May 12, 2018

Wrangling Alligator Gar in Texas

This trip is one I've wanted to do for some time but never took the time/effort to do it. As fate would have it, I had a business trip that took me to Houston so I took an extra day off to finally make it happen. I landed at 12:30 am and needed to meet the guide at 6 am. What I forgot to account for was the 2 hour drive I had from the airport so I ended up just sleeping in my rental car for a few hours before the trip started. The guide service I went with is which turned out to be a fantastic choice. I fished with Captain Cody and he far exceeded my expectations. My expectations were to hook 5-6 gar and land 3-4 total for the 10 hour day I booked and we blew that out of the water.

Trinity River

We had a beautiful day weather wise as we launched and started heading up river to some spots Capt. Cody has had success with in the past. We got our lines out and didn't have to wait long till we had some action. Gar will take the bait and run with it in their mouth so you need to wait a while before setting the hook. Cody explained that once they stop taking line, they eat the bait whole and then start heading back towards us. When I saw the float start coming back at us slowly, I reeled in the extra line and set the hook. FISH ON! It wasn't a long fight but an acrobatic one. I had a smaller gar on and we landed it in short order. My first ever Alligator gar measured out at 4 feet. The next few fish we landed were all 5 ft 8 in or 5 ft 9 in. We really never had much time between fish which as awesome!

My first Alligator Gar.

Looking at their head, It's no wonder how they got their name.

5 ft 9 in Gar. 

Another 5 ft 9 in Gar.
 A really cool experience during this trip was having three takes at the same time. With three fish going, I started fighting one while Capt. Cody got the lines with no fish out of the water. We landed the first one, got it in the boat and then started fighting the second, and then the third. We had line everywhere from lines being crossed but we managed to land all three fish. The smallest was 5 feet and the largest went 6 foot 3 inches. Cody told me this was the first time having a triple landed on his boat, and it made for a great picture before releasing all of them.

Landed a triple which was a first for Capt Cody.  Size ranged from 5 ft to 6 ft 3 inches.
Here is a look at the business end of a Gar. Two rows of razor sharp teeth.

6 ft 3 in Gar. 
To this point we had landed 8 of the 10 Gar we hooked. It had already been one of the best guided day trips I've ever been on, but it was about to get even better. Cody took me to a spot and told me that the fishing would be slow, but if we hooked up, it would be a big one. Cody was right yet again except for it being slow. We watched a gar rise to get air (they are air breathers) and it was a giant which got me excited. About 10 minutes later, something took the bait and headed up river. We got the other lines in the boat and had to start following it. Once it stopped, we gave it a few minutes and then I set the hook.
FISH ON! At first I couldn't tell how big the fish was because it was swimming right at us, but once it knew it was hooked, it tore off line like it was nothing. I fought this fish for about 15 minutes before getting a glimpse ,and that one look confirmed we had a huge fish on. The fight continued for several more minutes and we thought we had the upper hand. Cody maneuvered the boat to shallower water so we could land it and that when things went south.
As I got the fish closer to the boat the gar made one last short run and found a submerged tree where it got hung up. I couldn't budge it an inch. We were 6-8 ft of water and for the next 20-30 minutes we worked trying various things to try and get the line free. We broke branches form the log, trying another rod to hook the line and pull it in a different direction but nothing was working.
Then an idea came to me. I asked Cody where his life jackets were and he got one for me. With that I was in the water. I was not going to lose the potential largest fish I've ever fought. I went over to the line and ran my foot down it until I felt the nose of the fish so I would know exactly where he was. I then asked Cody to put the pole through the lasso we used to land earlier fish so now the line was in the middle of the lasso loop. I let the lasso sink and I used my feet the best I could to work the lasso around the Gar. Once I thought that the lasso was in position, I gave it a yank. I felt the weight of the fish and slowing started bringing him to the surface. It was thrashing around a bit so I had to be sure to give him space.
Once we got the head above water, Cody noticed the lasso was barely holding so I handed him the rope. I told him on the count of three, I was going to bear hug the fish and he needed to slide the lasso into position to get the best hold. He looked at me like I was crazy (fair assessment looking back on it). Well, I counted to three and wrapped myself around that fish for a few seconds while Cody worked the lasso. Mission accomplished!!! I didn't realize until later that Cody had snapped a few pictures with is phone while I was working that lasso in the water, but I m so glad he did. You have to have proof with a story like this. I still can't believe we got that fish in the boat. This gar measured out to 7 foot 11 inches and weighted roughly 210 pounds making this the largest fish I have ever landed. We went to a nearby sandy bank to get a few pictures of this river giant before releasing him back into the Trinity River.

Running my foot down the line to see where the monster gar is.

Getting the Gar out of the submerged tree. I wasn't going to give up on this fish.

7 ft 11 in river monster. The prize for not giving up.

210 pounds of Gar.

Things really are bigger in Texas.

we ended the day on that fish meaning we landed 9 of the 11 Alligator Gar we hooked that day. I can't thank Cody enough for a trip of a lifetime and more importantly a fish of a lifetime. If you ever want a trip to go after these prehistoric fish, I highly recommend giving these guys a call. I know I'll be back again.
I also hit an Astros game with my friend that lives in Houston.  My friend works for the Astros and was generous in getting me a ticket. They played the Yankees and lost, but it was still great to be in the ballpark. My favorite part though was getting to try on his World Series championship ring he received a few week prior. What a job perk!

A view of Minute Maid Park before the game.

Great seats. Thanks again Ryan.

A look at my friends World Series ring. Go Astros!

October 6, 2016

Singapore Adventure

I went to Singapore this past week for work. What a unique city. Before getting off the plane, there where repeated warning of what not to do while in Singapore including death sentences for anyone bringing drugs in. This got me thinking, so I looking up Singapore laws, and man were there a lot! They have fines for everything from chewing gum to not flushing the toilet and I'm not exaggerating.

I had a some time to explore when I wasn't in the conference. Singapore is easily the cleanest city I've ever been in (reference the fines) and some of the coolest architecture as well. There are more shopping malls than you can count, and the food was simply amazing. The most interesting thing I tried while there was the durian fruit. No food has ever confused me more. People say it's the blue cheese of fruit because of it's strong smell. It has the texture of custard, and I can't put my finger on what it tastes like. It walks a fine line between horrible and delicious. I still can't make up my mind.

The last day I was able to get some fishing in. I landed 11 fish; 5 species, 4 of which were new for me. I also had several fish beat me either slipping the hook or breaking off. They all fought hard, but none more than the Chao Pharya Catfish. That fish made several long runs and just when I thought the fish was giving up, it would tear off again. You know it's a good day of fishing when your arms are sore the next day...

Marina Bay Sands Resort and a view of the city from the top. There is an infinity pool on top which is one of the coolest swimming pools I've seen.

The famous Merlion of Singapore.

A view of the city at night.

Gardens by the Bay

Lau Pa Sat: the oldest food market in down town. I tried BBQ stingray, salted egg squid, white and sweet carrot cake, a bunch of local veggies and other delicious things I'm not sure of.

The Durian fruit. I'm still confused by this fruit.

Local fruit market with things I've never seen or heard of before.

Walking Catfish. The most surprising catch if the day.

Red Tail Catfish. one of 6 landed.

Chao Pharya Catfish. The hardest fighter of the day.

The crew that showed me the ropes. Rigel (front center) knew this place like the back of his hand.

Rahu Carp.

This is a Patin. The only top water action of the species we landed.

December 31, 2015

Catching River Monsters in Guyana, South America

This is the definition of a bucket list trip! I'd been wanting to fish South America for several years and it finally happened a few months ago. I set up my trip with Adventure Travel Alliance. They were great, and I plan on using them again for future trips. I flew into Georgetown, Guyana and from there took a small prop plane to Apoteri Village. From the village we went 26 miles up the Essequibo River to our camp. My main focus was to catch the legendary Arapaima. Guyana is the last place on earth where you can still catch wild Arapaima. After that, My goal was to catch as many species as I could.

We fished hard for 6 days, and caught some amazing fish. We also was all sorts birds. Some of my favorites were Toucans, Crimson and Blue Macaws and the Amazon King Fisher. we also saw Capuchin, Squirrel, Spider and Howler Monkeys along with Giant River Otters, Caymans, and hearing a Jaguar. We were not lucky enough to see one other than tracks. From here, this post will mostly be pictures with descriptions.

My hotel in Georgetown.

My first flight in a prop plane.

Flying over Kaieteur Falls. The world's widest single drop waterfall at 741 feet.

My favorite picture of the trip.
Our camp 26 miles up-river from Apoteri Village.

Capuchin and Squirrel monkeys

The Black Piranha. I thought they were fun to catch, but they quickly became a nuisance. They would often eat the bait before you could get it to the bottom, and they destroyed several lures. we caught them up to 10 pounds.

Peacock Bass. These guys were everywhere. These bass would blowup cranks and top-water plugs. You won't find the giants like they have in Brazil, but they are sure fun to catch.

Making a path down a small stream to get into a lagoon.

I thought I would try to be Tarzan. Not more than two seconds after this picture was taken, the vine snapped high in the tree and all of it came down on me. everyone had a good laugh.

A small Jacunda makes for great bi-catch chasing other species.

The Payara or Vampire fish known for it's over-sized fangs which are so big, there are holes in the upper jaw so the fish can close it's mouth. They roam the faster moving water of the river, and they destroy whatever lure they hit.

Burning logs is easier than hauling them off. they also make a great BBQ for the fish we caught.

A typical meal on our trip. This meal was peacock bass, rice, cabbage, fruits and veggies with some piranha soup. we also had chicken some nights with our catch. I was able to try several of the species I caught.

bow and arrows made by one of the guides used for both hunting and fishing.

Worms from a nut that grows down here. made great bait to catch bait...

Catching bait fish with a willow pole. These Rainbow Wolf Fish did the trick.

A Surubi or Tiger Shovelnose Catfish. we caught them on crank baits and cut bait.

Leopard Catfish. my favorite looking fish of the trip.

Cayman eating our left over bait.

A few of the bigger Redtail Catfish I landed.

Petroglyphs from an ancient people that live in the area. this was along the only river crossing when the river is low.

Our guides went above and beyond to get us into the many lagoons.

The first Arowana of the trip. being in a black water lagoon, the colors were much darker than that of his friend in the main river.

The main target of this trip; the hard fighting Arapaima. I hooked into several, but they almost always got the best of me. I've never fought a fish with the kind of power the Arapaima has.

A few still shots of an Arapaima dancing across the water. They would explode out of the water!

100+ bites from something. They oozed for several days, and itched for over a month. Ants, chiggers or something else. I'm just glad the itching is finally gone!

A Jaguar foot print on the beach where we caught some bait the morning before. 

Making our way to another lagoon.

The guide called this a Doualow (dow-a-low). I have no idea on the spelling.

The Aimara or Wolf Fish is the nastiest tempered fish in the Jungle. If you're in the water and come into their area, plan on getting bit.

The Wolf Fish's bite is not only dangerous because of it's teeth. It has bacteria that it has in its mouth that causes quick infection.

(turn your speakers up) Howler Monkeys in the distance. They were our alarm clock every morning around 3:30 -4 am. One morning they were so close, you could feel the howl in your chest like a car with a nice sound system.

Giant Amazon River Turtle. This one weighed around 90 pounds. The guide told me this was a medium sized one. We took a quick picture and set it free.

Gathering vines for an anchor rope.

Pacu that a guide got with his arrows.

Sunset over the Essequibo River with the Guyana highlands in the distance.

An Arowana from the main river. notice the color change from the Arowana picture earlier,

a baby Biara (spelling).

A Tarantula that greeted me in the shower. It's the only time I freaked out on the trip.

I picture of the crew. It was great meeting new friends.

The kids from the village loved coming to greet the plane. The Amerindian people are some of the nicest people you'll meet.
Loading up the plane. I hope that one day I'll make it back.