Cabo Sport Fishing is Like a Box of Chocolates

As Forrest Gump would say, you never know what you're
going to get.

Not too many things get me more excited than the prospect
of hooking and landing big fish. The mere thought of setting
the hook on a 300 pound marlin, hearing the scream of the
drag as the fish pulls off line and watching the acrobatic
leaps that follow really gets my heart pumping. Fortunately
for me, a two and a half hour flight and a 30-minute drive is
all it takes to find myself in the "billfish capital of the world".
What more can a sport fisherman ask for?

Well, for starters, variety. Just like biting into a randomly
selected piece of chocolate, when you set out the trolling
lures here in Los Cabos in search of the next big one, you
just don't know what it will be. Different seasons bring
different possibilities as does different sides of the Baja
peninsula. The diversity of game fish here never ceases to
amaze me and even a slow day on the water offers the
opportunity to see some of the oceans greatest creatures.
Whales, porpoise, sea turtles and bat rays that often school
by the hundreds and perform what almost appears to be a
choreographed routine of synchronized jumps. On a spring
trip to Cabo in late march of this year, my partner Dolores
Peralta and I had another opportunity to experience the
diversity of life in these nutrient rich waters.

Jacqueline "Jacquie" Lee, owner of Guerita II, set us up for
two days of fishing with Captain Efren Beron Zamora and
crewman Jesus Alfredo Espinoza. Efren has a lifetime of
experience as an angler, guide and captain and has a love
of the ocean that rubs off on crew and passenger alike. The
Guerita II is a tournament rigged 34-foot Crystaliner
equipped with everything the avid angler could need or ask
for _ Shimano Tiagra 50 wide LRS & Penn International
reels, Shimano Black Steel IGFA rods and an outstanding
selection of lures, this wide-beamed fishing machine
boasts top-of-the-line electronics to help get you on the bite
fast.

We arrived at the docks at 6:30 in the morning, a little late for
Captain Efren's liking as he planned on running out about
30-40 miles in search of warm, blue water where he hoped
to put us on striped marlin and tuna. While waiting on our
arrival Efren had already loaded up on live bait from the
pangeros that supply the fleets and with no delay, we were
on our way. Winds this time of the year can be unpredictable
and on this day, the winds helped build a fairly large swell.
We motored our way out to sea on a bumpy but dry ride to
the fishing grounds. Once he found the water conditions that
best provided the chance for large billfish, he switched
driving positions to the tall tuna tower while Alfredo began to
set out our spread of lures. Purple and orange Zukers set
out at the fifth wake behind the boat, trolling feathers in pink
and white and Mexican flag patterns on the third wake and a
dark colored Marauder set close to the boat.

A few hours passed as we crisscrossed areas where
colder water met warmer, Efren's eyes trained on the
surface scanning for signs that fish were near - circling and
diving birds, the tail of a marlin cruising for its next meal, a
pod of porpoise balling bait. None of the usual signs
appeared until Efren's eagle eyes spotted a feeder, a
marlin
actively working the ocean surface. A quick turn of the boat
and a punch of the throttle controls placed us in the perfect
position to present our spread of lures to the fish. The
marlin took notice and struck one of the lures back at the
fifth wake. The jigstrike started our adrenalin flowing and we
scrambled to the deck to ready for a battle. The marlin let
loose the lure just as Alfredo cast a live bait back to entice a
bite. After a few tense moments, the marlin took the bait, the
reel left in free spool in order to give it time to fully take the
bait. Flipping the reel into locked position followed by three
to four strong and sharp lifts of the rod tip set the hook on a
good sized striped marlin.

Dolores took her position in one of the two fighting chairs
mounted on the stern and within seconds the marlin was
giving us a show. Several vertical leaps and violent shakes
of its broad head and the fight began. The key to landing
marlin is the hook set. Everything depends on whether or
not the hook was in the right position when the hook set is
made. Many times, the marlin takes the bait only partially
and the hook never pierces the mouth fully when the set is
made. Unfortunately, this was one of those times. Shortly
after the first series of jumps was made, a second series
began and on this series the hook was thrown and the fish
was lost. Spooked by the encounter, the marlin sounded
and was soon nowhere to be found.

We continued on in search of another marlin, my turn in the
chair coming next. A short while later, a starboard reel
started to scream. Nothing was visible on the surface so the
likelihood of it being a marlin was slim. From the strong pull
and speed of the fish, we thought it would be a tuna and
sure enough it was. The fight lasted only 5-10 minutes and
soon we had a twenty-pound yellowfin on deck.

The trolling continued and for several hours and we had
nothing to do but occasionally switch out lures and scan the
horizon for signs of life. Efren spotted a true prize in the form
of a swordfish. While these great eating game fish can be
found here most of the year, they prefer colder water so
spring is generally the best time of year for this sought after
species. Although the sword made a turn towards our
spread and a live bait was cast directly in front of it, this fish
was apparently well fed and no matter how appealing the
presentation, it would not take the bait or strike a lure. As
they say, that's why they call it fishing and not catching. The
balance of the day produced only suntans and relaxation.

On our second day on the Guerita II, we arrived at 5:30,
determined to beat Efren and Alfredo to the boat. Once
again, Efren had made it to the boat well before us and once
again, he had already baited up. If I didn't know better, I'd
say he must have slept on the boat just to make sure we
wouldn't arrive before him! We headed out, stopping off to
check in with the port authorities to present our manifest
and fishing licenses. A recent change in fiscal policies
keeps the revenues from fishing licenses within the state
where the activity is taking place. This restructuring has
apparently heightened the diligence of officials responsible
for ensuring that everyone on a boat possesses a valid
license, even those not fishing. Makes sense that if you get
to keep the money, you're more likely to make sure everyone
is playing by the rules and buying their licenses. Those that
did not have licenses in hand were sent back to the docks to
get them or there would be no fishing that day.

This day we decided to switch to the Sea of Cortez side of
the cape and concentrate our efforts on some of the
in-shore species that Los Cabos waters offer up. One of the
benefits of a pre-dawn start is the experience of viewing
some of the most spectacular sunrises you're likely to find
anywhere in the world. The skies here light up with all the
colors of an artists canvas with the endless reflection of the
ocean surface. Everything is bathed in reds, oranges and
yellows and the sky appears to be on fire. The sight alone
makes the trip worthwhile.

The Guerita II cut through the calmer waters of the Sea of
Cortez with ease by benefit of the natural windbreak that the
East Cape coast provides. We set out a mix of CD 4
Rapalas in a sardine pattern and started to work the
underwater ledges and rock piles in search of sierra or
Spanish mackerel, dorado or tuna. We ran across pods of
porpoise working bait schools to the surface. These
working pods often hold schools of tuna just below that pick
off bait from the edges of the bait ball but today, we found
just the porpoise. Off in the distance, Captain Efren spotted
surface activity and turned the Guerita towards it.

Within minutes we were surrounded by thousands of
Humboldt squid. Denizens of the northern most portion of
the Sea of Cortez, these alien looking creatures have slowly
made their way down to the southern tip of the Baja in recent
years. With tentacles reaching up out of the water like some
kind of extra terrestrial meat eating flower, we watched in
awe as they fed on floating red crab. Just about anything we
tossed into the water was immediately engulfed by the
toothy tentacles of the squid and with constant pressure and
slow pumps and reeling, we brought them to the gaff.

Legends abound about the ferocity and strength of the
Humboldt squid and while many of these tales are true "fish
stories", there is ample credible evidence of the potential
for injury and even death from these marine cephalopods.
Recently, a Discovery program featured an in-depth study of
the Humboldt squid in the Sea of Cortez. During times of
agitation, such as when these animals are being fished by
fleets of pangeros who make a significant share of their
income from the sale of the tasty beasts, they can and do
become very aggressive. One pangero spoke of his
encounter with the squid with fear and respect. While
working a large school, he lost his balance and fell into the
water. Within seconds, several five to six footers locked onto
him and began to pull him under, all the while biting into his
flesh with their impressive and powerful beaks. He
managed to free himself and make his way back to the
surface and into his panga, scared and exhausted. The
scars that he showed tell the tale all to well. He also told of
others that did not fair so well, never making back to the
surface.

While events like those have occurred, the squid are usually
no more than curious about visitors to their domain. It is the
frenzied activity caused by fishing these creatures that
creates the aggressive and often cannibalistic behavior.
Divers have been able to get up close and personal with
the Humboldt squid when no fishing pressure was present,
all without being attacked or harmed in any way. The
aggressive behavior and flashing of colors associated with
a feeding frenzy brought on by fishing pressure is simply not
a normal occurrence, but more a reaction to the situation at
hand. You need not fear the squid but make sure to stay
away from the business end. Tentacles with hundreds of
toothed suction cups lead to a bird-like beak with incredible
power. Ink on the other hand can reach you from
astonishing distances as my partner, Dolores, can testify.

While fighting a squid estimated at about fifty pounds, she
experienced the jet blast of a Humboldt squid firsthand. As
the squid was gaffed, Alfredo jumped off to the side leaving
Dolores directly in the path of what seemed to be gallons of
ink shooting from out of the squid. In a split second she was
covered head to toe in the slimy, dark liquid. Being the
trooper that she is, she laughed it off, wiped herself clean
and tossed her line back out to catch another one. By that
time we had been joined by over a dozen other charter
boats
and pangas and everywhere you looked, people were
battling these impressive animals. Great fun, an awesome
sight and great table fare was the end result. We left the
spot having boated 3 squid and cleaning the ink from the
deck of the boat.

Our next area of focus was just a few hundred feet from
shore working the reef structures that line the coast.
Catching eight to ten pound sierra on light tackle is an
experience I recommend highly. We picked off a few sierra
and even landed a small mako shark before we called it a
day and headed back in, all the while amazed at the beauty
of the azure blue and turquoise green waters of the Sea of
Cortez.

So if you are one to enjoy the ocean and the surprises that
such a aquatic paradise promises, fishing the waters of the
Pacific ocean and the Sea of Cortez in Los Cabos is a
dream come true. Finding the right boat and crew is of the
utmost importance in ensuring a successful and
memorable charter. When it comes to making that choice,
we can't recommend Jacqueline Lee's Guerita II and the
knowledge and hospitality of Captain Efren Beron Zamora
and crewman Jesus Alfredo Espinoza enough.

To book your trip, visit their site at
http://www.gueritasportfishing.com or call 011-52-624-143-4465
and tell them Cabo's Best told you all about them.

Richard Chudy and Dolores Peralta are the co-owners of http://CabosBest.com, a travel information portal for Los Cabos, Baja Sur, Mexico. An avid and frequent Cabo traveller, Richard brings his travel experiences to the web for others interested in exploring all that Cabo has to offer.

To reach him, email caborich@cabosbest.com or call 1-818-702-0876.

Copyright 2005 CabosBest.com

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