the rocks and tidepools with a tenkara rod and a tanago hook. There was a couple of juveniles of a particular species that I still can't figure out what they might be...but they had black and white vertical bands on them and they were somewhat interested in stripping my bait so I kept trying.

Not long later, Jeff caught a beautiful little fish that he couldn't identify. I knew what it was...and I saw a few of them flirting in the tidepool...and it took no time to catch one.

Cortez Rainbow Wrasse (Thalassoma lucasanum) - Species #459

As I was resting my Cortez Rainbow Wrasse in a little tidepool in better pictures, I saw a head poking out from under a large rock. I dropped the bait right in front of the little fish and caught the fish that George promised.

Panamic Frillfin (Bathygobius ramosus) - Species #460

With both fish photographed and released, I started to look for other species. George said he had caught Pacific Night Sergeant from these tidepools. I didn't see any Night Sergeant, but there were a lot of small blue fish in the more turbulent area of the tidepool. Trying to present a bait to these little blue fishes was difficult. Not to mention the number of generic brown damselfish that grabbed the bait first. Luckily, a few of these generic damselfish were a new species.

Cortez Damselfish (Stegastes rectifraenum) - Species #461

I saw a big damselfish with bluish body and neon blue fin margins guarding his territory beside a rock. The long ribbon extension of the dorsal and anal fin positively identified this fish to be a Giant Damselfish. It took quite a bit of effort before the fish would finally take my bait, but upon taking my bait, the fish instantly ran into its rocky hole and snapped my 2lb tippet before I could pull the fish out. Both George and Jeff would later catch a couple of juvenile Giant Damselfish.

Then I saw a Banded Wrasse coming in and out of the tidal surge in the tidepool. It was difficult trying to present the bait to that one particular fish in the tidal surge and I was trying to concentrate. George caught a Night Sergeant, and then a couple more, while I was trying to catch the Banded Wrasse. He was constantly suggesting me to try his rock and I finally snapped back at him to be quiet. I was finally getting the Banded Wrasse to hit when the fish pulled me into a rock and snapped the line. I simply couldn't concentrate on my task to pull the fish out among the strong tidal action with the constant taunting in the background. I know George did it in jest...but when I am locking into the hunt for a particular fish, I get into a species focused mode and it frustrated me to no end having someone trying to take my concentration away.

After losing that fish, I put on a new hook, walked over to George's rock and caught a Pacific Night Sergeant in less than 5 seconds. I honestly don't know what all that fuss was about :P

Mexican Night Sergeant (Abudefduf declivifrons) - Species #462

Of course, George would blindly catch a Banded Wrasse without any intention to catch one. George's vision isn't good enough to see through the tumbling water. He simply used a drop, wait and lift technique. It was frustrating to me that I tried to hard to identify and isolate a particular fish of a particular species to catch, to the truest sense and application of the term "species hunting", yet here was George fishing by pure luck only to catch a species I had spend half the morning searching and targeting.

I didn't want to leave the tidal pools. I was not about to leave without catching a Giant Damselfish. There were many juveniles in the area that I started to identify but the generic brown damselfishes, both Beaubrummel and Cortez Damselfish, kept beating the Giant Damselfish to the bait. As the tide rose higher and higher, the rough water became increasingly difficult to position the bait in the right location for the right fish. I didn't want to leave...but I can't miss my flight either. At the end, with everyone waiting on me, I reluctantly packed my gear away. This tide pool area had so much promise. In our mere 3 hours of fishing the location, we barely scratched the surface of its potential. If only I had known about this spot from the start of the trip, I would spend every afternoon at this tide pool while George and Jeff returned to the condo to nap. I have an eternity to rest when I'm dead. Now wasn't a time to rest.

I spent last night to pack my gear until 12am in the morning. While everyone packed their gear away, I sat twiddling my thumb away thinking...If only I had known about this spot from the start of the trip...

I guess I'll finish the trip here. The rest of the journey home was nothing special or difficult. Over the 7 days fishing in Mazatlan, I caught 33 new species. Together with the 17 new species caught in Florida prior to the trip, I caught a total of 50 new species in the month of April. That is pretty darn ridiculous even in the eyes of hardcore species hunters. This was the first taste of Mexico and I can only say it tasted bittersweet. Even with 33 lifers, I felt rather unaccomplished since there were many species that could have been, would have been or should have been caught. It sounds completely ungrateful...but it was truly how I felt. There were too many missed opportunities that I could not simply swallow or look past. However, the goodness that results from such outcome was a promise to return to the Sea of Cortez the next earliest availability possible. There were scores to settle...and I'm hell bent on revenge. When I finally resolve these issues and find my peace of mind, I'll definitely immortalize them on this blog.

April 24, 2015

2015 Mazatlan (Day 6)

I could not forget
But I will not endeavor
Simple pleasures are much better
But I won't regret it never

This was our last day of boat fishing. Captain C made an extra effort to get live mullet knowing it was our last shot at Roosterfish. In fact, it took extra long for only a few live mullet. The school were simply scattered and bait was hard to get.

I was already fully rigged this morning knowing it would be my last chance. My bait was the first in the water and I had one of the liveliest mullet on the line. After we made one pass by the breakwater of the marina, we were just turning back toward the mouth when I saw the rooster comb behind my bait. I felt the grab and immediately freelined the bait bait. My heart was pounding as I counted to 5 before tightening the line and setting the octopus hook hard. The rod responded by folding into a "C". The fish was pulling back for a few seconds before the rod recoiled. SERIOUSLY!!! I reeled the bait back and it was completely swallowed. What happened??? I've set hooks into a tarpon before. I've set hooks into the hard skull of a whitefish with a #14 hook before. I've set hook against a big Samsonfish with 400+ feet of line out. What was wrong? I had made sure to sharpened the hook to a knife's edge the night before and it was sharp as a scalpel when I hooked the live mullet. I simply can't figure it out.

I dropped the bait back and in another 30 seconds later, another Roosterfish busted my mullet again and it was yet the same result. I simply can't win again these fish!

I wasn't alone. About another 5 minutes later, Michael had a Roosterfish grabbed his bait and the rod was bent to the butt but the fish came off as well. The fish gods simply didn't want us to land one!

With 3 bites within the first 30 minutes, Captain C decided to fish all the areas that could potentially hold Roosterfish. We circled the islands in front of Mazatlan. While we were fishing the live mullet, George cast a small strip of squid back in the spread and landed a Longjaw Leatherjacket and a Pacific Ladyfish, two potential lifer for me. In fact, just before George caught his Pacific Ladyfish, Michael and I both had something hit our lines. Captain C said they were ladyfish hitting our swivels. We asked Captain C to bring the boat back around so we can catch these ladyfish and he said we'll go back later...but we never did. I wasn't too happy about that to be honest. There was a lifer to be caught easily and we simply passed it by.

We covered a lot of very good looking Roosterfish areas. There were a lot of rocky bottom exposed to heavy surge. However, no one was home. It was neat seeing this sea cave though.

We spent about 3 hours trolling the entire shoreline in front of Mazatlan and beyond. At the end, we decided to bring the lines in to fish some wrecks that Captain C had known for 50 years.

There were a number of species caught, including more Jewel Moray Eel by everyone else...but I was completely plagued by Spotted Rose Snapper and Finescale Triggerfish. In order to catch a Jewel Moray Eel, the bait needed to sit close to bottom and it should be kept fairly still. But with the snapper and triggers constantly taking my bait, I couldn't let the bait sit there long enough. I was using the same bait as everyone, and my rig was set up just the same. I had absolutely no explanation why I was the only one not catching them. If I had a reason, I would have made the change and caught one...

While Michael caught a very cool Soapfish, and George caught two more new Grunt species, I was catching Panamic Sergeant Major in 50 feet of water where they were usually not found. Such was my luck...

Panamic Sergeant Major

While sorting through all the Spotted Rose Snapper, I noticed a snapper that didn't really look the same. It was good I took some pictures and asked Captain C. It was a juvenile Pacific Red Snapper! At least I could finally catch something new...

Pacific Red Snapper (Lutjanus peru) - Species #458

My frustration was very palpable on this day. In fact, I snapped a couple of times. People made all sorts of suggestions to do this and that and kept distracting my concentration on fishing. The last time George suggested for me to change rigs, I missed out on the Barred Pargo. I wasn't about to listen to anyone today. I was just fishing in the exact same way as everyone was fishing, only to see all kinds of new species caught around me.

If I sound sour and spiteful, I truly was. It doesn't feel good to missed two Roosterfish in the morning then see everyone else effortlessly catch lifers that you need. Most of them were rather random catches. As much as I like shamelessly adding lifers, it frustrate me to no end just how unpredictable lifer fishing can be. To be completely honest, I enjoy going to an area known for a few certain species and use specific techniques to catch those target species. Simply pulling up to a rig and dropping lines are not really my idea of fishing. Those who know me well knows just how much I love to break all the details to bits and analyze everything until the fish can be consistently caught with a certain technique at a certain spot during a certain time of year. This bottom fishing simply puts me into an uncomfortable mood.

Anyways...I needed to get that off my chest. After we fished those couple of wrecks, we fished a rock that jut out of the water over 60 feet of water where Michael caught the one and only Banded Grunt on this rock. This was a rare species that Captain C said he had caught on this rock in the past.

We made one more final move to a couple of wrecks to use up the live mullet. The first wreck was littered with Flathead Sea Catfish. We had to change location very quickly.

Flathead Sea Catfish

The second wreck had no one home so we motored back to the marina emptyhanded. I asked Captain C to make one last pass by the breakwater in front of the marina for a Roosterfish. We made two passes but it simply wasn't to be. The fish gods decided that I haven't pay enough dues yet and it wasn't my time.

Inside the marina, we trolled squid strips again and George caught one more Longjaw Laetherjacket while Michael caught a Shortjaw Leatherjacket.

And thus concluded our boat fishing adventures at Mazatlan. There were a lot of ups and downs for me personally. The first day was probably the most memorable day of lifer hunting in my life, followed by a series of really difficult attempts to simply add a new species each day. Some days I wish this lifelisting obsession hasn't taken such deep roots. For other people, it would simply be fun to go out and catch some fish. For me, having spent so much time and resource to fish Mexico, it was more than just fun. I invested heavily into the trip and I was expecting much more of myself. Although catching new species on bottom rigs are more or less a random thing, I refuse to believe that. There is always a reason why some anglers catches a particular species with greater frequency than others. There are always details that were missed out. I simply haven't figured it out yet. I am complete deviant against this concept of "stupid dumb luck"...which is why people often see my frustrated when fish are caught by such "stupid dumb luck" and people explained they are doing better by "stupid dumb luck". It is a lazy way out to a fishing issue.

Even so, I am happy to have spent 6 full days boat fishing in Mexico. That is something that I truly will not regret. However, I will return in the future to catch some of the species that had taunted me throughout the week, and I will not rest until I have these species conquered. MARK MY WORDS!

April 23, 2015

2015 Mazatlan (Day 5)

It's bitter baby and it's very sweet
A holy rollercoaster but I'm on my feet
Take me to the river, let me on your shore
Well I'll be comin' back baby, I'll be comin' back for more

This was our second last boat fishing day. Captain C jumped in early in the morning to cast net some mullet. He really wanted me to catch a Roosterfish, especially since I missed on in the morning. We rigged up three line with live mullet - Jeff, Michael and I. We slowly trolled out of the marina and spent some time working the area in front of the area. If I remember correctly, Michael had a hit from a Roosterfish but missed the hookset.

We then slow trolled down the shoreline. There were birds diving in the surf zone this morning and we were all optimistic with the conditions. As we got closer to a blitz with birding diving down at the swirling bait, we could see Pacific Crevalle Jack flying out of the water crashing the bait. I had already rigged up a Kastmaster on the line and I passed the rod with the live mullet over to our mate. Heading toward the front of the boat, I started casting and was soon hooked up to a small Pacific Crevalle Jack. I missed two fish a couple of days ago so I was playing this fish with light drag and fully bent rod to make sure this one doesn't get off again. Thankfully, it came to the boat without much drama.

Pacific Crevalle Jack (Caranx caninus) - Species #456

Seeing my success, Michael grabbed the rod and started casting toward the next blitz. It took very little time for him to land one as well.

All along the beach, there were rock piles in deeper water. We worked each of them as the rough surf and swell allowed, but after an hour and all the available water covered, we pulled the lines in and headed north.

Once in the area, Captain C suggested we fish a shallow reef in 25 feet of water. It may give George a shot for his Black Triggerfish. There were some mixed species caught but nothing was really special until...until...George caught a Barred Pargo. Then Jeff caught one. I was silly enough to listen to George and wasted my time tying on a sabiki rig onto the rod. By the time I was done switching out the rig, everyone had caught one but me. And that's when the school moved on (or all of them were caught already).

We then made a small move and picked at another mixed bag of species when something almost rocked George. He had vision of a Black Triggerfish when a bigger Barred Pargo came aboard. That was just my type of luck fishing right next to George.

When the bite on the shallow reef slowed, Captain C suggested that we fished wrecks again for bigger species before we bottom fish. We each dropped live mullet and suspended the bait abotu 10 feet off the wreck. About a minute later, I felt my mullet shake violently on the line and prepared for the take. The rod suddenly arched over and I set hard in response. With these fish holding over the wreck, you never know what took your bait. It could be a snapper, grouper, snook or weakfish. I immediately started pumping the fish up and away from the wreck. I had about 10 cranks in when the weight suddenly disappeared and the rod recoiled. Whatever that fish was simply disappeared. It was truly frustrating.

A little later, George got a solid bite on the same wreck. George couldn't even get this fish off the wreck and eventually the fish reached the bottom and cut the line.

We fished a while longer with no more bites, thus we moved to another reef to bottom fish. There were a number of species caught, but much was the same for me. I didn't add any new species. I did take a few better pictures for the lifelist.

Starry Grouper

Yellow Snapper

Pacific Mutton Hamlet

Yellowspotted Grunt

The bottom bite was pretty slow actually. It was the slowest day we had thus far. It might be due to the rough swells today.

On the way back to the marina, Captain C stopped on a couple of wrecks to use up our live mullet. On the first drop, I felt my mullet going completely bananas until the fish hit then dropped the bait. Less than a minute later, Michael, who was next to me, had his rod bent over and eventually landed a 5lb White Snook.

We were all hopeful that there may be a few more around, but that was all the action we had off the two wrecks.

Just before we arrived in the marina, Captain C said there are some fish in the marina that looks like a sardine but they had poison in them. We scratched our heads a little but then concluded these must be a Leatherjacket species. Captain C suggested that we tie on small hooks and troll a thin, long strip of squid behind the boat weightless. As we passed the murkier green water at the mouth of the marina into the clearer water inside, Jeff had a fish grabbed his strip but the fish jumped off. About 15 seconds later, my rod arched over and I managed to get this one to the boat. It did jumped a few times trying to throw the hook...super fun fish on light gear.

Shortjaw Leatherjacket (Oligoplites refulgens) - Species #457

Back at the dock, I spotted some Surgeonfish. They looked just like their Atlantic counterpart, the Doctorfish. Unlike Doctorfish that would immediately swarm your bait, these Surgeonfish simply would not bite.

After a short rest, we brought our White Snook fillets to Playa Bruja.

The fillets were not enough for 4 people, so we ordered another 3 shrimp dished. The tequila shrimp was especially good...the sight, smell and taste was exceptional.

Tequila shirmp

Breaded White Snook

Bacon and cheese wrapped shirmp

Their coconut shrimp with fresh mango puree was to die for!!! Best coconut shrimp I've ever had! I'm salivating just seeing this picture again.

It was a day of missed chances and heartbreaks for me. Some days it seems everything was plotting against my demise. The harder I try, the less species I would catch. But after seeing the White Snook, I vowed to return to Mazatlan in the fall time in the future. I will get that big bite that came off!!!

April 22, 2015

2015 Mazatlan (Day 4)

Oh so polite indeed
Well I got everything I need
Oh make my days a breeze
And take away my self destruction

Yesterday was basically a white wash fishing offshore. Instead of going back for more punishment, we went with Captain C again. George and Jeff had a very good day of bottom fishing while we were offshore. The plan was to revisit some of the shallower reefs.

We had a couple dozen of live shrimps, and Captain C suggested we should try a couple of wrecks close to the marina before heading north. Our shrimps were largely ignored on the wrecks so we didn't spend too much time. In the fall, when larger predator migrate into the area, live shrimp are key and bites are fast and furious. During the spring, things are a lot slower. I did catch a second Mexican Barracuda without getting cut off.

Mexican Barracuda

Once on the reefs, we fished bottom rigs with a live shirmp on the bottom hook (with a long leader) and squid on the top hook. The Spotted Rose Snapper were very quick on the bait and they made species hunting difficult.

Spotted Rose Snapper

While sorting through the snappers, I felt a good tug on the line and set into a decent fish. Line quickly melted off my Baitrunner and the UglyStik Tiger stayed fully bent. It was obvious that this was a nicer grade fish and I followed the fish around the boat. Guesses started to be made - Pacific Crevalle Jack, Black Triggerfish, Orangemouth Corvina, big snapper...etc. It made repeated long and deep run, very reminiscent to jack family members. The thought of a small Roosterfish crossed my mind.

When I started to see colour, I saw the shape of an amberjack. I could clearly see the dark stripe on the head. Greater Amberjack are relatively rare in the Sea of Cortez. Almaco Jack are much more common. I've been trying to catch an Almaco Jack from Florida for a few years. I've went on party boats fishing pinfish or small grunts on reefs and wrecks. In 2010, a boy next to me caught 3 in a roll while I was hopelessly tangled with the novice tourist anglers fishing next to me. When I saw the high but short dorsal fins on this amberjack, I knew exactly what it was, and the stakes just got higher. The fish commenced to do its death spiral beside the boat and almost ran the line under the hull twice. Luckily, Captain C did a great job to tail the fish. YES!!! The Almaco Jack, aka Longfin Yellowtail, was finally mine!!!

Longfin Yellowtail (Seriola rivoliana) - Species #452

It was strange that the Almaco Jack took a small piece of squid instead of the live shrimp. George said that catching an Almaco Jack in Mazatlan is a very rare event and they only pass through this area over a very short period. I was exceptionally fortunately to have encountered one.

After the Almaco Jack, a barrage of Finescale Trigerfish joined the hordes of Spotted Rose Snapper. The bigger Finescale was extremely fun as they pulled in their very signature way. Their dorsal and anal fin provided a burst of acceleration as the fish dove repeatedly for bottom. However, it was next to impossible to catch anything else with these willing biting fish in the area. Luckily, after trying for 3 days, I was able to find an Orangeside Triggerfish when the Finescale Triggerfish started to thin out.

Orangeside Triggerfish (Sufflamen verres) - Species #453

Fishing live shrimp was a waste with snappers and triggerfish around. We used shrimp heads and squid instead. After seeing everyone around me caught their Pacific Graysby, I finally caught one on shrimp heads.

Pacific Graysby (Cephalopholis panamensis) - Species #454

The diversity was fairly low. However, Michael, George and Jeff all caught the Jewel Moray Eel. Again, I missed out on the species. I don't really know why...we were fishing next to each other in the exact same manner with the exact same bait...

Later in the morning, Michael said he saw some banded fish high in the water column. Captain C said they were Pacific Spadefish. Michael and I tried for them by fishing at mid level where these fish were found. Michael hooked and lost one on the surface, and I may have one came off the hook as well. Otherwise, our suspended bait attracted Cortez Grunt and Green Jack.

At the end of the day, we came back to the marina with over 60 Spotted Rose Snapper and probably 30 Finescale Triggerfish. As I was looking around the dock, I saw a juvenile Yellow Snapper, aka Amarillo Snapper. This time, freelining a small chunk of shrimp with 8lb fluorocarbon and #14 hook got the little bugger.

Yellow Snapper (Lutjanus argentiventris) - Species #455

The day was very calm and hot out at sea. It was nice returning to the breezy lobby of the condo in the aftenroon. I love the elegance and tropical appeal so much I had to take a picture. We were spoiled silly on this trip by George and his timeshare condo.

Yesterday, George caught a rare Yellowtail Weakfish. It was one of three that George had caught in over 10 years of fishing at Mazatlan. Since they are great table fare, we decided to visit Los Zarapes again for the great fish platter.

The salsa had a unique full body flavour because it was made fresh with fire roasted peppers and tomatoes.

At the end of the day, I was happy to land yet another amberjack species, especially one that I had been trying to catch in Florida on the party boats. That species alone would have made my day, but the fish gods blessed me with three more lifers. We had to make a decision whether to go offshore or stay inshore the next day. With dismal offshore reports, we decided to stay inshore and save some money. Hopefully we'll find more species tomorrow and we won't regret our inshore decision.

April 21, 2015

2015 Mazatlan (Day 3)

Today love smiled on me
It took away my pain say please
Aw, let your ride be free
You gotta let it be, oh yeah

Some people may wake up with anticipation going on their offshore trip. I'm rather nonchalant about the whole deal. Perhaps I just have bad luck offshore. I can count with one hand the number of times we actually caught something, anything, going offshore...but I've been offshore more times than I could count with my fingers, thumbs and toes. The reality is that offshore is always a gamble, especially when you go offshore when it isn't the prime season. At the moment, the offshore bite was transitioning from Striped Marlin to Sailfish, Dolphinfish and Tuna. If you get lucky, you may get a shot at both a Marlin and a Sailfish in the same week. Otherwise, you may hit a big fat zero for days.

We brought 3 extra rods to put on smaller trolling lures in case there were smaller tuna species such as Black Skipjack. This smaller tuna species is common in Mexico, and George was confident that we would encounter them without issue.

The mate and I focused on rigging up lures and bait. Unlike other areas where I have fished, mullets were the primary baits rigged on the trolling skirts. A couple of the mullets were butterflied to give the presentation a bit more action and to deliver a better scent trail. These mullet baited skirts were sent long on the outriggers and one that was a little shorter in the middle. On the corner, Michael and I trolled smaller skirts and lures just a little longer than the center line.

On the way out, we passed by a few homemade fish aggregating device and pulled some smaller lures around the area. No one was around these FADs. This was usually where Black Skipjack could be found.

We headed out 20 miles for some deep blue water. When we were just a couple of miles from location, I saw a few circling and diving birds and pointed it out to the captain. We made a couple of circles around the area but nothing transpired. We continued at trolling speed toward the preset location when the captain suddenly gunned the boat before making two wide donuts in the area. The mate had spotted a small Dolphinfish. However, the fish didn’t want to comply.

That was basically the pattern of the morning. Here and there, the mate would spot the odd fish and the captain would troll the lures around the area without a bite. Could we have done better if live baits were freelined to the fish? Perhaps. But we didn’t have any live mullet or sardines.

Toward late morning, we came upon an area with multiple pods of porpoises. There were a mix of spotted and spinner dolphins. Although some of these pods appeared to be hunting, there was no tuna associated with them. There were also a lot of turtles sunning on the surface with birds sitting on them. That is never a good sign as the resting bird indicated there was no bait being pushed in the area. In fact, the deep blue appeared too sterile.

Still, we kept an eye out for any debris that perhaps may hold a school of Dolphinfish. I was also trying to spot the dorsal and tail fin of any billfish that may be on the surface. I’m always fully engaged with rigging, setting the pattern and spotting fish when fishing offshore. It is never a hook-and-hand-off type of fishing for me.

With about 2 hours left to the day, we pointed the boat toward port. Still traveling at trolling speed, we covered all the areas with the trolling spread. When we hit green water less than 10 miles from shore, we started to find the FADs again. The captain planned a path to troll pass as many FADs as possible.

When we first arrived on the boat, we mentioned to the mate and the captain that we would like to stop on any debris or FADs if there were small fish holding under these objects. There would be any number of juveniles of pelagic species, or bait species, or oceanic triggerfishes that we could target using chunks of shrimp on lighter rods. As we trolled by these FADs, all of them had no fish associated with them.

Just a few miles from shore, we were close to yet another FAD when Michael and I spotted a marlin jumped clear out of the water. The captain immediately gunned the boat and trolled our spread a few times around the area. I was shaking with anticipation that I could finally hook up with a billfish. Ever since I saw a boat fought an estimated 500lb Blue Marlin in Hawaii, billfishes were always on my target list. This marlin appeared to be a 75lb Striped Marlin and it would just be the perfect size for lighter gear. Unfortunately, the fish simple sank out.

The captain and mate felt pretty bad that we didn’t hook up the entire morning. Just before we returned to the marina, we stopped at an FAD and bottom fished for a bit. There were a lot of Green Jack caught on the sabiki rig, but that was the limit of diversity in the area. I seriously wonder how the day might have changed if we had fished for some Green Jack first thing in the morning to use as live bait. I guess we would never know…

After returning to dock, we meet up with George and Jeff. George had a prearranged agreement with Billy, the owner of the fleet, for us to fish the dock. There could be a number of reef species available. In fact, these were the species that eventually salvaged the day for us.

I was rigged with 2lb mono and a #26 hook on the tenkara rod. It took almost no time to fling up a Beaubrummel.


But the dock was a bit high off the water. Eventually, I rigged up a spinning rod to be able to fish on bottom. George and Michael kept getting tiny soft bites around a piling. When I put my rig in the area, I found out what it was. George had been trying to catch a Largemouth Blenny…and I admit I did steal this one from him.

Largemouth Blenny (Labrisomus xanti) - Species #449

Then it was back to more Beaubrummel. Juvenile Beaubrummel can be so beautiful.

Juvenile Beaubrummel

Their colouration can be so varied as juvenile. Here's a similar size Beaubrummel that was almost full brown.

Everyone had caught a few Cameleon Wrasse. I was fearing I would miss out on the species until a slight adjustment of the rig and a small move to a new location gave me a few of them. This was one of the more beautiful specimens.

Chameleon Wrasse (Halichoeres dispilus) - Species #450

Michael had a Panamic Sergeant Major come off the hook. There doesn’t seem to be too many of them in the area. In fact, it may just be the single one. It took a lot of patience to sort through dozens of Beaubrummel before I finally caught it!

Panamic Sergeant Major (Abudefduf troschelii) - Species #451

I spotted a small pufferfish around some seaweed on a rock. It was probably only 2” in size. Switching to a tanago hook, I let the bait wash in the area. The pufferfish quickly responded but I had to wait until the bait completely disappeared in its mouth. I thought the hook was well swallowed before I pull up to set, but alas the hook came out. Perhaps the hook point was in contact with the pufferfish’s teeth. It appeared to be a species of Sharpnose Puffer.

I also saw a larger pufferfish species, but it would not even touch my bait.

By 5pm, it was time to leave. I was glad to have added 3 new species at the dock. Going lifer-less on a day in Mexico is completely unacceptable! LOL.

After a shower, we headed out to a restaurant for BBQ ribs. For about $7, we got a salad, a full rack of pork ribs with coleslaw, baked potato and a slice of toast. That was bloody fantastic!!!

Full rack of rib for $7

The more I fish offshore, the less I stress about the boat ride. It's going to happen; and it definitely will happen. One of these days, it will happen - I will catch my billfish. But until then, I'm just going to release my expectation and my anticipation to simply enjoy the ride for what it is.

April 20, 2015

2015 Mazatlan (Day 2)

Where I go I just don't know
I got to got to gotta take it slow
When I find my peace of mind
I'm gonna give you some of my good time

The original plan for this day was to head offshore to look for billfish. However, we were not able to get an offshore charter arranged so we opted for a second day of species hunting on the bottom.

Arriving at the dock, I saw what appeared to be an Amarillo Snapper under the dock. This little Pacific Dog Snapper foiled my plan, but it did gave me a great lifelist picture for the album.

Pacific Dog Snapper

The boat was soon loaded and we watched as the morning sun broke through the clouds on the way out of the marina. After catching 16 species yesterday, what kind of species awaits the day?

Loaded with live mullets again, Captain C suggested that we should try some wrecks for bigger species in the morning. Michael managed to get bit but lost his fish on the way up. Then George was wrecked by something large, possibly a big grouper. The bite was very slow so we moved in a little shallower to bottom fish.

Although today was calmer than yesterday, the bite was much slower. We picked at small Spotted Rose Snapper for a while until a school of bigger Finescale Triggerfish gathered under the boat. Although we caught some other species, none of them were new to me except for the Pacific Mutton Hamlet. Everyone had caught this species yesterday but I simply could not get one on the line. At least I was able to scratch this one off today.

Pacific Mutton Hamlet (Alphestes immaculatus) - Species #446

George and Jeff managed to catch 3 rare Banded Serrano between them. I was using a sabiki rig hoping to find one of my own when I hooked a Bullseye Pufferfish. Unfortunately, it was barely skin hooked on the lip and the skin broke through when I tried to lift it into the boat :(

There were also a couple of Orangeside Triggerfish landed and even a few Jewel Moray Eel. But the only new species I caught off the wrecks was the Pacific Mutton Hamlet.

On the way back to the marina, we found a large bird pile diving on bait. We started trolling live mullet around the area near the rocks hoping to find Roosterfish or big Pacific Crevalle Jack. I was looking toward the bait ball when a school of smaller Pacific Crevalle Jack came by. I immediately put on a X-Rap and Captain C positioned the boat within range of the bait school. On the first cast, a fish hit the X-Rap, missed and hit it again and I was on. However, the fish pulled so hard that it eventually bent out the rear treble hook and the fish came off.

I handed the rod to George while we set up a second rod with a 1/2oz Kastmaster. The X-Rap simply was too light to cast far enough toward the bait school. With the Kastmaster, I was able to reach the bait ball but the fish simply wanted the X-Rap. George hooked up on the X-Rap but that fish came off as well.

Soon, our boat activity scattered the bait and the predators dispersed.

Back at the dock, there were some small species that luckily salvaged the day for me. There were many Dow's Mojarra (aka Pacific Flagfin Mojarra) to be caught with little effort using a tanago hook.

Dow's Mojarra (Eucinostomus dowii) - Species #447

At the boat ramp, there were these small fish on bottom that resembled gobies. They were extremely wary to movement and noise. I tried to sit the bait close to a group of them but the mojarra relentlessly circled the bait. As I was moving the bait away from the mojarra along the bottom, I noticed that a couple of the "gobies" turned toward the bait. I started to hop the bait slowly on bottom in similar manner to darter fishing. One of the "gobies" finally lunged at the bait and I hooked up. A little bit of detective work revealed the fish to be a juvenile Pacific Sleeper.

Pacific Sleeper (Gobiomorus maculatus) - Species #448

When we returned to the condo, George made a call to arrange our offshore day with a company he had used many times in the past. The outlook was not too favourable as the catch count was very low for the past few days. Offshore fishing is often a gamble even at the best of times, so Michael and I decided to play Russian Roulette with our $400 on the next day.

For dinner, George took us to Los Zarapes to cook up our catch of Striped Weakfish, Spotted Rose Snapper and Finescale Triggerfish. He knew the staff at the restaurant and they knew how to prepare a most appetizing platter of fish using our own catches. Before the platter arrived, we had some freshly prepared salas with tortilla. The salsa didn't last long...neither did the Pacifico.

When the platter arrived George said there was usually so much food that the staff would wait for the leftover half, especially when there were Weakfish or Snook fillets prepared. The breaded Striped Weakfish fillets was probably the ABSOLUTE BEST breaded fish I've ever had!

Unfortunately for the staff at the restaurant, I have a big appetite. There was no leftover this time. George and Jeff were done early, and eventually even Michael had enough. I kept eating until nothing was left.

Species hunting today was remarkably slow, probably due to the fact that I had already caught 16 of the more common species of fish yesterday in one day. It was a bit of a heartbreak to lose two new species (Bullseye Puffer and Pacific Crevalle Jack), and since I had high expectation of myself, it was a tough pill to swallow. But at the end of the day, I reminded myself that we were here fishing for fun, and we were in Mexico, so let's just take it slow with some Pacifico and good food and simply enjoy the moment. Tomorrow is a new day and anything can happen...especially offshore.