A visit to a Mexican fish market and a Marina
I abandoned the beach (see Part 1) for all I caught were vicious ‘frogs’ and they didn’t really pull back. Further down the beach, and still part of the hotel complex was a rocky outcrop, close inspection (via a snorkel) showed a variety of species swimming around the huge boulders and rocky ledges. These varied from brightly coloured disc-shaped fish to vividly marked reef-dwelling snappers that looked remarkably like wrasse. Using strange limpet type molluscs, that resembled a terrapin’s shell as bait, I was soon amongst fish.
By using a 1in orange polyball sliding float and drifting my bait above the boulders bites were pretty easy to come by. These were savage affairs with the orange polyball suddenly plunging underwater. The clarity of the sea meant that it could then be seen sub-surface ripping out at a remarkable speed, usually tightening the slack line for you and thus helping you to strike successfully.
As I had to perform the odd family duty such as playing with the kids in the pool, letting them bring me food and beer, etc, fishing was usually just a couple of hours a day, but this was enough to bring a huge selection of fish to the bank. One day, when strolling around town (secretly trying to find bait) I came across the fish market. Now this to me was fun, much better than wandering in and out of many curio shops in the old town. I gave the wife and kids a handful of pesos and they happily disappeared into one of the many huge flea markets leaving me alone and in my element.
The array of fish on sale was quite breathtaking, many I recognised through TV fishing programmes but there were also plenty that I didn’t. Amongst the more recognisable were huge Red Snapper up to perhaps 30lb, Dorado, Tuna and small Marlin of perhaps 60-80lb. The sheer size and diversity of the fish on show was something I had never come across at one of these markets before. Fortunately, various types of seafood to use as bait were on sale everywhere and also pretty cheap. I eventually settled on a large bag of huge prawns and a full octopus, total cost about fifty pence. As I met up with my family before catching the regular bus back to the hotel Lisa excitedly tried to show me the wooden carvings she had bought whilst I tried to impress her with my new bait. Strangely enough neither of us seemed too impressed with the others recent purchases. The bait I had bought turned out to be excellent and it was whilst floatfishing off the rocks whilst using the prawns as bait that I hooked my first (and last) big fish off the shore.
I had been casting and striking continuously whilst using the prawns as bait. The fish loved them but despite threading them up the shank they somehow developed the knack of removing the bait without being hooked. Despite this I had still managed to land half a dozen hard-fighting snapper and groupers between 8oz and 5lb when I struck for the hundredth time. This time however the reaction was different. The rod crashed round with a ferocity and power I have never previously felt and something unseen started to rip line of my clutch at an unbelievable speed. If I tried to stop it with finger pressure the rod just got dragged over as it continued towards the horizon. There was never really any chance of landing my unknown adversary but I was still disappointed when the line fell slack. The line had parted above my float as it brushed against an unseen boulder.
One of the best things about this all-inclusive holiday is that when you want to drown your sorrows it doesn’t cost anything. So I dulled my feeling of loss with half a dozen bottles of Mexican beer.
One of my burning ambitions has always been to try my hand at big game fishing and, as Mexico has some of the best game fishing available in the world I decided long before I arrived that I would have a try – whatever the cost. As both my father (who fished) and my Father in law (who dabbles) were both on the trip I thought I could persuade them to join me and thus reduce the cost of chartering a boat by two thirds.
With this in mind at the start of the second week I took my wife and kids to ‘have a look at the marina’, Obviously my wife, Lisa, is wise to me by now and I am sure she knew I wanted to do more than look at the boats.
The marina at Puerto Vallarta was magnificent, I have never seen such a huge marina and such a wide selection of boats. But where did I start?
Walking along the frontage there were many advertisements for big game fishing and the prices for an eight-hour charter varied considerably from 200 to around 450 US dollars. After talking to several agents and skippers I came across one with a diary, signed by previous anglers with catches recorded. The agent caught me reading this book and I suppose from this moment on he had me hooked. Catches of Tuna, Dorado and Roosterfish were scribbled all over the pages. There was even the odd mention of Sailfish and Marlin. He also took time to explain the reasons for the big price differences and give me a rough idea of the standard of equipment available on his boats. He explained that the biggest cost was based on the boat’s speed. Some of the boats that were charging 200 US dollars, although they looked great and were well equipped, would take up to three hours to get to the prime fishing grounds, whereas the most expensive ones would have you there in 90 mins. On an eight hour charter three hours in each direction left just two hours fishing, not what I had in mind. He now had me eating out of his hand, the final sales pitch was to walk me the short distance to the wooden jetty where his number one boat lay in berth. As I stepped aboard I started to grin, a single white fighting chair was set at the back of the boat, livebait were happily swimming about in a vinyl tub overhanging the boat. The skipper took me below where he showed me the full range of tackle available. A full selection of Gold Penn multipliers matched with top of the range Penn rods from 12lb to 130lb class were hanging from the cabin roof. A large array of lures, muppets and hooks festooned the walls. When I came back out into the sun I was grinning from ear to ear.
‘It’s a lot of money, isn’t it?’ I said to the wife, with my fingers crossed.
‘If you want to, just book it,’ she said.
‘What if mine and your dad don’t want to come, that means around £ 240 I will have to pay.’ I said (as if I cared!)
‘If they don’t, just put in on the credit card.’ she replied.
I couldn’t believe it. I expected a bit of resistance, but here she was almost ordering me to charter the boat.
I arrived back at the poolside bar to find my father ordering another beer. He passed one across to me which I drank so fast it burned my throat. After all, I hadn’t had a drink all day. As we were on an all-inclusive, I was too tight to buy a beer outside the complex!
I slid the brochure across to him. He asked what it was and I told him it was the boat I had chartered and that I was going to sea in two days time, if he didn’t want to come, no problem, I would be going anyway. But, the look in his eye told me he was just as excited as I was. Boy did the beer taste good that night!
The night before the trip I hardly drank at all (those who know me will be surprised) but I wanted a clear head to enable me to savour every moment of the day. As it happens I think that was a mistake because I then lay awake for most of the night, as excited as a little kid on Christmas Eve.
Part 3 – Tuna, Yellowtail, and (almost) a Sailfish and Shark!