Catching Guatemalan Sailfish with Peter Miller

Salt Life team member and professional angler, Peter Miller, is one of the top athletes in his sport, especially when it comes to catching sailfish for which he is a 3X world champion. Recently, he traveled along the pacific coast of Guatemala to Iztapa, which has one of the best sailfish sanctuaries in the world. He was not only after the adrenaline rush of non-stop sailfish action, but was also interested in figuring out what makes the eastern pacific so robust with his favorite fish.

 

Peter’s trip was a once-in-a-lifetime experience and one that he was able to share with his son. Here’s how it went down, and all that Peter learned…

The Fish Market and Some History

Like all fresh fish lovers, the first stop on Peter's coastal village trip was to the local fish market. Peter ventured down to the Iztapa fish market to buy some giant shrimp for his crew. While at the market, Peter made friends with the locals, and goofed off with kids as he played with freshly caught lobster. Guatemala accepts the US dollar, so there’s no need for a currency exchange when shopping at a Guatemalan fish market.

 

The people of Iztapa taught Peter about their culture, which is completely intertwined with their religion, and fully centered around fishing. Fishing fuels so much of their economy, both from tourism and the fish market. This area of Guatemala has a strict catch and release law regarding their prized sailfish. Reeling these huge fish all the way in is reserved only for those with a license. Visiting anglers are encouraged to catch and immediately release their sailfish so as to not harm the fish.

 

Peter sat down with Dr. Nelson Earheart to learn more about the pacific coast of Guatemala and why their sailfish bite so good. Dr. Earheart explained that due to the temperature of the eastern pacific, the Sailfish cannot live below 40 meters. Their prey live at the surface which is why there are always so many of them swimming in perfect catching depths. A sailfish that has been damaged severely from a fishing hook and battle can no longer swim at the surface, and therefore sinks to colder temperatures. 

The Epic Sailfish Battle

Finally, Peter hit the ocean with his team to experience what they came for - the incredible sailfish bite of the eastern pacific. Peter’s guide ran them 35 miles in the ocean and parked right on top of the sailfish sanctuary. They got bites immediately. There were numerous head-to-head battles as Peter and his team competed to see who could catch the most sailfish, releasing them as soon as they hit the side of the boat. At one point, every rod on the boat was bending heavily as they fought against the sailfish. This was an adrenaline rush like no other. Thanks to the catch and release law, other visiting anglers can have the same experience and local fishermen don’t lose any of their hard-earned revenue.

Mahi and Tuna

When Peter and his crew got hungry for fish they could catch and eat, their guide took them to mahi and yellowfin tuna heaven. They first battled against the monstrous Mahi, where they bagged several gorgeously colored fish (also called dolphin fish) as dolphins leaped in the background. The dolphins were an amazing sight, but even better was knowing that tuna were nearby. Dolphins prey on tuna, so where you see the brilliant jumping mammals, you’ll be sure to find tuna.

 

Peter had some new competition when it came to reeling in tuna - his son. Working together in a competitive spirit, Peter and his son caught plenty of fresh tuna. While these are not the biggest tuna out there, the Yellowfin tuna is one of Peter’s favorite fish for eating, and one that he does not often get the chance to catch. People have asked Peter if ever eats raw fish. He answers that question by cutting off a piece of meat from a tuna that had just hit the deck, and popped a good size piece right in his mouth. As Peter puts it, “there is nothing better than freshly caught tuna.”

Hunting the Red Wave

Peter and his son had one last adventure to take on before leaving Guatemala. That adventure? Ascending to the base of an active volcano. Their guides explained that the Grandiose Pacaya Volcano is the number one most active volcano in the country. Its most recent eruption in 2014 completely devastated coffee and avocado plantations located at the bottom of the volcano.

 

The weather was a perfect 72 degrees with no humidity, and amidst patches of hot ash still smoldering from the 2014 eruption, the father and son toasted marshmallows. Now that is a memorable way to end an epic angling adventure.

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