As defined by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, a FAD or fish aggregating device is a permanent, semi-permanent or temporary structure or device made from any material and used to lure fish. Well, apparently there are more than a few extremely well done and shockingly productive FADs 140 miles off the west coast of Costa Rica. The “Blue Eagle” a 61’ Viking captained by James Parker recently returned from 2 days of fishing these mysterious Costa Rican FADs with his owners, Brad Jones and Stewart Jones. How’s this for a box score: raised 72 blue marlin, got bites out of 61 and caught 21. I mean DAMN son, that’s what you call getting your game on. I caught up with Captain James Parker and got the scoop. (Check out the full podcast here.)
B&B – You recently returned from fishing the FADs off the coast of Costa Rica. Tell me about it cap.
B&B – How far off the coast are the FADs?
JP – It varies, there are a few different FADs. They are anywhere from 100 miles to 140 miles offshore.
B&B – What kind of bottom structure are the FADs on?
JP – The FADs are on really good bottom structure. There’s a couple of good sea mountains out there. Some guys have thrown some gear on top of them and it’s really holding the fish.
B&B – What are the FADs made of?
JP – I don’t know what they’re anchoring the FADs with. But it looks like they are using heavy duty stainless steel cable. Attached to a big buoy with tires and flags and all kinds of stuff hanging on it to attract bait.
B&B – What are you seeing on the surface?
JP – Nothing. Everything is below surface.
B&B – What type of bait are the FADs gathering?
JP – Tons of small yellowfin tuna and bonitos.
B&B – There are quite a few boats fishing the FADs out of Golfito, Quepos and Los Suenos. How many blue marlin are boats releasing on the average day? (Golfto-Banana Bay Marina; Los Suenos-Los Suenos Resort & Marina, Quepos-Marina Pez Vela)
B&B – Are you seeing any big fish?
JP- We didn’t see anything bigger than 300 pounds. That sounds like what most guys are seeing. Doesn’t seem like there are any big females around the FADs, but plenty of healthy males.
B&B – What other species are you seeing on the FADs? Are there lots of dorado and wahoo around?
JP – Nothing other than the occasional sailfish. Our first trip to the FADs the current slowed down and the sails showed up and it seemed like the marlin moved on. On this last trip we saw only blue marlin.
B&B – Is there a particular moon phase you’re trying to plan your trips around?
JP – Both of my trips have been on the last quarter. Seems like guys are having good luck anywhere from the full moon to just before the new moon. But I haven’t heard anyone going out there, no matter what the phase, and not catching five marlin in a day.
B&B – What’s your spread when you’re fishing the FADs?
JP – We were fishing bridge teasers with bigger lures, and 2 smaller lures out of the riggers with 9/0’s or 10/0‘s in them. Pitching small tunas, mackerel or a ting-um to the fish that teased up from the bridge teasers. We also pulled bowling pins with a Mudflap that seemed to work really well. The Mudflap got all beat up. (Marlin Mudflaps, Bonze Lures)
B&B – Were you using the standard 5 pin chain with a mudflap in the back?
JP – I was using a 3 pin chain with the Mudflap to keep it simple. To be honest, there are so many fish there you probably don’t need to use the bowling pins at all.
B&B – On your hooked lures, what was your hook rig and drag concept?
JP – We were using single hook rigs with 9/0 or 10/0’s, 80’s and a tag lines. As you know, single hooks work well and it’s much safer for my crew getting the hooks out during the release. We were setting 12 lbs of drag at the bite and pushing it up if we needed to during the fight.
B&B – How do you approach the travel part of a FAD trip?
JP – We left about three in the afternoon and ran out 60 miles just to get outside of the logs and floating debris zone during the day. It’s the rainy season so there’s lots of logs and debris coming out of the rivers. Once it got dark, we pull it back to 8 or 10 knots. We were on the spot by one or two in the morning and just putted around until it got light. We were fishing by 5:30am. Fished until it got dark which was about 6. We would then throw the sea anchor and cook some steaks on the grill, take shifts at night making sure everything was alright. Pull the sea anchor at 5:30am and fish until dark, than 10 knot-it home the 2nd night.
B&B – Being the rainy season, how where the conditions for your overnighters?
JP – It can get a little nasty out there, the problem with the rainy season are the squalls and storms that come through. First night traveling out it was okay, second night sitting on the sea anchor it got pretty rough. We had a few squalls come through. It was probably blowing about 25 knots. During the day it seems to lay down. The second night traveling back it was pretty good until about 60 miles offshore. We got in a nasty storm that just blew up and we could not get out of it. Probably the most lightning I’ve ever seen for about an hour. Seemed like the sky was lit up more than it was dark. I was sure we were going to get struck by lightning, actually surprised we didn’t. It can get nasty quick this time year. It’s not your perfect flat water Costa Rica that you’re used to during the sailfish season.
B&B – You have been living in Costa Rica for 7 months now. How’s it going for an Australian married to an American living in Costa Rica with 2 young kids and 1 on the way?
JP – I like it actually. It’s got everything I like: good surf, people are really friendly, the country is beautiful. As you know I’ve always wanted to get back to Kona, Hawaii. Ever since I left Kona I’ve missed it. Costa Rica is close to Kona except there’s lots of snakes and everyone speaks Spanish which I’m getting better at. My wife likes it, my kids are loving it. I’m getting them into the surf and they love the wildlife. Put it this way, I’m in no hurry to leave.