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June 09, 2010

Guatemala Greatsailfishing Season Summary 2009-2010

Month by month reports of the sailfishing in Guatemala from The GreatSailfishing Company

Maybe the Greek philosopher Empepedocles had it right - the four elements of antiquity (Fire, Earth, Air and Water) dominate not just philosophy, but actual events.
Our fishing season in Guatemala this year just about had it all - from earthquakes to volcanoes to wind and rain - so perhaps that only comes to reinforce our "oneness" with the natural order of things and synchronisation with nature.
Early in January we had the first of shakes which followed on the heels of the devastating quake in Haiti. Our event happened to be offshore (although only just !) - and did seem to disrupt the fishing for almost two weeks until things settled down again. January through April are regarded as the dry season in Guatemala - where typically nine days out of ten are warm and sunny with light breezes in the afternoon and calm seas as far offshore as fifty miles. This year however we had periods in each month when we were visited by cold fronts that caused us to incur some wind and rain that made the trip offshore less comfortable and the fish harder to find - although we never came back to the dock without raising billfish.
Later towards the end of the season in April, Guatemala experienced a series of volcanic eruptions from two of the active regions - in the highlands to the Northwest and another close to the city. The country is well known for its geothermal activity; one of the active volcanoes Pacaya is a popular destination to observe lava flows and plasma spewing from the exposed top crater ......but this year it went much further and had a spectacular blowout not seen since 1998.
Now, in May/June, at the end of the season, we are confronted with the final elements of air and water - as the first named tropical storm of the season "Agatha" decided to present itself offshore Guatemala and head straight Northeast for the Marina Pez Vela. The winds were relatively minor and we were sufficiently prepared that no damage ensued - but the rain dumped on the highlands and slopes of the volcanoes surrounding the old capital of Antigua and the new capital Guatemala City, causing quite substantial flooding for a couple of weeks.
So perhaps if we had the benefit of Greek Philosophers on hand, we would be able to predict what will happen this coming season - but for now, we have to rely instead on the track record and experiences of past seasons. we certainly had our share of Earth, Fire and Water though !
The Guatemala Fishing Season generally starts in earnest in October and starts to build up from there in terms of consistency of action and numbers of billfish being raise. This year it started a little slow - with the bait not really concentrating until the end of the month and the predatory fish staying further out in deep water about 50 miles from the dock - but as the month moved on, so the fishing improved. By November, the fishing was really starting to show some promise - we were catching consistent numbers of good size Blue marlin, and the Sailfish seemed to have moved closer in and were easily found harassing pods of baitfish - making for strong and consistent action.
In early December the Collard group arrived from the snow of Rhode Island a little apprehensive as they were to start fishing immediately after the full moon......but sometimes you have to do what you can do! Many anglers (and Captains) hold the opinion that during the full moon phase, the predatory fish are able to pursue their quarry during the night and hence are less aggressive for an easy meal during the day. Certainly their trip did start out a little slow - and the fish that rose to the teasers were lazy and picky. You could feel the billfish hitting the bait with their bill as to play with it rather than to consume it. Timing was everything.
It took considerable skill and feel to determine when the sailfish had tired of playing and were ready to eat ??..and so to set the hook. On the positive side, this play provided plenty of practice for the group (they raised 27 sailfish their final day) without necessarily enduring the fight on every occasion.
Unusually for Guatemala Fishing , we had two cold fronts come through in quick succession in January that built upon each other to produce some pretty significant seas and blasts of cold air. This often has the effect of scattering the concentrations of bait and making the fishing more challenging - but not this time. The billfish stayed focused relatively close to shore on some very rapid temperature breaks and continued to feed despite the inclement weather and waves "up top". The boats suffered a little in this period as we still had to push out through the weather in seas that were cresting to 6ft early in the morning, but nothing that a few stainless screws and clamps couldn't take care of.
All through the week and a half of weather that we experienced, the fishing stayed hot - with 20-30 fish raised the norm throughout.
In general, the fishing continued strongly throughout January and into early February. What did seem to change from day to day however was where the fish were???.one day we were fining good blue water at 35 miles, the next it may be as close as 5 miles from the dock. Mostly we were just glad to be able to find it quickly in the morning, and then to set a pattern between the boats to find out where the bait and pelagic were concentrated and put clients on fish by mid-morning.
We also welcomed back the Graham party for their first trip of the season in January - over the course of 5 days they released their fair share??.quote ???."Had a great trip last week with about 100 releases. A couple of real nice fish. I got one on conventional that the crew guessed in the 150 class and my last fish of the trip was a 2 hour battle on a the fly rod with a 130 plus fish."
I did check with the Captain, and he did verify that the sail on the fly was at least 130lbs, which even for Guatemala is a very big fish !
Seemingly this group wore the fish out, as they became kind of scarce for a few days - until the Mitchell group showed up with a fine case of hand tied flies that proved just too much for the sailfish to resist. Every day over the course of the next few days, the fishing just got better and better, with the fish becoming more and more aggressive as the new moon progresses. On their final day, they raised 22 sailfish with 12 good bites to the fly and 8 releases - and about a hundred photographs to document the day !
February is generally regarded as the "hottest" month in Guatemala - both for the bite and for the pleasant warm weather that you can usually count on day after day through the month. This year however, we had several cold fronts push through one after the other that brought cooler weather and wind - and tended to push the fish down and further out in warmer deeper water.
By mid-month it did seem to have settled down - the Rivers Group stand out as bringing 91 sailfish to the boat over the course of 3 days. Other groups had similar results, on average raising over 30 billfish per day at about 30 miles from the dock. All of this happened as we approached the new moon, which is often regarded as one of the best moon phases to chase predatory fish. After the moon, the fishing did slow down a bit, but even in Guatemala we don't raise those kind of numbers consistently every day ! Recent days have seen raises of about half that amount - in the 10-15 range - but still plenty of action, and importantly plenty of bait in the water.
Another unusual showing for Guatemala was a particularly strong current pushing down from Mexico later in the month, that brought with it some marauding Striped Marlin -not often seen in these waters, as we see mostly Blue Marlin and the odd Black Marlin - but certainly made for some exciting action and great photos !
March pretty much continued with this pattern of "rogue" cold fronts coming through that would disrupt the fishing and slow things down for a couple of days afterwards. We normally tell clients to expect good and consistent fishing in March, but we had more than our fair share of slow(er) days this year - although the good days far outnumbered the bad..........and even a "bad" day in Guatemala this time of year is raising 8-10 billfish which would be classed as outstanding almost anywhere else.
If you know how to time it, and the rest of the variables that the "Fishing Gods" refer to when deciding whether to make your fishing trip to Guatemala something to remember, then the past few weeks have served you well. Kim Graham and party came down once again and hit the billfish hard - they reported passing landing their 1000th sailfish in Guatemala, so they are both doing it right and timing it well (and of course keeping count accurately!!).
Sure enough, they turned up again just as the moon was turning and had several fun filled days of pretty much nonstop fishing action with fish in the teasers consistently throughout the day. They also managed to hook and release a good sized marlin - which have been noticeable so far only by their absence this season until very recently. As the month came to an end, the fishing had become much moire consistent, and the marlin bite had really turned on.
For a couple of weeks as we moved into April, we were raising at least one good sized marlin per day. If you have never caught a big Blue, it is hard to describe the power and majesty of these beasts. Where the sailfish like to "dance" and beguile the angler into the release - the big marlin insist on using their massive strength and inertia to drag the boat and angler into submission. This and early December are regarded as peak months for big Blue Marlin - and April 2010 certainly lived up to this reputation.

We saw some of the largest bull and cow dolphin we have ever seen (and caught) in Guatemala during this past April - I think the best fish we brought to the dock was well in excess of 40lbs??.which is a big dorado -especially when it hasn't learned etiquette and insists on flapping around the big cockpit of the Bertram when guys are still fishing !
So all in all a season that started out with great promise despite unusually mixed weather in November and December - an early bite in January that gave us hope for a record season with many days in excess of 30 billfish raised. Unfortunately Mother Nature intervened, and showed us some poor weather by the end of January that scattered the baitifish and pushed the warm blue water back and forth making it hard for things to coalesce.
April was marked by some fantastic marlin fishing - no granders reported this year, but many in the 600lb class. This coupled with some outstanding dolphin catches made the early and late parts of the season the most productive this year.
We know that things are still tough, but we do hope you will be able to come down and get away from it all next season - it's amazing what catching big fish on light tackle can do to your perspective !
If you haven't been down to Guatemala before - we highly recommend downloading a copy of our 40 page "Angler's Guide to Guatemala" that will answer a lot of your questions and give you a realistic perspective of what to expect.
We look forward to welcoming you back to Guatemala, the Sailfish Capital of the World (undisputed !)