A Fish Story

It was a beautiful sunny day with light breezes as we sailed from Golfito to Drakes Bay in Costa Rica. On watch, I was startled out of a perfectly good daydream by a loud snap and a zinging sound as something under tension broke violently. Even though the sound wasn’t loud enough to be the rigging, I instinctively looked up to make sure everything was where it should be. I then looked toward the lifelines as the next logical source of the noise. I noticed a pile of blue tuna line on the side deck – seconds before it had been trailing behind us, attached to twenty feet of 120 pound monofilamment followed by a 60 pound leader and a squid fishing lure.
The bungee cord between the line and boat looked like it had exploded. All the monofilament was gone, along with my lure. At least it wasn’t my favorite cedar plug lure, which was on the other side of the boat. I disgustedly looked back and saw a huge bull dorado (mahi mahi, if you prefer) jump into the air several times, crashing back into the water with huge splashes. It was around five feet long and it was gone.

Fishing on Yohelah isn’t really a sport. We use hand lines tied to the back of the boat. Each is made from eighty feet of tuna line with several hundred pound breaking strength and monofilament between the tuna line and lure. The monofilament gets the lure away from the more visible tuna line and increases the chances of a strike. A bungee on the boat end allows some give and helps set the hook during a strike. The bungee also tells us when we have a fish on the line. There is no playing the fish with this arrangement, you end up with a line in your hand and a fish on the other end. If the fish is big enough to yank you into the water then it’s sport, otherwise the fish is dinner. Unless of course it manages to break the leader or slip the hook before we haul it onboard.


So back to the fish story. Hearing the noise on deck, Teresa pops into the campanionway to see what’s going on. As I explain the huge dorado that just got away she yells that we have a fish on the other line. Sure enough the other hand line is running out at a forty five degree angle, a sure sign of a medium to large game fish. We haul it in and discover another large dorado. I’m relieved it’s not as large as the first, remember we don’t play the fish so they’re pretty energetic when alongside. The last time we had a dorado in this situation we netted it and discovered our lovely little gatita, Maya, had assisted the fish’s escape by previously chewing the net. This time I brought the gaff and hauled the fish onboard. Dinner. And lunch. And another dinner. And another. We’ll be eating Dorado for the next week.

Mmayahelpaya kitty didn’t know what to make of the yellow tail tuna we caught in Panama and didn’t show a lot of interest. She’s always turned her nose up at bonita’s with their dark red meat, as do we as this quickly became a ‘catch and release’ fish for us. When we caught a Spanish Mackerel she was beside herself, pestering me for pieces as I cleaned it, chewing on the tail if I was too slow. With the Dorado she could smell it, wanted it, but couldn’t bring herself to approach a bright yellow fish that big. I wish we’d had the video camera rolling as she made several aborted attempts leaving the protection of the cockpit, each time getting closer and closer before self- preservation overrode her tummy and she ran back to the cockpit. She eventually made it to the fish and helped me clean it, eating a pound or two along the way. Maya definitely prefers white fish over darker meat. Maybe now she has a reason to leave the fishing net intact.

Today on Yohelah we’re happy the bigger one got away….