Last year we took my good friend and clients boat named the Ruthie to San Salvador in the Bahamas for 8 days. This year we planned on taking the boat again but staying for a bit longer. San Salvador Bahamas is 340 nautical miles (~400 statute miles) from Miami so it is not a trip you take lightly. Joe, the owner, did an excellent job getting the boat ready. His boat is a 39 SeaVee with twin diesel IPS drives. All the maintenance was done, spare parts loaded, tackle was prepped and loaded and freezer loaded with bait was placed on board. We had been planning this trip since last year and were hoping for good weather for the crossing. Last year the weather was not that pleasant. For two weeks before the trip, the wind was howling every day. It was forecasted to die down on the day of our crossing, but when we got to the dock in the morning it was still blowing. Joe was to fly in to Cat Island and my mate Leo and myself were to take the boat over. With plane tickets purchased, hotel and dock reservations, we decided to go and take a look offshore. If it was safe to cross over we would proceed, if not we would turn around and try the next day. As we ventured into the Gulfstream, the weather was tolerable. That big SeaVee is a very seaworthy boat and her big twin diesels easily carried us over the seas. The first stop was to clear customs in Bimini. We then crossed the Bahama Bank and stopped in Nassau overnight. Next morning we woke up early and crossed another portion of the Bahama Bank and entered Exuma Sound. The wind had not laid down and Exuma Sound was pretty nasty. Again the big SeaVee did her job flawlessly and we slowly made our way to Cat Island. I have been to Cat Island before but it was a number of years ago. The marina and the staff are excellent here and the hotel is fine as well. After a couple of cold drinks to celebrate our arrival we settled into our slip and got the boat ready for tomorrows fishing.
The next morning Joe, Leo and I went fishing and did a bit of scouting of the local waters. We caught some big dolphin that day and had one blue marlin on but didnít stay connected. The next day we did the same and early during the day we hooked a nice blue that greyhounded all over the ocean for us. The fish come up on the teaser and then ate one of the short lures and gave us quite the show. He eventually jumped us off, but not till after a great show. We were strictly targeting blue marlin for this entire trip so we continued trolling up to Columbus Point, which is the islands hot spot for blue marlin. While trolling down sea, Joe decides to put out a small PoluKai lure on the shotgun on a small Talica 25 Shimano reel. The reel had braid backing and 50-pound mono topshot, but I had my doubts if this reel could handle a decent size blue. Within minutes Leo yells out that a blue had just missed the lure. I look back and sure enough a big blue marlin is swimming down sea and the lure is just a few feet from her mouth. This is the sight that I will remember this whole trip by. The marlin was big and I could see her whole body in the face of the wave. A few seconds later she ate the lure and the battle was on. Leo did a great job clearing the lines while I cleared the teasers and drove the boat. After all the lines were in, we were almost out of line on the reel and probably had less than 50 yards of braid left. With some very aggressive boat driving and some great angling by Joe, we managed to get back at least half of the line. The big fish made another run, and then went straight down. Joe was in a stand up harness and really started to go to work to pump this fish back up. After about an hour, I heard the words I was hoping not to hear. Joe yelled up that the reel was seized and the drag was locked up. He could still gain a bit of line but if the fish pulled, the locked drag would cause the line to break. No more than ever I had to focus and stay right on top of the fish. Joe is a great angler and did a great job under extenuating circumstances. After another twenty or so minutes, we had the fish on the leader. When I saw the fish eat the lure, I thought she was about 500 pounds. Now with the fish next to the boat it was clearly 600 pounds of better. After a few pictures we released this fish and watch her swim away gracefully, thanking her for giving us such a valiant fight. If you have never caught a big blue marlin, their size and strength is something you will never forget.
We continued fishing Cat Island for the next week or so and caught a few more marlin, both whites and blues. The fishing had slowed down a bit and Joe had to fly home, but Leo and I took the boat to San Salvador and met up with my good friend Roger and his son and fished for a few days there. Although I liked Cat Island, San Salvador is one of the fishiest marlin places in the Bahamas. I have fished here before and fished it last year and simply love this place. Our first day out with Roger and Wyatt we hooked and caught 2 white marlin. It was both Rogerís and Wyattís first whites so everyone was ecstatic. The next day we had another memorable day. We were trolling along French Bay when the shotgun gets nailed. A look back and we can see it is a white marlin. As that fish ate though we had a blue marlin trying to eat the teaser. As I reeled in the teasers, Leo tossed out a pitch bait and was trying to entice the blue to eat. All this time the boat is in gear and the white is screaming off line. I couldnít stop the boat for the white because we wanted the blue to eat. Alter what seemed like an eternity, the blue faded back on one of the short lure and hammered it. Now we had a double header of a blue marlin and a white marlin. Wyatt quickly got the white marlin to the boat and Roger battled the blue marlin. After a bit of time, we got that blue to the boat and celebrated our blue and white marlin double header.
We got back to the dock and prepped the boat for the long journey back home. We left early the next morning and the weather was fairly cooperative especially since the wind was behind us. Unfortunately the wind really kicked up on the Bahama Bank towards Nassau and made this part of the crossing a bit miserable. We overnighted in Nassau and the next day the wind died down a boat and we had a decent crossing to Miami.
It was a great trip and we caught 7 marlin, plus lots of big mahis and a yellowfin tuna. This type of trip, especially on a center console takes preparation and safety is the top priority. We had all the safety gear we needed including live raft, epirb, sat phones and all the other standard safety gear. The hard work and preparation worked out and I got to spend some great time in the islands with good friends and clients and canít wait to do it again next year!!
Capt. Dean Panos