The FAD trip March 2014
Everyone slept in at Los Suenos. At noon, I picked up Jeff and his dad Ken. Berto, Marcos and James were already loaded on the boat and scratching their head as to where I was going to put all the food and gear I was unloading out of the van. The plan was to make it to the Furuo in time for some deep dropping groupers and live baiting for giant cubera snapper, maybe even a shot at a black marlin and for sure plenty of sails along the way, but it seemed that the fish had taken the whole day off. Only one sail bite on the way to the reef and a clean bottom machine upon our arrival indicated that for whatever reason, there was not a lot of life on the Furuno. A bit disappointed, we put out some lures and trolled away from the sunset to our final destination, the FADs/sea mounts about 100 miles to the southeast of Los Suenos.
These sea mounts have always produced fish, and lots of them. Read about the report to a similar underwater mountain that the Dragin Fly made last year: http://blog.downeastguideservice.com/2013_02_01_archive.html
Within the last couple of years, very enterprising sportsfishermen have invested a lot of time and an awful lot of money in anchoring FADs or Fish Attracting Devices in 1500 feet of water, submerged from view of anyone who doesn’t know that they are there, but close enough to the surface to be a substrate and catalyst for an explosion of life that normally gathers around the area due to the rich upwelling and abundant bait. The result is a concentration of bait, primarily bonito and baby yellowfin tuna, and a concentration of the predators that feed on them. In essence, over the past year, this area has proven to be the absolute best blue marlin fishing on the planet.
After chugging from the Furuno with lures that got no bites below a rising half moon, we arrived about 1 am, still several hours before light, so the boys set out the sea anchor and I set out some bonito on glow sticks in search of a lost sword. Nether the glow sticks or the sea anchor performed as advertised and as light approached we were about 6 miles from the spot. We put out our standard sailfish spread, 5 swimming ballyhoo, 2 short teasers and 2 Laceration Lures rigged with j-hooks that replaced the toothless teasers that normally swim on the long riggers. We were there for marlin and if a marlin took a swipe at a teaser, if at all possible, I wanted to have a hook in it.
The sun was just breaking the horizon and still 4 miles from the FADs when the first sets of sails wiped us out yielding a pair of double headers. As we got closer to the spot, birds started working and bonitos started sipping on the surface and slapping our ballyhoos, popping clips on both sides and creating mass confusion in a tightly wound cockpit. James pulls it back a little so we can clear up the mess when the right rigger holding a pink Fishina pops and a blue marlin in the 200 pound class starts peeling line off of a 50. After a spectacular show and 200 yards, most of it in the air, she pulls the hook. We quickly set everything back out, but now only with two ballyhoo and a skipping bonito down the middle. Now we’re marlin fishing.
Almost instantly the left short teaser gets crashed, then the ballyhoo beside it pops out of the clip with a little 150 pound blue on the other end. A quick release and before we can get ‘em out again we’ve got another lure bite that shakes off really quick. We pull off a sailfish on a lure, put it back out and send it to the top of the rigger. Just as it arrives, a 300 pounder piles on it, this time staying connected and putting on a helluva show. The blue marlin action is red hot for exactly two hours, the same amount of time it would take any other boat that left before daylight from the closest port to reach us. When its all said and done, we’ve released 2 blue marlin from 6 raised along with 6 for 9 on the sails. The bait goes down and the bite dramatically falls off other than an occasional half hearted slap at a lure or bait, there’s just not much to it until just before sunset.
With the sun getting lower in the sky and bonito popping on the surface again, clark spoons on planers are deployed and we began to close the circles around the FAD. As the pound to two pound bonito come in the boat, they are bridled onto circle hooks and returned to the water. They bolt for faux liberty until their tether comes taunt and is strung through the rigger clips. The bonito pull against their constraint and plane initially towards the bottom, then to the surface pushing a wake and angling away from the boat. Fresh baits are caught and replace the ones that are fading, now skipping lifelessly on the surface, still good enough to get a bite, but a lively bait will get bit first.
In these last two hours of light, while live baiting, the best of our 5 afternoon blue marlin bites creamed a 5 pound yellowfin tuna that I had just caught while jigging a spoon, bridled up and sent to its death. That baby tuna did not have time to figure out what had happened when the biggest blue of the day gulped it down, then proceeded to dump a Tyrnos 50. After gaining about half the line, she went on another scorching run and a half dozen bounding leaps for freedom before her reward of a straightened hook. There is a time when to apply pressure, and there is a time to just enjoy the show. Although this big blue marlin was lost, the show was work attending.
At the end of our first full day at the FAD, we were 2 for 8 on blue marlin bites with another 3 that we did not get a bite out of and 10 for 14 sails. Not a bad day of fishing and we were going to wake up pulling a marlin spread right on top of the spot for our second full day.
Yesterday we were greeted with sailfish for sunrise, how could it get much better? Blue marlin before breakfast. Dawn was just cracking, way too early for aperature and shutter speed to have the ability to capture an airborne blue marlin, but we were not going to wait for cameras. The guys were getting breakfast together, Jeffrey and Ken were just rolling out of the bunks and I was putting out a marlin spread. Two lures, two teasers, two skipping bonito. We were not fishing for sailfish today.
The bonito on the end of the rod I was holding was finding the right wave to ride when a big splash appeared on her tail. I dropped it back . Nothing. Then she crashed it. A short drop back and I locked it up, walking into the salon with the rod hooked to a 300 pound blue marlin on the other end. Anyone want a blue marlin for breakfast? No shit. Just like that, less than 5 minutes into it. Release. Put em out and do it again. We were 2 for 3 on marlin BEFORE the sun broke free of distant storm clouds and began to burn off the haze. The bite momentarily slowed and we were able to take in the day.
Off our bow a blue marlin chasing bonitos brought us back to attention and as we passed the spot, she popped up behind the long skipping bait and Ken made the perfect presentation, drop back , hook up and release of a nice 200 pounder. Another one came up, then faded away. Thirty minutes and a couple of sailfish sancochos later we had our first marlin slam a lure, come tight and Jeffrey made quick work of his 3rd blue marlin of the morning, a little 100 pounder.
After doubling our marlin catch from the day before by 8 am, James isn’t going to spend the rest of the day circling round and round and hoping for them to start biting again. Besides, it’s starting to get crowded. A sea plane has just landed and dropped off it’s anglers directly on their sportfishing yacht. Why waste all that time steaming to the fishing grounds when you can have the plane drop you off right on the boat? Apparently the guy who put these FADs out, is the one that arrives in his personal fishing location via aircraft.
We steam towards another one of his FAD's, 30 miles to the south east, with enough time to be back for the evening live bait bite if there aren’t some marlin around this 2nd spot.
Two blips on the radar indicate that we are not the first ones to arrive at this FAD. Two other boats apparently spent the night on this one. It will be interesting to compare reports from two similar locations, 30 miles apart. From about 3 miles away, we can see the two boats together, then a huge mass of white water erupts between them indicating that a big blue marlin has just crashed back down to Earth and one of them is hooked up.
As it turns out, the Foxy Lady, a private boat from Los Suenos was hooked up with their 3rd marlin of as many bites for the day. Under normal circumstances, pretty good fishing, but with an hour or more between bites, James made a couple of loops, then slipped off to cover ground and look around.
About a mile away, the right short pops the clip and Jeffrey hooks a 200 pound class blue marlin. About 20 minutes after that release, her big sister shows up and again eats the right short. Jeffrey makes a perfect sancocho and comes back only with a smashed ballyhoo head and a sore thumb. Fortunately the marlin did not fade back far, ignoring the lures rigged for a fish of her size, instead, she eats a tiny ballyhoo swimming on the left long. This time, Ken shows his boy how to do it, with just the right amount of drop back, locks it up and hooks her up. She puts on a great show then goes deep and Ken and her are at a stand off with 100 yards of 30# in between.
Ken makes a bold move and cranks up the drag, then again, and again, finally forcing her to the surface for another aerial display and the release. Ken said that is was a lot easier to crank up the drag on a big marlin without fear of losing her, you just have to catch a couple earlier in the day.
The other boats had left the FAD all alone and with marlin in the area, we suspected that they would gather up around dark. As it turns out, other than a couple of teaser bites and a sailfish, Ken’s 3rd blue marlin was our 6th and last of the day out of 8 blue marlin bites of 11 raised. There was no sunset blue marlin bite at our new FAD.
As the sun set a huge migration of flying fish were passing through the area at an unfortunate time, for them anyway, but perfect timing for the thousands of voracious yellowfin pups. The sun was gone and all the gold had turned to silver except in the westernmost sky. The surface of the water 100 miles off the coast was breathless, not a ripple, so calm that the line seperating heavenly bodies of sky and water was blurred. And soon there would be no safety in this heaven or hell for the flying fish.
They started as a trickle. Occasional silver streaks several inches above the water's surface. They would stay airborne long enough for the eye to determine that the flier had scales instead of feathers, glide a few more yards, then disappear in a tiny splash under the ocean's skin. If being chased from below, when air speed is lost a flier and it's glide nears the end, it will drop to the surface just long enough for it's tail touche water and propel it airborne again, never more than a foot or so above the water.
It was watching stones thrown and skipped across the surface by someone with a good arm, you could not help but to follow the flyers to see just how long they would stay airborne. All of them moving the same direction, across the sea mount and right over the waiting tunas that were now aware of this school of flyer's unfortunate transect.
At first there was one or two in the air at any given time, occasionally a tuna would be waiting for the brief touch down of the tail and in a puff of white water it was over for the flying fish but the hole in the water left by the football sized tuna.
A good meteor show starts off only as one or two at a time, beginning in the same corner of the sky and streaking in the same direction. As the Earth drifts into the field of space dust, particles are ignited by the atmosphere at a much higher rates until at the peak of the storm, streaks of light continuously scar the face of the sky.
First one or two in the air at a time, then dozens could be seen in any field of view, all racing for their lives in the same preprogramed heading. Tiny splashes on the surface of the water mark the spot where they take flight, but now the end of their path is more often marked with explosions of white water and jumping tunas who are now coordinating their onslaught on the migrating flyers.
The numbers of airborne flying fish increases as panic sets in. Despite the fading light and open ocean, the scissor tailed frigate birds begin their attacks from above, swooping down more than 100 feet to pluck the frantic flyers before they reach the faux safety of the water below, now teaming with ravaging yellowfin pups.
The Dragin Fly plows into the darkness against the continuous wave of flying fish streaking past both sides of the boat. Instead of fading like a dying ember, dissolving back into the water at the end of their flight, now each flyer disappears in a starburst and the gullet of a baby yellowfin.
Adjusting for current, the time of our transit and calculated overnight drift, James plugs in a course that will put us on our original FAD by sunrise and hopefully a repeat of this morning’s action before chugging the 100+ miles back to Los Suenos.
Dinner of yellowfin sashimi, jumbo shrimp on the grill and chicken lasagna and everyone crashes. I put out a single rod with a flashing green light, glow stick and deboned bite-sized yellowfin. Absolutely no wind and a very slow, long roll to the sea and the quiet hum of the generator produced a symphony of snores. I waved off James and Berto on the first two watches, but at 2 am, I had to lay down. Marcos popped right up and I apprised him of the surrounding boat movements, only two of us within sight of eye or radar and we all had the same drift. Peaceful night. When James cranked up the engines, we were two miles from our spot.
I would like to tell you about the big sword that I hooked and battled from a dead drift while everyone slept, but that was only in my dreams. It would make the perfect story, but for us, this story ended much as it started…..pretty slow. Ken did hook a 400+ blue marlin before the sun rose. For the first time on this trip, the 70 year old sport took the chair to finish the job. And he finished the job.
After getting the bimini within reach of the rod tip a couple of times, she made another bounding run, tearing giant holes in the water and throwing white foam and spray 10 feet in the air just like she did on her first run. When things settled down, Ken just bumped up the drag to make sure that she knew he was still there and he beat her down.
I say the story has ended. I’ve tallied the totals. For 2 days and a morning at “The FADs” , we raised 25 blue marlin, getting bites out of 18 of them and catching 9. Throw on top of that a dozen sails. Right now we just picked them up and are running towards Los Suenos, we’ve still got several hours of trolling and about 100 miles to cover . Who knows what King James might run into along the way.