My First Deep Sea Fishing Trip

In the past (many years ago), I have gone fishing from the shores of a river or lake or from a boat on a river or lake. I always thought it was boring; hours just sitting there hoping a fish would bite the meager bait on the end of the fishing line, usually with my dad, and most of the time being unsuccessful. If my memory serves me right, I believe the last time I went fishing was off the shore of Lake Cachuma in California; my son was probably about 11 or 12 years old. He was the one that actually caught some trout and I grilled it over the campfire that evening for dinner. Wow! that was 30 some years ago.
Months ago Mikkel had won the grand prize raffle at the Animal Advocates of Pedasí’s annual party. It was for a day of fishing for four in the Pacific off the shores of Pedasí, on a 25-ft. Contender Center Console boat (not a panga as is the customary fishing boat used in Pedasí). The prize package also included a BBQ picnic lunch on Isla Iguana and whale watching. This $450 package was donated by our friends, Craig and April, who own & manage a local B&B, Casa Lajagua, Craig being the boat captain of course.

As I wrote before, I wasn’t too fond of fishing, but Mikkel insisted that I join him. He invited two other friends to join us, Dave and Jim. I was reluctant, but thought that since the whales were still traveling offshore nearby, I would go just for that reason.

We left midmorning on the Monday of the 3rd week of September. Another intense thunder & lightening storm had passed through the night before, but subsided at that point. The skies were still grey with some winds, but perfect for fishing. Leaving Playa Arenal by panga which took us out to Craig’s boat anchored about 100 yards out, we loaded up his boat with fishing poles, food, the BBQ grill, and our personal gear. Once everything and everyone was on board, we headed over the waves toward Isla Iguana, stopping near the island for a short time for Craig to put out the outriggers, and then heading out toward the open sea. I sat on a padded ice chest in front of

the console on the bow while the others sat or stood on the starboard or port sides, holding on to railings as the boat moved up and down over the waves. The warm ocean water felt good as it sprayed over the bow and sides onto my face, arms, and legs. I commented to the others about how warm it was compared to that of the ocean off the California coast. And I did not get sea-sick, remembering from my younger days when I went boating and sailing of how to ride with the wave action and also keep my eyes more toward the horizon if necessary.

One fishing line started to tug, but as it was pulled in, we discovered it was just a small bonita fish, not worth keeping. So it was released. We continued on and many dolphins and spotted porpoises joined us at times, riding the wake of the boat behind and next to us, some even flipping in the air. But as we kept trolling on for another couple of hours, we could see a storm wall approaching. Craig decided to turn the boat around and headed back toward the island, knowing that the outriggers on the boat may attract lightening; we did not want to be on the boat if that happened. It was time for lunch anyway. Before we could get to Isla Iguana, it did start raining and although we were already wet, it started getting a little cold. Jim actually put on a long-sleeve shirt for the first time since he moved to Panama a year ago.

As we approach the island, Craig had to slowly maneuver the boat around the coral reef since it was still low tide. He skillfully made it through and docked about 10 feet from the shore. We climbed down the ladder off the stern into the water and carried the food and drink supplies along with the BBQ to shore and then to the primitive covered shelter. Many others who had come to Isla Iguana earlier for swimming and snorkeling had taken shelter as well. But soon after, it rain stopped and it seemed the major part of the storm had passed behind us. As Craig grilled some great hamburgers, we stood or sat around swapping sea stories as the hermit crabs scampered around us on the sand along with a few iguanas.

We gathered everything up when we were finished eating our lunch of hamburgers, chips, crackers, cookies and soda, and carried it back to the boat. The tide had come in, so the boat was a few more feet out and the water a little deeper, but still warm. This time as we returned to the open sea, there was no problem just going straight out over the reef which had basically disappeared since the tide came in. Mikkel spied ahead and saw a spout of water blowing out of the water’s surface. “Thar she blows!”  Heading toward Mikkel’s sighting, we slowly approached and stopped to watch a few whales pass by. Partial breaching as they came to the surface and dove back down, their tails lifting straight up to the sky and slapping the water. This is what I had come for and I wasn’t disappointed.

Well, we weren’t done. Craig was determined that we would catch some fish that day. So out we went and sure enough, the fishing lines started getting some bites. Each of the guys pulled in about a 3-foot yellow-tailed tuna. And then Jim caught what seemed to be the “big one”. After slowly moving from the stern to the bow on the starboard side, struggling to bring it in, we soon discovered he had caught a 300lb. “log fish”. It was a “big one” alright, bigger than the boat. Mikkel commented that he should bring to John, owner of Smiley’s, to use as firewood to roast at least 2 whole pigs – LOL. Now it was my turn to catch one last fish, but as the fishing line started to tug, I wasn’t close enough and Jim reeled in another yellow-tail tuna. That’s okay; to be honest, I really didn’t feel confident in my ability to reel one in thinking I might break the line or drop the pole.

It was getting late, so we headed back to the Pedasí shore.  This time Craig steered the boat up the Pedasí river (my first time up this river) to the marina which is not used very much because boats cannot get in or out to the ocean except when the tide is high. It’s why most of the fishing boats (pandas) are dock up the sand on the beach instead. Craig’s boat needs the river to be at least 14.5 ft deep. It is why he chose this day for us. He checked the tide charts ahead as well as the weather to find out when the best times and days are. He needed to pull his boat out of the water; today and this time was good.  April met us at the ramp with their pickup and trailer. Before the boat could be steered up the trailer and to lighten the weight in order for the truck to pull it out of the water, we actually had to climb out over into several other pangas tied up side by side and bow to stern to reach the dock.

After being returned to Playa Arenal where Dave had parked his vehicle, we gathered our belongings out of the boat, gave our truly honest thanks to Craig & April and headed home. Mikkel and I are fortunate to live next door to Ñato who cleans and filets fish for most of the fisherman in town. In a matter of minutes, Ñato had the 4 tuna all fileted and divided in 4 zip-lock bags, one each for Dave and Jim, two for us. Of course we had grilled tuna for dinner and Mikkel made ceviche with lemon juice and coconut milk to eat the next day. The rest is in the freezer for future meals.

I guess I changed my mind about fishing, although it would have probably been a different story if we were on a panga when the storm came in; the waves were a little rough at that time. Or if we didn’t catch any fish or see any whales, I think I would have been very disappointed. Actually I am glad that it was overcast the whole day because we didn’t have the sun to shine directly down on us. The temperature was actually pleasant most of the time except when it rained. Then I was just cold because I was soaked through. But I warmed up at lunch. I thank God that I decided to follow Mikkel’s insistence that I join him on this trip. Another new and exciting adventure for me that I would have missed had succumbed to my dislike to fishing. A trip I will never forget. This “third life” in Pedasí is truly remarkable at times.

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