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Subscriber Frederick Meine just filed this report via https://www.anglingreport.com/file-a-trip-report/. In it, he details a family trip to fish with Ecuagringo in the Galapagos Islands. This is the second report with Ecuagringo in recent months, but this one focuses more on a single day booked for general marlin fishing and not the exploratory grander marlin option from the June issue. Frederick writes:
My family recently returned from a weeklong trip to the Galapagos Islands, which was the most spectacular family trip we have ever taken. My 15-year-old daughter likened it to living in an aquarium for a week, and my 16-year-old son simply said, “This is what heaven must be like.”
We swam with sea lions every day, snorkeled with penguins, sharks, rays, and countless sea turtles, walked with the giant tortoises and experienced the most spectacular marlin fishing I could imagine.
Despite my wife’s accusations that I plan family trips around fishing, when I began planning our Galapagos trip last winter, I had given no thought to fishing while there. Only a few weeks prior to leaving for the islands did I even consider the angling opportunities, and a web search revealed Braden Escobar’s Ecuagringo (https://www.ecuagringo.com/), which advertised striped marlin fishing out of San Cristobal and grander blue and black marlin opportunities out of the more western island, Isabela.
Braden’s website indicated that peak striped marlin season was December to May (with double-digit marlin common during this period!), and our trip was in June, but after exchanging emails, I decided to book a day anyway. This is a little out of the ordinary, as Braden typically handles all the booking of one’s entire trip, but, given that it was the off-season, he was able to fit us in for just one day. He also handled a snorkeling tour for us the next day.
In retrospect, I wish I had come across his services earlier in my planning, as his ability to navigate the vagaries of booking travel are amazing. Allowing him to handle all of our travel plans would have certainly decreased the number of emails and expensive international phone calls I exchanged with multiple hotels, tour operators, and so on over the six months prior to our trip!
I was pleasantly surprised when, just a few days prior to our trip, I opened the Angling Report and saw an article on grander marlin fishing in the Galapagos with Braden’s company. I read it with interest as my anticipation grew. Still, I had little expectation for the fishing, as this was primarily a family vacation, not a fishing trip.
Our trip to Ecuador was seamless, with an overnight in Guayaquil at the airport Holiday Inn, which was a comfortable and safe introduction to this wonderful country. I have never had an easier, more comfortable international travel experience, and this includes multiple trips to Europe. An easy two-hour flight the next day from the beautiful and modern Guayaquil airport (my kids asked why US airports couldn’t be this nice) put us in Santa Cruz, where we spent five days hiking with the giant tortoises, photographing flamingos, hiking through rookeries of thousands of blue-footed boobies, and swimming with sea lions and penguins.
The following day, we took the ferry to San Cristobal, which was the only real “adventure” of the trip—24 passengers and their luggage crammed into a 34-foot sport fisher to make the 40-mile passage. That said, it was a safe, (relatively) dry ride, and we disembarked in the beautiful little port town in San Cristobal and made our way two blocks to the Golden Bay Hotel, which was stunning. The bar and restaurant overlooked a beach covered in sea lion mothers and their nursing pups, and several of the sea lions made their way to the bar each day to sleep in the shade. Oftentimes, you had to detour around a snoozing sea lion to make your way into the restaurant.
The town itself is small and friendly, with multiple restaurants that were good and reasonably priced. Ecuador uses the US dollar, so, other than getting used to the proliferation of the US dollar coins, which never quite caught on here in the US, there is no currency exchange issue. San Cristobal, like the rest of the Galapagos, felt very safe. Our kids ran around the town on their own, delighting in exploring the town or playing with the sea lions by themselves.
I remained a bit concerned about the logistics of the trip, as I had only corresponded by email with Braden, but he assured me that I could relax, as he had taken care of everything—and he had. Our captain came by the hotel while we were eating dinner to make a plan for the next day, as did the tour operator for my daughter’s and wife’s island bike ride and snorkel trip.
The following morning, my son and I walked one minute to the dock, where we met our boat, which was a 35-foot sport fisher outfitted with triple outboards (a bit odd in appearance but standard issue for the Galapagos). The fishing is inside the National Park waters, which are tightly regulated, so, in addition to Braden’s captain, Mike, and a mate, the party also included a Galapagos boat captain and a Galapagos Nature Guide (required on all visits to the park). We headed offshore and were fishing in about 90 minutes. The first hour was slow, with one disinterested fish in the baits, and I wondered if the entire day would be the endless stare out the back of the boat that is well known to all billfishers. Captain Mike, though, assured me that the bite would turn on quickly, and was he ever right. We began seeing huge numbers of birds—boobies and frigates—as well as hundreds of dolphins swimming around the boat. And the marlin showed up too.
By the end of the day, we had 18 striped marlin in the baits and 10 strikes. We lost four at the boat and released three, including a couple fish pushing 300 pounds. It was, I thought, the best billfishing I had ever experienced, including several trips to Costa Rica for sails. Captain Mike, though, thought it was a relatively average day, and, in town that night, we met the previous day’s angler, who had raised 33 fish and landed 12!
We returned to the dock exhausted and headed back to the hotel, detouring around mama sea lions on the path, and were met at the hotel by our tour operator for the next day, who was talking with my wife. Braden had arranged that tour as well, which involved snorkeling and hiking, and, as with everything else he set up, it ran seamlessly and perfectly.
Apparently, December and May are the peak months, which also correlate with flat seas. June is a shoulder month, as the cooler currents, stronger winds, and rougher seas begin to come. That said, we had spectacular fishing and easy, fishable seas. I do not know what later in the year brings.
In summary, the Galapagos are a must-do trip for any adventurous family—it truly was the trip of a lifetime, and, additionally, I can think of no better fishing destination for non-fishing spouses and families. Just as notably, though, San Cristobal is truly a world-class striped marlin destination that should be considered as a fishing trip by anyone who wants to catch these beautiful fish. Getting there is not easy (or cheap) and requires an overnight on either end on the mainland in either Guayaquil or Quito, but it is well worth the effort. If I were planning a trip from scratch, I would fly into the San Cristobal airport and fish three days, staying at the Golden Bay. I then would spend a couple more days on that island, snorkeling and hiking, and maybe even consider a tour to one of the nearby uninhabited islands, perhaps Española. With more time, I would add a second island as well.
We spent time on Santa Cruz (where the other airport is) and took two day trips to uninhabited islands (North Seymour and Bartolomé). Isabela, the other large inhabited island, is also an option, though, without flights from there back to the mainland, visiting it requires a ferry in both directions. I am sure Braden can set up whatever you and your family desire. As noted above, his attention to detail and logistics was amazing.—Frederick Meine