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"Eet ees dirtee and you want eet..."

Dawn over Ixtapa Marina.

This trip wasn't one solely for the purpose of going fishing to be honest- it was more of a summer holiday with a few days fishing thrown in really. I was supposed to travel out with my girlfriend at the time, but in the interim period between booking the apartment and flights and then actually going there, unfortunately we went our separate ways. Ho hum. Earlier in the year I had suggested to her that we visit Zihuatanejo/Ixtapa on the Pacific coast, since I had read that it was a really nice place on the internet, that the weather and beaches were great, that there were loads of things to do and see... oh, and that Roosterfish inhabited the inshore areas of the coast in the vicinity (I'm sure that swung it for her!). So, I did the sales pitch, she liked the look of it, and then after sorting out the accommodation and logistics, I booked a couple of days out Roosterfishing on a panga with a local sportfishing company- again over the www. Of course, when we had split up, although I decided to keep it a 'relaxing' rather than 'full on fishing' holiday, this was increased to 4 days via a quick couple of e-mails... As they say, every cloud has a silver lining...

So, after arriving in Mexico via a stopover in Dallas, and eventually finding the apartment that had been rented after going round in circles in a taxi for half an hour, I got settled in. Very nice! The weather was in the 90's, the sun was beating down and the area looked great- with loads of little bars and restaurants, miles of beaches, blue sea, coconut palms littering the place, and the back drop of mountains behind- which gave rise to some stunning sunrises (when I managed to drag my "Corona-d" corpse out of the sack early enough to see it, that is).

Local fishermen after- I believe- Anchovies, with the spectacular light of dawn streaming over the distant mountains. Nice.

Capitan Chay with a big Sailfish.

The first day fishing, I think due to my limited Spanish ("Dos Corona por favor"- I think that covers it), and the local guy's limited English, things were a little confused.... As we headed out onto the blue-water, a mere 15 minutes from harbour, I remember thinking 'Hmmm, I thought Roosters lived close inshore adjacent to rocky outcrops and the surf on beaches (quote-unquote!)? Still when in Rome eh...' Anyway, once out in the ocean, a couple of rods were rigged with deadbaits with plastic skirts over their snouts and put out with flat-lines on outriggers... 'Hmmm, I thought Roosters preferred livebaits? Still, when in Rome eh...' 

And then we began trolling over the vast tracts of deep, blue ocean. A mere 20 minutes had passed, when Capitan Chay shouts 'Senor! Senor! Pesca! Pesca!!', and I glanced up to see a huge sail slicing through the water and nailing the right hand bait! The line snapped out of the outrigger, the line screamed from the reel, and in seconds I found myself attached to a large angry Sailfish... 'Hmmm, funny Roosterfish this one...' The fish fought hard and leapt spectacularly several times, while I nearly mashed up my nethers with the rod, since they had no butt-pad on the boat- which was nice(!!). But unfortunately the fish twisted as it leapt and wrapped itself in the line, which took the fight out of it (as it would, being trussed up like an oven-ready chicken), and by the time I had pumped the dead weight to the boat, much to my disappointment the beautiful creature had already expired on the hook. I felt a little hollow at the whole experience, even though it was the biggest sailfish I had seen at around a hundred pounds in weight, but we took a few photos, and then placed the fish on the deck ready for market upon our return.

My first Mexican Sailfish. Unfortunately it got tangled in the line during the fight and died, which saddened me- but at least it went to the market so it wasn't wasted.

The baits were put out again, and similarly in a short space of time (maybe an hour) a sailfish had snaffled the bait again. The nethers took another pounding while I played the thing out, and another 80 pounds of billfish was soon at the side of the boat. By now I had sussed that we weren't actually fishing for Roosters (I'm pretty sharp like that!), and believe it or not, I quickly lost interest in the day, to the point where when another sail hit the bait, I just looked at the local journalist who had tagged along on the boat to take some pictures (I can't remember his name- so I'll call him 'Floyd'), and smiled and then pointed at the rod as the line melted from the spool. The look on his face was a picture as he picked up the rod, and he was soon getting stuck in as another sail of about 80 pounds was released a short while later at the side of the boat. I was pleased I let him play that fish really, because I'm sure he got a great deal more out of it than yours truly would have. In fact, later Capitan Chay was very surprised that I didn't want a picture taken of the by-now sorry, dried-out looking fish hung from a hook on a frame at the dock.

I suppose that the one positive was that the fish went on to provide food for lots of people no doubt, and I even took a large fillet of it for this bloke who worked at one of the bars (Hugo) who had fetched me some calamari for bait a day or two before. It got me a free beer anyway.

Please believe me when I say that it's not being blasť that makes me feel like that. Its just that to me, you see, billfishing always seems that it's, well, just trolling along wherever the captain goes while keeping an eye out for flocks of seagulls... As a holiday fisherman (rather than a pro going out and doing it for yourself on your own boat- I can dream), your input as an angler is very limited... and then usually if you get a fish, you can't get it in the boat to photograph it- unless of course it dies. A high price to pay for a few snapshots for the album. Of course, catching billfish is very good for massaging the angler's ego and increasing kudos in the eyes of the non-angling public because they are so large... if that's your bag, but I also get chronically bored just driving along on a boat over open water just dragging stuff behind the stern- erm, trolling, I believe it's called. However, I must say here that trolling around structure- now that can be much more interesting and exciting...

Upon arrival back at dock, and after a quick chat with Mauricio (the guy who owned the boats), it was clear that the next day out would be solely with the intention of hunting down some Roosters, and he assured me that he would have his best Rooster-man, Capitan Carlos on the case. And this proved to be the case, as Capitan Carlos was sat waiting in his panga as I stumbled down to the dock wall, albeit about 20 minutes late due to my prolonged involvement in a heavy night in the local bars the night before, and only managing perhaps three hours kip. 

"Floyd" (I have no idea what his real name was)-  a local journalist- came out for a day, so I gave him the rod to get a Sailfish- and he had some fun with it, which was nice, as they say.

Sailfish eye.


Instead of the paper boy, they have the Sailfish boy over there in Mexico. I particularly liked the Coke tins on the bills to stop him 'jousting' tourists off the harbour wall as he cycles along. Another nice touch, I thought.

As we left the sanctuary of the harbour and entered the chop of a fairly swollen sea, I was gasping like a goldfish in a bowl. I shovelled a couple of Stugeron down my throat and waited for them to take effect, and thankfully they did- because I think otherwise I would have been shouting down the technicolour mobile all day. It was much more interesting fishing though, because after catching a couple of fresh, live Bonito on the plastic squid, they were quickly rigged on large, evil looking hooks via some string through the nose (the hair-rig goes universal), and dropped out the back of the boat. 

We then spent hours working our way around all kinds of really exciting and interesting looking spots- from steep, rocky headlands, to near vertical cliff-faces plunging straight into the foaming ocean, to running parallel along lovely sandy beaches where the Pacific waves crashed ashore just metres to our side. Unfortunately, although the fishing was more interesting, the fish just wanted to play cat and mouse with us, as three times large fish crashed into the baits, ripping them to shreds, making the reels scream, and causing a temporary coronary for yours truly on the boat... Oh, and then rejecting them before the hook could be set. 3-0 to the Roosters, and a frustrating day- but one which gave me hope that a Rooster would end up with sore lips over the next couple of trips out.

A remora that dropped off of a Sailfish's flank.

The Lovely Playa Linda beach.

Casting a lure for Roosterfish at Isla Ixtapa... without success again I hasten to add...

Just what is this fish? To begin with I thought it was a tiny Bonefish... but the more I looked at it it just didn't look right. Maybe it's some kind of Ladyfish? Dunno...

A tiny Jack taken from Playa Linda beach on a strip of Bonito- before the bait went off in the sun. In fact after two hours it was nearly getting up and running off down the sand on it's own.

Dawn breaks over the hills behind Zihuatanejo.

Stressed out- Mexican style. Manana mi amigo, manana...

However, the Rooster's proved difficult. I had been told that if I took a bus ride and a boat out to Isla Ixtapa, that Roosters sometimes came close in to the rocks there. So I went, I saw, I thrashed the water to a foam with my lures, I blanked, and finally ended up sunning my pasty English (or should I say Eeengleeesh) skin at one of the little thatched beach bars on the island there... and then soaking myself in Corona again (there's a pattern developing here...). I also fished with strips of calamari and Bonito from the beaches and rocks there occasionally too. The rocks should have been good, but were a nightmare! It was a bite a cast... but every time I hooked anything bigger than aquarium size it just dived back into it's hole and bust me off!! And I soon found out that everything had bloody great sharp spines too. One or two fish were also managed from the beach on little strips of Bonito, one species of which looked like a Bonefish, but then didn't, if you know what I mean- please see the picture. If anyone knows what species it is for sure, then please let me know. Bait was a problem though, because it was so hot that the Bonito was getting high in no time, to the point where I was gagging like a cat with a fur-ball just putting it on the hook. Not good. So I packed in... and, well, ended up sunning my pasty skin at one of the little thatched beach bars on the island there... and soaking myself in Corona again... It's a dirty job.

Then, the night before my next Rooster trip, a storm hit- properly. As I walked through the streets of Zihua just before first light the next morning, a strong, warm wind was rattling through the coconuts (I think I can remember what that's like), and branches and palm fronds littered the pavements. Local people were up and out early everywhere clearing litter and debris from their doorsteps- so I knew it was going to be a rough'un.

Suitably Stugeron'd to the max, I was piped aboard by Capitan Carlos; 'Ees rough sea today senor, we wait here for calm down'. At that point I knew it was going to be hard work! Eventually we made our way out of the calm of the harbour, and set about getting some bait. The waves crashed onto the rocks around us, and the swell was of such a size that one minute we were looking at the heavens, then the next we were staring straight down the trough of a wave. Awesome. Unfortunately, not good for fishing though, since it was too dangerous to get close to shore or rock, so although we tried hard, and stuck the weather as long as we could (thank heavens for the tablets), the only action came when a Grouper came up and seized the Bonito over some rough ground... then spat the bait out, and when an over-enthusiastic little Jack grabbed a Rapala as we passed some time having some respite in the calm lee of Isla Ixtapa on the way back to port. Another Rooster-free day. And that left one day fishing to go.

A live Bonito rigged up for Roosterfish. It seems that the hair-rig isn't unique to only carp fishing.

So the final fishing day dawned, and strangely enough I still felt confident that a chance may come my way. The weather had improved greatly and gone back to the normal heat and sunshine, and the sea had calmed down to almost flat. Perfect. We steamed out of port, and immediately saw birds circling in the distance. So we set off in their direction, and fed out the rubber squids to secure our bait. No sooner had we reached our bird & bait patch, than the rods both hooped over and we brought aboard a pair of yellowy-silver streamlined looking fish- a little like a herring in shape. Carlos immediately got animated- in fact it was as excited as I had seen him in the previous 3 days! 'Senor- thees feesh is especial por Pez Gallo! Especial por Pez Gallo! They love very much! We catch more these then we get Rooster!!' So we caught another four of five of them, deposited them in the live-well, and then set off to Roosterworld full of confidence. He did tell me what they were called in Spanish, but I can't remember now- and for some strange reason I didn't take a quick snap for I.D. purposes.

Fish 1 - Andy 0...

Capitan Carlos with a nice Bonito taken on a rubber squid. Great fun to catch - I even burned my thumb on the spool playing one of these out.

 

Carlos with a greedy Jack that grabbed a Rapala nearly the same size as itself.

Still, Carlos was smiling broadly as we motored along: 'Today we catch the Pez Gallo senor- no problemo!!' Now whether he was just doing a 'pitch' or not I don't know- but it sure worked, because with every single piece of structure we passed, or every single click on the free-spool as the livebaits did their stuff out the stern, I was keyed-up and on edge ready to go. A couple of hours passed without action- but confidence remained high on the boat, then suddenly as we traversed an area of beach behind the line where the waves begin to break, the reel to the left hand rod screeched into life- nearly making my heart jump into my throat! This was it! As the line emptied from the spool, the reel clicked into gear, the taughtness increased through the rod and three firm strikes saw the object of my desires explode through the surface some 50 metres back from the boat- and silhouetted against the bright sunshine glinting on the surface was the unmistakable crested profile of a Roosterfish desperately trying to shake out the hook, as the baitfish snapped free and was flung high, cartwheeling into the air. I can't remember that much of the fight from there onwards- apart from muttering 'Don't lose it, don't lose it...' over and again to myself as it neared the boat, but I do remember looking down into the water and seeing the fish fighting it out beneath us, with its long slender pectorals flared out rigidly at it's side, and the dark and light bands on it's back and flanks seemingly lit up in the bright tropical sun- a wonderful and beautiful sight that I won't forget. Minutes later, Carlos had lifted the fish aboard, and I was chuffed to pieces to hold aloft a stunning looking fish of maybe 35lbs for a few pictures, before the leader was cut and the fish sent back home. The trip was complete. We spent a couple more hours covering a few more spots, but after that, I caught some more rays (UV rays that is) and relaxed- suddenly I had caught what I wanted and it didn't seem to matter quite as much anymore!

As a footnote, at the airport on the way home I spoke to two American anglers and their wives (there's nothing like a rod-tube to break the ice), and they had just spent a week Roosterfishing from the shore with a guide using surface poppers. It appears that the fishing had been hard for their week... but they had caught 3 Pez Gallo: a 30 pounder, and then two in a day- one of 60 pounds and another of 65!!! Now that would be just something else! I was told while I was out there that July is the wrong time of year, and that a bloke could be assured of Roosters in October and November... so next time I head out there to sample the great food, weather, beer, hospitality of the locals who really were as good as gold, I know when to go.

I got my fishing through the following address, should you so wish to head out to Pacific Mexico and maybe have a bit of fishing while you're there. Capitan Carlos was a top bloke- easy going, knowledgeable and enthusiastic- even when conditions were crap. And that's all you can ask for isn't it?  Zihuatanejo Sportfishing Charters: sportfishingcharters@hotmail.com

Fish 3 - Andy 0.

Capitan Carlos on the lookout for signs of feeding fish.

A stormy day out on the Rooster hunt... And another blank.

Saltwater crocodile in the Marina at Ixtapa- there were loads of them, believe it or not.

Right, now I'm outta here !

The object of my desires.

Pez Gallo Senor?

 

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