Last week part of my family made the long flight to Nicaragua in Central America for my daughter’s wedding.
Of course I couldn’t bear the thought of not trying a little fishing, since we had a whole week to see and tour the country. After all, it’s not every day I get out of the country and have the opportunity to try something different. Variety is the spice of life, right? Some would say fishing is fishing, that there is no difference (and I get to fish all summer long) but I disagree… the boat is different, the scenery, the weather and of course the fish.
My Nicaraguan son-in-law-to-be set up our fishing trip, and since he doesn’t speak much English, I had no idea what, or how we were going to fish. Were we going to use fly rods or cast with bait casters or spinning rods, or were we going to anchor or drift and jig for some unknown ocean fish? (I think for the next trip, I’ll learn some Spanish fishing words to make it a little easier.)
We arose at 4:30 am on the morning of the fishing outing and paid $5 ($140 Cordoba with a 28 to 1 exchange rate) for 3 cups of instant coffee, which surprised me that in a country where they grow coffee beans, it’s hard to find a good cup of coffee (but that’s another story).
We were to be picked up at 5 am, but waited until 5:40 (Not surprising because Central America has no concept of time – yet another story) before our fishing adventure began.
The hour long drive was rather interesting going up a mountain pass, within several miles of an erupting volcano and by sugarcane fields, then down a several mile long “rock” road (you couldn’t call it gravel) to the ocean where we met the owner of the fishing charter and our captain. A dozen cattle blocked our way at one point and we had to stop and wait for the cowboy on horseback to herd them around our van.
The tide was in as we pushed off in a 22 foot skiff with 2 of my daughters, a son-in-law and another friend, powered by a single 60 hp Yamaha outboard – no back-up power or kicker motor. The water was really clean and clear, so I noticed the entire bottom of the mooring area was covered with white sand bags. “How come?” I wondered.
We still didn’t know what style of fishing we’d do, but all of us were enjoying the adventure; the different types of trees, the waterfowl, the mountains and the ocean’s shoreline were all new to our Keweenaw Peninsula eyes.
Our guide motored the skiff through a small passage into the great Pacific, where the swells were 6 to 8 feet high, but spaced far apart so they didn’t seem very big. He slowed, comparable to a brisk walking speed and, in silence, set up lines for trolling as we all watched. I wondered to myself “how deep is it here and how deep are the fish?” he had no depth finder or any electronics, just the boat, one motor, the rods and a small tackle box. I tried to see where his landing net was, but couldn’t see one anywhere. This boat has no compartments or places where a net could be hiding, so I wondered how will we land a larger fish if we hook one?
Soon I was shouting “fish on” as Evelyn hooked up with an unknown “something.” “Charlie Brown” (seemed appropriate) our captain/guide did nothing to help out, since words of different languages didn’t help for either side. I coached her as best I could… the fish was peeling out drag, so I reached out to tighten it as it seemed too loose for this aggressive fish. “Keep your rod-tip up and don’t give him any slack line,” I told her as she started to gain on it. Soon he was near the boat at the surface, but he took off to the side, nearly crossing lines of two of us. I noticed Charlie Brown holding a gaff hook. “Oh, so I see how he will land the fish,” I thought. Now, right at the edge of the boat, a quick and experienced swipe with the gaff, the 29 inch Mackerel (we found out later) was in the boat. He dropped the fish in the boat, near his bare feet and proceeded to re-set the line for my daughter. Of course we wanted to get a picture of the fish, so after a few words and gestures, we were able to get the point across to him and we snapped a few for memories to bring home.
Mr. Mackerel spent the rest of the morning baking in the sun by Charlie’s feet – there was no cooler or ice on his boat.
After this excitement, our anticipation mounted and we all got to feel the tug of a fish, but ended up with only one. After fishing, my hope was to dive in the ocean from the boat to experience a refreshing swim after baking in the sun, so with the little Spanish that Evelyn knew she was able to ask permission and get an OK with a smile from Charlie. I didn’t see any sharks and took 2 dives before heading back in.
When we arrived at the mooring site, things looked a lot different than before. All of the other unused boats (I call them “sad boats”) were sitting high and dry on the sand bags. Well, that answered my question about the sand bags on the bottom – they didn’t want their boats to sit on the rocky bottom each time the tide went out.
The next day, we enjoyed eating Mr. Mackerel after our hosts fried him on an open fire in their outdoor kitchen.
That’s the end of our fishing adventure, but there was much more to the Central America experience – the crazy variety of traffic, the beautiful ocean, mountains, monkey island, zip-lining, the different foods, outdoor markets, statue of Jesus high atop a cliff overlooking the small town of Rivas, the un-usual wedding in Spanish, the open air houses, the primitive kitchens, street performers… the list goes on. It will be fun to go back again to experience more.