It’s our third day down in Guanaja, and I have been dying to catch a tarpon. Alec and I set out on a mission today… and by god we were going to catch one! We woke up at 5:30 this morning to get an early start on the day, and gathered all our rods and lures. We were pretty tired from all the great fishing we had been doing all the previous days and all the late night shark battles, but we both had our hearts set on catching a huge tarpon today. We hopped in our boat and set out to the river mouth, which we were told was the hot spot the day before. On our way over, we made a pit stop in this big ocean canal with a bunch of mangroves on the side which tarpon love to hang out by, just to throw our lines in the water and see what we could come up with. We fished all the way down and finally at the very end of the canal we spotted some rolling tarpon. Alec and I almost fell out of boat because we were so excited and knew that this very well could be the day we catch one of these devils. I let alec have the first few casts because that’s just what kind of friend I am… and to my luck, he hooked what looked like to be a 90 to 100 pound tarpon. He was having the battle of a life time, and let me tell ya, he was lovin it! This Tarpon was exactly what we were hoping for. It came up about 15 feet from our boat and flew about 4 feet clear out of the water. Looking at the view behind Alec and the fish reminded me alot of moby dick. What really killed all the excitement was when the tarpon just spit the lure out of its mouth in mid air… then swam away mocking us. At that point we were dissapointed but that was such a crazy experience to see such a huge fish fly out of the water so close to our boat and put up such a good fight. We carried on with our tarpon expedition for the remainder of the morning and finally got to the river mouth. We hooked about 4 this morning but never could fully land one. Mark my words though… tomorow is a whole new day.
We headed back to our key and had a fantastic lunch with all the boys. Then we set out to go spear fishing for lion fish yet again down on a new reef. What was so cool about the place we went too today was it was about 30 feet deep all around and all of a sudden there was this giant drop off that just turned into open water. It was a great place to snorkle. We shot a few lion fish, explored all around the reef with no limits or boundaries and were just livin the good life. Once we were all tired out from slaying so many lion fish, we headed back to another relaxing evening on our island. We fished a school of bonefish until the sun set and then lay in the hammocks watching the sun go down. Then comes my favorite part of the entire day. When I hear “dinner is ready!” come from the kitchen and we all gather at the table and swop our funny stories about what happened to us throughout the day. Although I didnt catch my Tarpon today like I wanted, I can always count on one thing… tomorow is always a new day, and Ive got plenty of time left in paradise. A tarpon will be mine!
Guanaja, the name I could not stop hearing from Noah since the day summer started. The stories I heard were unreal and unbelievable, and until the day I landed on the island I could not even imagine seeing fish tailing or catching permit, bonefish or tarpn. As we arrived on the island, I was led out to the flats to do some fishing, right away seeing my first permit tailing was unreal, and that night we hooked up to two sharks, a reef, and a 6 or 7 foot nurse shark along with a big horse eye jack fish.
I knew we were in for a ride, and with my limited flyfishing skills I wasn’t sure how it was going to workout. Within two days of me being on this island, the guides have taught me all of the basics of flyfishing, and I landed my very first bonefish on a fly rod, or excuse me, the very first fish I’ve ever caught on a fly rod. It’s truly amazing how beautiful bonefish look at sun rise in ankle deep water tailing and digging into the ground looking for some crabs. Guanaja is now the place I’m going to be thinking of until I get back here. I won’t be able to get those swaying palm trees that are partially blocking the sun’s rays out of my mind, or the sillouette of an angler flyfishing in the sunset stalking a school of bones. I am so happy to be helping out this wonderful place, my favorite so far was extracting lion fish that were tearing up the reefs.
We took this 25 minute boat ride to a remote place on the back side of the island, and as we were free diving we saw gorgeous coral and colorful fish, but what caught my eye was this lion fish hiding under a rock. My first shot to take it out, and I could not believe it happened, the rush of excitement I got was one thing I haven’t felt in a while. We are also picking up trash, planting mangroves, doing anything to help the fishing and marine life. Helping this island become a legendary fishing spot is what I dream of doing when I grow up. To sum up my two day Guanaja expierence, there is fishing day and night with beautiful sunsets and sunrises. Bonefish, permit, tarpon, snook, barracuda, wahoo, marlin and an unllimited amout more that makes this island so special, and that’s why we are here, to do what we can for the people here and get the word out.
My Dad always told me it’s all about the journey, not the destination. For the most part, I always agreed with him… until I came to Guanaja. The anticipation of coming down for my third year was no different than the first, if anything even greater. From the second that I leave Guanaja each year, it is what I look forward to the most over the next three hundred and fifty-eight days. For the last 3 years, each trip to Guanaja has been better than the last, but this year is different. This year we switched up the game plan, and I have brought with me four of my best buddies. For someone who does not truly have a passion for fly-fishing, and for Guanaja, it is difficult to explain the feeling I get the moment I step off that plane, so I wanted my friends to experience firsthand “the promised land”. This year we have launched the first student based service trip here, to better understand what it means to give back to the resource that we come all this way for. This week will not only consist of slaying the fish, but also planting mangroves that were devastated by Hurricane Mitch in ‘98, picking up trash and debris along the shorelines, hunting invasive species, giving back to the community and visiting local schools/ villages, and learning what it is like to establish sustainable development.
For the week before our plane left Austin, I barely slept I was so anxious. The images of tailing permit and rolling tarpon haunted my consciousness all throughout my junior finals, which I miraculously made it through. By the time we made it to the airport, we figured we were on the home stretch, but little did we know what lay ahead. 48 hours later, after missing our flight, being reimbursed with a private plane, dodging thunderheads, illegally landing in a foreign country without permission, being met on the tarmac by a group of men, getting locked out of our hotel room with no food, and an epic morning of fishing on Roatan, we were then on the home stretch. Early that morning in Roatan, and I mean early, we met our Captain, Aaron, at the dock out back of the resort. Things weren’t looking so hot after a few hours of trolling, but there was still a glimmer of hope. When we were about to call it off and head in, my buddy Derek was jolted, almost out of the boat, and the rod was doubled over with what felt like a small bus on the other end. To our frustration, seconds later, what was believed to be a giant grouper burrowed his way back into his lair. Just minutes later, Carson’s bait got slammed by a giant horse eye jack that was finally boated after a grueling 10 minute battle. This was only the beginning.
From the water we headed straight to the airport to catch our puddle jumper flight to Guanaja. After a short twenty minute flight, we set foot on Guanaja. As soon as we arrived at Jones Cay, I sat on the dock in marvel, which was soon interrupted by “Awwwhaww!” coming from the back porch. I threw together my 8 wt, and was casting at giant tailing permit within seconds. We were finally here… to wrap up the perfect night, we staked out on the back porch and began chumming for sharks in the lights. A half hour later, our bait was picked up by something big, and the reel began screeching out drag. Alec was the first to grab the rod, just in time to keep it from flying into the water, and we soon landed yet another giant horse eye jack. Our hope of bringing in some sharks was just out of reach, or so we thought. I was woken up in the hammock from my dream that had soon become reality when Carson yelled “Shark!”. She hadn’t picked up the bait yet, but she was sniffing it out through the wind and waves. One thing led to another, and Carson was hooked up to a 7 foot nurse shark. Once we got her up in the shallows to pin her down, the real battle began. After the nurse, the light was filled with fins and teeth, as five or so sharks circled, just taunting us. Soon enough, Derek was hooked up to a 4 foot reef shark that we soon wrestled in the shallows. The perfect end to a perfect evening, and an exhilarating start to a week in paradise.
I have been up chasing bonefish, permit, tarpon, cudas, and many more since 4:30 this morning, and am looking forward to doing it again in a few hours, but my favorite part of our first day in Guanaja was what we gave back to the resource. After some morning fishing, the crew rendezvoused at the lodge at 10:00 am for some spear fishing. Most wouldn’t believe that this would be contributing towards our sustainable development cause; however, we were hunting for an invasive species. We had a briefing for our mission as soon as we got back to the lodge, and from there we set out to find lionfish. Lionfish are a fish that many people would recognize from an aquarium or a picture, but what many people don’t realize is that they are rapidly spreading through the Caribbean as well as working their way to the Americas like wild fire. They are vastly wiping out other populations of vitally important species, and can consume up to 30 other fish every hour, and not to mention are extremely poisonous to the touch. We picked up our spear fishing mentor, Ooley, and set out the reef. Slipping into the water, the first thing that hit me was how deep the water was. We were anchored on the edge of a deep, deep drop off. Staring out into the deep blue sent chills up my spine, thinking of what could be watching me that I would have never even known. The hunt was a success, as each of us students came back with lionfish, as well as a couple grouper for dinner.
Although fishing is my passion, and it is what brings many to Guanaja, there is much more to be grateful for than meets the eye. I look forward to the fishing, just as much as friendships I have made, as well as the ones I have not made yet, and the impact that everyday people like myself can make on their lives. In Guanaja, everywhere I turn there are people to be found who willingly go out of their way to welcome us with open arms. Now it’s time to give back.
Paul Quinn is a Guanaja favorite and Guanaja is one of his favorites. He is a five season veteran and I wouldn’t be suprised to someday be celebrating his 10th season. He is a great soul and fits in perfect to a perfect paradise. Love and joy all around when Paul is here! Congrats on your permit Paul, we will now call you Permit Paul.
Turn up the music, sit back, relax, and enjoy . . .