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The Backstage Pass

A Brief Overview of Fly Fishing for Billfish in Guatemala

May 03, 23

While Guatemala may be known for its volcanoes, thick jungles, and a variety of wildlife, it is also known as one of the best bill fisheries in the world, and rightfully so. The blue water fishery in Guatemala is healthy due to the Equatorial Counter Current that creates a “billfish highway.” This current was created over millions of years by a plate shift that is now a cliff and a couple of thousand feet deep just 40 miles off the coast. Food and fish are very present in this region of the Pacific. With fishermen displaying world-class numbers daily, this complex and diverse fishery is highly regarded as one of, if not the best, in the world.

The billfish family has been around for millions of years. The latest record of the billfish species dates back to 15 million years ago in the Late Miocene. Billfish in the present day are highly migratory, are found in all oceans, and typically inhabiting tropical and subtropical waters.

Billfish have multiple adaptations that make them different from any other species of fish. Reaching speeds of up to 40 mph makes them one of the fastest species of fish on record. Billfish also have sophisticated swim bladders which allow them to reach considerable depths.

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This bladder allows them to rapidly compensate for a change in pressure when changes in depth occur. This means that when they are swimming deep if attracted to something on the surface, they can reach it quickly without a problem. The diet of the billfish family is similar to many other species inhabiting the Pacific. Billfish primarily feed on smaller pelagic fish, crustaceans, and small squid. When feeding, the billfish use their bills to stun and spear their prey before eating.

Fishing for billfish on the fly, whether sailfish or marlin, can be a very exciting process. While your boat is using techniques to tease the fish, you stand ready with your fly in hand. When the billfish sees the teaser fly and one of the mates on board brings the fish inside 10 yards, you cast your fly just behind the fish. While strategically stripping your fly to entice the fish, in a best-case scenario the billfish will eat your fly.

From there the captain will give you instructions on which way to set the hook and put pressure on the fish. Fighting a billfish is thrilling. These fish can leap from the water for great distances adding to the excitement. Once the fight with the fish is nearing its end and you have the fish close to the boat, one of the mates on the boat will help release the fish back into the ocean.

The season for billfishing depends on what fish you are seeking to catch. Sailfish can be found year-round with the months of November through May being peak season. Marlin can also be taken year-round in Guatemala, but most reliably appear in the months of October through December. These fish grow to be anywhere from 200 – 400 for Blues and 250 – 400 for Blacks in the waters of Guatemala. There is no doubt that the marlin is the alpha predators among all fish species in the region.

Yellow Dog Flyfishing works with three lodges in Guatemala. Casa Vieja Lodge and Pacific Fins Resort are both great lodges that offer you extensive fishing opportunities and accommodations while on and off the water. Casa Vieja is considered by many to be the premier billfishing destination for discerning anglers. With luxury accommodations, world-class fishing, and an exquisite team of chefs, we recommend the Casa Vieja Lodge to any angler. Pacific Fins Resort is a terrific family and couples option with numerous eco-tourism activities. Pacific Fins is an excellent location for experienced and beginner fly anglers alike to pursue marlin with opportunities for dorado and tuna as well.

Blue Bayou Lodge is another highly regarded lodge for billfishing in Guatemala. With nearly identical opportunities on the water, Blue Bayou offers a more economical package. Both of the lodges listed here want to ensure that you have the best stay possible while you're fishing in Guatemala.

Guatemala’s blue water fishery is certainly second to none, and with activities off the water and exceptional bill fishing, you are bound to have a wonderful trip with a destination like Guatemala, its geography, the fishery, and more.

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