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Guatemala: Casa Vieja Fishing Lodge (report)

jcanracerjcanracer Posts: 4,344 Moderator
I recently returned from the fishing trip of a lifetime and wanted to share the details with my fellow forum members. But first a disclaimer: I am not affiliated with, or compensated by, any brands/vessels/accommodations mentioned herein. Also forgive the lack of pictures; I was more focused on GoPro footage, which I’ll be editing later this week.

If you know me on this forum, you know I fish out of a kayak here in South FL 99% of the time. This time however, I was invited by my father to stay at the Casa Vieja Lodge in Puerto San Jose, Guatemala, to go fishing offshore in the Pacific Ocean. Target species: Sailfish & Marlin.

Day 1
With a belly full of local rum from the welcome dinner the night before, I stumbled onto the van to the harbor with the rest of our 9-person group. Dad, Uncle and I took the Rum Line: a 40-foot Gamefisherman boat, which welcomed us with well-maintained teak and plenty of bait, beer, & gear. We headed offshore at a comfortable 24 knots. First stop 12 miles out is a bust, so we press on to a full 40 miles out and deploy the spread.
The spread is typical of big-boat bill fishing; a pair of baited long-lines, a pair of mid-position teasers, and a pair of short-line teasers. Pitch baits stand ready for action: ballyhoo with a circle hook bridled to the head. Most of the reels in the fleet are Shimano Tyrnos 20 2-speeds, but each boat, as we were about to learn, also carries something a bit bigger...
A dark fin makes its way into the spread, we throw out a ballyhoo but then the captain shouts “Marlin Marlin Marlin!” and the chaos begins. We bring in the ballyhoo as the mate tosses out a similarly rigged mackerel on a stouter rod with a large Avet (50-size maybe?) and hands it to my dad. The hook is set, the fight is on! As Dad begins reeling in enthusiastically, the captain begins backing the boat up to give him assistance. I put on Dad’s fighting belt for him, but the mates start to get nervous and offer him a harness. There will be no fighting chair for Dad, he’s already in beast mode, and only pauses to laugh when the marlin makes a run. Within short order he has the wind-on leader at the rod tip and now we can see that it is a beautiful Blue Marlin. The marlin is tagged and the leader is cut so that the fish will live to fight another day. Remarkably the fight only lasted 6 minutes, even though the captain estimated the marlin to be around 250lbs.
Over the next 6 hours we each got one Sailfish and the pattern was similar: toss bait, hook-set, boat backs up, fish tagged, fish released. None of the fights lasted more than 10 minutes and none of the fish were taken out of the water. To be honest, the speed with which the fish were caught and released (and therefore lack of camera time) seemed anti-climactic until I was told that they were used to doing things rapidly so as to increase the number of billfish they could catch per day. Shorter fight times and refraining from lifting the fish out of water also improves their survival rate. Still we were stoked to be flying an upside down marlin flag on our trip back to port!
We head back to the lodge, thrilled but exhausted, even Dad’s snoring couldn’t keep me awake…

Day 2
Switching boats was a gentleman’s agreement with our group, so today we went aboard El Cadejo; a new 35ft ST Contender with twin 300hp outboards. ****, those engines (Yamaha 4-strokes) are quiet and powerful! Much nicer than Dad’s Evinrude E-tecs (sorry Pops!). Uncle stayed on the big boat this time, leaving just Dad and I to fish together.
Weather had improved overnight and we were soon at the first spot (12 miles out) again. No pitching baits today: we are trolling 4 baits with lever drags barely engaged, plus 3 teaser lines. I got the first strike, but it soon became a flurry of activity as we both hooked up with Sails. Teasers brought in, Dad and I shuffle around to avoid tangling lines. He lands his and I’m 2 minutes behind. No tagging today on the “small” boat, and the releases are just as swift as the previous day. I have no way to film the double headers as we lack an extra angler to hold the camera lol.
We hear a few reports over the radio and the captain decides to make a run to deeper water. When we got there, we got a short bite almost immediately (must have been a schoolie mahi mahi). I lose a sail to a spit hook (I guess I didn’t set it right?). We land our second double-header for the day! We then take turns catching and missing a few. Honestly, we left them biting but we had to return to port and even with 600hp that takes a while when you’re 50 miles out. When it was all said and done, we had landed 8 out of 15 sailfish that day, much better than the previous day.

Day 3
Uncle joined Dad and I aboard El Cadejo’s Contender twin, Pez Raton, and with the best weather of the trip we blasted out to sea at 30knots. Uncle is up first today, but looks like he missed the hook set and the first sail of the day is gone. Dad is next and he’s yelling for a fighting belt. I rush forward with my gopro in my teeth as I put on his belt for him just in time to see the second sail! I toss the camera in my uncle’s direction and grab the rod: its double-header time! We both land our fish and we’re feeling pretty good about this day.
Dad and Uncle get a double header next and we take turns with the next few singles. Dad learns the frustration of gopro filming: you know when you smile at the awesome footage you should have, only to realize the battery had died? Yeah I’ve been there lol. Good thing I brought a spare battery.
By 2pm we’ve got 11 sailfish releases and a good buzz going on. Perhaps a bit belligerent at this point, we start asking the Poseidon for a triple-header. 20 minutes later he meets us half way and we have a double header again! Dad and I are used to this dance now: pump & wind, boat goes into reverse, we pass over and under each other’s’ lines, wind to leader and step back for mate to cut the line. Of the 18 bites, we managed to release 13 sailfish on this day. What a way to spend our last fishing day!

Closing thoughts
- I am humbled by the skill and efficiency of the captains and mates on these charters!
- I never knew bill fishing was such a visual sport, I will never again go kayak fishing offshore when there is a sailfish tournament, I may legitimately get run over because all eyes are trained on baits and teasers.
- Guatemalan Rum and Coffee are excellent, easily on par with my homeland's offerings (Jamaica).
- I would recommend this fishing lodge and experience to anyone who is interested in fishing-tourism, truly 5-star worthy.

Cheers,
Chris
Hobie Kayak angler for life!

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