Lopez Tops 30,000 Billfish Releases

Red hot fishing continues in Guatemala

The 30,000th billfish release for Capt. Gilfredo "Juanga" Lopez nears the boat.
The 30,000th billfish release for Capt. Gilfredo "Juanga" Lopez nears the boat.Courtesy Juanga Lopez

After working for many years as a deckhand for some of the best captains in the world, Gilfredo "Juanga" Lopez relocated to Guatemala to run the A-Fin-ity for Davis Clapp. Last year he decided to purchase his own rig and, with the help of a few friends, brought a 36-foot Out Island down to Central America. Renamed Makina (Spanish for machine), the boat immediately started raising fish for Juanga and his talented crew. A quick review of his release numbers showed that he needed just 97 more to reach 30,000 lifetime billfish releases. He made a call to Schrader Grady, who came down with his father Brooks and a mutual friend from Puerto Rico to fish for a few days.

The team celebrates back at the docks in Guatemala.
The team celebrates back at the docks in Guatemala.Courtesy Juanga Lopez

“The first day we released 26 [sailfish] and the second day we had only 12, so the third day we went to a different spot,” Juanga says. “It was 49 miles away from the previous day and what a difference it made. There was a lot of bait and fish there all day — we ended up with 55 when we ran out of daylight, just four to go!”

Find the bait and you'll probably find the fish as well. This is a massive bait ball with sailfish on it.
Find the bait and you'll probably find the fish as well. This is a massive bait ball with sailfish on it.Juanga Lopez

The next day they came back to the same area and found the big bait balls once again, releasing 50 from 65 bites. That gave him a total of 30,046 lifetime billfish releases. The Grady party had 196 releases out of 250 bites in three days. Juanga was quick to credit the many captains he’s fished with over the years, including Dave Noling, Paul Ivey, Mitch Pierson, Bubba Carter, Mike Merritt, Ken Ross and many others, as well as his mentor (and cousin) Alberto Sanchez. “I’m very lucky to have a great boat and also a great family here in Guatemala!” Juanga says.

Number 30,000 for Capt. Juanga Lopez.
Billfish number 30,000 for Capt. Juanga Lopez.Courtesy Juanga Lopez