May 14

Puerto Rican Nets

“Gill nets are all over the island,” says local angler and conservationist Ramon Ortiz. “They’re forbidden in interior waters, but there’s little to no enforcement.”

Gill nets are doing bad things in Puerto Rico. Here’s the story.

Damn shame.


Aug 12

Some cool permit action from the Chum

I saw this a few weeks ago over at Moldy Chum and I thought “damn… that is cool.”

A permit from Puerto Rico, caught and fitted with an acoustic transmitter. Very fine work conducted by Dr. Andy Danylchuk and team.

Well done.

Funny thing… I met El Guapo from the Chum at the party industry show. There, he says, “You know who I’m meeting after this is Andy Danylchuk. I want to introduce you to him. You should come along.”

Awesome. I got to hear about it first hand and I’m going to try to do some things on the conservation front with Dr. Andy.

… and that is why you go to the show.

Jun 12

Puerto Rico – An end to gillnets

It’s just a damn fine idea.  It’s a shinny, glittery, warm and fuzzy idea.  Gillnets are bad, bad news.

From what I’ve read the ban on gill nets in Florida had a direct and sudden impact on the inshore fisheries where redfish were concerned.

So, here’s a petition to ban gill nets in Puerto Rico.  Now… it’s in Spanish, but I’m pretty sure that’s what it is about.


Jan 11

Good Job Puerto Rico

Got an email from Chris Goldmark over/down in Puerto Rico about recent good news for bonefish and bonefish lovers.

Great news!  Puerto Rico has officially passed into law protection for Bonefish, Tarpon, Permit and Palometa. It is now a minimum of a $100 per fish penalty and possible seizure of boat and nets or other gear if found guilty of violation of this new law. Lots of credit should be given to Fernando Monnlor and Capt Pochy Rosario as well as our “guiding light”, Craig Lillistrom for all their hard work in getting protection for these valuable marine resources. I myself have been involved in this fight from the beginning and hope now with legal protection we can begin to rebuild the stocks of these fish that have been abused for so many years. Good things do happen!

That sounds like good news to me, alright. Good job guys!

Chris down in Culebra, Puerto Rico

The trick, of course… will be enforcement.  A fine is all well and good and the intention is great, but if there is never a fine given and no nets ever confiscated or checked, well… like I said… enforcement is the key.

Jun 10

Culebra 2010 – A search for Bonefish

Plans are coming together, plots are being hatched, arrangements are being made.

I’m sketching my next bonefishing trip out to a most unlikely spot… Puerto Rico.  Specifically, I’m looking at the PR island of Culebra.

After talking with Chris Goldmark about the fishing, the fishery and the gillnets, I really want to come down, see the sights, experience the fishery and see if I can’t help shed some light and spread the word about this “other” US bonefish fishery.

My target time-frame is in the Fall… which creates some issues with weather, but is also my window of potential opportunity.

There is camping on Culebra for about $20 a day, which sounds pretty good to me.  It isn’t Andros and it isn’t Christmas Island, but it should be a fairly interesting trip, if it all comes off.

Still lots of i’s to dot, t’s to cross.

Always fun to plan a trip… even if I don’t end up taking it.

Jun 10

Interview with Chris Goldmark

Puerto Rico is not one of the first places you probably think of when words like “bonefish” or “tarpon” are bandied about.  However, there are bonefish there and there is a history of bonefishing that many are not aware of.  One guy who knows a bit about the fishery there is local guide/gringo Chris Goldmark.  He’s been guiding the waters of Culebra (one of the islands of Puerto Rico) sine 1991… meaning I was still in High School when he started.

Chris, doing what he does in Culebra.

Chris, Puerto Rico and bonefish… can you give a lay of the land in terms of where they are and what the fishery is like?

Bone fish populations in PR are largely limited to the two eastern islands of Culebra and Vieques with a few scattered pockets of fish around the “Big“ island. This was not always the case. The flats of La Parguera on the south west coast of PR once hosted one of the largest and healthiest populations of Bone fish found anywhere in the entire Caribbean basin. These flats were for the most part gill netted to extinction in the 80’s and early 90’s when the demand for Bone fish for bait was at an all time high.

Today both Culebra and Vieques have healthy populations of Bones although not in the great numbers of years past. Culebra still boasts  of having some of the largest fish in the Caribbean.

How did you end up in PR as a bonefishing guide?  Seems an unlikely landing spot.

Back in the late 80’s,  I was visiting Mike Vergis  the founding father of the famous tarpon fishery in San Juan .  We ended up, after a few drinks and a ferry ride, in a bar in Culebra. I fell in love with the island and brought  my wife with me for a weeks visit the following year. Half way through our stay she informed me that she had taken a job and that I could stay or leave but she was definitely not going home.  Apparently in the early stages of a marriage common sense seems to hover on the fringes of that  pink zone….I stayed, No regrets.

Nice PR Bonefish

What’s the oddest or most interesting thing you’ve seen out on the flats of PR?

The Puerto Ricans are a serious party culture. I say this totally respectfully.  I was guiding a gentleman back in the early nineties during a major Puerto Rican holiday in Culebra, something I rarely do today because of excessive boat traffic etc. We were wading one of the major flats and came upon a family who had set up beach chairs in a semi circle on the sand and marl complete with coolers ,umbrellas and a boom box. My client and I skirted the party but upon looking back I noticed a Bone fish pop a tail 10 feet from a drunk passed out in a beach chair.  Suddenly six more tails popped up and I instructed my man to cast appropriately. Hooked up!! The fish, about an 8 lb Bone goes completely insane . The drunks start chasing the fish, the fly line becomes snagged on a cooler, three party goers fall face down on the flat and of course the fish breaks off.  So much for stealth. Salude!

Gillnets are still present in PR waters.  Can you give an idea of the impact those nets are having and what needs to happen to get the nets out of the water?

Bone fish are not normally targeted specifically by gill netters but they  often become a significant by catch when fishermen set on schools of Bar Jacks  and Chapin (box fish) which inhabit a lot of the same areas as the Bones.  PR needs to recognize the value of Bone fish, Permit and Tarpon to the tourist economy. They haven’t come to grips with that yet. Myself and one of PR,s most famous Tarpon guides, Francisco Rosario from Boqueron on the west coast, as well as Fernando Monllor one of the top fly fishers in Puerto Rico have done the usual lobbying, petitioning ,the whole thing. We keep pointing to Belize and saying when are you guys going to get it!! Things move very slowly in Puerto Rico. There are a lot of holidays.

Not being one of the better known fisheries, do you get people coming to PR specifically for the bonefishing or do you more have people who are doing it as part of a family vacation?

Both. I have many clients who come to specifically to target the big Bones Culebra is famous for. I also have a lot of first time clients who are just down on  vacation and want to learn how to fly fish and experience what the flats are all about.

Are there any fly shops in PR or are you forced to rely on internet shopping?

There are no fly shops in PR. I tie all my own and  buy off  the internet  or  from the “compleat Angler” in Darien ,CT.

You have a favorite place to eat?  A place to recommend to traveling anglers for cheap and decent lodging?

“Mamacitas” my wife has been the  dinner chef there for 19 years also for lunch “El Batay” owned and operated by one of my best friends and soon to be Mayor, Tomas Ayala.   Lodging..Villa Boheme  and Jim

Galasso for rentals 787 742 6752

What’s your favorite rod/reel at the moment?

My favorite rod is a 7 wt Gatti or any Gatti or Sage blank finished by master rod builder George Costa. www.fathammy.com …..Reels. I am the connoisseur of  cheep reels. My favorites  the Okuma SLV and the Pflueger Trion. Both are around $100 and will handle double digit Bone Fish as well as any  reel built by a Hungarian, That’s a tough one too.  I’m half Hungarian.

Think PR will, at some point, be the 51st State?

Not likely any time soon. The first thing you learn living in Puerto Rico especially as a Norte Americano is to be very careful discussing politicas. I believe I have answered the question.

Could that be a bone from our 51st State??? Chris isn't saying!

Thanks Chris!

Jan 10

Puerto Rico Caught in the Past

Did you know that Puerto Rico once boasted some of the best bonefish flats in the Caribbean?  Ted Williams used to fish there and one flat in particular, La Parguera, was renowned for its gray ghosts.

Times have changed.  Puerto Rico is no longer looking after its natural resources as it should… as California, Florida, South Carolina, Texas and Georgia do, as the Bahamas does and as Belize has recently done.

The culprit is the gill net.  Unattended, indiscriminate killers of sea life.

Illegal net in Texas

In Florida the gill net ban has been credited with the revival of the snook fishery.  In California a gill net ban has been hailed as the key step to restoring White Sea Bass and Halibut.  Pretty much every place a ban has been put in place and enforced good things have happened for fisheries and anglers.

As long as the gill nets stay, the bonefish will suffer and the tourist dollars that should go to Puerto Rico will be spread around the Caribbean to other countries.

Darn shame.  Some lessons are harder to learn than others.  I’m hoping that Puerto Rico can let go of the gill net habit, which would only be a positive for the Puerto Rican fishery and economy.

Aug 09

Vieques Bonefish

Vieques, Puerto Rico… yes, the place we used to drop bombs on… turns out, might have some pretty interesting fishing too.  Vieques has several things going for it… first, it’s a US Territory, so travel is a little less complicated.  Second, you can actually camp there (although I’ve read not to leave anything in your tent when you leave for the day).  Third, and most importantly, there are bonefish there.  How many?  How big?  How hard/easy?  I have no frigging idea… but they are there.

There are a couple of guides that work the island… one of them has a blog (The Vieques Angler), which I read.

I found a story (in the NYT, of all places) about bones on Vieques and wrote the author.  He said that there were flats you could walk out on, and that for around $15 a day you could even rent a kayak that would get you to other, more promising flats.  This makes the island a good possible DIY/Self Guided location.

This is another trip that has some real potential to come in under that magical $1,000 threshold that makes it easier to negotiate on the home-front.

Vieques… looks nice.