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Season 4 Episode 13

Season 4 Episode 13 Fishus Maximus (the Fish that almost spooled me)

After a slightly awkward start, it was another spectacular day fishing inshore around the Osa Gulf with our neighbor Steve Griffin and the New #1 fishing Captain in Puerto Jimenez Captain Cory (with respect to number one, Cory has once again regained the top ranking after his outstanding day yesterday).   

By awkward, here is how the beginning of our day went.   First, on the way to the pier, we were stopped by the “Blue Cops” to inspect my driving paperwork (which of course was in perfect order). Whereas I thought this would be the only inconvenience we would experience, it was nothing compared to what happened next.   

After unpacking our gear from the truck and staging at the pier for Cory to board us on to Hepcat (his boat), I routinely jumped onto the boat and stored all my camera equipment and was in the process of turning around to assist Steve as he boarded the bow of the boat (Steve recently had his hip replaced and has had some physical/rehab challenges).   

The next thing I know… I’m being hit from behind by Lawrence Taylor (or so it seemed).   Apparently, Steve managed to lose his balance on his first step and managed to fall Head first off the top of the pier onto the deck of Cory’s boat. Fortunately for Steve he landed with all his weight on something soft (aka ME).   

I was slammed to the deck of the boat and as I was lying in a heap, I reflected on what Patrick Mahomes must have felt like last weekend as he sustained a concussion and was having trouble focusing.   As I lay on the deck, I took inventory for a minute with all the vital body parts. Recently herniated L-4 and L-5 discs (check), Recently replaced left hip (check), Damaged and overused right hip that needs to be replaced soon (check), reconstructed right rotator cuff (check), partially torn left rotator cuff (check), totally reconstructed right knee (check), head and my second favorite organ – the brain (whoopsie). I dinged my head on the deck and was wondering what the NFL clearance protocol was going to be in order to return to fishing action.   

The good news was that the peer pressure created by the 20 locals (whom I’ve never seen before – all wearing masks) staring down on me (as they were patiently waiting to board the shuttle to Golfito) to see if I was going to get up off the canvass was the smelling salt that I needed to get up before the count of 10 by the referee.   

The result: Steve sustained some bruises cuts/abrasions on his knees and I had a deep contusion on my upper right thigh and lump on the back of my head. As I like to say… “Well, you can’t fall off the floor.” So the rest of the day had nowhere to go but up and it really did.   

After just 10 minutes into procuring live bait in the bay, Cory cast a live sardine off the back of the boat and in about a minute it was consumed by something really big. Steve grabbed the rod and the fight was on. What eventually came in was Steve’s first Rooster fish ever and a real trophy in the 50-pound class. PS: Don’t worry, the blood on Steve’s knee isn’t from the Roosterfish.       

We then went to Tamales bay to hunt for some snook and Tarpon in the shallow water near the river outlet. Over the course of an hour we experienced nonstop action as we landed about 10 barracuda, maybe 8 Jacks, a small snook and a pacific mackerel. Mostly on midsized artificial lures (Rapalla’s) as we cast over large bait balls that were being consumed by a variety of fish.   

As I was standing on the top of the bow, on one cast, a 100+ pound tarpon came screaming up off the bottom not 5 Ft from the boat and hit my Rapalla but somehow didn’t get hooked. Tarpon are actually an Atlantic species of Gamefish that managed to recently migrate to the Pacific Ocean through the Panama Canal. Therefore, technically - they are an invasive species. To us, they are one of the best game fish to test you angling skills. There were maybe 20 Tarpon rolling throughout the bay and whereas we’ve yet to land one, we have hooked one so it’s just a matter of time before we see one along-side of Cory’s boat. 

Photo is DroneBoy shot of Tamales bay.     

In case you haven’t noticed… There are no other boats around us when we are fishing, that’s because there are virtually no other anglers.   We then hit a few of our favorite reef/rock spots on our way to the “table top” section of the gulf. All total, we landed 11 different species of fish, including 6 Yellowfin Tuna in the 8 to 15-pound range (the ideal size to play on light tackle and the ideal size to consume).         

After missing some monster Goliath Grouper and Cubera Snapper at the “school-bus” hole, we decided to hit my favorite fishing spot in the Gulf (the beach along the Iguana Lodge).  We’ve caught great Roosterfish there at sunset on virtually every outing with Cory.   

All day long, I was telling Cory and Steve that I was going to land a 60-pound class Roosterfish at the end of the day. 

Obviously, they thought that I actually did sustain a concussion during our boarding call incident, and I suspect they just placated me all day to make me feel better.   Sure enough, after about 20 minutes, we hooked up on a live Moonfish that we hooked on for bait (the Roosterfish’s favorite food). BUT… Just as the fish was nearing the boat, it somehow came undone and swam off while flipping us the middle dorsal fin.  

That fish was probably in the 30 pound class and as the clock was ticking down towards the 2 minute warning, I’m sure that Cory and Steve were thinking that we lost our final opportunity. With one more Moonfish to put out, it wasn’t long before something really big hit it. What happened next was EPIC.   You can always tell when you’ve hooked a really big Roosterfish on the line because the Mass just doesn’t move when you apply pressure.  It just sits there, initially – I suspect not realizing that it’s hooked.  Then, when it does... HOLD ON for a screaming run. 

For this fish, 100 yards of line was gone in an instant and I yelled to Cory, this fish is going to spool me if we don’t chase it down NOW. Cory jumped to the helm and I ran to the bow of the boat and we were off - chasing after the fish just as the line on my reel was getting precariously thin.   

Another challenge immediately presented itself with a Kayak fisherman (maybe 100+ yards away) that was in the direct path of the running fish.  Fortunately, the fish sprinted under his Kayak and emerged maybe 50 yards beyond without snagging any of his gear.   We finally managed to catch up to the fish which allowed me to gain valuable line on the reel (now it was maybe 75 yards from the boat), when he started performing short sprints, deep dives and violent head shakes.   

When you fight a really big fish on light tackle, you need to develop the skill and feel to do what I call “feathering the fish.” In essence, you are oscillating with the fish as it swims by moving the rod forward and backwards with absolute consistent pressure on the fish as you attempt to regain line on your reel. This means that you are tiring the fish with constant pressure without allowing it to pull line off the reel (minimizing the drag friction created by the reel and using the flex in the graphite rod as much as possible).   

You eventually get into a rhythm with the fish as it swims, oscillates, sprints and does side to side head shakes and if done properly, you ultimately land more big fish without breaking your line, pulling the hook or having an equipment malfunction (drag system locking up). 

Steve noticed that I was doing this and asked me to explain my technique. I told him that my “Babe Ruth” call for the 60-pounder was on the line and I didn’t want to lose the fish at the last minute. Therefore, I was trying to tire it out completely versus having it come to the boat GREEN - still full of piss and vinegar.   

As you’re about to land a really big fish, the most unnerving element of the fight is when the fish makes several last-ditch desperation runs as it initially sees the boat. When this happens, you can no longer “feather” the fish using the rod and you are at the mercy of the drag system integrity on your reel. At this point, your heart rate jumps big time – with every sprint, dive and head shake.   

Cory managed to position the boat perfectly throughout the battle and after maybe 30 minutes, we were ready to land this monster.  As I brought the fish near the back of the boat for maybe the third time, Cory managed to grab it’s tail.  I said… You got it? He replied… NOT YET.  Whereas he had a hold of the tail, lifting this beast into the boat safely was another matter. Cory finally managed to lift the fish over the gunnel and as we admired it in the stern of the boat, I knew we had our 60-pound class fish.     

The fish was so big and thick that I couldn’t safely hold it and Cory had to place it on my lap to get photos in the perfect low light of sunset. The comb on it’s dorsal fins must have been over 2 ft in length. 

As you can see in the photo, this fish was completely unmarked and really-really special with it’s contrasting stripes and Rooster-like Dorsal. This is my 3rd 60 pound class Roosterfish here on the Osa and one that I will always remember because of the battle, the perfect evening setting after an amazing day with Steve and the light gear it was caught on.   

More to follow as Katie and I go out with Captain Cory once again tomorrow.  Off-shore in the AM hunting Sailfish, Marlin and Mahi.  Inshore at the end of the day to get Katie another PR Roosterzilla.   

Plan your trips.   T.O.

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