Since we all have been sent to our collective rooms for nearly a year of quarantine, we missed out on fishing most of our regular international fishing spots last year, like the Bahamas, Panama, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Mexico, Cape Verde and Madeira. Not to mention Australia, which basically lost an entire season of black marlin fishing on the Great Barrier Reef.
The good news is that there has been great fishing right here in the US. The Carolinas had some great marlin catches this past summer, and the white marlin bite was also very good up in the Northeast canyons. There were also lots of bluefin tuna caught off California, of all places, as well as some big yellowfin tuna and blue marlin in the Gulf of Mexico. All of this local action is supporting our US charter fleet that had been especially suffering through these crazy times. And if you’re out fishing with your family or a few friends, enjoying some fresh air and catching fish? Well, that’s just the right kind of social distancing.
Boat sales have been crazy-good too. From inboard sport-fishers to center-consoles and even personal watercraft—if it floats, it’s selling. People have found out that fishing and cruising around in their boats is a great way to get out of the house and still be safe. No big concerts or sporting events to go to for the most part, so the boats keep getting used, which is a good thing.
The billfishing was so good in US waters that we nearly exceeded the NMFS’s 250-fish limit for harvested billfish in the 2020 season. I’m sure The Billfish Foundation and the International Game Fish Association will be discussing, or even addressing, this issue in their newsletters as we gear up for what appears to be a busy 2021 season. There might be some rule changes in the works for a few events in the Northeast. We will wait and see how that plays out.
Meanwhile, in Quepos, Costa Rica, my charter boat sat at the dock—ouch! I have always enjoyed going down there and working on the boat and then taking her out fishing for a few days afterward. I’m always making sure the old girl is ready to fish for as many days as possible, and we had the whole summer of 2020 booked for blue marlin trips to the seamounts. Bummer.
Each trip I make from home to Costa Rica, I pack as many boat parts as I can carry, plus a bunch of tackle: Live-bait rigs, hooks, crimps, swivels, leader material, 30- and 50-pound-test line—it all adds up. And, as an owner of an older boat, I also realize that you still need to ship down plenty of parts as well. I’m thankful the boatyard at Marina Pez Vela in Quepos can do almost anything: top-notch work, a great facility and at reasonable prices.
But then there are the challenges with building a charter business in a foreign country. When we started in 2017, we were advertising, emailing friends, and working social-media platforms. There was already a large, well-established charter fleet in Quepos that fishes every day of the year, so walk-up traffic is minimal. It’s a beautiful part of Costa Rica—easy to get around town, the food is great, and there are plenty of hotels and lodging rentals. Manuel Antonio National Park is right next door, with nature hikes and plenty of animals to see in the wild. There’s surfing, whitewater rafting, zip-lining, volcanoes and a lot more, in addition to the great fishing. I miss it.
I’m really looking forward to the 2021 season and wish everyone good luck this year, no matter where you might be fishing. I hope to see many of you on the water!