• Published:May 6, 2019
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If you never bet on the long shot, you'll never get the big payoff.

I've always been a bit of a risk taker, a trait that's led me to some incredible experiences and fantastic destinations.
I regularly visit countries where I feel less-than-safe to go fishing, but Colombia is NOT one of those places. Oh, and the fishing exceeded all of my expectations in several surprising ways.




I first got wind of the offshore potential off of Bahia Solano, Colombia, when Gavin Hodges of Flatsbag.com sent me an email inquiring if I’d consider running an offshore trip there for his company. I’d never heard of anyone fishing much in this area so I took a quick look at Goggle Earth, and realized that Bahia Solano was about 60 or so miles from Tropic Star Lodge in Panama. I made a few calls and told Gavin I’d get back to him.

The first fellow I called couldn’t say enough good things about Colombia and promptly warned me not to “screw it all up!” He still gave me some phone numbers of some fellows who fished a lot down there, but before I could call them, my buddy Capt. Jack Graham sent me a message about coming down to Colombia to check out a new lodge he was working out of in, coincidentally, Bahia Solano. I’d met Jack on trip to Australia when he was second-mate on the Kekoa. Things were coming together. This would allow me to check out the fishing and get a feel for the country before bringing a bunch of guests back down in October.

Grahams’ boss at Black Sands Fishing, Felipe Morales, granted us six days of gas to explore the waters surrounding the newly-opened Black Sands Lodge and catch whatever we could. I headed down in March, a little early for the peak of the sailfish season, but a good time nevertheless.
After a 3-hour flight from Miami, I landed in Medellin around 10 p.m. My driver was waiting and after a 40-minute ride over some spectacular mountains, I arrived at Sites Hotel Medellin. I was pretty hungry, and since the hotel was in a lovely residential neighborhood I walked down a couple of blocks and got a great cheeseburger at almost midnight and felt completely safe.

An early flight to Bahia Solana got me up at the crack of dawn for breakfast, where I met up with my anglers for the trip, Capt. Daniel Burrus and Justin Stewart. Graham’s childhood friends, Burrus runs C-Salt charters and Stewart manages his family’s tackle business, TW’s Bait and Tackle in Nags Head, North Carolina. They were our ringers.

The flight from Medellin to Bahia Solano only took 45 minutes and the plane was brand new. Graham was waiting at the air strip and after paying an arrival fee, we headed down to the bay to get on the boat for the 10-minute ride to the lodge. Since we had come in so early, Graham decided to drop our bags off on a panga at the lodge and head out fishing to get a half-day in and do some scouting.

We took off in search of tuna on Siroco, the lodge’s brand-new 35 Contender. Graham studied the radar intently and it wasn’t 10 minutes before he spotted some birds working a couple of miles away. Sure enough, we found a group of birds flying over a school of yellowfin. Stewart and Burrus rushed up to the bow with their poppers and fired long casts into the frothing tuna. Stewart hooked up immediately, and Burrus had one pull off at the same time. After a brief fight, we put the gaff into a 20-pounder. Burrus got another tuna before we headed inshore to take a look around.

As soon as we slowed down we came across an enormous school of jack crevalle, all of them huge, just milling around and terrorizing schools of sardines. The boys each caught one before we decided to call it a day. On the 20-minute run back to the lodge we saw a couple of tailing sailfish in the flat-calm water, an interesting prospect for the next six days.

The water stayed calm and we kept seeing more and more sails the farther north we went, and all of them were tailing south. I’ve never seen sailfish move like this. I’ve seen them balling bait, doing daisy chains and free jumping, but never wave after wave of up to 10 fish traveling in the same direction with their tails out of the water. We caught two sails and two tunas on the third day without really targeting the sails. We tossed plugs and dead baits at tailing fish and got two to eat.

The third day we headed to a spot to catch live bait for inshore fishing and loaded the live well with threadfin herring using sabikis. The inshore fishing wasn’t happening due to the cold water – we never saw temperatures above 75 degrees the whole trip – so after a few hours of trying to catch a snook or rooster on the beach or a cubera off the rocks, we headed out to try our luck with the sails. Of course, the live bait fired them right up and we caught nine. These were all big sails, a few easily pushed past the 100-pound mark.

We kept trying the inshore bite and made some drops with more live baits and jigs to catch some bottom fish. The coastline here is extremely rugged in places, with large rocks and deep drop offs right offshore. Most of the sails we caught were within three miles of the rocks in 600 feet of water or more. We caught three more sails on dead baits and a snowy grouper while jumping around from one great-looking spot to the next.

On the fifth day, Morales joined us and the sardines showed up in mass. Huge flocks of birds worked the sardines from above as whale sharks, tunas, sails and schools of hungry jacks pushed the bait up from below. We caught 16 tunas up to 80 pounds and a 20-pound mahi on poppers, four sails and had a free-swimming sailfish try to eat the fly. It was a feeding frenzy of massive proportions.

On the last day we decided that we were going to concentrate on dead-bait trolling for sailfish. We were seeing sails all around Punta Marzo, a series of rocks that make a point about 35 miles from the lodge. We decided to head there first thing in the morning and spend all day targeting sails. The fish were there, even thicker than the day before, tailing to the south and up into the bay. The only way we could get a bite was to pull out in front of the sails and drag a dead bait right across their nose.

We missed a few early on, but by noon the boys were getting the hang of it and we had caught 10. The sails were surrounding us. “It would be shameful if we don’t catch at least 20 today!” I said. The fish didn’t stop coming, wave after wave, and the boys ended up catching number 21 just before it was time to head back. We went 21-for-33, an epic day to end an epic trip.

GETTING THERE

To fish Colombia’s Black Sands Lodge, visit blacksandsfishing.com or email felipe@blacksandsfishing.com. If you’d like to take part in the trip hosted by Dave Ferrell from October 5-12 with the Fish Colombia operation in Bahia Solano, email Gavin Hodges at gavin@flatsbag.com.

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