Blue marlin off the coast of North Africa in the open Atlantic.
When my buddy Jos invited me to join his trip to Cape Verde to check out one of the best blue marlin fisheries in the world, I didn’t know what to expect. I’ve never tried big game fishing – my time as an Orvis fly fishing guide and Marketing Director at Trout Unlimited was geared towards using the lightest tackle possible, stalking trout in rivers with tiny hooks and ultralight tippets.
The chance to check out a new continent and a totally new fish species was more than I could resist, and our flights were booked within days.
Jos set us up with the Atlantic Fishing Charters at the helm of Captain Ryan Williamson. We arrived towards the end of the season, but reports were encouraging – usually around one fish per day per boat.
Landing in Cape Verde, we found a windswept landscape, rugged and volcanic – almost like the otherworldly panoramas of Komodo National Park in Indonesia. On the way to hotel, our taxi driver told us the last time it rained was three years ago.
Cap’n Ryan planned our itinerary, centering our fishing days around São Nicolau Island – an eight hour sea voyage from São Vicente where our plane landed. Jos and I stayed in a local homestay – a colorfol waterfront village with cobblestone streets dating back to the Portuguese colonial days. Sunsets off the M.C. Escher-inspired roof deck were epic, sipping a glass of the local wine as the sun faded over the Atlantic horizon. Pickup soccer games on the beach were intense – no amateur footballers in São Nicolau.
In four days of fishing, we brought five marlin to the boat ranging from 250 to 450 pounds with many more striking at the teaser lures but not getting hooked.
I decided to get in to swim with one 400 pounder as it was being released, being in the water with an animal that big (and pointy) was a pretty incredible experience. Just after I climbed back in the boat, Jos caught sight of a huge fin knifing through the cobalt blue of the open Atlantic. A massive shark, probably a great white. That was it for the marlin swimming as higher winds made the seas choppy and risked getting lost in the maelstrom.
George Strait’s ‘Blue Marlin Blues’ was our daily soundtrack, so had to include it in this video version of the trip, just click the ‘play’ button above. Other than the marlin, Jos and I managed to find a cooler full of Portugal’s ‘Super Bock’ pilsner that seemed to blend perfectly with the tang of the Atlantic salt spray and wisps of blue diesel smoke from our aptly named vessel, ‘Smoker’.
All together it was a great trip – thanks to Jos for asking me to tag along on the first marlin trip I’ve ever been on!