Unfortunately, Venezuela suffered a setback after a week of heavy rain caused massive mudslides along the Venezuelan coast in December 1999, and the area never fully recovered. A change in Venezuelan politics with the election of socialist Hugo Chavez dragged the country into despair, and now it’s no longer considered safe to visit. But you can bet the fish are still out there, and Venezuela will probably be one of the first places we put back on the schedule if it ever settles back down and allows us to put on a safe, comfortable trip.
One of our most popular destinations, Guatemala, wasn’t one of my first choices for a Marlin U destination either. I visited Guatemala on one of my very first assignments for Marlin magazine around 1993 to cover an International Light Tackle Tournament Association tournament. At that time, there were no lodges operating in the area, and we had to stay at the Hotel Martita, which was still undergoing construction at the time. Let’s just say the facilities really weren’t up to speed — at least not in the sense that you would charge people to go there. The fishing was some of the best I’ve ever experienced; I think we were raising 10 to 12 fish a day and catching six or seven, which was very slow by Guatemala standards even back then. Luckily, several lodges sprang up in Guatemala that began to offer first-class service, good food, and great boats and crews. Places such as the old Fins ’N Feathers lodge and today’s Casa Vieja Lodge, where we do our sessions, provide a level of service that few can match. Nowadays, if you really want to learn how to pitch-bait a circle-hooked ballyhoo to a billfish, a weeklong trip to Guatemala during the peak of its season will hone your skills better than five years of fishing in the Gulf of Mexico. Captains here also have great success with blue marlin when they have to swing out wide offshore, so during certain times in late spring and summer, you can get a good shot at a Pacific blue marlin as well.