8' (100-lbs) Pacific Sailfish - My Largest Catch Ever
(continued from previous page) Several times throughout the struggle, I wished to myself that I had never hooked it. At a couple of key points, Manuel would “spell” me for a few minutes so I could return to the fight. After what seemed like an eternity, Manuel and I struggled to get it near the edge of the boat. Then, it suddenly took off under the boat in a last ditch effort to free itself. Somehow, Manuel got his small homemade gaff into the fish and together we were able to drag the monster fish up over the gunwale into the Panga. Its long sharp bill hung over the gunwale on one side and its huge fan-like tail hung over the opposite side. Once we had it in the boat, I said to Manuel that we really must have hooked it well to keep it on the line that whole time. Just about that time, the hook fell out of the fish’s mouth to the deck.
Manuel and I just stood there for what felt like a few minutes just staring at each other. Finally, I asked what kind of fish it was and he responded that it’s a Pacific Sailfish. I then tried to ask him how much he thought it weighed and he said that it was at least 100 –lbs. Up to this point, I had been so busy fighting the fish that I had not realized the reality of what I just caught.
Eventually, it hit me that the Sailfish was the largest fish I had ever caught. The guys in the other three boats had been watching Manuel and I struggle with the fish, but now that we had it in the boat, they all pulled-up anchor and left for other locations. In my three days of fishing at Las Arenas, I did not see anyone else bring in anything close to 100-lbs.
Once we had the monster fish secured in the boat, I told Manuel I wanted to fish for Dorado, and nothing else close to 100-lbs for the rest of the trip. So, for the next three hours, we fished at various locations closer to shore for Dorado. I got several nibbles on the sardinas and three good bites. On one of these bites, I hooked and landed my very first Dorado (32”, 14-lbs). In contrast to the Sailfish, the Dorado was a really fun fish to catch. They run and leap like acrobats and their overall body coloring is a luminescent golden yellow. It turned out to be my third and final fish of the day.
At 1:30 PM, we were back at Las Arenas to end my first day of fishing with Manuel in the Sea of Cortez. He had proven, without a doubt, to be a master fisherman. He handled the heavy and clumsy rod with 50-lb line like it was a fine tool. Most of the time, he used no weight at all, but was still able to cast the live sardinas on 50-lb line. Most of the time, he fished open bale with his finger under the line to feel the slightest bite. With a rigid, heavy pole like ours, you could seldom detect a bite on the rod alone. Sometimes he used a single live sardina on the hook, then other times he used two sardinas. Sometimes he would kill the bait first before putting it on the hook. He was an excellent fisherman and despite my 40 years of fishing and our language barrier, I still learned a lot from him.
I personally wouldn’t own a heavy clumsy rod like we used. On the other hand, when I was battling the 100-lb Sailfish, I needed every ounce of its strength. From tip to tip, my 100-lb Sailfish measured out to 8’.
At 2:00 PM, I was cleaned-up but still a little rattled from my battle with the Pacific Sailfish. I headed for the dining room for lunch and this time, it was a disappointment. The soup with crackers was very good, but it was bean soup and this caused bowel disturbance. Then, the main dish was a large taco plate that was crawling with onions. In fact, almost half of the filling was onion, so they were impossible to dig out.
At 3:00 PM, I was off to explore the shoreline of the Gulf both north and south of the Las Arenas resort. To the south, the shoreline was steep and the water was deep. I was not able to go much further than the grounds of the resort. The most prominent rock along the shore was hard sandstone and it was filled with all types of marine fossils. Most of them were corals and pelecypods. As I discovered back in 1982, when I last visited Baja Mexico on a non-fishing trip, the most distinctive shoreline crustacean was the colorful Sally Lightfoot Crab. It is as common here as the Pachygrapsus Crab is in California. One of the things I was looking for in my explorations was a good place for me to fish at in the afternoon of the following day when I once again had some free time. I eventually found one not too far from my room at Las Arenas.
To the north, the shoreline leveled out and was much more beach-like than the cliffs found to the south. As a result, I was able to explore and see much more of the shoreline. However, the beach shoreline was not nearly as deep and less desirable for fishing. I continued hiking north along the shoreline until about 5:30 PM. It was an interesting hike along the Sea of Cortez, but I did not find the beautiful variety of seashells like those I collected along the beach at Loreto back in 1982.
It was 6:45 PM and close to dusk by the time I got back to my room at the resort. I was still feeling edgy from my morning battle with the Sailfish and from the effects of my onion and bean-filled lunch. I could have used a nice hot shower at that point but there was none to be had. I decided to take a short nap instead to regenerate.
At 8:00 PM, I headed for the dining room again and this time it turned out to be a very good dinner. First, there was a good soup with lots of crackers and then a big plate of crispy, fried fish that was supposedly Dorado. Back in my room, I had a nice dessert of hot chocolate and cookies.
At about 9:30 PM, I decided to use my Sony radio for the first time on this trip. Needless to say, all I could get here deep in Baja Mexico was Mexican music and talk. So I cleaned up my notes for the day and got ready for bed. Before hitting the sack, I took a long look at the black waters of the Gulf from my 2nd-floor balcony. A light breeze blew off of the gulf and the sky had become overcast and no stars could be seen. The Gulf is a huge body of water and much too wide to see across to the Mexican mainland, even on a clear day. However, on this night I was able to see flashes of lightning far to the east, possibly somewhere near the mainland. I remember someone saying earlier in the day that a storm system was developing somewhere to the southeast.
Summary – This was a super-spectacular day of fishing. I only caught 3 fish in 5 1/2 hours, but each of them was a significant catch for me. I got a good picture of a Needlefish. I caught my first ever Dorado, a species I have wanted to catch since I first saw one on a partyboat trip out of San Diego. The one I caught was 32” (14-lbs). Finally, I fought to exhaustion (both its and mine) the unbelievable 8’ (100-lb) Pacific Sailfish and got some great photos of the monster. All of this was a huge and satisfying retaliation for the very disappointing “skunk” in Costa Rica last year.
The Day's Catch - Day 1 in Baja
#1 - 8' (100-lbs) Pacific Sailfish
#2 - 32" (14-lbs) Dorado
#3 - 36" Needlefish
8' (100-lbs) Pacific Sailfish
Many fisherman dream of catching a fish like this and then quickly wish they had not. It took all the strength and endurance I had to bring it onto the boat.
It took me 30 minutes to bring it in.
It was the largest fish I saw caught while I was at Las Arenas.
Rocky shoreline behind Las Arenas
There were many deep pools that were good for fishing.
Sandstone filled with pieces of broken marine fossils
One of the few homes I saw along the shoreline
Because of an acute water shortage, there weren't many people living in this part of Baja. Most were like this one-an adobe brick dwelling with a thatched roof and an open corral for animals such as goats and pigs.
Cluster of Sea Snails
They looked a lot like the Speckled Turban that is common around Southern California.
Sally Lightfoot Crab
It was the most common crustacean I saw in Baja.
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