What does an “Authentic Fishing Trip” in Puerto Escondido look like?
By Jeffrey Pankey
Fishing has been a part of my life since the young age of three. No matter where I go, I always try to find a local person to recommend some type of fishing, deep sea being my preference. My trip to Vivo was no different, I convinced my buddy Greg to go with me, and Luckily, Vivo Resorts introduced us to Jesus who put us with the right local captain.
For those of you that are fisherman and have travelled to other “fishing spots”, you might be as ignorant as I was. I was expecting to roll up to the marina and jump on a nice 35-to-45-foot sport fisher, the mate will offer a nice cup of coffee…NOPE. Imagine my surprise when we parked on the beach, walked up to the shoreline, saw about 30 Panga boats anchored, and then Jesus waves one to come over. Ok, very cool I thought, they don’t have marinas, so this panga is going to taxi us out to the real boat, I’m digging this.
The Panga heads our way and beaches its stern onto the sand. Jesus introduces us to the captain and the mate, and we jump aboard. As we weave through the anchored pangas, we notice that we are headed out to open water, and there is no “mother-ship” …I am now realizing this is our vessel for the day.
As we headed out, we started making conversation with our crew, which was a hilarious myriad of charades and gestures. They spoke Spanish and we spoke English, but we could not stop laughing at our antics and attempts to communicate, which by the way, we all did amazing. I jumped in the back and started watching the bait setup to see how they do it in Puerto Escondido, and the mate and I “gestured” our way through an amazing conversation.
Shortly thereafter, we scouted some birds circling ahead and dropped 5 lines in the water. Now, this is not a big deal for the sport fishers, but we are talking about a Panga that has a 6-foot beam, and no extended outriggers. The captain and mate gave a little kiss to the Mermaid doll tied to the T-top and gestured that we should do the same, well of course we did.
It was a very short time before two lines started ripping off the reel and were tight. I was pretty sure we had a small tuna on, but then they said Bonita. I learned real quick that the Bonita in the Pacific waters of Mexico are not the same Bonita that we have in the Atlantic. These looked a lot longer, almost like a Kingfish, and they had teeth that looked like a Spanish Mackerel. We put them in the boat with the plan to keep them and eat them since the guys assured me the meat was white and tasty, not bloody like our Atlantic Bonito.
Aside from the fishing, the boat ride was such an enjoyable experience, even though It has been a long time since I have been on a boat that had minimal “amenities”. I found myself gravitating to the bow and just leaning over watching the water pass. It was calming, peaceful, and I felt myself finding a connection with the water like I had in my younger days. About that time of self-realization, a couple of dolphins swam under the boat where we could literally reach out and touch them swimming at the bow.
There is no doubt that our eyes were connecting, and they were waiting to get our attention. As soon as we would smile at them, they would break off to the side and launch 6-10 feet in the air and come down splashing, then come right back to the bow to see if we approved of their show. This went on for about 15-minutes, and it happened about 3 more times throughout our trip. When the dolphins weren’t around, manta rays would also be leaping about and splashing around us…the sea was definitely alive.
After catching about ten Bonita, I made the international sign of a billfish; extending my arm from my nose and acting like I was leaping out of the water. My buddy Greg thought I was nuts, but the captain immediately smiled and said… “Marlin, Yes?”. My answer was “Si, Por Favor”, and it was on. The mate started baiting some more trolling rigs and I saw them slipping the black, purple, and red skirts on the line; it was about to get real, and my heart started pumping. These guys knew what they were doing, they understood what I wanted, and after another round of kisses for the mermaid, the lines were out.
The fishing gods must have been looking down on us, or the mermaid was looking up at us, whichever the case, just 100 yards off our bow we see a huge sailfish free jump into the air and splash back into the sea. The captain made a b-line, the tension was getting heavy, and all eyes were on the lines with anticipation. One rod bends and gets tight, we all jump up only to see it pop back to normal – nothing. Just as we were getting ready to accept the disappointment, the rod next to it bends and starts singing that wonderful tune that every fisherman jumps to salute. The mate grabs the rod and ensures a solid hook up, then it’s our turn. Greg gets the honors of the first hook up and learns very quickly that fishing is hard work. But after a short 30-minute fight, a limp left arm, he lands an impressive 130-pound Pacific Sailfish. As they placed it in the boat, I realized we were keeping this fish, which is not something I usually do. The mate saw my question mark face and was somehow able to explain to me that this fish will feed many families in the town.
Our day continued with additional hook-ups, landing a nice Mahi-Mahi, and seeing lots of free jumping fish on the ride back to the beach.
I was starting to get a little worried as we drove toward the beach with no sign of turning or slowing down, and the mate was waving for swimmers to move. I thought, “he does know it’s a boat and does not have wheels” …then I remembered how they picked us up. With expert precision, we ride on top of a wave and make a soft landing, beaching nose first onto the sand. We started pulling the fish off the boat, and a crowd started to gather. I was surprised at the gasps when we pulled off the Sailfish. Everyone wanted to get next to it and take a photo, which made us feel like celebrities as people were patting us on the back. The captain walked us over to where they were going to clean the fish and made us understand that we were going to eat lunch “over there” and he would bring us fish to take home.
Talk about an all-around authentic experience. We went out on the most modest of boats, had a dolphin show, landed some serious fish, and came back to shore where a local restaurant made us ceviche, fried fish, grilled fish and all the fixings to go with it. What more could we have asked for? Well, I will give you one more tidbit.
When Jesus came to pick us up, he said that the locals have a “sharing community”. So, the fish that we caught today was going to be shared by many locals, and that we had contributed to that community. On the way home we stopped and dropped off a couple of bags of fish to people that were standing on the road waiting for us to pass by. And we even took some fish back to the resort, where the chef made some amazing tapas for everyone to enjoy while watching live music.
I still to this day don’t know how to explain how I felt on this fishing trip. I always get excited about going fishing, but there was a spiritual connection as I was on the water. There was a genuine friendship and clear communication made between four guys that could barely speak the words. There was a feeling of acceptance and appreciation in a community that we just met. There was a satisfaction that we did something meaningful while enjoying our fun past time. And in the end, it was an experience that I could only say was “authentic” in every way imaginable.
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