This past month I spent some time in the Bahamas, but the highlight of our Bahamian adventure was visiting a small Island that Christopher Columbus landed on when he claimed he found the New World. For those of you who don’t remember your earlier education, it was San Salvador. This small island, which is surrounded by very deep water, is a feeding area for the Blue marlins’ major migration through May, June and July. These fish travel enormous distances as the tagging program has shown, but little is known of a migration pattern. But what we do know about these fish is that they will travel up the Atlantic seaboard of the United States and across the Atlantic to Portugal, Spain, and West Africa. The tagging program has also shown that they travel from The Gulf of Mexico to the Bahamas, but with the lack of data there seems to be no set pattern, except that at certain times of the year they will show up in different locations in great numbers.
On our way from Harbor Island to San Salvador, we caught a large white marlin around 80 pounds. Not shabby for only fishing for an hour and a half on one of the pinnacles on our way down to San Salvador. Once we got to San Sal (as it is known to us fisherman), we got ready for some of the best blue marlin fishing we had ever seen. To actually get shots at blue marlin every day means that there has to be lots of them around. I also figured out that even when it’s slow the fishing is still good here and to improve your chances they do seem to prefer bait over lures some days. The bait we used was horse ballyhoo and mullet rigged to swim. The ballyhoo we rigged, were some swimmers and some with little chuggers in front of them to help keep them in the water and producing smoke, it seems that the smoky baits draw attention and usually are the one who get hit most often.
On the first day we trolled artificials around most of the day with no bites. It was a little disheartening, but at the buzzer we got a strike on the short bait right behind the squid teaser. Line was peeling off the reel at an incredible rate. By the time everyone got all the other baits and teasers in, the fish had nearly taken 300 yards of line. The fish had never jumped so we still weren’t sure if it was a marlin or not. With my buddy Andy Payne in the chair, it wasn’t long before we started to gain back some of the line that was taken so fast. About half of the line that was taken was back on the reel when the fish decided to go on its second run peeling off all the line we gained back plus some. After a half hour of a fight every fisherman dreams of, we finally got first sight of the fish and it was a marlin. With the owner of the boat at the helm, I was leader man. I was able to muscle the fish to the boat with no wraps. The fish was tired and I decided to get a quick photo of him in the boat. I lifted him into the boat and Andy and I got a great photo before reviving him and setting him free to fight another day. We estimated him over 200 pounds. It was getting close to cocktail hour so we headed for the harbor for some victory drinks.
The next day we headed out around 8:00 in the morning to the north end of the island and we trolled plastics again all morning with no bites. I suggested we ought to switch over to bait and slow the boat down a bit and it wasn’t ten minutes before we were hooked up to a nice fish around 300 pounds. It jumped all around for the first ten minutes; he was a true superstar of a fish. This time the angler was the owner’s father Tom at the age of 85 years old. What a trooper! He fought this fish for over a half hour before it a shark ate it, but in the Bahamas there are no shortages of large sharks.
We set back up and in about fifteen minutes we had our second fish on for the day. This one was bit smaller than the last but another superstar, jumping and thrashing back and forth, just absolutely mad as hell. This fish was very grumpy, but Tom handled it very well for an old timer such as himself. This was one of the things he said that was on his bucket list, catch a blue marlin. Well after a long forty five minutes Tom got to check that one from the list…we had released his first blue marlin that was estimated around 250 pounds.
Later that afternoon, we had a third chance to catch another blue marlin. I was driving the boat when I looked back at the right short bait and it was being beaten up by a huge marlin I estimated it to be 500-600 pounds. It finally slammed the bait and we were hooked up. It was smoking our biggest reel, an 80 Penn International. This fish didn’t jump all that much but he had that reel almost dumped by the time the guys got all the baits and teasers cleared. I was in full reverse water coming over the gunwales and spray covering the pit. After driving backwards for fifteen minutes we were able to get some line back on the reel. I was doing all I could do to keep what line was left on the reel. The fish sounded and I was able to get a lot of line back but still the fish was 150 yards out, or might I say down. I don’t know really how far down he went but we were fighting the good fight when the line just went limp. We thought that this one had got eaten too, but after reeling the line in all the way we noticed that he had just came unglued. That happens; it just sucks when it does.
The following day we decided to go tuna fishing and we trolled for a half day and caught 10 tunas up to 40 pounds. Half blackfin tuna and half yellowfin tuna, we did well for just a half day of fishing on the hump to the north of the island. The very next day we went marlin fishing and caught two nice sized ones off of the north tip of Rum Cay which is about 16 miles to the south west of San Salvador. This area is called Jurassic Park for the sheer size of the fish taken there.
Another day of tuna fishing and a few more days of marlin fishing and our trip was over, but it will be one I will remember for a long time. We ended up catching 5 blue marlins, one white marlin, numerous large dolphin up to 50 pounds and plenty of tuna and weighing in at 50 pounds. Everyone caught one marlin and Andy caught three two blues and a white. We ate fresh sashimi on the dock most nights with seaweed salad which we brought with us. Grilled tuna and dolphin and silk snappers were our proteins most nights, but the steaks we brought weren’t bad either.
If you ever get the chance to fish the Bahamas I recommend the San Salvador and don’t forget to ask for Kim’s bread and cheese cake when you go it is unforgettable like the fishing.