(by Robert Deen, LiveOutdoors July 18,2016)
Want to catch a lot of sailfish? Then grab your passport, pack your bags and head for Guatemala, billfish capital of the world.
Guatemala has the most prolific fishery for sailfish in the world, so it’s not uncommon for boats to get 50 hits per day during peak season during the summer. The tropical coastline is home to vast quantities of bait year round, frequenting warm eddies that hold huge pods of sailfish.
The sailfish activity is intense. Guatemala holds many pacific sailfish records, including most per boat in a day on a fly (57), most on conventional tackle in a day (124), and most in a season. This kind of action can be shocking for anglers accustomed to grinding it out all day for a strike or two in over-fished Mexican or U.S. coastal waters.
SAILFISH ON THE FLY
Because of the abundance, Guatemala is the destination of course for fly fishermen, both the experienced and rookies. Since the ratio of hook-ups using a fly is much lower than other fishing techniques, fly fishermen want to have plenty of opportunities. An average day might see 20 sailfish enticed to the stern of the boat.
Prime season runs from November through May, although fishing is excellent year-round. Releases of 40 plus fish in a single day have been recorded in every month of the year. Most anglers prefer the dry season though, when the wind is calm and the air is warm, making for comfortable conditions. Don’t worry too much about weather though. Guatemala’s unofficial motto is “Land of Eternal Spring.”
All sailfishing is catch and release. Circle hooks are required, facilitating catch and release — another reason why the fishing remains so consistently spectacular. A typical trolling set-up consists of running four or five lines, and on most sports fishing boats two of the lines would be run from outriggers as hookless teasers, the others often flat lines.
Circle hooks decrease sailfish mortality by ensuring that most hook-ups are in the ideal bony part of the mouth or scissors of the jaw, facilitating release. But this means anglers need to employ a “drop back” in order to set the hook properly, and need to be in control of the bait as soon as it is taken by the fish – a big change from what most people are used to.
FISHING THE “POCKET”
Fishing occurs anywhere from 2 – 50 miles out from the breakwater, although it is more usual to find fish in what is termed the “pocket” – a deep-water canyon that is 25 miles wide and with drop-offs from 1,000 to 5,000 feet. In the pocket strong east to west currents turn back from the coast of El Salvador, forming a huge natural eddy holding massive quantities of bait that attracts pelagic fish.
Prone to seasickness? No worries. Guatemala boasts some of the world’s most consistently flat seas – often as far out as 50 miles it can be calm and lake-like.
FIND YOURSELF A PACKAGE DEAL
Interested? You’ll want to take a look at various packages offered by sport fishing resorts. Typically one price will be quoted for lodging, food and a number of days on the water. The fishing is good everywhere, what varies is the level of luxury you want and how much money you’re willing to spend.
Most resorts include picking you up at the airport, and will take care of every detail of your stay. While there are exciting side trips that can be arranged (Mayan ruins of Tikal, Antigua, or hiking volcanoes) Guatemala is not a safe place to wander around on your own. Renting a car and heading off into the countryside is not recommended.
If you want to see another country, enjoy a pampered vacation, and catch a lot of sailfish, then Guatemala may be right for you.
Originally published July 18, 2016 in LiveOutdoors.