"You're wasting your time fishing in Puerto Vallarta," Jack told me. "I've fished there before and all we got were some small bottom fish. We even tried a couple of different boats with the same result. If you really want to catch some big fish you have to go to Cabo San Lucas". Jack was a good friend of mine who I had fished with many times in northern Saskatchewan. Maybe he was right, but I had fished in Cabo 3 years ago with no luck except for one Dorado over 3 days. I had also fished in Hawaii, out of Oahu and Maui with no luck. This was going to be my last shot at deep sea fishing, I wasn't going to waste any more money on day long boat rides.
My uncle had been going to PV for the last 22 years and bought a couple of condos 8 years ago, so when he told me I could use them anytime, I started thinking about fishing. Deep-sea fishing. I have fished for a lot of different species in Canada, from huge Chinook salmon in B.C. to monster Pike in northern Saskatchewan. I would do some research on the web and give myself the best chance I could at finally catching something really BIG.
The Internet has lots of sites to find information on fishing in PV. The problem was that they all sound great, one even offering a refund if you don't catch fish. There are so many boats to choose from and how do I know if the pictures accurately portray what I'm getting? Saskatchewan is a long way from PV and having never been there I was skeptical about a lot of the information on some of the sites. Should I look for a big boat? Surely big boats mean big fish, right? Big boats can be pretty expensive though and being by myself that would mean fewer fishing days. If I went with a smaller boat, that would mean more fishing days, at half the price of some of the larger ones, but could a smaller boat handle or even go after big fish?
The answer came from the Phil In PV web site. It was through Phil's web site I was reminded of one of the most important things you can get when fishing far from home. LOCAL KNOWLEDGE. Most of the fishing camps I had gone to in the past had been recommended by people who had been there before. When we went to a camp in Manitoba early this year, the lakes in northern Saskatchewan had a very late thaw and we had to make alternate arrangements, we went on what the brochures said and the pictures they contained. We ended up cutting a four-day trip in half because of the horrible condition of this rather expensive fly-in camp.
Local knowledge is important but only as good as the source. What started out as a few email graduated to phone calls as I soon realized that this guy knew what he was talking about. Phil talked me through the whole process. He and his lovely wife Deb, turned my apprehension into confidence as he explained that there are about 300 boats available for charter in PV but they are not all created equal. To catch big fish in PV you have to travel outside the bay to El Banco or La Corbeteña. A lot of the boats want to stay in the bay so they don't have to burn fuel. A lot of other boats will go out there but they can take up to twice as long to get there compared to the boats Phil charters. You have to get a boat that can get you to where the fish are and still have time to fish for them.
The next most important thing is to get a GOOD CAPTAIN AND CREW. On this trip I fished on the Discovery, big boat, and the super panga Esperanza, a smaller boat. The captain and crews on these boats were terrific. These guys LOVE to catch fish. Especially the Esperanza with Captain Danny who was joined by Captain Kurt, the boat owner, on the last day. These guys got as excited as I did when I hooked my first Sailfish. We spent the morning hunting, yes HUNTING fish. Therein lies the difference. No matter what you catch on a particular day, you feel a lot better handing over your hard earned money to a captain that has done everything to try to put you on fish.
We were trolling around Corbeteña when I realized that of all the boats we had seen leaving the marina, only about 10 or 15 were around the area. A couple had gone to the Banco but I knew most of them had not come out this far. It was then that Wacho, the first mate yelled, and in an instant Danny was on the rod. He set the hook and handed me my chance at my first billfish! Now a prairie boy like me is not used to fighting a fish like this but the clear instructions and excellent boat handling from Danny helped me live out a dream. With Phil at the helm, Danny and Wacho pulled in an 8-½ foot Pacific sailfish! I was almost speechless as Danny and I sat on the stern holding this beautiful iridescent fish sparkling in the sun. Phil was getting the whole thing on tape, a tape that I will treasure.
Now a sailfish is pretty big, but could you actually handle a Marlin with this boat? My second day on the Esperanza answered that question with a definite YES! In order to have a good chance to get a marlin, you should catch some bait. Not the small bait you get in the marina before you go out but bait you troll or cast for. Lures work as well but the good captains know marlin and big tuna LOVE 2-5 pound skip jacks or yellow fins trolled at a slow speed. In Canada we use down riggers to troll for Lake Trout when they are deep, but I had no idea that you could use them for big game fish like marlin or tuna. In fact I had never even seen them on another boat out here. The Esperanza had one and it was on the downrigger that my marlin hit. When you fish with a 6 rod spread you can imagine the controlled chaos when you hit fish. Man this is as exciting as fishing gets! The captain on the rod with the fish, the first mate frantically reeling in the other lines and me getting the heck out of the way. Well when Danny yelled "It's a marlin! Dennis, get up here!" I was ready, if a little apprehensive. I think it was the first jump that really got to me. It was just like on T.V. Way out there. It was like slow motion as he came out of the water and seemed to hang in mid air. I saw the line with that lazy arc coming from his mouth to the tip of my rod.... When he hit the water on his way back down I snapped out of it and realized that I didn't have much line left on the reel. Danny was way ahead of me. "We're swinging around Dennis, don't worry, we're gonna get him!" Marlin are notorious for throwing hooks if you give them the least bit of slack. It was Danny's calm but firm instructions and Wacho's "Don't worry Dennis, enjoy your fish." that made it the most exciting fishing experience I've ever had. After a 38-minute fight I knew we had him. When Danny and Wacho finally pulled him into the boat I couldn't believe how big he was! We had to keep him because he was gut hooked and would have died if we put him back but as Danny said, "Nothing goes to waste here in PV." I took some marlin for dinner and Phil took a little, but the rest went to Danny and his neighborhood for the New Year celebration. I was happy to see that I wasn't the only one going to enjoy this great fish.
My 350 pound black marlin was huge to me, but just a medium size fish compared to what can be caught during the summer and fall. Although I didn't catch any big tuna, they go up to about 400 pounds and if their little brothers are any indication they must put up an incredible fight. We saw lots of them jumping, sometimes 50 to 100 at a time. It wasn't only the fishing that was spectacular. We saw Humpback whales breaching, huge manta rays flying out of the water and landing on their backs, dolphins and even Killer whales right beside the boat. I fished for 5 days, which is longer than most but every day was exciting.
I have to say that it was Phil who really made my trip a success. He and Debbie are good friends now; you can't help but love these guys. It was pretty much a turnkey vacation for me. Phil can supply everything you need. His sandwiches are legendary. I could tell I was making the right choice with Phil the first morning at the marina when it was tough to get to the boat because it seemed he knew everyone and they all wanted to say hello.
If you are going to PV and want to catch fish, not just take a tour of the bay, I would get in touch with Phil. He can make the difference with his local knowledge, putting you on the right boat with the right crew. If you don't fish he can help you with tours or just information on where to eat. How much do I think of Phil? I'm going back in October with my brother to catch some really BIG fish!
Any questions? I've never endorsed anything before, but I'm so pleased with the job Phil did for me, you can get in touch with me at email@example.com
Dennis Champ's Endorsement
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