GRAN CANARIA

In recent blogs I have written about trips to Iceland and the San Blas Islands off Panama’s Caribbean coast. If you found these interesting you might like to click on the following links that will take you to the excellent Sport Fishing Magazine website, where you will find photo galleries featuring additional images from each trip. Take at look at: http://www.sportfishingmag.com/iceland-fishing-excursions?image=0 and: http://www.sportfishingmag.com/panamas-spectacular-san-blas-islands

The beach and backdrop at Puerto Rico, Gran Canaria.

The beach and backdrop at Puerto Rico, Gran Canaria.

My most recent trip was to The Canary Islands, more specifically Gran Canaria to fish with Roger Burston who runs Reel Escape Sport Fishing Charters based at Puerto Rico. Easily reached with around a four hour direct charter flights from pretty much any UK or European regional airport, The Canary Islands have long been a popular destination with holiday makers from all over Europe. Consequently you will find a massive tourist infrastructure with a huge range of accommodations to cover all budgets, and near guaranteed sunshine.

The sport fishing fleet based at Puerto Rico, Gran Canaria, 'Reel Time' sits second from right.

The sport fishing fleet based at Puerto Rico, Gran Canaria, ‘Reel Time’ sits second from right.

I’ve been aware of various sport fishing operations throughout The Canary Islands for some time, though I thought mostly these concentrated on short tourist trips, and that the few billfish I had heard about were little more than lucky catches. My understanding was that the only serious sport fishing was based on the island of La Gomera, how wrong I was. Roger runs two excellent big game boats, both equipped with the highest quality Shimano Tiagra reels and rods.

Boats are equipped with quality Shimano Tiagra reels.

Boats are equipped with quality Shimano Tiagra reels.

The season starts in March fishing for tuna; albacore, bigeye and bluefin, with the first marlin, usually whites, generally showing in May. The main billfish season runs from July through until the end of September, when in addition to white marlin and big blue marlin, good numbers of elusive longbill spearfish are caught, along with dorado, wahoo with always the possibility of tuna. Take a look at his website: http://www.escapeforreelfishing.com

Big blue marlin are caught off Gran Canaria, along with La Gomera and other islands.

Big blue marlin are caught off Gran Canaria, along with La Gomera and other islands.

To give you an idea of just how prolific this fishery can be, a recent Billfish Report rated The Canaries as being the 10th best location anywhere to catch your first marlin, many of which average over 500lb. Last year Rogers boats caught 24 blues, biggest fish 350kg and 14 white marlin, along with a lot of tuna. Local commercial fishermen have landed fish well in excess of the I.G.F.A world record. The women’s 50lb class record Atlantic blue marlin was caught off Gran Canaria on August 9th 1986, and weighed 802lb, and both the mens 6lb and 8lb class records are held by fish caught off La Gomera. Further, both mens 80lb and 130lb class records for bigeye tuna, 392lb and 363lb respectively were caught off Gran Canaria, with the women’s 20lb class record, 173lb, being caught at La Gomera. Numerous I.G.F.A Atlantic spearfish records have been caught off Gran Canaria and La Gomera.

A selection of marlin lures.

A selection of marlin lures.

Not surprisingly I was eagerly looking forward to my first trip to Gran Canaria, especially as it was scheduled for mid-August, prime marlin season. I was looking forward to four action packed days out on the water, but if you travel to fish occasionally you must expect the weather and local conditions to completely disrupt your plans, and this was that trip. Very strong north-westerly winds resulted in day one being cancelled, and even though we managed to fish the remaining three days, often conditions were very rough. Choppy seas aside, the biggest problem was that the water temperature was several degrees below what is ideal for marlin fishing. 22˚c is regarded as being the minimum suitable for marlin, with 24˚c being the magic number. During my trip the warmest water we found off Gran Canaria was 21.8˚c, and all the time I was there only one white marlin was caught on another boat. A little over 100 miles away at La Gomera however the water was warmer, and the fishing excellent. One boat, we heard, had released over 20 blue marlin in 8 days fishing. I guess I’ll have to go back!

Reel Escape in the harbour at Puerto Rico, Gran Canaria

Reel Escape in the harbour at Puerto Rico, Gran Canaria

Package trips trips to Gran Canaria including flights and accommodation to fish with Reel Escape Sport Fishing Charters can be booked through Anglers World Holidays. This really is one destination offering serious blue water fishing a relatively short hop from Europe, along with plenty to do for all of the family. For more information Tel: 01246 221717.

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PANAMA: SAN BLAS ISLANDS

Just home from a weeks fishing around the idyllic San Blas Islands off Panama’s Caribbean coast with Panama Yacht & Fishing Charters http://panamayachtandfishingcharters.com My trip came by way of an invitation from Doug Olander, my good friend and editor of Sport Fishing Magazine, with the rest of our crew including Bill Shedd CEO President of AFTCO, Marc Mills from Shimano US, renowned underwater photographer Jason Arnold, and David Morel, publisher of Sport Fishing Magazine & Saltwater Sportsman.

Tropical paradise, just one of countless white sand beaches you'll find in the San Blas Islands.

Tropical paradise, just one of countless white sand beaches you’ll find in the San Blas Islands.

We were based aboard the truly luxurious live aboard boat ‘Miss B’ Haven’, with a choice of fishing offshore aboard one of two excellent offshore game boats, or inshore from either a flats skiff or a small inflatable. Normally prior to an overseas trip I have at least some idea of which species I will primarily be targeting, along with which methods we will be using to catch them, but this was far from the case on this trip. Little is known about sport fishing around San Blas, other than this little fished corner of the Caribbean has close access to deep water, some magnificent reefs, and a plethora of rich flats from which to fish. In essence this was an exploratory trip, and prior to leaving home I had faced the somewhat unusual dilemma of not knowing what tackle to pack.

Home for the week, the truly sumptuous 'Mis B Haven'.

Home for the week, the truly sumptuous ‘Miss B Haven’.

Eventually I chose a medium spinning rod, a 20-30lb class bait rod and an 8wt fly rod, all multi-piece travel rods, along with reels to suit and a modest selection of lures and other bits & pieces. Other than the fly rod none were needed as Marc Mills had generously provided an incredible amount of Shimano product including dozens of rods and reels, in addition to a mountain of lures and everything else we might need to cover every conceivable eventuality. As things turned out the biggest problem was selecting a rod and reel and a few lures suitable for each fishing session, the choice really was immense; talk about being set loose in a chocolate factory!

Spoilt for choice!

Spoilt for choice!

The great unknown on any fishing trip is always the weather, especially on trips such as this one that by necessity are planned many months in advance. Late July and August in this sector of the Caribbean should have given hot, settled and sultry weather with occasional heavy afternoon rain showers, the rainy season having started in late April or May. This year the rains in Panama are several months late and rather than the grease calm seas we anticipated, we were faced with constant, strong, north-easterly winds, which were compounded by a hefty onshore ground swell. As a result our fishing options were almost always limited to fishing within the lee of inshore islands or at least inshore of the main barrier reef, then on occasion whenever conditions improved quickly changing tack and running offshore.

Bill Shedd casts his lure into some interesting water from the fleet inflatable.

Bill Shedd casts his lure into some interesting water from the fleet inflatable.

A nice jig caught Nassau Grouper for me.

A nice jig caught Nassau Grouper for me.

And a fine dog snapper.

And a fine dog snapper.

Venomous Lion fish caught on a Shimano jig, these are now widespread throughout the Caribbean.

Venomous Lion fish caught on a Shimano jig, these are now widespread throughout the Caribbean.

Despite the problematic weather some good fish were caught each day. Popping and jigging produced some great snapper action- school master, cubera, mutton and dog, however when fishing shallow inshore reefs casting lures at range many, indeed most of the better fish were lost due to lines getting cut on the coral heads. Variety came by way of various species of jack, small tuna, barracuda and various reef fish. At least one tarpon was lost, again cut off on the reef, and several good sized bonefish were seen tailing on the flats. Big permit were seen at close range on several occasions, and during one of those brief trips snatched offshore our crew saw free jumping sailfish along with shoals of surface feeding tuna. If only the weather had been kinder to us!

Doug Olander hold a good Horse Eye Jack caught on a Shimano Orca stick bait.

Doug Olander hold a good Horse Eye Jack caught on a Shimano Orca stick bait.

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Marc Mills with a colourful Schoolmaster Snapper caught on a Shimano popper.

Bill Shedd & Marc Mills display a brace of bragging size Dog Snapper.

Bill Shedd & Marc Mills display a brace of bragging size Dog Snapper.

Dave Morel holds a fine Dog Snapper.

Dave Morel holds a fine Dog Snapper.

The thing was regardless of how any fishing session panned out, we knew beyond any doubt that as soon as we stepped back aboard the mothership we would be pampered beyond belief. Open the door and step inside the main saloon and we were greeted with a welcome blast of AC and our favourite cocktail. Trays of appertisers demanded our immediate attention; imported Spanish Palma hams, fine French and Italian cheese’s, paté along with numerous other culinary delights. Each and every meal was a sumptuous sit down banquet that would have impressed the most discerning of connoisseurs had they been dining at any exclusive 5th Avenue restaurant. Just how the ships chef, Erica, managed to single handedly produce such a huge range of memorable meals from her small galley defies belief, but she did-as my waistline can now bare witness!

Erica working her magic; guess whats for dinner!

Erica working her magic; guess whats for dinner!

One of several hard pulling Bar Jack's I caught on fly.

One of several hard pulling Bar Jack’s I caught on fly.

Truly Panama Yacht & Fishing Charters provide a world class and positively unique charter fishing service. We were based in the Caribbean, but the fleet regularly transit the Panama Canal and fishes much of the year amidst the time proven sports fisheries off Panama’s Pacific coastline including Pinas Bay, The Perlas Islands and Coiba Island. PYFC really must rank as one of the most amazing live aboard operations you’ll find anywhere in the world, the perfect choice for all members of the family. Meanwhile I’m off to the gym now to start trying to work off a week of over eating!

The locals made sure we never went hungry!

The locals made sure we never went hungry!

Kuna village on one of the islands.

Kuna village on one of the islands.

A family group of Kuna in colourful, traditional dress.

A family group of Kuna in colourful, traditional dress.

Gigantic japanese car carrier transiting the Miaflora Locks on the Panama Canal.

Gigantic Japanese car carrier transiting the Miraflora Locks on the Panama Canal.

For more information visit: http://panamayachtandfishingcharters.com Fishing trips to Panama along with numerous other Central American destinations can be booked through Anglers World Holidays. I am hoping to host a trip with PYFC in the near future, based in the Pacific, most likely The Perlas Islands. For more information Tel: 01246 221717 or visit: http://anglersworld.tv