Catching dinner has surprised us with some of the most cherished memories of our adventure. Cooking from scratch for 4-6 hungry crew means that we are all eating better than any other times of our lives. Luckily we have plenty of fresh fish, and time to make homemade yoghurt, oven baked bread, kim chi, and ahem…. brownies!
The vast coast of Mainland Mexico provided the fish stories for Part 2; you can read about Baja fishing in Part 1.
One of the most special places we’ve visited was Isla Isabel, known as the Galapagos of Mexico. This small volcanic island has a Jurassic vibe with rivers of birds continually flying above. A national park protects large populations of nesting frigate birds and blue footed boobies, and abundant iguanas and other colorful lizards skitter about. Underwater is a thriving ecosystem, with schooling fish galore and large predatory jacks patrolling the depths. In this abundant zone we speared an incredible pelagic predator: Pacific crevalle jacks, 16 pounds of darting fish to handle. (Check out the rest of our visit to the gorgeous Isla Isabel in our post.)
Still dreaming of large tropical fish like yellowfin tuna and dorado, we talked to local fishermen in Mazatlan and discovered they likely wouldn’t show up until later in the summer. They also mentioned that as we headed south we’d have a better chance of finding these warm water species. They explained that Cabo Corrientes, south of Puerto Vallarta, is kind of like the Point Conception of Mexico, a geographical dividing point; upon passing it tropical game fish might be found.
As we rounded Cabo Corrientes the water temps shot up into the 80s and that night dozens of 4 inch squid jumped onto our boat. We collected them all, 40 in total and saved them for bait. I awoke the next morning before dawn to shouts. Ryan had woken at first light, baited a rod with our squid, and caught a gorgeous 20 pound yellowfin ahi tuna before sunrise, our first one!
Leaving Chamela Bay we had a two night sail in front of us, and the second day, 20 miles offshore, I spotted some birds on a floating log. A couple dozen turtles also lounged, and knowing that flotsam like this creates its own eco-system, I jumped in. An underwater wonderland with 100+ foot visibility greeted us and for hours we dove what came to be affectionately known as “The Magic Log”.
Schools of thousands of tropical fish swirled around, dozens of turtles visited cleaning stations, where scores of fish cleaned them, and small sharks patrolled below. Hundreds of small dorado and skipjack tuna flitted in and out of the scene. We couldn’t pull ourselves away until finally, sunburnt and cameras “full”, we departed from the wonderland of the magic log.
Our biggest fish story happens just south of Zihuatenejo at Rocas de Potosi, a chain of guano encrusted rocks which look like a herd of white elephants heading out to sea. After a successful speardive, we sailed south at sunset when we heard yet again the cedar plug zinging. The line pulled heavy and low and as I tightened the drag something kept pulling line off the reel with strong, regular pulls.
The reel was getting hot with all the friction when finally I was able to make some headway, pulling line in and then 100 yards behind the boat we saw a full size marlin surface. We all stared at each other in amazement and worked as a team to keep the marlin on the port side of the boat so we could tire out the muscles on one side, making it easier to bring him near.
This is a prize fish that always deserves to be caught and released. We tried to remove the hook and release him. I brought him to the boat twice over a half hour, each time we leaned over to try to get the hook out and release him he suddenly tugged away, stripping line with steady, rhythmic pulls. Finally Kristian had a go and brought him to the boat a third time.
As we tried to free him he broke the line and swam off into the depths. He must have been hooked near a sensitive spot, the only reason we could have brought him to the boat so many times with 30 pound test line. Marlin stun prey with a hit of their bills, so perhaps he wacked the cedar plug and by happenstance struck the tender flesh near his eye. He was huge, and the hook was probably just like a splinter to him, released soon by the sea. It was a dignified ending to a cedar plug that had brought us so many memorable fish dinners.
We spent our last month in Oaxaca, and finally came across dorado (AKA mahi mahi). These highly prized sportsfish gleam gold and green, leap acrobatically in the air and have a sweet white flesh which our fishing book proclaims “Food Value: None Better.”
The Mexican ones have been smaller than the 4 foot, 25 pounders I’d often catch in Hawaii and a local fisherman explained that in the winter they catch large ones, which he thinks come to mate off the coast. Every February they start catching little ones, which just get larger and larger as the year goes on. Dorado amazingly can grow to 20 pounds in one year and reach sexual maturity after 6 months. They are highly fecund and are thus a very sustainable (not to mention great tasting) fish to target.
While we love to surf, dive, fish, and explore, the Green Coconut Run is also sailing to spread awareness of the importance of Marine Reserves and sustainable fishing. In order to avoid the collapse of fish stocks, scientists suggest the use of marine reserves to provide habitat for mature fish to grow and reproduce plentifully. By ensuring fish can reproduce, it allows future generations to also enjoy seafood and sustains fishing livelihoods.
Check out our blog on a man who is crowd funding a new marine protected area in Mexico. We will continue to highlight success stories like this throughout our voyage.