Off the Gringo Trail

Fishing the wild Pacific

GUATEMALS'S SOUTHERN coastline is a piscine smorgasbord. The hors d'oeuvres consist of the small pelagic fish that swim in the natural eddy created by the country's jutting landmass. The entrées? Six-hundred-pound marlin, yellowfin tuna, and billfish. The diners—that would be you—sit at the top, as sore-armed as Hemingway's Santiago.

The biggest draw in Iztapa, 40 miles south of Antigua, are the Pacific sailfish, with their figure-skater leaps and Sir Lancelot bills. The sleek battlers weigh in at 75 to 100 pounds, measuring up to ten feet long. The water boils with them year-round. "If each boat isn't getting 25 every time out, it's a slow day," says Susana Maza, whose family runs El Capitan, Guatemala's oldest charter operator. One boat in the El Capitan fleet recently caught 70 sailfish in a day, a world record. Guatemala's government is about to mandate a catch-and-release policy, but most boats already do so.

El Capitan's charter boats (866-793-9504, www.sportfishingventures.com) cost $1,233 a day based on a group of five ($247 per person), lunch and fishing gear included.

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