On January 18, 2013, one of the West Coast Fishing Club’s offshore marlin boats, Abundancia, capsized in the Gulf of Panama after an angler on board hooked into an extremely aggressive black marlin estimated to weigh more than 500 pounds. All four crew members and guests on board were uninjured and were swiftly pulled from the water by another West Coast Fishing Club vessel operating alongside.
The accident was the result of a rapid and extraordinary series of occurrences which took place within one minute after the fish’s high-speed strike.
“We are relieved to report that the anglers, the captain and crew were all evacuated from the vessel without injury or loss of life, thanks to the quick response by the captain and crew of one of our other boats,” says West Coast Fishing Club vice president Brian Grange. “Our practice has always been to fish within sight or radio contact with a sister vessel, and in this case, one of our other boats was very close by, which enabled an immediate response.”
The marlin was initially spotted by the crew of the West Coast Fishing Club companion boat as it rocketed past on the surface of the water in pursuit of bait being trolled by Abundancia. In anticipation of having a rare opportunity to photograph the actual strike of a prized black marlin, a guest on board the companion boat seized a camera and captured the dramatic sequence of events. Approximately 60 seconds later, the crew went to the aid of the listing vessel and immediately retrieved all passengers.
The angler in the chair at the time that these amazing pictures were taken, Dave Saenz, believes the fish was somewhere between 500 and 600 pounds, and described it as “extremely acrobatic, which certainly adds to the adrenaline rush.” He went on to say that “it all happened so fast, but the memory will last a lifetime.”
Saenz has not been put off by the experience – in fact, quite the opposite. He has already booked his next trip to Panama with West Coast Fishing Club.
The West Coast Fishing Club has operated a successful Pacific fishing charter business for 25 years in remote wilderness regions without any incidents involving a boat capsizing or causing serious injury to any crewmembers or guests. “Each year, we put in thousands of hours on the water, and we’ve never had anything even remotely close to this happen before,” says Grange. “We also invest a great deal of money in onboard safety equipment and hundreds of man hours annually to ensure that if something arises, we are prepared to deal with it.”