Charlie Coppolo heads to Fuerteventura for big game fish and more…
Just to give some sort of insight and background, when it comes to my angling and intent, I'm always looking for good, exciting and very affordable fishing within reasonable travelling distance. I'm really not a fan of long-haul flights and lengthy journeys, so if I can source worthwhile angling opportunities closer to home then you can be sure that I will be looking to give it a go!
So, with that in mind, I joined a friend, Mr Robin 'Fishyrob' Howard, in Fuerteventura in the Canaries one February. The fishing was good and I managed to land barracuda, bonito, angel shark and stingray.
However, the more exciting angling opportunity came about after I had decided to seek out a local charter boat for a day, and sample what boat angling the island offered.
After a bit of online research, I managed to track down local skipper, Agoney Hierro, and Resacca Charters. While out for a short day’s fishing with Agoney, catching bonito and barracuda on baits, he suggested that the best boat fishing from the island was to be enjoyed later in the year (October onwards), when the 'big game' fish arrive – blue marlin, white marlin, dorado and wahoo and the like.
This certainly sparked my interest because these were species I would love to target but couldn't warrant the time and money needed to travel to far-off destinations to do so. The wahoo particularly had my interest because I had seen photos of what looked very big fish on Agoney's website and really fancied a chance at one of them for myself.
So the next few months were spent making arrangements and booking dates with Agoney to target the aforementioned species, as well as being in contact with well known island resident and photographer Simon 'Skippy' Waldram, who was going to be kind enough to shepherd me and my angling partner during the nights and hopefully put us among the equally excellent beach angling that the island offers.
A couple of days before the flight I was joined by friend and angling partner Stewart O'Keeffe, who had caught a flight over from Cork, Ireland, to stay at mine and travel to Fuerteventura together.
Bags dropped at the hotel, what's the next thing any good angler does? Head straight to the marina of course, where we were infatuated by the big bream and mullet.
An early rise the next morning, and we met Agoney at the boat, which was only a short walk from our hotel in Corralejo. The day was to be a short one, only five hours, but this was a blessing because we would ideally need to get some sleep before heading back out in the evening for an all-night trip beach fishing and to be straight back to the boat in the morning.
The vast majority of the first day was very uneventful on the fish front, aside from the odd flying fish shooting out of the water in front of the boat, which was a sight to see in itself. The only excitement happened when we were on our way back into the marina and one of the rods erupted into life, and the line quite simply started melting off the reel! Neither Stewart nor I being that experienced with this style of fishing, we sort of stuttered and faltered for a bit too long before grabbing the rod. By the time Stewart had the rod in the butt pad, reeling like crazy trying to keep in touch with the fish, it was gone. Disaster!
Back in port, the evening drew in and our ride arrived in the shape of the ever-jovial Skippy! This man has taken the island into his life wholeheartedly since his arrival and is very much in tune with its waters and the fish it holds. We discussed a game plan, and it was decided we first needed to land a ray of some description.
Heading to a familiar mark for me, the heavy rods were cast with pulley Pennel rigs and whole sardine baits. It all came good in the end, with Stewart taking the first run and landing an awesome-looking butterfly ray estimated at around 35lb! We had another run shortly after that and it was now my turn! Flashbacks were running through my head of my last visit to this beach and the epic 45-minute battle that was inflicted on me by an 80lb stingray! My hips, back and groin groaned at the thought of it! Unfortunately, or maybe fortunately for my body parts, it was only a very small stinger of around 10lb. Unhooked, I turned down the photo opportunity in the hope of pleasing the fishing gods, stating I would wait for a “proper one”.
Stewart O'Keeffe with a spotted bass - job done!
It wasn’t to be, so we headed to meet Agoney, only stopping for a croissant and a coffee to refuel.
With a slightly bigger sea than the previous day, we set out! The plan was to spend two hours maximum trolling on the wahoo grounds and then head offshore in search of billfish for the remainder of the day.
What happened only 30 minutes in to the troll sort of caught all of us off-guard a little. The same rod as the previous day was suddenly screaming away with a wahoo strike so fast, I wondered if we might get spooled! Like a military operation, this time we were on it! I hurriedly got the rod in to my hip and made sure I kept in touch with the fish. Stewart got the butt pad in position for me and Agoney did everything he needed to do at the helm! This one was staying on, and stay on it did! I cannot even begin to describe the power and speed that these fish exert during the fight; it is quite simply breathtaking! I did all I could to keep my fingers wrapped around the rod butt and make sure that, when given the opportunity, I gained line! Agoney was now with me at the stern, controlling the boat from there, and talking me through the fight every step of the way! A few times I caught glimpses of the fish, only to see it power away again. The adrenaline was coursing and I badly needed this fish to come aboard!
Before I knew it, it was on the surface, Agoney perfectly handling the gaff, it was ours! I was elated, pure ecstasy! It was a fish I had wanted so badly and now I had landed it.
Charlie with a good shore-caught ray
It was huge! However, having nothing to compare it to, I really had no idea how huge. My arms being jellylike from the fight, I really struggled to lift it, as is evident from the photos. Agoney estimated the fish at 30kg! That put it at just over 66lb and a size that I never really dreamed of achieving!
Back at the hotel I received a Facebook message from Agoney, that just read “42.5k”. I didn't really understand it, and on returning to the hotel I asked Skippy what he thought. He questioned whether it could have meant to be kg and referring to the wahoo. Skippy knew that the fish would have been taken to market to sell and there they would have had to get a true weight. I was positive it couldn't have been that, could it? That would have made the fish nearly 93lb 7oz! I replied to Agoney and asked if that was what he meant, and very quickly he replied that it was. I was gobsmacked. I was over the moon with 66lb, but over 90lb, I just couldn't get my head round it. Agoney also confirmed that this was a new boat record and, of course, it held up Agoney's promise that he made me months before of a big wahoo. I'm sure not even he thought he would keep it with a fish of such magnitude!
The marina was teeming with bream and mullet!
I did a bit of research and discovered that the fish had absolutely decimated the European (EFSA) record for any tackle class. We had the fish on 30lb-class gear and as I type this I understand Agoney is going through the process of putting in the record claim!
After a day away from the fishing, I was raring to get back among them! We had planned with Skippy to fish that evening, and due to the continuing light winds, we had agreed to fish a deep-water mark that is often unfishable with too much swell. A good while into the session we had a very fast run on one of the heavy rods, which I hit into. Unfortunately, it only produced another very small stingray, probably sub-10lb.
Shortly after that, we had a major reel malfunction on one of the heavy rods. The star drag seemed to have had its thread stripped and refused to tighten. For some unknown reason, I decided it would be a good idea to clip up the heavy rig to my spinning rod and flick it out while Skippy dealt with the busted reel, never actually expecting to get a take.
The lead didn't even really get a chance to settle before the rod hooped over and the drag on the Penn was singing. Oh dear!
I leaned in to the fish, knowing that if I had hooked a big ray I would have very little chance of landing it. I kept steady pressure on the fish, with the rod being bent through to the butt for the majority of the fight. There were a lot of times where the fish just found bottom and was not being moved. I knew the relatively light spinning rod didn't have the backbone to winch the fish, but it really did surprise me. When the fish wasn't hugging the bottom the rod came in to its own, way outperforming anything I ever expected of it, and coupled with the well-known powerful drag of the Spinfisher V I thought I may actually have a chance of landing this fish.
Charlie's delighted at making contact with his target species!
Nearly 30 minutes later I saw my leader knot appear through the surface of the water and in the darkness, I could see colour coming up from the crystal-clear water below. I got the fish to the surface and in a joint effort, we managed to land it! I was physically beaten, but the adrenaline had me all fired up! It wasn't a huge fish, at around 40lb, but on the light gear, it was a fight to remember! Photos taken, the fish was released and it sulked back down into the deep water below!
We were heading home the next day but we had one last chance of a decent fish from the shore that evening and, after some discussion with Skippy, we opted to try somewhere completely different in the hope of one or two different species. The main one we were hoping for, but not optimistic of, was the spotted bass. It's a very sought-after species on the island and is mostly targeted with artificials in daylight, so hoping to nick one on bait after dark was a very outside chance.
After a long drive to the middle of nowhere, where there was no mobile signal whatsoever, we finally arrived. Rods were tackled up, one fishing our usual fish baits and the other fishing whole squid, a bait that tends to be ignored a fair bit in Fuerteventura.
It wasn't long before the squid rod indicated some interest with some very jagged, short, sharp taps. These developed into a proper nodding take, although not taking any line against the loosely set drag. Still, Stewart lifted into it and walked to the water’s edge to retrieve the offending fish. Lifting it from the waves and swinging it towards us, it was difficult to make out what it was with only our headlamps for light. I wandered down and was very pleased to confirm that we had caught our target fish, albeit small, a spotted bass! Mission accomplished as far as I was concerned!
Sitting here typing this article, I am feeling quite melancholy in the knowledge that my next trip to Fuerteventura is far enough in the future that I haven't even started planning it yet. But return I will because there are far too many fish here that evaded my capture and there are certainly more adventures to be had.
Resacca Fishing Charters:
Muelle deportivo De Corralejo
La Oliva, 35640
TEL: (+34) 680-326-098