October 19, 2017

2017 Mazatlan (Day 5)

We're on our second last day of panga fishing. We figure we would focus on the wrecks to find White Snook, Orangemouth Weakfish and Blackblotch Pompano. We headed north a long ways to some deeper water wrecks that Captain C knew well. But with a drop in the swells and a switch of the current, the deeper current was moving much too fast to fish properly.

At the first wreck, we caught a few Spotted Rose Snapper that were suspended over the wreck. However, if there were larger fish, they were not biting. Captain C and I did managed to land 3 Mexican Barracuda. It would have been a lifer for Josh, and in fact his hook and bait was likely cut off by one. But the school moved on quickly and we didn't see another one landed. We decided to move on after a while.

At the second wreck, there were fish on the graph but again, these fish would not bite. And so it went for the rest of the day...wrecks and reefs with fish showing on the bottom that simply would not bite.

We were on a more comfortable boat with some seat cushions up front...and Josh and I ended up doing a lot of this between moves...such is the life on a slow day of fishing...

Everyone actually went liferless after a whole 6h of panga fishing. Captain C tried hard and I think he was very hard on himself for not getting us into feeding fish. We could tell because he didn't get his usual celebratory Modelo cervaza when he returned to the marina.

As a group, we discussed the possibility of fishing the shore spots in the afternoon during low tide. Since we were liferless, everyone was game to fish the rocky point. On the way to the point, we drove along the Malecon. It was evident that the tide is low and the swells has calmed down significantly. It might just work out at the tidepool.

While the outer rocks were still pounded a bit, the inner areas were perfectly fishable. The tidepool looked really good.

I looked down and could see a number of Damselfish species around the rocks. I also noticed what appeared to be a Butterflyfish coming in and out of the tidepool. But it was a complete surprise that my first hookup was the Butterflyfish! Usually they take a lot more work to catch since other species are quickly to the bait. I must have dropped the bait directly in front of the fish.

Species #768 - Threebanded Butterflyfish (Chaetodon humeralis)

As great a catch it was, it wasn't the Giant Damselfish that I'm after. That Giant Damselfish had escaped my efforts on the last trip to Mazatlan. Not only did they mostly refused my bait, but the one solid hookup that I had pulled me under the rock and cut the 2lb fluoro I was using. This time, I wasn't taking any chances. I was using 8lb fluoro and #16 hooks. If I hook that buggah, he's not escaping.

But of course, other fish were jumping on the bait much quicker. I was catching a couple of Banded Wrasse and lots of Mexican Night Sergeant until something else came up. Brown-coloured Damselfish are a pain in the arse to ID. But this guy looked different. It had brilliant blue-violet eyes and a more olive body and fins. There were also those pearly white spots on the scales toward the lower back half of the fish. Josh caught one earlier as well so we took some photos. It is always a good practice to photograph fish that looked slightly different...and this time it paid off because this is a new species!

Species #769 - Bumphead Damselfish (Microspathodon bairdii)

Now...if only these guys can leave me alone...

I had to plunk the bait deep toward the base of a rock to reach the Giant Damselfish that I saw. They were mostly hidden under their rocky cave and only came out to chase other fishes away. But with a bit more tempting, one finally came out to take a nibble. I missed the initial hit, but with more persistence, I finally hooked it! It is so beautiful. The deepest sapphire blue with snow white edged caudal fin and this juvenile had turquoise blue spots on the back. Perfect as perfect can be.

Species #770 - Giant Damselfish (Microspathodon dorsalis)

Of course, Josh was trying for his Giant Damselfish as well, but keep hooking up Tinsel Squirrelfish. Since I had yet to catch that species, I went over to his tidepool to poach one. But as lifer hunting rule dictates, a previously difficult lifer will become too easy to catch once that cherry had been popped. And on my dip into Josh's tidepool, up came a magnificent adult Giant Damselfish specimen...one that Josh had been trying to catch for the past too many minutes. Sorry Josh...

But he took revenge on me by catching Tinsel Squirrelfish one after another. I must have caught another dozen fish of non-lifer kinds before I finally flipped a Tinsel Squirrelfish into the air, which promptly unhooked in the air and flipped into a deep tidepool behind me...forever out of reach. Such is my luck...

But persistence always pays (if you have enough time to keep trying). Another 10min later, I finally had one in hand...and then another. And the second bugger poked me in the hand with one of its spines. That searing pain felt too good...only because it was a lifer.

Species #771 - Tinsel Squirrelfish (Sargocentron suborbitale)

Finally, Josh caught his Giant Damselfish. He poked around the the tanago hook for some micros and found a Longfin Silverside. I had already caught 4 awesome lifers on the day and felt no need to try for more (yeah, you read that right). We were quite content and goofed off a bit.

We called it a day, took the air conditioned bus to the hotel and celebrated at the pool. It was followed by a 10oz rib eye steak, salad and baked potatoe at Roy's for only $12 USD. Life can't be this good, can it?

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