A panga for two

First, be forewarned. This is something of a literary post about my fishing trip on my

panga for 2 – Ken and Jack set sail

birthday, June 15. I’ll try using a storytelling method for the benefit of my good friend Mark. First person will have to do.

I woke up at 4:15. I had to be ready to go fishing by 7 and I didn’t have an alarm clark. So I just waited for 6:15. It gets light about 5 am here, by the way.

Jack picked me up right on time. We had to be at Tarcoles by 8. Stop for some pastry and coffee and off we go way too early in the day for me.

Jack pulled some strings with the locals he knows to get us on a local fishing boat. Instead

Jack battles a stick fish

of the typical 26-foot, center consol, two outboards, etc., most people who come to Costa Rica charter, we were going to fish in a panga. This would save a lot of money (our price was $150 for two people, half-day) but we were worried about what tackle and knowledge they might have. Or not have.

The actual panga was a v-hulled, fiberglass 16/18-footer, with seats and pads, and a 40HP outboard. There were four heavy-duty but respectable rods/reels in the front. The captain noticed my Penn reel and approved. One of his reels

Fishing nets at Tarcoles beach

was a Penn. There were maybe 18 similar craft lined along the beach at Tarcoles. Tarcoles is a small fishing village about 20 minutes north of Jaco. The driver Jack uses for his restaurant customers lives in Tarcoles.

Inside the beach tree line, which was maybe 50 yards from the water’s edge, there were various setups where fishermen were hanging out their nets for repair. This was a serious fishing village. But gringo dollars bring a lot more per diem than fishing does. A lot more.

We arrived at the Tarcoles beach early and met our captain, Yino. We also met his wife, Maria, and 2-year-old son. Yino had a mate who ran the motor on our trip, but I never got his name. Yino spoke some English and he and Jack spent most of the trip conversing in some sort of strange dialect somewhere in between the two languages. Frighteningly, I understood a lot of what was being said.

Yino’s boat had to be launched from the beach, through the surf. Luckily for us this day, the surf was only 3-4 feet. Once we got our gear and ourselves in the boat, the two Ticos, one on each end of the boat, manuevered us through the waves. It was impressive but didn’t do my stomach any good, what with the get-to-the-top-and-then-fall-down, bang, feeling. Did I mention I get seasick? Easily?

I travel with dramamine. I get sick on kids’ playground merry-go-rounds. Forget the ferris wheels (which I’ve done), or the roller coasters (ditto), or a host of other up-and-down, round-and-round kind of activities (again, ditto). I have had a couple of incidents of serious vertigo. It’s a balance thing, but here I was on a small boat in the open ocean with pretty decent swells carrying us up and down, round and round. Urrp!

The tactic of our captain was to troll artificial baits up and down the coast, a mile offshore. Then, take the gringos to a rocky area (with more wave action, by the way) where they can catch snapper. Except that they wanted us to use handlines, frozen shrip and the fish we caught were all less than 6 inches. I think this was their attempt to give tourists/gringos the “local” experience of fishing with a handline, like most Ticos do. I consider myself a serious fisherman, so I used my own tackle, with the same result – very small fish.

Oh, did I mention by this time I was already in serious medical distress?

I knew as soon as we broke through the breakers that my stomach was going to be a problem. I had taken a dramamine tab before I left so I thought I’d be okay. I should have also brought along some mints as backup, but didn’t think of it. All I had in my stomach was morning coffee, juice and some danish.

We had been trolling for about an hour when we finally started seeing baitfish and some schools of larger fish. About this time, I was standing up in the boat, trying to catch as much wind and avoid as much of the boat’s heaving to keep me from heaving. Didn’t work.

Anyway, by the time we started catching those tiny fish, I was over the side for a second time. “Feeding the fish, huh Ken?” came from the boat. My troubles, and embarrassment would occur three more times.

We trolled for maybe another hour, occasionally going around in circles chasing schools of bonita. Finally, I said enough and we headed for shore, where the tide and waves were much higher than when we left. This should be fun – boat surfing!

We headed straight into the breakers, with the mate accelerating or decelerating to stay between breakers. Finally, he turned the boat around 180 so the stern was facing the shore. Then he let the waves push us in. And finally, dry land!

We didn’t catch anything. But I’m not unhappy about the experience. Taking the panga instead of the tourist charters was a good idea. Gets you closer to the culture and the people. And I did learn that I need to stay off boats. Guess that’s why I’ve always liked fishing from shore.


About 2bagsandapack

Lifetime journalist, author, magazine editor and publisher, now semi-retired and traveling the world. My plan, after living in Costa Rica for 14 months, was to visit a new country in southern Europe every three months to experience the culture and the challenge of adapting to a new environment, while on a fixed income. That plan was sidetracked when I was offered a job in Indonesia, providing an opportunity to explore Asia. Indonesia lasted for a 4 wonderful years but I have now moved on to Hua Hin, Thailand.
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2 Responses to A panga for two

  1. 2bagsandapack says:

    Nothing to come back to in Florida. My next stop is Asheville for a month and then on to southern Europe – Croatia, Greece, Italy, Portugal.

  2. LOL Riot! At least one big fish would have been worth it. Better Luck next time. Guess you’re better at catching shark from the shore. Are you coming back to Florida?

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