Whenever we are holidaying near the coast, we try to spend a day deep sea fishing. It has long been a passion for both of us – we lived in a cottage by the sea in Cornwall for a year catching pollock, ling and mackerel – and at the end of the day we happily donate the catch to the crew, knowing it will either feed their families or make them some money at the local fish market.
We were therefore thrilled to learn that during our beach extension at the end of our tour of Costa Rica we would be spending a few days near some of the best fishing grounds in the world. I sought recommendations on Trip Advisor and was contacted by Tracey of Mar 1 Sport Fishing, a company that had received good reviews. They had a couple seeking to share a charter for the day in the last week of February. I paid our deposit and the trip was, I thought, arranged.
Unfortunately the other couple cancelled at the very last minute leaving us with the option of having a smaller boat to ourselves at an increased cost; a shorter offshore trip, also at an increased cost or a half day inshore. It was too late for us to cancel without losing our deposit. As Mar1 only takes cash on the day, I had to find a bank to get hold of the additional dollars needed. It was the last few days of our tour of Costa Rica and we had been really looking forward to our one day of relaxing on the beach prior to a day's fishing, so it was slightly annoying to lose time having to make this additional trek to the bank. I feel they should have honoured our booking and let us go out on the larger boat at no extra cost, but this was not an option.
We therefore found ourselves on a small fishing boat with limited facilities – the prospect of having no toilet for a full day out of sea was a bit alarming but not unexpected! (In case you're wondering: women have to use a bucket.) There seemed nowhere to stow my rucksack or camera, but luckily I was able to protect them within a large hotel laundry bag and the camera was in a waterproof bag, as they rolled around on the floor. However, the crew, Captain Louis and mate Elvis, were very professional, steering us clear of the squally weather that threatened us and pointing out dolphin, ray and turtles as they passed us by. They baited up several rods and were quick to hand them over to us and seat us in the captain's chair as soon as any fish took the bait. We reeled in and landed an alarmingly enormous sailfish each, and my partner also caught a tuna whilst I allowed another sailfish to slip away. The sailfish were both returned to the sea – much to my relief.
Sitting at the front of the boat , we did get soaked on the speedy return journey as the waves crashed over the bow onto us and I wish we had brought waterproofs as it was not especially warm by then. It would have been good to have caught a greater variety, but we were very pleased with our catch. Also, although it says on Mar1's website, they can arrange transfers, this was not forthcoming so we had to arrange our own taxi. Not a big deal but after a busy tour, we really just wanted to relax and let someone else do the organising. Be aware that you need a fishing licence for Quepos – the authorities will not let you onto the pier until you have paid $15 each for an 8 day licence and there was a queue of Americans complaining loudly about this when we arrived at 07.00.
Despite the few niggles, I'd be happy to recommend Mar1. However, the experience has left me questioning my interest in deep sea fishing. As I said, I am pleased when my catch goes to feed families: it's always amused me to think of the fishermen laughing at us tourists who pay them for the privilege of catching their dinner. I am not, however, happy with the idea of fishing as pure sport. When I held that beautiful sailfish, spoke to it and calmed it (yes, the crew thought i was mad!) I was so relieved to learn that it would be returned to the water but also sickened at the trauma I had put it through. According to recent research by an international team of scientists, fish do not have a brain system or enough sensory receptors in the nerve cells to experience suffering. Hmm – I'm not convinced.