Written by: Travis Baker
This past February found me boarding a flight to Houston, escaping the cold northerly winds of western Nebraska en route to the “Sailfishing Capital of the World.” I was tired of hearing stories of 50 fish days, double and triple hook ups, “hot” sailfish lit up as they literally chase teasers to the back of the boat. It was time to experience it for myself.
As my two hour flight from Houston touched down in Guatemala City, to say I was anxious would be an understatement. As my driver met me at baggage claim, we escaped the congestion of the city and headed south for a 90-minute drive to the small beachfront community of Iztapa. Billfisherman have been fishing these waters for years, but only in the past 10 years or so, has Guatemala earned the enviable reputation as the premier sailfish destination.
After a freshly brewed cup of Guatemalan coffee and a five minute drive to the marina, I was greeted by Captain Chico and two mates. No time wasted. I stepped into the boat, and we were off. One of the highlights (besides the amazing fishing) of the trip is that fish are often found less than 20 miles from port, which means more time fishing, and the waters can be as calm as a lake.
The mates were always busy rigging baits and checking teasers, but I didn’t have to wait long to hear “pez vela, pez vela!” Our first sailfish was hot on the left teaser, and as the mate slowly pulled it away from the fish, a perfectly casted ballyhoo soon replaced the teaser and my first sailfish was on. A short while later, fish number one was safely released. I lost count of how many times we repeated that process, but it was well over 20 before noon. After an unbelievable lunch of freshly caught tuna ceviche and an ice cold Gallo, I got to thinking about all those stories I had heard about the obscene number of sailfish in Guatemalan waters. I realized they were not stories at all. The fishing here continues to amaze me, and I often find myself anxiously waiting for winter to roll around.
Fall is upon us and winter isn’t far behind. Before cabin fever sets in, start planning a warm weather fishing getaway like the one I experienced. Here are five hot destinations you should add to your fishing bucket list.
Belize – This English speaking country in Central America, tucked between Mexico and Guatemala, has always been a hot spot for some of the most diverse flats fishing in the Caribbean. Belize is known as the best place to land a “saltwater grand slam,” a bonefish, tarpon and permit in the same day. The gin clear waters offer perfect sight fishing opportunities for these elusive game fish. Offering convenient access from major cities such as Houston, Dallas, Miami, and Atlanta, Belize is a year round fishery and also a great destination for non-anglers. It has the largest barrier reef in the Western Hemisphere, making it one of the top dive and snorkeling destinations in the world. Accommodations consist of intimate waterfront resorts to the most comfortable fishing lodges. It’s a great destination for anglers and non-anglers alike. Reduced rates are available during the summer and fall months.
Costa Rica – When it comes to combining fishing, adventure, and an assortment of non-fishing activities, Costa Rica is tough to beat. Costa Rica’s pacific coast is an excellent destination to combine a billfishing trip with a multitude of non-fishing and family activities, such as enjoying the beach, surfing, diving, snorkeling, white water rafting, and eco tours. Don’t forget Costa Rica’s Atlantic coast. The remote Caribbean side of the country is still pretty much undeveloped and home to a myriad of freshwater jungle rivers that spill into the Atlantic. This is home to some of the best tarpon fishing in the world. Nothing is quite as thrilling as battling a 100 plus pound silver king!
Guatemala – Known as the “sailfishing capital of the world” Guatemala has produced more records for sailfish landed than any other place on the planet! Another location that is easily accessed from most major cities, Guatemala’s peak billfishing season runs from December – March with very good fishing year round. Reports of landing upwards of 50-60 sails per boat in a day is not uncommon during peak season. Blue and striped marlin are also available. The ocean is relatively calm here, which makes for very enjoyable fishing conditions. The accommodations and lodges offered are very comfortable and located in a safe and friendly environment. Guatemala should be on every saltwater fisherman’s radar.
Argentina – Reminiscent of Wyoming, the Patagonia region of Argentina is a trout fisherman’s paradise.With a peak season of December – April, Argentina is a great excuse to escape the North American winter and cast a fly to rising trout in the South American summer. The fly fishing for rainbow and brown trout here is some of the best anywhere with an assortment of world-class rivers with the Andes Mountains as your back drop. Whether wade fishing a spring creek or floating a picturesque freestone river, Argentina offers everything for the freshwater fishing enthusiast. The accommodations here will rival that of any five-star fishing lodge with delicious meals and fine South American wines. It’s also a great destination to bring the non-fishing companion. A stop in Buenos Aires for some shopping and a tango show is a must.
Mexico – If you’re a bass fisherman, you owe it to yourself to experience the trophy lakes of Mexico. No other area consistently produces more largemouth bass and the biggest largemouth bass than old Mexico. While it’s a year round fishery, the winter months can produce some heart pounding top water action. There’s nothing like the strike of an 8-pound plus largemouth on top water! Initially stocked with Florida-strain bass several decades ago, the fishing here seems to get better each year with many fish in the double digit class recorded each season. Accommodations are fantastic with four-star lakefront lodging and delicious meals served daily. Anglers are met at the dock with an ice cold margarita after a day on the water. Plus, Mexico is a terrific value and makes for an easy 3-4 day fishing getaway. This is the ultimate “bucket list” destination for largemouth bass.
The hardest part about planning one of these fantastic winter fishing getaways should be choosing between them. The rest of the planning can be a breeze with the help of the experts at Worldwide Trophy Adventures (WTA), the preferred booking agent of Cabela’s. WTA’s professional staff can handle all aspects of your trip from initial consultation, detailed pre-trip planning, airline travel, trip cancellation insurance, and much more. Plus, their services are free of charge! It costs you no more to book a trip through them than it does booking direct with the lodge or outfitter. In fact, they will save you time and money.
Learn more at www.worldwidetrophyadventures.com or call 800-346-8747 and leave that cabin fever behind.