Story Time – The Earthquake Sail

My lifelong dream has been to fish the billfish capital of the world, Costa Rica. In August of 2012, my dream came to fruition. I arrived in San Jose and rented a small car to explore the country. The volcanoes of Arenal and Poas were absolutely breathtaking. The people there are some of the most down to earth and kind I have ever met. “Pura Vida” is a saying they live by which means to live pure. Though the trip was amazing in every aspect…I was anxious to get to the water. I arrived in Tamarindo Diria beach and got some rest before the day offshore.
The weather was amazing. The forecast was perfect and my focus was solely on catching that Costa Billfish. A small skiff transported us from the beach to the 42 foot charter boat was anchored just off the reef. Our coolers were full of Ballyhoo a large assortment of colored skirts. We motored out about 20 miles offshore in close to 5,000 feet of water. We began trolling a current and dragging the baits on the surface at roughly 7 mph. The baits skipped across the water attached to 2 flatlines and 2 outriggers.


After a few hours of little action, I began to realize that this trip may leave me without my dream fish. Just then, the boat began to lurch vertically in the water. There was a banging sound as the boat shook. My first thought was that there was an issue with the boat’s transmission, or some engine problem. My thoughts were shared by the captain and we started troubleshooting. Fast paced Spanish speaking with distress in their voice sounded from the radio. We then realized that there had been an earthquake back on shore. At 6.7 on the Richter scale, town town of Tamarindo was rocked. We had felt the vibrations 20 miles offshore in thousands of feet of water.

Minutes later, there was an explosion behind the boat. A Pacific sailfish had shot up from the depths taking the bait into its mouth as it broke the water’s surface. It was as if the earthquake awoke the beasts beneath and it was feeding time. I opened the spool to ensure the bait was taken in by the sailfish, counted down from 3, and set the circle hook into the corner of his mouth.

The reel began to whine. Line came pouring off this reel like it was attached to a thoroughbred. The fish took several hundred yards of line within a minute or so which required dumping some cool water on the reel just prior to the bearings overheating. His run was directly away from the boat lounging out of the water with almost every swipe of his tail. I was able to gain some line back before the fish initiated yet another long run. This run again was made mostly out of the water…a tail dance ripping away from my general direction. This was it. This is what I had dreamed about. I gave the fish the drag he needed for some time, then began to wear him down.

After about 20 minutes of intense angling, the fish became tired. His time in the air was reduced to a few head shakes. The sailfish allowed me to slowly guide him to the side of the boat.. He was the largest fish I had ever had on the end of my line. Being a sport fish, I intended on cutting the leader for release. After this incredible day, it was a must to grab his bill for a photo opportunity. In my many years on the water, this was by far the most memorable. The earthquake sail.

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