by Loren Hargis
Up at 2 for a 6 am flight from New Jersey to Florida began my trip to San Jose, Costa Rica to spend 4 days fishing with Captain Harry Glah on Thumper.
Weather in San Jose was overcast and raining which meant a 4-hour ride to Golfito, hosted by Alberto, with my new found angling friends Andy Erbacher from Atlanta, GA and Thad Hutchinson from Sand Springs, Oklahoma, with who I would spend the next 4 days. We loaded provisions on the boat. Thumper is 61 foot Mickelson fishing yacht designed for this kind of water and fishing
Once there we met with Harry Glah, the outfitter, and Plotter in Chief, at Fish Hook Marina and talked about our options given the weather, seas, etc. We had a plan. Captain Edgar arrived, Harry laid out the plan. It would be rough. Edgar said, “Thumper can handle it. We go.” And off we went into the dark for nine hours at sea. The 3 mates: Davis, Minor, and Johan, who also watched the radar at night.
This was all new for me, I knew nothing. I’d never been to Costa Rica, never been marlin fishing, never stayed on a boat for 4 days on the ocean and knew nobody other than Harry who I met for 3 hours in the States one day in May. Here we go.
The expectation of hooking a marlin, fighting it and seeing it released filled my thoughts. It’s fishing I told myself, which meant I could catch nothing. The anticipation was excruciating. If I did, co Id I do it? This is not sit in a chair and reel fishing. It’s stand-up, just me and the fish.
Tuesday morning was foggy and drizzling as I looked out at 5:30 and the 7-rod spread was out. At 6 am the smell of breakfast cooking was in the air, suddenly it was “organized chaos”. Two mates were clearing lines and shouting to the captain, the boat changed speed, the other mate was getting the rod ready. We had our first bite on a Moldcraft lure. Someone put the belt around my waist and planted the rod in the gimble. The newbie was up. Hang on was all I could think about.
That familiar sound of line peeling off the reel, the drag was set, did we hook a bus and what was a bus doing 80 miles out into the Pacific Ocean? The line went out anyway. The fish jumped, tail walking and skimming on top of the water, crashing back down, white water exploding. It was like something out of National Geographic.
It was a big blue marlin, pulling line immediately into the 500 yards of backing. Keep the tension on. Why was the line straight out and the fish were jumping way over there? So many things going on. Keep reeling. Faster. Rod tip up. Keep reeling. Keep tension on. Reel reel reel. My arm ached. Reel reel reel.
Nothing anyone could have said would have prepared me; mentally, physically or emotionally, for the experience of my first day of marlin fishing. I felt like I was shot out of a cannon. It wasn’t over, it had just started.
The captain and mates are seasoned professionals. The coaching and guiding was terrific. I was the weak link in the chain.
Reel reel reel. David said you’re into the green…only 200 more yards to go.
What? The fish took off. Everything I gained I just lost. Reel reel reel. It was a tug of war and a war of wills. I was doing this for sport. The fish fighting for its life, jumping again and again. The mates providing guidance to me and giving the captain information as he was backing down on the fish, water splashing up and over the transom. I was soaked but didn’t care. Reel reel reel. The red line was in close but with a burst of speed that fish said it didn’t care, again the line went out.
Reel reel reel. Faster, backing down. And then it happened. Tension was gone and so was the fish. I was stunned. I felt like I let my team down by missing the winning shot at the buzzer. Nothing to do except wait for my turn again. The splashing water against the full, it was quiet. Words of encouragement, you did good. You’ll get one next time. Breakfast preparation resumed. I thought I was focused, but I was now. Would there be a next time? What time was it? 6:15.
Again there was that familiar sound. Fish on!!!
Over the next 3 hours, it was nonstop action. By 9 am we had nine hook ups, fought seven and landed five. That is a fish every 20 minutes, including a double and we hadn’t had breakfast yet.
At the end of our first day, we had 19 bites. The last rod came out of the holder at 6:30… fish on, a little different movement is all it takes, make that 20 bites. My turn again. Released. My number for my first day of marlin fishing: 7 caught, 5 blues released, 3 at boatside. The feeling of redemption from the first hook up.
It was a good day. Bite 19 was a 500-pound class caught and released by Andy Erbacher from Atlanta who, in January on Thumper, landed a 700-pound blue marlin, which is Thumper’s largest of the year.
On Wednesday, another good day. A boat total of 9 fish, 6 blue, 2 stripes (Thad and me) and 1 black for Andy. Could one of us do a Pacific Slam? Unfortunately, it wasn’t to be but it was Thumper’s 7th of the year.
In total for 2 days of fishing, we had 30 bites and released 20 marlin. Papa Bank and Burica were good to us.
I was, and am, so glad to have been part of an epic trip thanks to Harry Glah, Captain Edgar, David, and Minar. They taught me a lot and I learned a lot. Now with a case of Marlin Mania to go along with my Striper Fever and Trout Madness and TauTog Obsession, I plan my next trip to Golfito. You should plan yours too.