Sea Of Cortez Fishing: You Never Know What’s Coming For You E-mail
Written by Jim Callard   
Tuesday, 29 January 2013 15:09

…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. The sky was overcast, some threatening thunderstorms were 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, he 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 IMG 3149don’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 bonito or dorado. 

For the big boys that fish for sailfish and marlin, bonito are 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…

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. 

IMG 3219

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. I 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 were coming out of the water everywhere, being pushed around by the bigger fish. And, while there were not any huge boils with birds diving, I saw 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 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 hopefully land the fish.

At least I 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. I left myIMG 3220 copy 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.

 

Comments  

 
0 #1 Finelwen 2013-03-07 11:28
Wow, GREAT story! I followed every line with excitement. I've done a little kayak fishing off of the coast of S. Padre in Texas, but I have just recently bought a new kayak and am still new at it. After reading this I am very excited to go out into the ocean and roll the dice! Exciting!
 

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