Part 1 of a great fishing story told by a great dude… an epic Cabo fishing adventure.
The panguero acted as Harbor Pilot and brought us into our spot. We paid him his fee and traded two wahoo for a bucket of spiny lobsters.”
It was late September 2014. The bite was slowing down as the water temp declined, as it does every year. The summer and early fall sportfishing season in Southern California was coming to a close and I was itching to get home.
I had left Puerto Rico, as I sometimes do, in June to work in the industry because the summers were notoriously slow money-wise in PR. My older brother, Frank, lives in Orange County California and works in the fishing industry so I had my ‘in’.
Fishing: West Coast Style
What a fishery it is. Coming from the East Coast I received an education in the West Coast way of doing things. I reckon deciphering the West Coast dialect was a bit of sport in and of itself.
Them boys sure do talk funny. For instance, a head boat is called a charter boat. A sport fish is a yacht. A center console? A skiff. Trolling lures are called jigs, fishing rods are sticks and a flat line is called a fly line.
If someone offers you something that you don’t fancy at the moment you don’t say “No thank you.” You say “I’m over it.” Another thing was that it is actually cold there in the summertime, especially if you go offshore. I did not sweat a drop for the entire summer.
Fortunate I was to gain knowledge in the way things are done out there and apply those learned skills to my fishing back home in the Caribbean. Also, I made some true lifelong friends and experienced unique, real adventure and full-on Nat Geo moments that I could not experienced elsewhere.
Just as I was packing my stuff up and checking on flights, opportunity walked in the door in the form of my brother Frank.
“Wanna take Todd’s boat down to Cabo?” he asked.
“Well, sure,” I answered. “When?” My eyes were still on the airline ticket website.
I’ve heard all kinds of offers like this over the years and learned not to get all jazzed about it right away because people do have a tendency to flake at the last moment.
I was bent on getting home, not wasting my time on a Cabo fishing adventure that might not happen.
“Three days from now,” my brother replied. “We’re meeting Todd at Costco and then going to the boat. The mechanic is there now.”
Now I was all ears. So we hit the Costco, stowed the purchases on board. The mechanic gave the boat the green light and Frank and I started going through the fishing gear while Todd went back to work.
The Anzuelito was a 32’Phoenix Flybridge. A true pocket yacht, it had all the mod cons in a tight little package.
Still, 881 nautical miles in a small craft was not ideal for most people. I’ve made countless trips up and down the Baja Coast working in the long range fleet but I had never made it all the way to Lands End.
Also, my journeys were all in large boats in the 75’-105’ range, travelling in style, comfort and with a chef on board. Still, the weather is usually reliably good in the fall and the downhill run makes it better.
It was on.
And We’re Off: Cabo Adventure
Two days later we were under way. Mark joined us, making for a crew of four. Mark showed up with a couple of boxes of tackle from Hogan’s Bait and Tackle and a sea bag.
The boat was topped off in fuel plus four 55 gallon fuel drums lashed in the cockpit. First stop was a fogged in harbor in Ensenada, Mexico—to top off the fuel tanks.
Back under way, we’d switch watches every five hours. The fog cleared and we were in warmer, good weather.
At our next stop, we once again topped off our fuel. The local guys here intended to charge us an exorbitant price for ice. The main guy was discussing this out loud with his compadres.
I stopped that when I busted out my Spanish. I love that look of surprise. They just assumed no one could understand them– especially a boat load of gringos.
Off we went all the way to Cedros Island. Here we decided to stay the night, have some beers and fish a bit. It was a good way to ease into the fishing adventure that awaited us in Cabo.
It was non-stop Calico Bass action. They were eating the rubber lead heads on every cast. Next the Humboldt squid showed up, they were around 2-3 feet long. That night we enjoyed a great dinner of bass, squid, salad and rice.
At 0500 we were underway. The farther south we headed, the warmer it became. The sun seemed brighter too.
At around 1030 we put the trolling lines out. Then Mark noticed that neither the chest freezer nor the bait well were working very well.
A Future with No Bait?
Both of these were run by the generator and after we checked the bad news came to light: generator was out. Fortunately the boat had essential systems running off of the motor power and the genset was for non-essential items but FUCK…
We were getting into some extremely fertile fishing ground and with the bait well and freezer out, we’d have to fish with no bait! No Bait?!?!? Ay Coño!!
As we were lamenting our wretched fate we were interrupted by the right rigger and left short screaming line. Hoho, here we go!
The troll baits were in the water for an entire 10 minutes and we had a double knockdown. Dorados, both.
We got ‘em to the boat and into the box. This marked a crucially important point in our journey: the entry into “exotic” waters and our first pelagic fish of the trip. Bait be damned, we could persevere.
A little electrical problem could derail our Cabo fishing adventure.
If you have never journeyed down the coast of Baja California, Mexico, I suggest that you do. The fishing is amazing, the sea life beyond abundant and the scenery spectacular.
The coast is rugged to say the least. Never before had I set my eyes on such an expanse of monolithic nothingness that goes on for days.
Perhaps the Sahara Desert can compete for repetitive vistas, but I have yet to clap mine eyes on that. Baja features stark, incredible beauty of harsh hills and mountains devoid of vegetation, save the occasional bush or cactus sitting in solitary existence.
A glance inland shows no signs of civilization. A small group of houses, humble as they are, is the only sign of land based human existence. Even these are very few and very far between. I think they filmed the Roadrunner and Coyote things here.
Inaccessible miles of coastline. For many stretches, it is very rare to see a beach. If you fell overboard you would have to float along that coast of vertical rock cliff faces until you found a hand hold to pick yourself up. But then what?
Next stop: Magdalena Bay.
The Mag Bay Waltz
I was on the last watch of the night. We left the fog that was commonplace throughout our nights and mornings back at Cedros Island.
Grey light was forming when Todd woke and climbed up to the helm. He was there to relieve me but even in that dawn grey he spotted something about 100 yards ahead and to starboard. He turned the boat.
“Tim! Go put the lines out!!” he exclaimed.
“Huh? What should I drag??” I replied, being snapped out of the early morning grog.
“ANYTHING!! GET THE LINES OUT!!”
“Well, you ain’t gotta holler at me,” I thought. Yelling in fishing is as common as if you were playing ball so I didn’t take offense. You have to shout sometimes.
I don’t know if it was Todd’s yelling or the sharp turn of the boat that woke Mark and Frank. They each came out half dressed, all sleepy eyed and with messy hair, as they semi consciously grabbed rods and helped make the spread.
“What’s going on?” Frank asked.Todd shouted, “There!”
Up to now, I had not seen what prompted Todd’s hollering, but I did then! A group of about seven sickle shaped fins grouped together off the port side as Todd steered the spread near them.
It was a group of striped marlin on the surface. The light breeze and current pushing a breezy wake trail behind them.
As the boat came straight and the spread neared the pack, the fish saw our spread. All of a sudden first two, then two more and then the whole pack turned and sped towards our lures (remember we had no bait, live or dead)!
The two longs went first, in unison. There wasn’t even time to use the outriggers. Next to be inhaled was the short right and seconds later the left.
Frank and Mark were on. I grabbed a third rod just when Frank’s stripey made a tail walk. The fucking sun was just barley peeking over those bleak mountains and we had four marlin on and only three anglers.
Then the shotgun lure went off- a Yozuri Marauder at that! Not your staple lure to drag for marlin. Five on. Todd slowed the boat down and scrambled down to assist.
Want to catch more striped marlin? Buy your Yozuri Marauder here (that’s a joke… they catch lots of wahoo just not normally striped marlin!)
11 Minutes of Glory
As with team sports, when you fish with a good crew you get to know each other’s moves and routines especially in the heat of the fight. We moved, ducked, bobbed and weaved around each other efficiently.
Another thing about these west coast guys: multiple hookups on big fish is de rigueur to them. Tangles and untangling while 15 guys are hooked up to big tuna is the name of the game. It’s fun, fast paced and athletic fishing.
Mark’s fish spit the hook. Four on now.
One was way out the back on medium drag as Frank, Todd and I worked our rods. Todd’s fish jumped and in a dramatic fashion spit the hook like a pumpkin seed, looking directly at us.
Franks’ fish was alongside now and Mark leadered, tagged and released him swiftly. The fish was so green that he hightailed it out of there.
Todd had the long fish as mine came into view, my first stripey. Now that things had calmed considerably, Frank and Mark were gelling into a solid cockpit team.
They were able to leader, tag and release my fish and even take pictures! I looked over and Todd’s fish had spit the hook.
Five on, two tagged and released. It was setting up to be a long day and I had been awake since 0200. Todd was steering again up top. “Eleven minutes!” he shouted down to us.
“What?!?” I said, looking back at him. “That all took eleven minutes!”
Eleven minutes, I thought, for a memory that will last a lifetime.
The Uncle Sam Bank: The Perfect Place for Adventure
We had entered the area known as the Uncle Sam Bank. Here we could see other boats in the area, some were from the San Diego long range fleet and others sport fish battle wagons mixed in with some local pangas.
Gazing through binoculars, all you could see were birds, fish jumping and foamers. Too jazzed to sleep, I even skipped the morning coffee as we all got on the Pacifico beer.
Todd was yapping to one of his friends on the radio who was in the area in his Viking. They were going to swing some bait over to us.
Okay, I thought, bait is great but our livewell is not working. We needed a plan. Mark went to work.
When you are a mariner/fisher you need to wear several hats: fisherman, chef, janitor, Mr. Fix- It, and the like.
Mark was our resident “engineer.” He shut down non-essential electric items and rigged a wire that powered the bait pump– which along with the washdown pump circulated enough water to keep the bait alive. As a result, an hour later we were loading up bait that passed over from our friend’s Viking. Game on.
Our plan of attack involved trolling dead bait and lures until we hooked up and then switched to liveys while the boat drifted. It proved to be the winning combination in the fish rich environment.
The morning’s striped marlin chaos was almost a memory. In fact it didn’t even feel like the same day.
A day that started with a pack of seven stripeys got even better when we smacked into an all –out Wahoo frenzy. Double and quadruple hookups of striped, blue missiles.
As Todd and I fought our fish, Frank tossed a Marauder into the school directly behind the boat. He gave it two fast cranks and was bend-o. My wahoo came to color and ended up my personal best at 85 pounds.
The next bite, some 20 minutes later had Frank and Todd fighting wahoo in the 50-pound class. While they worked on their double header of wahoo, Mark sight fished a stripey roaming outside the wolf pack by tossing a live sardine on to his beak!
We were not even to Cabo yet and we were going to run out of tags! Exhausted by 1500 (three in the afternoon), we called it a day. We made the bend into Magdalena Bay, the oasis of Baja California Sur.
There was a right point break at the entrance of the bay. At 3-4′, it looked great but I was too tired to surf even if I had a board.
Todd arranged for a mooring. The panguero acted as Harbor Pilot and brought us into our spot. We paid him his fee and traded two wahoo for a bucket of spiny lobsters.
At this point, we still had three days ahead of us.
Looking for more fishing stories, check us out here.