It was a happy and excited group of students and Marlin U staff that came together in Mindelo, a fast-growing town on the Cape Verde island of São Vicente, for what we all hoped would be encounters with larger (Atlantic) blue marlin than we usually raise in the Pacific Ocean hot spots off the west coast of Latin America.
In the past, I had hooked and lost the biggest blue marlin I had ever seen, in these same Cape Verde Islands waters. On the same trip I also had the most blue marlin bites I’d ever had in a single day — somewhere between 35 and 50; we lost track! I was excited to be back!
Anglers from Canada, Madeira and Alaska and other parts of the United States all met for cocktails in the new São Vicente Sport Fishing Club. That the sturdy concrete structure was not yet finished was no impediment to the happy anglers the day before we first fished, or any of the following afternoons. With plenty of beer, booze, and puu puus (hors d’oeuvres) and good company, both hosts and guests were happy with the results.
The Don Pacco Hotel supplied clean, modern accommodation, and we dined in a different restaurant every night. The recent tourist boom has brought modern floating-dock marinas to town and has taken the hardship out of bringing a boat to the island.
It is rarely as good anywhere as the place can be at its very best, and I had warned about unrealistic expectations. Our team, on a pretty G&S named Gladius, had one bite and failed to score on day one.
My high point of the five-day Marlin U trip came on day two. John Wilson, an old friend and repeat student, who had used a statistically significant experiment to debunk the WD-40 myth, had a badly wounded right thumb, due to a close encounter of the table-saw kind!
John had ridden along on a boat and sat out as an angler on the first day. Our skipper, Aussie Glen Johnson, better known as “Johno,” and I talked him into letting us set him up in the fighting chair on day two.
We agreed that he could fight a fish, but in the sloppy seas pushed up by a brisk trade wind, we would not risk possible damage to his hand, and the crew would hand the rod over to him.
We were fun fishing and intended to release any marlin we caught, so we didn’t worry about IGFA rules. We often do that with total novices or children who are just getting started.
Wilson fought and released a thick-shouldered fish at an estimated 650 pounds. With aggressive boat handling by Johno and heavy drag settings by Wilson, we had the big fish alongside ours, if we had wanted to take it in, in under 15 minutes.
My teams caught one other fish, and Gordon Solomon from Canada qualified for the hard-luck trophy, when a fish we hooked late the last day got the line wrapped around a mooring buoy on the edge of a steep drop-off and broke the line.
The ride home, with several changes of aircraft, took almost as long as a trip to Australia, and I was glad to finally get home.
I leave for Bimini tomorrow to try to get tags into some giant tuna, one of which was caught yesterday. Pray for wind — we need it to catch tuna in Bimini and Cat Cay.
Good fishing, wherever you are. — Peter B.