Costa Rica Fishing – Ward Michaels never doubted for a minute that his catch of an enormous 591/2-pound Pacific black snook last March at Puerto Quepos in Costa Rica would be accepted as an all-tackle world record.
Soon after the March 6 catch, Michaels applied for the record with the International Game Fish Association, the records clearinghouse and records keeper for hundreds of species, headquartered at Dania Beach near Fort Lauderdale.
But a records application takes time, and after seven months of waiting, Michaels recently was notified by officials that his catch was going into the record books.
“I found out while waiting for a flight to San Jose, Costa Rica, to meet a group of 22 anglers that I was taking on a tarpon fishing trip,” he said last week.
“It made my day,” laughed the 52-year-old Michaels, who owns Michaels Hunting and Fishing Inc., an international hunting and fishing travel and tours agency in Orlando.
IGFA officials put the official weight at 59 pounds, 8 ounces, the length at 47.6 inches and the girth at 31.3 inches, making it the heaviest of all snook species recognized by the IGFA.
The catch broke the previous IGFA all-tackle Pacific record of 57 pounds, 12 ounces taken in Costa Rica in 1991.
The all-tackle distinction means it’s the largest of its species ever recorded for all forms of sport tackle and line strength.
Michaels used a seven-foot, medium-to-heavy St. Croix rod, a Shimano Calcutta 400 reel, 65-pound test Sufix line and a live sardine for bait.
The catch is particularly significant because it’s the heaviest snook of all species ever documented on sportfishing gear.
The Pacific black snook is one of six species found in the Pacific Ocean and it grows larger than all other snook. Another six species exist only in Atlantic waters, including the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico, the largest being the common snook, also known as the Atlantic snook and the primary snook in Florida. It is regulated in Florida by seasons and bag and size limits. None of the species exist in both oceans.
The IGFA all-tackle common (Atlantic) snook record weighed 53 pounds, 10 ounces and it was caught near Parismina Ranch on Costa Rica’s Caribbean coast.
All the species of snook are confined to tropics and subtropics. They are easily identified by a black lateral line, tapered snout and under slung lower jaw. They inhabit shallow coastal waters, estuaries, brackish backwaters and some penetrate fresh water. Common snook are found in Lake Okeechobee, for example. Snook will move seasonally between fresh and salt water, sometimes taking up seasonal residence around shallow-water offshore wrecks, especially in the Gulf of Mexico.
Snook can be challenging to catch because of their short feeding periods, and when hooked they put up strong fights. Their firm, white meat is exceptional eating.
In the 27 years that Michaels has operated his guiding and tour business, he has made more than 80 trips to both coasts of Costa Rica for snook, tarpon and other gamesters. Costa Rica is the site for many of the IGFA’s line-class records.
For the March trip, he called three friends from Texas when he knew the time was right for big spawning females near mouths of rivers along Costa Rica’s central Pacific coast.
In three days, they caught more than a dozen heavyweights, most in the 30-pound range and other giants of 47 and 50 pounds. All were prespawn females.
Michaels said he has learned much about Costa Rica’s snook from resident commercial fishermen, including their spawning rituals around river mouths like the one south of Quepos where they fished.
“The new moons in March and April are when the big females stage off the beaches before they move into the rivers to spawn,” he explained.
Michaels, along with Curtis Bedrich, Jack Mourning and Rod Scarborough, all of Houston, joined two native commercial fishermen for the three days during the new moon phase and they fished from the commercial fishermen’s boats. The men were known only as Big John and Jeffrey.
“The last day we caught four over 40 pounds,” said Michaels, also a guide out of South Florida’s Everglades City with fellow snook guide Jim Conley, owner of Outdoor Adventures, also in Orlando.
The snook were holding over a sandbar in about 30 feet of water, and the site was a 50-minute run from where they launched the boats.
They slow trolled live six-inch sardines, which they caught on sabiki rigs.
Michaels said it was hours before his catch was weighed on a commercial scale. The scale was not certified by the IGFA, so the certification was completed shortly thereafter by representatives of the IGFA.
“I talked with the IGFA and they said there wouldn’t be a problem. People in Costa Rica were working on it,” Michaels said. “I knew it would require a lot of paperwork, but it would get done.”
Michaels, who charges clients $2,200 for three days of fishing, said he has experienced world-class snook fishing along both coasts of Costa Rica.
“You’re always happy to get 30- to 35-pounders but to find fish of this size in one area is unbelievable,” Michaels said. “I’ll probably never see it again. It was the fishing of a lifetime.”
by Bill Sargent, floridatoday.com