Releasing A Sailfish In Costa Rica By Hand
This week we have been traveling in Costa Rica with some friends, staying near the pacific town of Quepos. The particular house we are staying at is actually in the Manuel Antonio national park which is teeming with all sorts of wildlife. We have woken up in the mornings so far to find toucan, sloths, and monkeys perched outside our balcony. The other day we went out deep sea fishing and ended up having a very unique experience catching and releasing some sailfish on the ocean.
Costa Rican Fishing Trip
Leaving just after sunrise, we headed out southwest among a fleet of other fishing boats. We throttled out for about an hour and a half about 40 miles offshore on a day where there was barely a ripple in the ocean. The flat sea conditions made it easy to spot wildlife as we headed offshore. We passed by about a dozen sea turtles sunning themselves and saw a few small schools of spinner dolphins surfing in our wake off the back of the boat.
As we got a ways offshore, we then setup for sail fishing and trawled for a few hours until we got our first sailfish on. We brought the fish in close to the boat and then released it along side. In the video you will see how the deck hand resuscitated it for a few minutes before the release. This helps the fish to catch their breath and return back to full health.
Sailfish Fastest Fish In The Ocean
Sailfish are in the billfish family which get their name from the large spear like bill that protrudes from their heads. These fish generally grow up to about 10ft and about 200 pounds. They get their name from the long sail that connects to their dorsal fin and is used for making the sailfish appear larger than it is to avoid predation. Sailfish have also been observed using this sail in a coordinated feeding behavior to herd and eat smaller fish. This has lead scientists to believe that they are a good deal more intelligent than had previously been thought. They also hold the speed record for any organism in the ocean being clocked at 68mph!
Releasing The Sailfish
On our second of 5 sailfish for the day, I asked the captain of our boat if I could get in the water and film the release of the sailfish, which he was ok with. So unbenounced to the rest of our group, the crew member and I got our snorkels and camera gear ready below deck and then came out looking lie we were ready to go snorkeling.
Its funny, when you jump into the ocean 40 miles from shore in about 4000ft of water, the first reaction you have is NOT how stunning the view is. Rather you do a 360 and look around you to see if anything is going to EAT you! After you do that and see nothing but cobalt blue in every direction, the size,scale, and beauty of the ocean really sinks in.
We jumped off the back of the boat while the other crew member was on board holding the bill of the sailfish. Then they made the transfer of the fish from the guy on board to the one in the water. Once I got my gloves on, he handed the fish over to me to release. As I held the bill and sail of the fish, it was giving me a look up and down with its baseball size eye, something I will never forget. I wish I had grabbed a pair of fins so I could have swam down a little ways with this magnificent fish, but the release still went off without a hitch. I gently nosed it down and sent it on its way back to the deep.
To be actually in the ocean, in that creatures environment, really gives you the sense that its not just us on this planet. All in all, this was one of my favorite days of fishing ever. Nothing to bring home and eat, just an amazing time with great friends and an experience we will all walk away and remember for a very long time.