Sunday, December 16, 2012

A Fish Story - Guest Blog

One of the indirect rewards from my job selling Real Estate here in Loreto Bay is introducing people to the community that I live in, and then seeing them adapt and integrate themselves into that community - making it bigger and better by their presence here.

This Fall, a couple that I met earlier in the year made the transition from Clients to Neighbors and are now in the process of settling into their new home and lifestyle here.  Jim and Liz have travelled extensively here in Mexico and have enjoyed an exciting and interesting life leading up to their decision to make Loreto Bay their home.  Among the many interests that they have brought to their new life in Loreto, Jim has combined his love of fishing with kayaking and taken advantage of the close proximity of the Sea of Cortez to pursue this challenging and pure form of the sport.

One morning this week, as I was eating my breakfast there was a cautious knock at the door and when I opened it to my early visitor Jim was standing there with a grin on his face, his kayak beside him – and when he stood aside I saw the reason behind the early morning visit.

There, in Jim’ pedal drive one man kayak, (on wheels to roll it back to the house after returning from his early morning expedition) was a 3 ft. long iridescent gold/green Dorado. Whereabouts, Jim began a brief, but adrenaline charged description of the adventure he had just returned from.

I grabbed my camera and, half-jokingly, took a few shots of Jim and his impressive catch – after 150 posts one never knows when a “Blog Item” might happen – which I think is when I asked Jim if he would consider writing a Guest Blog.  And, to my pleasant surprise, he didn’t say No!  But, my surprise turned to enthusiasm the next day when the following piece arrived at my Inbox.

For me, a Guest Blog can be a rare treat, a welcome break in the weekly demand to come up with something to write about.  So when I read what you are about to, I hope you will share my enthusiasm for a great story – well told: 


Sea Of Cortez Fishing: You Never Know What’s Coming For You


…get down under the skin of any real fisherman, past all talk of tippets and leaders and patterns and hatches, shooting heads and weighted nymphs, and you find a man who is still and always fishing for something that he can only know through the lifelong experience of not catching it.

                                     Franklin Burroughs, Billy Watson's Croker Sack


It was Thursday, December 13, and I was on the water before sunup.  Sky was overcast, some threatening thunderstorms to the west, no wind, glassy seas, air and water about 70 degrees, and a high tide on a new moon.  Perfect conditions for kayak fishing!  To top it off, 13 is my lucky number, so no way was I sleeping in.

In the Sea of Cortez, on any given day you can catch 20 different kinds of fish—or more.  Spouses wonder why guys have so much fishing tackle, different types of rods and reels. And of course they suggest you should learn how to fish like the Mexican who often has no rod and reel, just throws a hand line with hook, sinker and bait – and catches fish, as my wife points out. The contortions and twists in logic that a fisherman must get good at to explain all that fishing stuff!

The beauty of fishing in Baja is that you never know what’s coming for your lure.  On my first trip fishing in Baja, I caught 26 different kinds of fish and over the years, I have eaten every type but three. But if you don’t have the right rig, you lose the fish – and more. Lost lures, spooled reels and busted rods are all part of the experience. You can be at the right place at the right time, but if you don’t have the right stuff, you lose and the fish wins.

 And just when you think you’ve got it dialed in, another type of fish with big teeth comes along and cuts the line and takes your lure or rocks you.  Seared in my brain is that fleeting glimpse of what was making a boil right near shore last week, and when I saw that it was a school of 40 pound Jack Crevalle and I had only 20 pound braid on a 6-12 pound rated spinning rod and reel I knew it was not my day. 

During the previous weeks of fishing I had caught many of the fish that hang out in the neighborhood, but what I really wanted was a nice bonita or dorado. 

For the big boys that fish for sailfish and marlin, bonita is just bait, but if that fish is bled and put on ice right away it makes great sashimi.  Just cut it into thin slices and marinate with lemon and sesame oil, or sauté with mangos, tomato and onion – ummmm…

And the dorado is the fish that made Loreto famous. In the Baja fishing bible, The Baja Fish Catch, authors Neil Kelly and Gene Kira write that the “dorado is the greatest game fish of all….arm wrenching power, show stopping beauty, electrifying action, and it tastes terrific any way you care to cook it.”  Can’t say it better than that. 

It is also a great choice for those wanting to choose sustainable seafood.  According to Paul Johnson, owner of the Monterey Fish Market, dorado, or mahi mahi, only live about five years and can grow as much as five pounds a month.  Paul suggests their short life span makes them less susceptible to parasite or pollutant accumulations. They contain low to moderate amounts of omega 3 fatty acids and are a good low-fat high-protein source of B vitamins and minerals. 

So before dawn, I headed for the rock right out in front of the hotel – Punta Nopolo. There was lots of fishy activity just beneath the surface.  I trolled a black and silver Fastrac rebel over to the rock and got hit just as I got there by a nice cabrilla. Could see when I brought him in that there were firecracker size yellow tail in the water too. And lots of fish feeding near the surface.  Flying fish coming out of the water everywhere, being pushed around by the bigger fish, and while there were not any huge boils with birds diving, plenty of boils with good sized fish…making wakes….nice big wakes.  No stinking needle fish! I let the cabrilla go and kept fishing.

I switched to my casting reel with 30 pound braid and started to cruise and cast to where I thought a fish was going to be.  Saw a nice wake, led it by about five feet, and threw a 3” green and silver Krocodile lure.  Almost immediately after the lure hit the water, bang!  Fish on.  No problem figuring out what it was. It was airborne, shaking its head, tail walking, and putting on an air show that only one fish is known for – the dorado.

As it started hauling me around in the kayak, I realized I had not brought the gaff or small baseball bat, and this fish was not going to fit in the small cooler I had on the back of the kayak. So now I needed to make sure I had my act together – without my stuff – and could fight and maybe land the fish.

I at least had the drag set about right, and had secured my other rod.  From The Baja Fish Catch again: “Keeper dorado should be played out, gaffed and clubbed on the head before being brought onboard. Then club it again, Sam, hard. With a large dorado, in a small boat, it’s either you or it.” From my own previous experience on real boats, I knew these fish just don’t go easy. 

I convinced myself it could be done – but what if I lost it?  Just another big fish story about the one that got away. Or my kayak – containing me – is dragged clear to the other side of the Sea of Cortez…

So it occurred to me to get a picture, in case I didn’t land it or had to cut the line.  At least the air show was over and now the fish was just taking me in big circles. I got it tired out and tried to take a couple of pictures. One hand holding the camera, one hand holding the rod and fighting the fish, sunglasses fogged over – looking like a real pro. 

Then I started thinking about how I was going to land the fish, bleed it, and get it to shore.  Left my rope stringer on my big boat in Anacortes, but had a small piece of line that could work for towing the fish home.  Could work – or would I be making my kayak a giant lure for a really big fish?  Decided to risk it, assuming I landed the fish, but, man, I had to make sure that dorado was not moving before I got it close to the boat to land. It could create some real havoc trying to share space with me on top of the kayak. And there was no way it was fitting in the small cooler.  Patience… I just needed to wait it out. 

Ok, time to get it together. I kept telling myself, don’t be in a hurry. Just tire the fish out. Get all your stuff put away so it can’t snag hooks and things.  Don’t be dumping your stuff or tipping over the kayak just to catch this fish.  Get the small rope out and make a loop, so when the time comes you can cut the gills with your pliers and bleed it.  Sashimi here we come!

Finally the fish was good and tired, so I pulled it up for one more picture.  You can see that it was not that well hooked. I could not believe it didn’t throw the hook earlier during the air show it put on.

Ok, use the bogagrips to hold the fish, get that hook out of its mouth, and secure the hook in case there’s a rodeo on the boat. Fish on board!  Now the hard part – getting rope through its gills, cutting the gills and bleeding the fish in the water.  No Sea lions around so I headed back to the condo with the dorado hanging in the water.

Back at the condo by 0900, fish and boat cleaned by 1000.  Fish for dinner tonight and after dinner, another great opportunity to bring up my endless need for more fishing stuff. Maybe I can compromise! I buy more lures, and maybe another reel; my wife gets another more yarn to stash and a hundred or so knitting needles…

What do you do with endless skeins or yarn that seem to breed in the closet and hundreds of knitting needles, you ask?  I don’t.  Because I don’t want to explain what I’m going to do with new flies, lures, line, reels… We get along quite well.