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I recently had the opportunity to do some deep sea fishing off the coast of Aruba. As I researched the different guide services I recalled the only other time I had been deep sea fishing: over a decade ago on my honeymoon. From the Mayan Riviera in Mexico I had decided to go for as little money as conceivably possible. I can't recal what I paid but the type of trip was what I remembered. The boat was rented out to 8 of us- all strangers. We took turns being strapped in to the chair for 15 minute at a time. If you were the lucky guy that was in the chair when a fish was hooked- he was your's to reel in. I happened to be the lucky one that day and hooked a 30 lbs Mahi Mahi. All that I have to remember the trip by is a picture my wife took where she let her finger come over the lens ever so slightly- just enough to cover my face but not the fish. With that single experience behind me, I set out to book my second deep sea fishing excursion. Because I was taking my 8 year old daughter with me on this trip, I had 2 objectives: 1- To book a private charter where you have the entire boat to yourself and 2- to take better pictures.

I quickly found several charter services on the island but one stuck out as clearly having a superior reputation: Hatts Off Charters (http://www.fishingonaruba.com/). The booking process was super simple. Captain Glenn, the man that runs the show at Hatts Off, spent quite a bit of time living in Canada so there was certainly no language barrier. After exchanging a few emails I had my 6 hour trip booked!

We woke up before dark, went out into our hotel's parking lot and got in our cab. Our directions were simple: Take us to the Starbucks. There was only one Starbucks on the island and our boat, Hatts Off, was parked right in front of it. When we got there the crew was prepping the boat. We waited on the dock for about 5 or 10 minutes and talked with Captain Glenn as they finished the preparations. The day before had been a total bust for them, a rarity, and for nearly every other charter as well. He was ready to change things up and do something different in order to find the fish. We set out from the marina right at daybreak and headed South East parallel to the coast. We traveled over the area that they fished the day before to give it one pass before moving onto the area he expected to be more productive. He told us that he had every line in the water that day, which was not something he normally did but he was determined to erase yesterday's events from his record. I'm not sure if he talked about it so much because he knew that I really enjoyed fishing or not, but I appreciated how he explained his strategy for the day. We were headed to a place that he had fished for so long that he knew how to get there by just using land markers because he has fished that spot since before he GPS was common. He pointed back toward shore and explained to me that when two of the visible hills aligned you put them at your back and headed straight away from the shore.

On that side of the island there is a decent sized ravine that parallels the coast. The day before they had fished on the side of the ravine closest to the island which was a common target for them. For our excursion we would head for the other side of the ravine and fish around the 6 or 7 ocean freighters that had been parked there. While not a part of the "natural scenery," that really did add something to the experience for my daughter and I. As we trolled within a few hundred yards of a couple of the ships we couldn't help but be amazed at the behemoths. Aruba experiences trade winds like no place I've ever been. It's like having a fan blowing on you- constantly. These winds are exactly why the term "trade winds" were coined. They are so consistent that trading ships would use them to sail from Europe and Africa to the Americas with their goods. These also added to the experience on the boat. While my daughter seemed slightly annoyed with the choppy waters and how it made walking difficult, I was happy to see her experiencing something other than just "smooth sailing."

When I said earlier that Captain Glenn had all the lines in the water, I mean ALL the lines. In addition to the rods he also tied on a setup he referred to as fishing "Aruba style." There was a long fishing line with a normal bait setup on the end but back at the boat it was attached to a 2 bungee cord system. One of the bungees was attached to the boat while the other looped back and attached to a loose loop on the first bungee. When a fish hit the bait, the looped bungee would break free and indicate the strike. I had told my daughter that she was taking the first fish- I was determined that, if nothing else, she was going to catch a fish! Well, wouldn't you know it? The first fish on was for their "Aruba rig." When we heard the crew hollar "fish on!" I had my daughter hurry down the ladder from the top deck where we had been talking with Captain Glenn. The deck hands guided her to the corner of the deck where the bungees were and put a couple of oversized gloves on her as she proceeded to pull in a 15 lbs Wahoo. Unfortunately, at this time I forgot about being both a dad and a Heartland Hunters Pro Staffer and just took on the role of dad. I sat back and watched her have the time of her life and got 0 pictures and no camera footage (at this point I was failing at my second objective). At some point immediately following the action and while her blood was still pumping someone on the boat said something like, "Hey- we've never had anyone on this boat catch a fish like that... that's a world record!" Of course, that was just a world record as pertaining to 1 boat- but that doesn't matter to an 8 year old! That made her day. Her face lit up and she was smiling from ear to ear for a week!

My daughter is quite competitive and it was showing after she caught the first fish (and a decent one at that). She bet me $2 before our trip that she would catch the largest fish. Now that she was well on her way to winning that bet she brought it up gleefully. But it wasn't too long before I had the chance to reel in my own fish. I was called down to the deck, hopped in the seat and started to reel in the fish. It didn't take long before I realized that my $2 was still in danger. It took me all of 2 mins to reel in the small 5 lbs Tuna. My $2 was still in play. After another few hours of fishing we had each reeled in another Wahoo, bringing our day's total to 3 Wahoo, 1 Tuna and 1 Bonita. It happened to be my turn when we hooked into the last fish of the day. I got into the seat and noticed right away that this fish was much larger than anything else we'd hooked that day. He was peeling off line like crazy. While I was taking turns with the fish, bringing line in only for him to pull it right back out, I was thrilled to hear Captain Glenn yell from up top, "It's a Mahi Mahi!" I have very little experience deep sea fishing. In fact, in this short article you've already heard about every trip I've made! But with what little experience I have, combined with all the hours I've spent ogling videos of deep sea fishing excursions, I have come to really love this fish. Between its amazing colors and unique shape, you'd be hard pressed to find a more impressive fish for a newbie like me. After about 35 minutes, several jumps and attempts at throwing the hook, we landed the fish. I filmed the whole thing with a go pro and have edited it down for you (nobody but me wants to watch all 35 minutes of it!)- you'll find the link below. At the dock, the Mahi Mahi weighed in at 36 lbs. Of course, by the time we made it back to the dock, my daughter had thought it best that our bet be for the heaviest fish per species, making this a tie.

Our fish are far from world records but I couldn't envision having a better time... and this time I have pictures that don't block my face! Between the fish and the look on my daughter's face, the trip was worth every penny. If you're headed to Aruba and would like to do some deep sea fishing, look up Captain Glenn and the crew at Hatts Off Fishing- you won't regret it! Head on over to their Facebook page and give them a like and you'll get a preview of what you could be in for. If you look at some of the pictures they share, you'll find that he frequently gets his customers on Sailfish as well as the fish mentioned in this article.

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