To many of us retirees, one of the more exhilarating moments in life is being front and center to a striper dance. Obviously, this article has the undivided attention of many of you geezers while you women probably just assume the author can’t spell; however, stripers are not to be confused with strippers!
Stripers, stripeys, spikefish, spearfish, etc., are terms often used for striped marlin, a billfish of the Tetrapturus audax species of the Istiophoridae family of fish.
Of the billfishes that occur in Oregon, California, and Mexican waters, the striped marlins are easy to recognize. Marlins have scales, fins on the belly, and a rounded spear which set them apart from swordfish which have no scales or ventral fins. Sailfish have an extremely high dorsal fin not found among the marlins, and short bill spearfish do not have the long spear on the upper jaw nor the body weight of the marlins. The striped marlins are much smaller than the blue or black marlins but larger than most sailfish. The striped marlins are unique in that they normally develop conspicuous lavender to blue stripes along the sides of their bodies after death.
Because striped marlins are found in waters from 20°C to 25°C (68°F-77°F), they are often found all along the Pacific side of the Baja California peninsula during the winter months as the Pacific Ocean water cools and they migrate south to the warmer water. On the other hand, the blue and black marlins prefer warmer water, typically in the 25°C to 30°C (77°F-86°F). Therefore, the large blues and blacks are found off the coast of Puerto Vallarta, Mexico during the summer months when the Pacific Ocean water temperature is in the low 80´s. Seldom do those same waters drop in temperature low enough to attract the stripers. Consequently, winter fishing in Vallarta will generally yield yellow fin tuna, dorado, and some sailfish but no striped marlin.
One year, about ten years ago, the climate along the Mexican Riviera had been somewhat different than that seen for quite a while (obviously due to climate cooling!). Pacific Ocean water temperatures that are normally expected to be around 75°F were closer to 72°F and the game fish that live in the 75°F water were nowhere to be found around Vallarta early in March that year. On the other hand, striped marlins that are usually found around Cabo San Lucas during the winter months had migrated south and were then being caught offshore from Vallarta.
During the second week of March while trolling with lures at a speed of 10 knots, approximately 50 miles offshore from Vallarta, we spotted a magnificent striped marlin about 15 feet from our boat. He was heading the opposite direction at about the same speed, just minding his own business in search for food. What an incredible sight; seeing this 150 pound striper, with his dorsal fin and tail well above the surface of the water, pass along the side of our boat heading in the perfect direction to spot our delicious looking lures. Of course, everyone
on board started shouting instructions in English, Spanish, and perhaps a couple other indistinguishable languages!
As that beautiful striper approached our lures, we were ready for action. He checked out the first lure, then the second, and finally the third. After making his decision, he dropped back perhaps 30 feet and then charged at high speed (they can accelerate to 70 miles per hour), attacking the third lure. Wow, all hell broke loose as we set the hook. He came flying out of the water, did a full flip with a triple twist (degree of difficulty rating of about 2.9), and then proceeded to dance across the surface on his tail; the best striper dance we had ever
After playing with this 150 pound beauty of nature for a half an hour, man once again conquered beast. After grabbing him by his long bill, we were able to safely remove the hook and free this magnificent specimen, allowing him to search for a more nutritious meal and live for a better day.
Some of the finest sport fishing in the world can be found in the Puerto Vallarta area. The months of October, November, and December are probably the best for most game fish, however the summer months can also yield some mighty fine catches. That being said, it still doesn’t get much better than being out in the Pacific waters with your best fishing buddy in the middle of the winter when the air temperature is 80°F during the day and 70°F during the night, the winds are gentle to non-existent, and the sky is clear blue during the daytime and absolutely cluttered with millions of stars during the nighttime.
During the past two decades, Puerto Vallartahas exploded with growth which has brought with it every activity imaginable including about twelve new championship style golf courses. Still, sport fishing, the original activity of Vallarta, remains one of its top draws and definitely of world class caliber.
Whether you’re interested in stripers or strippers, you’re apt to find them in the Vallarta area! One thing is for sure, you’ll have the best time of your life enjoying the winter activities in this incredibly beautiful Paradise south of the border. So, why wait; with the devaluation of the Mexican Peso during the past five years (hovering just under 20 MXP : 1 USD), everything is now on sale and the time for an action packed trip to PV has never been better.