Exploring a shipwreck about 60 feet deep off Palm Beach County, Fla., my scuba diving buddies and I came upon a school of giant, mottled brown fish nearly the size of Mini Coopers. But instead of being …
Go to Isla Mujeres in the Winter for Holiday Sails
There are few sports more exciting than hooking an Atlantic sailfish, watching it light up midnight-blue as it greyhounds along the surface, then releasing it to fight another day. And perhaps the best place on the planet to enjoy that experience is the waters off tiny Isla Mujeres, Mexico.
Captain Anthony Mendillo–a Guy Harvey Outpost Expedition Outfitter who operates the Keen M sport fishing fleet–pioneered this bountiful recreational fishery back in the 1990s, slow-trolling dead bally hoo around balled-up schools of bait fish from December through March. To this day, Mendillo guides customers to release as many as 50 sailfish in an eight-hour trip.
“We are very aggressive in that we go everywhere looking for our fish,” he said. “We specialize in coaching our anglers to hook their own fish.”
But for the last 12 years or so, Keen M anglers have been able to get even closer to their quarry; after releasing as many as they want, they jump in the water with masks and snorkels and observe the sails crashing and bashing the bait balls up close. There’s no aquatic experience quite like it. Besides the adrenaline-pumping proximity of a powerful pelagic fish, the in-water encounters reveal how sailfish corral and eat their prey– a good thing to know for a serious offshore angler.
The Isla Mujeres sailfishery has drawn the rapt interest of the international scientific community– including marine scientist/artist/conservationist/documentarian Dr. Guy Harvey and Dr. Molly Lutcavage, professor and director of the Large Pelagics Research Center at UMass Boston.
Mendillo happily shared his knowledge with the researchers, enabling Lutcavage– with help from the Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation and Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin United –to conduct a breakthrough satellite tagging study that set sailfish science on its head.
The study, just published in the professional journal Scientific Reports with Mendillo as a co-author, demonstrates that Atlantic sailfish is not strictly a coastal species as previously believed. Sails caught off Isla Mujeres and implanted with pop-up satellite tags travelled great distances in a single year, turning up off the Carolinas and as far south as Brazil and other known sailfish hot spots in the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean.
The information is important because it guides management of a very popular sport fish deemed overfished in the Atlantic by the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT). Sails are caught incidentally by commercial longline fishers off the U.S. and targeted as food in some other countries.
Lutcavage said her team could not have accomplished the three-year study without Mendillo’s help.
“Anthony is in the top tier,” Lutcavage said. “He’s been a huge part of our success. He’s a co-author because he did as much as any scientist.”
To book your Atlantic Sailfish Fishing and Diving Adventure CLICK HERE or call us at 800-513-5257 and speak to a team member at the Outpost Travel Desk to customize your Mexico Adventure.