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Fish Tales


Spring Break Pt. 2 - The Sails


If you thought that Charlie Bernard had nothing left after fighting big tarpon, think again. Read on to hear how he did against the sailfish in Cancun ...

When I go on vacation, there is only one thing I want to do - go fishing. For the last few years, a ritual fishing vacation has been to fish with the Bracher brothers. The vacations starts in Key West, Florida and ends in Cancun, Mexico. Pat Bracher is a flats boat captain in Cudjoe Key. He provided me with six 115-130 pound Tarpon and eight bonefish in a few days, but that's another story. Arch Bracher, Pat's twin, is captain of the PELICAN out of Kill Devil Hills, NC. Arch is in Cancun, Mexico from late March through May every year. The PELICAN is a Carolina style sport fisherman, 53 feet long with about a 15 foot beam.

Marjory and I arrived in Cancun on Monday, the 21st of April, for three days of dedicated sailfishing. Capt. Arch Bracher and the mate, Bert Sowell, are my friends. The locals refer to Bert as "el chivo" since he and a goat sport matching chin wear. When we met the PELICAN that evening, I invite their girlfriends, Melinda and Lynnette, to come along.

On Tuesday, we leave the dock before 9:00, arriving at the fishing grounds about 10:00. The trolling setup is two flat lines, two outriggers and two teasers. The flat lines and outriggers pull naked ballyhoo that are caught the day before by the local Mexican fisherman. The teasers are mullet, a daisy chain on the left and an umbrella rig on the right. To help with Marjory's left-right confusion, Arch says, "the right is on the side as one faces to the transom of the boat!" I take the right flat line since that is my favorite position.

By 10:30 I'm ready for a cigar. As I'm going through my waist pack, Arch yells "RIGHT FLAT." I bolt for the rod, pop it out of the pin, and hold the rod high ... seconds pass, "let it drop right there" yells Arch ... "free spool" ... "let it drop ... let it drop ... let it drop ... let it drop ... let it drop ... let it drop ... let it drop." Then Arch says "lock it up and reel." I reel, the line comes tight, and the sailfish goes airborne ... HOOKED UP!!! About a 50 pound fish is released 15 minutes later ... gee time goes fast when you're having fun.

We troll for about an hour, when "LEFT FLAT" is the cry from the bridge. Burt handles this one in the same scenario as above, and passes the rod to Marjory. Marjory gets setup with the belt, against the transom, and the sailfish is gray-hounding for home. "Push the reel up to STRIKE, Marjory" calls Arch. She pushes it all the way up, the fish really feels the hook set and goes airborne ... again and again and again! Marjory managed the fish's antics and gets it to boat side in about 20 minutes. Released in excellent condition.

Lynnette makes lunch for us all. With her help, the food is greatly improved over previous years. While she is cleaning up all the condiments ... "LEFT OUTRIGGER" and Bert gets to it first. "Honey, come here", he says, all the ladies take a step! Lynnette takes the rod and lands the third sail of the day ... and it's 12:15. Bert tags his lady's fish before the release. I get a hug. I respond with, "el gusto es mio!!"

About 12:45, the right outrigger pops the pin (this rod is on the bridge with Arch holding about 5 feet of line in his fingertips). He reels, the fish goes airborne ... hooked up. "Melinda come here", I yell as Arch hands the rod down to me. Melinda gets the rod belt on and I hand her the rod. "But I'm just coming along for the ride," she says. "Too late now, you're hooked up and holding the rod!" I said. Another sail boated and released in about 20 minutes. Melinda's first sail wouldn't stay around for a tagging.

By the time we return to the dock it's after 8:00. At the end of the first day, Marjory has caught six, I caught five, Lynnette two, and Melinda one.

On Wednesday, same scenario, except Lynnette and Melinda are not with us. We leave the dock before 9. Marjory catches two sails before noon and the rest of us catch bonita (as we did yesterday which I didn't mention). "Right flat, Charlie, and I jump to my rod. "Left flat" and Bert jumps to that one; "We are covered up" Arch yells as the right outrigger pops out of the pin. My fish is hooked and jumping, Marjory takes the left-flat rod from Bert, the fish jumps, and makes the race for the boat. Marjory is reeling for all she's worth, Marjory catches up and the Sail decided to go the other way, the rod doubles over ... hooked up! Arch hands the third rod down to Bert. It's a triple!!! "Now we're fishing", is heard from bridge. Three fish hooked up and jumping everywhere! "Marjory go under Charlie ... Charlie go under Bert ... Bert go under Marjory" ... finally the sails decided to go in their separate directions. At one point, we had sailfish jumping off the port, starboard, and stern of the PELICAN. I boated and released my sail, Bert got his (I acted as his wireman, which was fun), and Marjory's just wanted to jump and have fun. We boated and released that one with a TBF tag. Three for three this time!!! Final tally was Charlie for six, Marjory for four, and one for the mate "Chivo."

On Thursday, I invited Carlos to join us. We met Carlos four years ago when he was helping out on the dock. He's now working as a mate on the same dock. He's fished, as my guest, for each of my Cancun vacations and caught his first sail with us four years ago. This day, it turns out to be his 28th birthday! LET'S GO FISHING CARLOS ... MUY BIEN AMIGO. This time it's Marjory, Lynnette, Carlos, Arch, Bert and me. This time I tell them "It's jungle rules." (first to the rod wins).

Whale sharks covered us up at the start of this day. There were about 30 of them over a three acre area right next to the boat. Whale sharks are huge plankton eaters. These look about thirty feet long by seven feet at their broadest point. Bert has been swimming with them before and even has pictures. Lynnette and Marjory wanted to swim with them, but Arch and I wanted sails instead.

The low point of the trip comes early on the last day. Arch coaches me to the first hookup. I'm using my own new rod and reel. It's a beautiful custom rod built by Anglers Choice (Luc Ofield) in San Diego. The reel is a Shimano TLD 20 two speed. I'm still mastering the feed. After free spooling, the fish bolts the other way ... fast ... overrun; Arch says "Lock it up" and I lock it up as the line snarled. Then SNAP, this one blue marlin of the trip is gone. Since I saw the fish hit, I know what I missed ... @#$%!!! Next time!

During a later hookup, Marjory and I were working a double. My fish was all over the place and I'd already had wind-up leader knot half way to the reel. As Bert was ready to release the fish, it surged for home by diving under the boat and Bert let go. Bert and I are hanging over the left side of the boat with the rod tip in the water. Marjory is at the stern working her fish when Carlos spots my sail leaping into the air on the right side of the boat. Then the sail leaps again and the line catches the wheel. It's free at last.

On our final day the count is four for me, three for Marjory, two for Carlos, and one for Lynnette. Marjory had one that ran at and away from her three or four times. She was within inches of the knot when the fish ran one more time. This fish was jumping everywhere, then it was free. A break due to line chaffing by the bill of the sailfish she had within inches of claiming ... no count on that one!

Final three day tally was thirty-five sailfish legal catches. Seven or eight sailfish were hooked but can not be counted because we didn't get the leader knot onto the rod tip.

Each day, the ride in to the dock is marked by beautiful sunsets, cloud shape naming contests, a near full moon rise, happy days rehashing and the search for and view of Comet Hale-Bopp. What a great way to fish ... CATCH AND RELEASE!!!

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