The Bites Continue in Guatemala for Marlin Expeditions

The popular sport-fishing destination yields lessons in patience and handling multiple hookups
A sport-fishing team pulling a large marlin boatside during a Marlin Expeditions venture.
Team Canada—Spencer, Ethan and Connor Lavis, and Tim Anstice—show off one of their blue marlin on Finest Kind with instructor Capt. Laurel David. Marlin Expeditions / Out Your Front Door

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As I reviewed the Marlin Expeditions’ client list on the flight to Guatemala City, I could tell that this would be a good one. Two families, a few friends and some repeat clients were meeting us at Casa Vieja Lodge, ready to take their fishing education to the next level. We had left the fish biting there just a month before and were looking forward to returning. The full moon was looming over the Pacific this week, and I’m always leery when it comes to sailfishing during this moon phase, theorizing that the fish feed all night. But luckily for us, it seemed to affect only the flurries, which came early in the morning or the late afternoon, depending on the day and where you were on the edge, and I’m sure many other factors that I can’t even begin to explain in this short column. Either way, we left them biting again, and that’s a good problem to have.

Why Guatemala?

There are good reasons why we take multiple trips to this billfishing paradise. Not only does Casa Vieja roll out the red carpet for everyone, including us, but the lodge is steeped in history and happens to sit close to one of the most notable fisheries on the Central American Pacific coast.

The area around Puerto San Jose receives limited fishing pressure during this ­near-year-round season, and although the ­species of billfish that can be found rotate in and out with the months, the sailfish, I’m convinced, live there full time. In my experience, it’s just a matter of how many you will see and how many multiple opportunities you will get. And if you’re looking to add a sail caught on fly to your angling résumé, or even a grand slam, this is a good place to start.

Two anglers pull a large sailfish boatside during a Marlin Expeditions venture.
All smiles aboard Rum Line with yet another sailfish release. Courtesy Casa Vieja Lodge / Rum Line

Day One: May 31

The teams were already ­familiar with one another, so instead of breaking them up according to their individual experience level, we opted to keep everyone together. The sails were chewing, and the anglers quickly got a lesson in how to fight multiple hookups. Capt. Laurel David and her group on Finest Kind took the high hook on the first day, releasing 19 sails from 21 bites, including a blue marlin that was released by Dylan Bolden. My team on Rum Line went ­13-for-19 on sails, and Debbi David’s Makaira team of repeat clients went 8-for-10. Not a bad way to start the trip, but it was about to get even better.

Day Two: June 1

As the teams switched boats and instructors, it was the Canadians who crushed the fleet in sailfish raises, going 14-for-22 and releasing a blue marlin on Finest Kind. The team also boxed five dorados and seven yellowfins, making sure we had plenty of poke snacks and ceviche poolside. The repeat clients—Jeremy Bendler, Ken Crockett, Kurt Greening and Jim Rose—fished on Rum Line, releasing 12 of their 17 sail bites, with Greening jumping off a nice blue a few minutes into the fight. The Bolden family on Makaira, however, were finding the fast-and-furious bites a little frustrating, releasing eight of their 13 bites. But what goes around comes around, and Debbi David, in her signature silent-but-sneaky fashion, was about to do a little sweeping of her own.

Day Three: June 2

As the teams switched boats again, Rum Line was staying somewhat consistent, releasing 11 from their 18 sailfish bites, including a tripleheader by the Boldens; Finest Kind released seven from nine bites; and Team Canada on Makaira earned the high hook on Day Three, going 11-for-13 on sails plus a legit IGFA blue marlin release by Connor Lavis. It looked as if the moon might put a damper on the bites until tournament day rolled around—and the actual full moon showed itself—but that theory would quickly be debunked… at least this time.

Capt. Jen Copeland instructing during a Marlin Expeditions venture in Guatemala.
Marlin Expeditions lead instructor Capt. Jen Copeland. Courtesy Casa Vieja Lodge / Rum Line

Day Four: June 3

In order to be fair, the fishing teams drew for boats, and subsequently for our ­photographer, Michelle Gaylord, from Out Your Front Door. It seemed whichever boat Michelle was on this trip, the bite followed—the Canadians drew the lucky charm, and it paid off for them on Laurel David’s Finest Kind. Anglers Spencer, Ethan and Connor Lavis, and Tim Anstice of Team Canada took home the tournament win with 15 sailfish releases from 23 bites. Rum Line placed second on time with 11 releases from 15 bites. Team Makaira took third, also with 11 releases, from 13 bites. Unfortunately, no blues were seen that day.
Overall, our 12 Marlin Expedition anglers released 140 sailfish, three blue marlin, 18 dorados and seven tunas in four days. We had an absolute blast, so I’ll go ahead and call that a great week of fishing.

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