Shoshone Super Slam

“People fish because they are searching for something. Often it is not for a fish.”  These words from Fennel Hudson resonate with me when I go on fishing adventures. The thrill of the catch is alluring, but there are deeper reasons for the journeys.    

The constant responsibilities at work and home can make life feel heavy. Fishing adventures give me a level of excitement that makes my responsibilities seem lighter and more manageable. The anticipation is almost as fun as the journey itself. It is an opportunity to reconnect with friends and recalibrate spiritually. The memories from these trips last a lifetime, and I enjoy reliving those moments long after returning home. “Because in the end, you won’t remember the times you spent at the office or mowing the lawn. Climb that mountain.”  Jack Kerouac

I sought to conquer a mountain recently, an unconventional one, located 140 miles off the coast of Costa Rica, 1700 feet beneath the Pacific Ocean, and home to the most prolific marlin fishery on earth. Four friends and I went there in August to celebrate several of our 40th birthdays. 

We met the captain and crew at the marina in the late afternoon to depart on our 48-hour voyage to the seamounts. We were excited to begin our adventure as we boarded the 50’ Sportfisher and cruised toward the fishing grounds as the sun started to sink into the Pacific.

The following morning, we deployed the dredges and teasers at 5:00 am with barely enough light to see the ocean. Within 60 seconds, a billfish broke the surface in pursuit of the left teaser. We grabbed the pitch rod and sent the bait floating backward with the reel in free spool. The baitfish skipped and flopped along the surface for a few seconds before the hungry pelagic furiously attacked it. “Free spool…one, two, three, four, five.”  The lever drag moved forward, the line came tight, and the blue marlin exploded from the ocean in the haze of the misty morning. I exclaimed, “Fish on!” The guys still inside ran to the deck in disbelief. After an intense battle of about 15 minutes, we released the beautiful blue marlin to continue to roam the underwater mountain.  

The morning bite was on fire as we repeatedly trolled around the fish-attracting device perched atop the underwater seamount. By 8:30 am, we had released five blue marlins, each one tail walking, greyhounding, and leaping as if it were a competition for the best aerial performance. The seamount was living up to its reputation, but we were not expecting what would come from mid-morning to mid-day action.

The next marlin hooked up about an hour later. It looked even more forceful than the others. Its shoulders were like a freight train engine, and it jumped directly away from us as if it was in total control of the situation. Then, after twenty minutes of tug of war, the fish slowly started to give in. It came closer and appeared dark in the water. It surged from the surface. The captain exclaimed, “Black marlin!”  With a bucket list quarry on the end of the line, we quickly got him to the boat for a clean release.   

Teasers were back out instantly. Soon a marlin was cutting toward the left teaser shimmering in iridescent blue. The pitch bait dropped back, the fish ate it, and another fight ensued. This marlin was more colorful than the others. Its bright blue stripes glowed in the water. “Striped marlin!”  This marlin completed our billfish grand slam by lunchtime on the first day! We had much fishing left.     

The ocean was mighty, with head-high waves that tested our sea legs. It began to rain steadily. I sat watching the teasers intently as a bill sliced through the surface behind the right teaser. I grabbed the pitch bait and swung the yellowfin tuna over the gunnel toward the hungry predator. Then, stretching the pole to the right, I maneuvered the bait close to the teaser. The marlin attacked, the hook settled, and the captain backed down hard, so I had to reel furiously to keep the line tight. 

The boat moved opposite the current, so the waves crashed hard into the back of the boat. Each wave struck the transom abruptly and sent a geyser of seawater into the air. A wave cascaded over the transom like a waterfall as the magnificent marlin rose high from the rain-dappled surface. As the fish continued to surge from the water, I understood what Ernest Hemingway meant when he said, “Then the fish came alive with his death in him and rose high out of the water showing all his great length and width and all his power and his beauty.”  The leader soon came into grasp, and we released the marlin.    

We continued to fish until dusk for a total of 14 billfish that first day. That night we rode to a seamount 70 miles from shore. The seas calmed, and the skies cleared for a beautiful second day. We released four marlin in the morning. The fifth and final billfish of the trip was a sailfish completing the impossible billfish super slam with four billfish species caught. When we released the sailfish, the captain and crew were exuberant with celebratory high fives. It was the first super slam for them and only the second one in the 12-year history of the fishing outfitter’s fleet. We arrived back at the dock at 4:00 pm, and the outfitter reiterated the magnitude of the super slam. In the 48-hour adventure, we caught 19 billfish total, including 16 blue marlin, a black marlin, a striped marlin, and a sailfish.

Costa Rica is a great angler’s destination, but it also offers other exciting activities in addition to fishing. Our group went ziplining and ATV riding through the jungle. We rappelled down waterfalls and went cliff jumping. We learned to surf and ate fantastic food.   

I observed my friends as we rode back to the airport to return home. Each had an elevated spirit, a lightened load, and a smile that seemed permanent. It was apparent that we found what we were searching for on this trip. We reconnected our friendships and refreshed our spirits.  We experienced new activities with a break from our typical responsibilities. And we caught a billfish super slam on the famous seamounts of Costa Rica!   

Written by Johnathan Roberts, 

Johnathan is co-owner of Shoshone Adventure Consulting (www.shoshoneadventures.com). Shoshone Adventure Consulting pairs adventurers with fishing, hunting, and adventure trips across the globe. The company has relationships with hundreds of the best outfitters and helps pair clients with the perfect trip to meet their goals.

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