In the world of big-game fishing, a successful outing does not necessarily depend on how much you know, but whom you know.
Ward Michaels can attest to this. The Florida fishing guide, who has traveled to Costa Rica more than 80 times over the last three decades, recently landed an enormous snook that could net the angler an all-tackle world record (heaviest of its species).
The Pacific black snook tipped the scale at 60 pounds. Michaels planned to submit details of the catch to the International Game Fish Association.
If approved–the process can take several weeks–it will eclipse the current record: a 57-pound, 12-ounce black snook caught by George Beck at Rio Naranjo in Quepos, Costa Rica in August, 1991.
Michaels’ catch was one of several giant snook that he and three friends from Texas landed during a three-day expedition along Costa Rica's central Pacific coast.
According to Florida Today, they attribute much of their success to Michaels' friendships with native native commercial fishermen, notably Big John and Jeffrey, who led the expedition.
Michaels, 52, owner of Michaels Hunting and Fishing, Inc., in Orlando, planned the trip to coincide with spawning season and a new moon cycle. Female snook would be heavy with eggs, and they'd be feeding aggressively in daylight hours, after the dark of the new moon nights.
Michaels telephoned his Texas friends and told them to catch a flight.
"I told them to come on. The time is now," Michaels told the Florida newspaper.
Big John and Jeffrey led them to a sand bar inhabited by female snook in the pre-spawn stage. The anglers slow-trolled sardines over the sand bar, at a depth of about 30 feet, and the fat snook could not resist the offerings.
In three days the anglers landed several in the 30-pound class, but also behemoths weighing 47 and 50 pounds.
"The last day we caught four over 40 pounds," Michaels said.
The 60-pounder was not weighed on an IGFA-certified scale, but the scale they used was being checked for accuracy.
"I've been talking to people at the IGFA and they said there wouldn't be a problem," Michaels told Florida Today. "People in Costa Rica are working on it. It'll require a lot of paperwork but it'll get done."
Costa Rica is known for its large snook, which can also be found on the Caribbean coast and inland tributaries. Several line-class records have been set in the Central American country.
"You're always happy to get 30- to 35-pounders but to find fish of this size in one area is unbelievable," Michaels said. "I'll probably never see it again."
But he'll certainly try. Michaels is planning another trip, this time with his 8-year-old daughter. And you can bet that it will coincide with the new moon cycle, and that he'll be enlisting the assistance of Big John and Jeffrey.
"I can only thank my commercial fishing friends," Michaels said.