Galapagos Part 1: On the Road, Fishing and Fun

Scenic Kicker Rock is a must for Galapagos snorkeling and diving. Photo by Shaun Ruge.

Text & Photographs by Shaun Ruge

Six hundred miles west of Ecuador lies a geologically young set of islands created several million years ago. Perhaps most famous for their contribution to Darwin’s The Origin of Species and The HMS Beagle, this set of volcanoes on the equator host a variety of unique wildlife both terrestrial and aquatic. As long as I can remember, the Galapagos Islands have been on my bucket list, and I’m pretty sure I’ve seen every Discovery Channel and National Geographic special there is. Most likely more than once.

Lazy Lobo in San Cristobal. Photo by Shaun Ruge.

I was one of 10 guests on this trip organized by a friend. Let me first say I am more of a “do-it-yourself” type of traveler. I rarely plan more than the flight and a hotel room for at least part of a trip. I prefer to explore and head off on my own. So the thought of a 10-person group put me off a bit. Nevertheless, here was an opportunity I couldn’t refuse. Fortunately, the islands and the fishing offered plenty of options to explore on my own.

Sea Lions seem to run the town during busy day in San Cristobal Center. Photo by Shaun Ruge.

I stayed five days, fished three of them on a 35-foot mini-sporty. There was also a choice between an “inshore” boat that generally fished within 20 to 30 miles of the harbor for yellowfin, wahoo, grouper, snapper etc. The “offshore” boat was specifically marlin out on some of the more distant banks some 40 to 60 miles from the harbor. Striped and blue marlin are common; sailfish and black marlin were also present. I split my time between the two boats, fishing inshore two days and offshore one day. The other two days were left to see the rest of the island.

A yellowfin airs out to grab flying fish. Photo by Shaun Ruge.

There were only a couple outfitters that offer sport fishing trips there; reviews can be found online with a Google search. The group I went with worked hard for us, made sure we were happy with the fishing, food, and accommodations and had we wanted anything on the island I have no doubt they would have gone out of their way to get it. The gear was good, the boat was full of drinks, and the people were very friendly. Overall I found the experience very positive.

A local resident prefers that you photograph his good side. Photo by Shaun Ruge.

Nautical charts of the islands show limited detail at best, but a quick look tells part of the story. Deep pacific blue water runs up against vertical faces of rock. Seamounts and underwater mountains are the norm. The convergence of several nutrient-rich Pacific currents (Cromwell and Humboldt) tell the rest.

Snorkeling around the islands revealed pockets of upwelling where water temps shift in excess of 10 degrees. Baitfish of all kinds were abundant, from inshore striped mullet and sardines to the more common offshore ballyhoo and flying fish. If you want bigger, bonita and skipjack are easy to come by.

Overall I had a great time. The scenery is fantastic, the wildlife is charismatic. If you are the type that appreciates the fishing experience as much as the fish, which I tend to be, this place has will not disappoint. The Galapagos can be as remote and rustic as you want it to be, but, travel aside, the fishing is fantastic no matter what you are into.

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