Jim Kelly, a Pass Christian man, has had quite the fish tale to relay over the last couple of weeks.
Kelly and his friend, Kathy Key, made a trip to Costa Rica for a vacation earlier this month. They did all the activities that tourists typically do there, including zip-lining, and they became engrossed in the nation’s natural beauty.
“It’s my first time (in Costa Rica), but it won’t be my last,” Kelly said Wednesday. “I have never seen such beautiful water. They have such friendly people and the countryside down there is unbelievably beautiful.”
They spent three days of their vacation fishing aboard a 28-foot boat known as “PREDATOR” out of the Los Suenos Marina in the popular beach community of Jaco.
On Jan. 16, they were trolling in water that was 1,500-feet deep on the Pacific Ocean side of Costa Rica.
“It was windy that day and not a lot was going on,” Kelly said. “I heard the captain (Javier Enriquez) tell the first mate (Everth Orosco) that there was a fish behind the boat.”
Enriquez began screaming orders to Orosco, who dropped another baited line over the back of the boat. It took about 10 minutes for the fish to take the bait, then Kelly took control of the rod and reel.
Kelly, 70, recalls seeing an “iridescent blue capsule” around the fish as it drew closer to the surface. When the fish did breach and come completely out of the water, the captain became excited and began shouting something in Spanish that Kelly didn’t fully understand.
Orosco then shouted “Albino!” into Kelly’s ear.
“It was then I realized this fish was something special,” Kelly said. “It was solid white.”
“My heart was beating out of my chest and I slowed down, not wanting the fish to pull off. I had lost a sailfish and a marlin the day before. Finally, the fish came alongside 30 minutes later.”
Orosco helped raise the fish out of the water for no more than 30 seconds so they could take photos. They returned the sailfish to the water, watched it come back to life and swim away.
Sailfish usually feature a deep blue sail and a lighter shade of blue that runs along the top of their bodies. Kelly described the sail on the fish as appearing “polka dotted” and it had an almost entirely pale body.
“I knew from speaking to other fishermen that albino marlin had been caught in the area, but I had no idea had that an albino sailfish had ever been caught in the area,” said Kelly, who is retired from law enforcement. “I talked with captains down there. They had seen several white marlin but this was the only white sailfish that anybody had seen in years.”
The fish was actually not an albino as first believed. It was determined to be Leucistic, which is a condition where there is partial loss of pigmentation.
“The fish is white, but not completely albino because it doesn’t have pink eyes,” Kelly said. “But 99.9 percent of all fishermen will never catch what I caught. It kind of made my year.”