Saturday, December 27, 2008
Jan Stephen Maizler
My wife, Shermin, and I have been on a worldwide cruiseship fishing odyssey for the past 8-½ years. We’ve managed to choose at least 37 ports of call where we have been able to fish in salt waters with fly and light casting tackle. Some destinations have provided non-stop action, while others produced more modest results. Yet every port of call has been an adventure of casting into new and beautiful waters.
In the Fall of 2004, I was checking out the Norwegian Cruise line website (www.ncl.com), and found a new “Southern Caribbean” cruise offering considerable fishing opportunities aboard the NCL Spirit. The ports of call on the itinerary were exotic and interesting: Barbados, Grenada, St. Lucia, Antigua, and Tortolla.
I researched all these islands on the Internet, and found possible bay and beach fishing on Grenada and St. Lucia. My research on The Angling Report website provided me with much useful information, and I was glad to see that better inshore angling opportunities seemed to exist in the Tortolla area, and even better possibilities were the case on Antigua!
Using this information as a lead, I refined my search on the island of Antigua (An-TEE-Ga). With a moderate amount of work, I was able to find an inshore guide who focused on snook, tarpon, and bonefish on the island. His name was Captain Phillipe (Phill) Harley and his charter company was PHILL’S ECO FISHING AND ADVENTURES. I emailed him at firstname.lastname@example.org, and after some discussion, I booked a charter with him. In addition, I was impressed with his politeness, as well as his sense of humor.
Our 9-day cruise from Miami through these five islands took place in December 2004. The weather in the Windward and Leeward Islands featured clear china-blue skies, and freshening winds.
As we approached Antigua, we could see an island accentuated by low hills, plenty of coves, and protected bays. As we climbed to the highest deck onboard the Spirit, my wife and I seemed to see some shoals and flats inside a cove. Three other islands on the cruise-Barbados, Grenada, and St. Lucia- proved to have spotty inshore fishing. They were lush and beautiful, but their volcanic drop-off profile made for negligible inshore fishing. We would find out soon enough that Antigua would be different.
The NCL Spirit docked around 7:30 a.m. in St. John’s Harbor, and we disembarked the vessel about an hour later. As we walked down the pier towards downtown, we could see Phill waving towards us. My identity was easily revealed: I was the only cruiseship passenger that looked like a TV antenna, with all those rods! Moments later, we all shook hands. Phill took my rods to assist us in the short walk to his 4-wheel drive SUV parked a few blocks away.
As we walked through the wharf area, I was impressed by the large number of fashionable eateries, boutiques, and other shops. It gave the cruiseship area a crisp, sophisticated, upbeat atmosphere.
Our drive through St. John’s to Jolly Harbor-where Phill kept his boat- again revealed an island that had an atmosphere of prosperity, safety, and cleanliness. I felt this looked like an island that would be an ideal destination for the fishing family, or for the angler with a non-fishing companion.
We arrived at Jolly Harbor and its many canals only fifteen minutes after getting off the NCL Spirit. Phill told me that whenever he used his boat, he employed a captain to run the vessel so he could fully attend to his clients and the actual fishing.
For instance, if he was fishing for sandbar bonefish on the northeast side of the island, his captain would ease the boat up to the shallows and drop off Phill and his clients to wadefish the sandy flats. The captain would then reposition the boat to be waiting for Phill and his anglers at the end of their “wade.” Phill would also use a captain to run the boat for inlet snook, tarpon, and jack fishing, as well as offshore fishing.
We pulled up to his vessel, which was a new 25-foot ProSport powered by twin 140 HP Suzuki 4 strokes. We were introduced to Phill’s usual captain, Gerard “Titou” Gill. We were then informed of the proposed fishing itinerary.
Firstly, we would boat-fish the canals of Jolly Harbor for snook. After that, the four of us would run the boat around the Antiguan coastline and fish the bay sand flats for bonefish. Finally, we would leave Titou and the boat back at Jolly Harbor, and Phil would take us on a land-based trip for snook and tarpon in the inland lakes or salt ponds. I was pleasantly surprised that so may types of angling could be sampled in the 11 hours our ship was in port.
Titou fired the engines up. As we worked our way around the canals, it became obvious the sandy Caribbean, which fed Jolly Harbor, had muddied these inside waters thoroughly. Though we compensated for this by casting Chartreuse plastic -tailed jigs into culverts, docks, and under schools of sprat, the snook were “off the feed.”
It was time to try to find some clear water around the other side of the island. Their vessel performed well and we went north past the port of St. John’s. As we rounded the next corner, it was apparent that the winds, having shifted hard into the northeast, would make a safe passage impossible: we would have to turn back.
With the seas now at our stern, Titou had us back at their berth in short time. He smiled at us and said that Phill would be sure to find us action in the “lakes.”
On this small, delightful island, our drives to another fishing spot were very short: we arrived at the salt pond in only fifteen minutes. It was on the inside of a beach road and was shaped like a three hundred yard long kidney. We got out and hiked alongside and into the lake with tackle, backpacks, and water bottles.
Phill guided us carefully on the mud and sand bottom. With depths that quickly shifted from one to twenty feet of slightly turbid water, it was good to be under his guidance. I found this area to be primeval and full of life under the tropical sun: carpets of hermit crabs would move like a unified wave away from us in anticipation of our footsteps. Further out from the shoreline, I could see schools of minnows making their rain shower sounds.
I heard a splash off to my right, and a twenty-pound tarpon went airborne through a school of minnows. I cast my imitation shad lure into the frothy crater of the strike, but no take! I waded fifty more feet and spooked out a snook of around fifteen pounds. Five minutes later, another tarpon struck into the minnows in front of Phill. He cast immediately, but no strike.
In the two hours that we fished, we saw about thirty separate tarpon striking the bait. The 25 mph winds of the three previous days and a strong rain the previous night cooled the lake to the point where the tarpon and an obvious snook were slow to strike. Yet it was enormously gratifying to watch the fish feeding on such a beautiful island. When my wife and I explore these exciting destinations, it’s for the experience, which means fishing, not catching! We do plan on revisiting this wonderful island during the warmth and calmness of summer.
DATA ON PHILL’S ECO FISHING AND ADVENTURES
*Phill will provide pickups and drop-offs at your cruiseship or resorts on the island that you are staying in.
*Phill has two types of charters.
Land-based for snook and tarpon at $200/ half-day and $400/full-day.
Boat-based charters at $400/half-day and $800/full day for sandbar bonefish, oil rig fishing for tarpon, jack, and snapper, or blue water fishing for mahi-mahi, wahoo, and marlin.
*Unlike certain other guides, Phil gladly accepts beginners, youngsters, and is more than willing to offer sightseeing to compliment the fishing. This will appeal to the fishing family.
*Phill has a policy of releasing all inshore fish, including snook.
*Phil also has a policy of canceling during rougher days when he feels that either the fishing or the angler is stressed or adversely affected.
CONTACT DATA- The best way to book a charter is to set times and dates during the fairer weather from April to October. If you want a boat-based charter, ask if Titou Gill is available for Phill: they are a great team. If Phill is not available, you can speak with his wife, Francine.
PHILL’S ECO FISHING AND ADVENTURES
1-268-764-FISH(3474) cell phone
ADDENDUM OF CRUISESHIP FISHING PORTS OF CALL VISITED:
4.Playa Del Carmen
27.Tortugero, Costa Rica
32.Jost van Dyke
34.Little San Salvador
35.Cabo San Lucas
38. Sturrip Cay
Thursday, December 25, 2008
Jan Stephen Maizler
As a long time boater, angler, and traveler, I’ve concluded that the Bahamas are one of the most “ boating-friendly” of America’s adjacent subtropical neighbors. If you’ve been there before, I’m sure you’d agree and if you have not, you’re in for a splendorous treat. The cruising, fishing, and exploring opportunities are endless in an island nation where the waters are so clear, it seems that your vessel is gliding over air.
The Bimini chain of the Bahamas are closest to Florida. Bimini (technically, it is composed of north and south islands) lies only forty-eight nautical miles east of Miami. For first time U.S. boaters making the crossing to the Bahamas, Bimini is the destination of choice for so many reasons.
Besides a readily-available proximity, this island has a fishery for marlin, bonefish, wahoo and at times, bluefin tuna that has lured angling giants like Ernest Hemingway and Michael Lerner to its deeps and sports heroes such as Jack Nicklaus to its flats. Bimini has developed a colorful history that is unmatched by any other Bahamian island. That’s why veteran boaters as well cross over from the states to stay and fish at Bimini again and again.
For non-angling spouses, family, or friends who come across the Gulf Stream with their skipper, there’s much to do. The snorkeling, diving, grill fish stands, straw market, Ansil Saunder’s boat factory, and Ashley Saunder’s Dolphin House will appeal to many. For the more mythically minded, a dive over the Bimini Roads will reveal what some feel are the remains of Atlantis. Perhaps a trip and dip to the Healing Hole is in order- Ponce de Leon is reputed to have visited this very same spot in the search for the Fountain of Youth.
Clearly, Bimini offers great fun for everyone. Yet one of this island’s most recent happenings is of utmost relevance to U.S. boaters: this is the development of Bimini Bay Resort and Marina (http://www.biminibay.com/). This new ambitious complex offers beautiful housings that can be rented for vacation or purchased, an infinity pool and snack bar, and the gourmet Casa Lyon restaurant. They have completed the building of the first part of two of the largest full-service marinas in the Bahamas. Because of Bimini Bay Resort and Marina, Bimini just got better in the biggest way for traveling boaters.
The Bimini Crossing-
Although forty-eight miles from the U.S.A. to an exotic foreign port seems a short distance, comprehensive planning and boat preparation are essential. In large part this is because you’ll be crossing the mighty Gulf Stream: this mighty river in the Atlantic Ocean has a current that flows at two and a half knots minimum and sports depths of thousands of feet. Depending on weather conditions, the Gulf Stream can range from a flat calm sapphire-colored expanse to a towering sea of white and sapphire rolling and breaking with fifteen-feet high waves.
The general guidelines and goals you’ll want to accomplish includes everything from float plans, flotilla organizing, boat and engine checks and preparation, accessory (redundancy) acquisitions like prop hubs and spark plugs, full safety equipment status, and of course, a solid “weather window” check.
It’s easy to file a float plan with the proper parties- then, the day of your departure and estimated arrival is not a mystery or event known only to yourself. Given the proper time and affiliations, it’s also relatively easy to contact other boaters to carve out the time for a Bimini trip and cross over in their own vessel. Creating a flotilla enriches the maxim that there is not only strength - but also safety as well in numbers.
You’ll want to carefully and thoroughly go over every working part of your vessel and its’ propulsion system. Use your “crisis management” imagination and think about any part that might fail: buy an exact replacement for your crossing when it is practical and realistic to do so. Using the concept of redundancy to govern your spare parts choices creates a thorough back-up capacity for you in case failure strikes while you’re on the high seas and far from port. For instance, bilge pump integrity is essential as well as the intact fully charged battery that powers it.
As an experienced boater, you’ve checked and obtained the required safety equipment you are to have onboard your vessel. Amongst those items are life jackets and fire extinguisher(s) that should be checked and in good “fresh” working order. Make sure you have lots of and only SOLAS (Safety of Life at Sea) flares. For better peace of mind, spend the money on a fully equipped inflatable life raft and emergency kit. You’ll also want to complete this category of safety equipment with a high quality EPIRB.
Life in an age of technology has simplified navigation for big water boaters. Take advantage of this and be sure to acquire a GPS/Chartplotter with a worldwide basemap as part of your navigation electronics. For safety sake, back your unit up with a hand-held GPS. Since you won’t want the electronic revolution to deprive you of needed seamanship skills, you should have the implements and training to dead reckon across the Gulf Stream: this traditional methodology transcends electronics. These skills include coordinating your course with compass heading and the speed of the Gulf Stream’s current. Obviously, a go-fast center console fishing boat will have lesser adjustments than a sailboat.
Your communication electronics should include a good waterproof mounted VHF radio with a high antenna. It would be better yet if you purchased and installed an SSB radio. You’ll attain the fullest peace of mind in your communications arsenal by adding a handheld VHF radio as well as a satellite telephone, the latter of which can be rented. Be sure to get waterproof casings for your handheld items.
Watching the Weather-
Generally speaking, summertime is the calmest time of the year for you to make the crossing over to Bimini and the Bahamas. The one caveat is to anticipate and “scan” for the development of the sometimes fiercely potent afternoon thunderstorms that build up over the Florida mainland and proceed seaward.
Since the Gulf Stream flows northward along the Miami to Bimini route, any day with substantial winds out of any northerly quadrant should be ruled out as a “crossing day.” These conditions often involve the cold fronts of fall, winter, and spring that can heap up offshore seas to heights that are dangerously high. During South Florida’s “season”, be sure to pick a “weather window” when the seas are either quite calm or feature light winds out of a southerly or southeasterly direction.
If your arrival is during the daylight hours, you’ll get the first hint of real-time landfall by the presence of boats trolling offshore of Bimini. If it’s dark, be on the lookout for the tower with red lights. Even though your GPS is there to hold your hand and confirm your position, learn to use your eyes to tweak out and experience the images that verify your arrival: it’s been done since time immemorial and it’s more fun.
Ease through the Bimini Inlet and proceed to clear Bahamian Customs and Immigration. Since you’ve done your homework and arranged dockage, cruise over, tie off, and snuggle up to some welcome land. In your planning, it’s the safest bet to make your arrangements with Bimini Bay Resort and Marina- because of its huge size and unmatched services and amenities, this is the preeminent place for you and your vessel.
All that done, put on more sunblock and throw on a swimsuit…or perhaps it’s fishing clothes for the flats or bluewater…or maybe shorts and a sport shirt for a walk around Alice Town. Have a cool tropical drink and get into the island groove: no worries, mon!
You arrived safely and successfully. Enjoy yourself now- you’ve earned it!
Friday, December 19, 2008
Though this process will take a bit of time to be up and running, you can be sure that you'll be treated to some of the finest flats, light tackle, and inshore stories from top- flight fresh and salt water destinations all over the globe.
Sunday, December 14, 2008
Friday, December 12, 2008
The fish were there alright, but the thrill was not quite the same, barring the capture of another king mackerel around 10 pounds for the table.
Much in the same way that any sequel of a "perfect" film like _Poltergeist_ is doomed to a second act failure OR even like the possible degradation of an image or story with each respective transmission of the item by faxing it or telling it, so my morning went: good, but not quite the same.
Adding to this strange feeling was the sunrise birthing a batch of large and very large rolling-yet unresponsive- tarpon.
Time, it seems to me, to head for the chancy chilly waters of the bonefish flats the next time.
Friday, December 05, 2008
I began the day in a VERY back bay with lots of shelter and sunshine reflective and retaining wealth, but no soap! One lone tarpon did a quick roll in what turned out to be a solo act as the sun rose in a clear cold sky caressed by a 10 m.p.h. northerly breeze. Two more spots...and the same squat.
As I motored into a wider bay, I spotted a wad of diving gulls at 10 o'clock and 100 yards. Though I was sure this did not mean tarpon, I headed for the melee and positioned myself upwind as I cut the engine.
I pulled my ever-present 10-pound plug rod out of the holder and cast my white Spro bucktail (my ever-present plug rod lure) into the bustups. The hookup was achieved on the second rod sweep and a minute later, I was releasing a 4-pound jack. This scene repeated itself again and again, until, blessedly, the jacks sounded.
I started motoring along the area doing triangulated sweeps with one eye on my depth recorder.
A minute later, the black mass on the screen turned out to be the same school of fish as I deep jigged a strike and hookup along with about 50 companions.
I began to tire of this pretty quickly but what sealed the deal was some new lighter markings higher in the water column. This time I let out half the line on my drop and jigged quickly. Another hookup soon revealed a 3 -pound Spanish mackerel, which I released. As I fished to these markings, the strikes became non-stop and closer to the surface. Mackerel were mixed with small kingfish. My best moment in this next round of mayhem was a strike highlighted by a 100-yard run: wishes were granted as my hunch was confirmed with a boatside netting and taking of a kingfish over ten pounds...a real nice deal on a little plug rod.
I simply started catching fish after fish and releasing them until I lost count. I went through 14 bucktails, yet my 40-pound mono leader did the job pretty well. The tap on my shoulder from my more evolved self came in the form of a queasy kind of over-fishing bloat that told me this was quite more than enough. So I left the action with an all-too-sated kind of triumph that treaded water in a tub of far too many milkshakes.
I'm feeling more balanced now, but every time I close my eyes to attempt a descent into sleep, the "drop" is filled with whirling images of gulls, jacks, and mackerel; although I hardly expect my house to drop on the wicked witch upon landing: another time, another place!
Saturday, November 29, 2008
Thursday, November 27, 2008
Images and Contact Data-
Giselle Kaplan, Manager
Río Hermoso Hotel de Montaña
Ruta 63, km 67,Pje.
Río Hermoso,Parque Nacional Lanin
Phone: 54 2972 410 485
Web site- www.riohermoso.com
El Boliche Viejo
Puente Limay, Patagonia
Web site- www.interpatagonia.com.ar-elbolicheviejo
Pablo- Tour by Taxi Specialist- San Martin de los Andes
Back from Rio Hermoso/Patagonia- Day 4- Trophy Brown Trout Eats My "Breakfast of Champions" Streamer.....
Río Hermoso Hotel de Montaña
Ruta 63, km 67,Pje.
Río Hermoso,Parque Nacional Lanin
Phone: 54 2972 410 485
Web site- www.riohermoso.com
Buchanan Fly Fishing Services
San Martin de los Andes
Tel- 0054 2972 424767
Wednesday, November 26, 2008
Back From Rio Hermoso/Patagonia-Day 3-A Canoe Adventure with Thibaut Rogier of Andestrack on Lakes Machonico and Pichi Machonico...
Giselle Kaplan, Manager
Buchanan Fly Fishing Services