2010 Dorado Rodeo in San Pedro

Last weekend was a new experience for me – I got to be on my friend, Capt. J’s team for the 2010 Captain Shark’s Dorado Rodeo.  The tournament has been in existence for four years now so it’s still a fairly small and little known event – this year we were determined to win.  A week ago we had reeled in two 30lb dorado during a week of fishing and last year a 28lb dorado won the whole tournament.  The trip for me started on Wednesday when I drove my brother back to the Cancun airport early in the morning.  My plan was to drop him off and then stay at a hotel close to the airport so I could pick up Capt. J’s son and a friend (the other two people fishing the tournament with us) at the airport on Thursday to get back to Belize.

I stayed at a place 10 minutes from the airport in the Cancun Hotel Zone called Bel Air Collection Resort and Spa (http://www.belaircollection.com).  It was incredibly easy to get to from the airport which I was very happy about since I didn’t want to get lost on my own (I am a little directionally challenged).  It was a cute place with a beautiful infinity pool overlooking the ocean.  It was still a few hours from check-in so I just lounged around the pool with my computer for an hour and they let me check in to my room early.  The room was very comfy with a nice fluffy king size bed.  The only downside for me was that the hot water in my shower wasn’t working and it happened to be a little chilly in Cancun that day and night.  I spent most of my time there by the pool reading and relaxing.  The next day I easily made my way back to the airport and met up with the guys.  We headed straight for Belize so that we could make our 5:30pm Tropic Air flight to San Pedro to meet up with Capt. J.

Bel Air Collection Resort and Spa

My room

Bel Air Collection Resort and Spa

My room

Bel Air Collection Resort and Spa

Infinity pool

Bel Air Collection Resort and Spa

The beach outside the hotel

The ride was another easy one – now it seems like a breeze since I’ve been traveling that route a lot lately.  We got on our plane in Corozal and had a fun flight over to San Pedro with Tropic Air.  It was a long day of traveling but we were all excited for fishing that weekend.  I had done my partying over the last week or so with my brother so this trip was going to be more focused on fishing.  That night we went to the tournament meeting to pay for the boat and check in and then we made our way to Caliente’s for dinner.  I always enjoy my meal there and this was no exception – not to mention we got to witness the famous Chicken Drop at the Pier Lounge right next to Caliente’s.  Normally they have it on a Wednesday night but since it had been so rainy that week it was postponed to Thursday night.  In all my times to San Pedro I had never seen this event take place – we didn’t bet but we watched the chicken crap on a numbered board to determine the winner.  It was an early night for us after that since we would be fishing first thing in the morning the day before the tournament.  We headed back to our place at Paradise Villas (http://www.belizevilla.com/).

Friday we woke to a relatively calm sea which typically means no big dorado for us.  We were out early and overall it was a pretty fun day of fishing.  It seemed like we were constantly hooking a fish.  We were getting mostly black fin tuna – one of them coming in at 17lbs, and we also brought in a small dorado and a small black tip shark.  We had just brought in a couple tuna from the same school when Capt. J’s son lost his balance on the boat and fell in while we were stopped – Capt. J and I had been telling him all day to make sure not to jump in the water because of the massive sharks we had seen in that water on previous trips – as soon as he fell we both were yelling at him to get his butt back in the boat and he did.  It wasn’t 15 minutes later while we were still on a school of tuna that we see a huge dorsal fin break above the water about 50 yards behind the boat – this fin had to have been about 4 ½ feet tall so we knew the creature it belonged to was a monster.  Later that night we got online to try and figure out what it could have been based on the size and look of the dorsal and our best guess is a basking shark (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Basking_shark) but this is just a guess.  It was pretty exciting to see such a big animal and also proved to Capt. J”s son that we weren’t lying about huge fish in those waters.

Deep sea fishing in Belize

Friday's catch

That evening when we came in we were all exhausted – we had planned to go out for a bit that night but no one was up for it especially since we had such an early morning Saturday to start the tournament.  No one had any problem falling asleep by 8:30 that night.

Saturday morning was tournament day and we were all excited.  I had a good feeling the day before that we would hit dorado despite it being so calm Friday.  Sure enough when we were ready to load the boat at 5am the wind had come in – it was actually coming from the North which is a little strange.  There was a storm brewing North of San Pedro and that’s exactly where we were headed first.  We were across the reef by 6am which was the official start time and off to find frigate birds (our most dependable signal for dorado in this water).  It was rough and soon enough we had hit the storm – there was rain, wind and waves but we were all determined.  We couldn’t run too fast because of the size of the waves so we just started trolling and by the time we had gone through the storm we were all drenched and without a fish.

Deep Sea fishing in Belize

Capt. J bearing the elements

Deep sea fishing in Belize

We're almost through the storm

We didn’t want to spend much time trolling around a spot that didn’t have any obvious signs of dorado so we pulled in the lines and took off to find weeds, birds or anything significant just floating around in the water.  We hooked and caught a tuna later that morning but nothing big enough to stand a chance at the prize for largest tuna.  We never got on any dorado despite running the boat all over the place – we even ended up all the way out at Turneffe where we spotted a few other boats in the tournament.  Still nothing, but we weren’t getting too discouraged because most of the dorado we have caught in these waters have been in late afternoon and in one specific area.  So after 1pm we headed to our spot and sure enough we ended up spotting a piece of plywood floating in the water – the waves were still rough so it was a little difficult to keep our eye on but we were able to circle it about 4 or 5 times and hooked up 4 dorado.  Now here is when I should have the fantastic news that we got 4 fish in the boat, but it didn’t quite turn out that way.  Everything that could have gone wrong did – Capt. J’s son and friend didn’t know the rods we were using very well so because they were grabbing the rods as we hooked the fish we ended up losing every one of those 4.  It was so disappointing for everyone because based on previous years that would have easily won all the top prizes.  After all that we lost the plywood so we took off to try and find birds – it would be a last ditch effort to get something in the boat.

We finally came across some frigate birds and sure enough we hooked up another dorado – it was a smaller one but we just felt lucky to get another one on the line.  This time I took the wheel and Capt. J grabbed the rod – the fish was in the boat in less than 10 minutes.  We were pretty sure it wasn’t the winner but at around 20 lbs it was worth getting back to weigh in, and way better than nothing.  The tournament ended at 5pm and we had to be at the weigh station no later than 5:30pm.  We took off at 4:30 as fast as the waves allowed us towards the reef – we crossed the reef at Caye Caulker and booked it to San Pedro.

2010 Dorado Rodeo Belize

Beaching the boat to weigh in

We beached the boat right in front of the Holiday Hotel with everyone waiting on the shore to see what we had brought in.  It was all very dramatic and I wanted so badly to be carrying in 5 dorado but instead we grabbed our lone fish and got it weighed in.  Our fish came in at 20 lbs and in the end we came in 3rd place in the tournament.

Dorado fishing in Belize

Our catch

We enjoyed a delicious dinner at Celi’s (next to Holiday Hotel) for the award ceremony and then went out that night to Fido’s then later to the Jaguar nightclub.  It was a great experience overall and I hope I get to be a part of it again next year.

Dorado fishing in Belize

Our team

Fido's San Pedro

Later that night at Fido's

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