A Punta Mita Resort’s spearfishing programs take anglers to new depths.
It is a perfect day for spearfishing as the St. Regis Punta Mita Resort’s 19-foot panga drops me and my guide, Oswaldo, on a shallow reef near the hotel’s shores. The water is clear and warm, the fish are hungry, and I am looking the part in an ocean-camouflage rash guard, snorkel, and goggles.
This is my first attempt at undersea angling, and so I linger above Oswaldo, floating on the surface and watching him send flashes of steel one by one into the colorful fish chasing our bait below. Encouraged by my guide’s effortless demonstration, I soon dive down myself, leveling my eyes with the fluttering prey and fumbling with the safety of my gun. Bang! The spear hurls forward and smashes into the rocks. Bang! Bang! I miss again and again. Sensing my frustration, Oswaldo throws his fresh catches into the ocean for target practice. Bang! Bang! Bang! Nothing.
The opportunities to spear fish are plentiful—if not always successful—in Mexico’s Riviera Nayarit, a jungle-lined Pacific-coast region just west of Puerto Vallarta. The St. Regis—a 120-room hotel within the exclusive Punta Mita resort community—presents novices and experts alike with the chance to pursue the local bounty through Punta Mita Expeditions, an on-site outfitter offering the region’s first spearfishing clinics. Founded by the Argentinean spearfishing pro Sebastian Melani, Punta Mita Expeditions leads programs ranging from Discover Spearfishing (from $160 per session) for novices to Big Game Fishing (from $1,400) for experienced hunters in search of prize-winning catches. For the latter group, Melani—who holds a world record for a 34.6-pound Colorado snapper he speared off Punta Mita’s shores in 2012—is also organizing a spearfishing tournament at the resort for 2015.
My clinic with Oswaldo introduces me to the sport’s basics—firing the gun, equalizing my snorkel mask for diving, and learning which fish are viable prey. Viable takes on a different meaning for the fishermen who join Melani’s big-game excursions, on which they carry $3,000 Riffe guns and free dive for several minutes to depths of 100 feet. Marlin and other large catches are possible in waters as shallow as 25 feet; however, shark sightings are rare. (Melani has seen only one shark in his 14 years in the region.)
After my fruitless first day of fishing, I learn of a group of Brazilian guests who have just returned from a spearfishing expedition with a 586-pound marlin. Envious, I walk to the beach to gape at the giant fish, which will be donated to Punta Mita’s local families. But my envy turns to steely resolve the next morning during my second attempt at spearfishing. It soon becomes apparent that my shot has improved, and with a suddenly steady trigger finger I spear three targets. Though barely larger than my hand, each fish is a big-game trophy in my eyes.