Day 3 - Second Day of Fishing in Baja
I was up at 4:00 AM again for my second day of fishing in the Sea of Cortez. Once again, I had slept well with the help of 2 Dramies.
At 5:15 AM, I made the hike to the dining room in darkness. Like yesterday, the black sky was clear with thousands of twinkling stars. I ordered my regular scrambled eggs, bacon, and coffee.
At 6:15 AM, I climbed into the pick-up for the ride to the beach at the lighthouse. When we arrived, Manuel and his Panga boat were not there. After much confusion, the word was that Manuel had already left to meet me at the beach at Las Arenas. We returned to the beach that was just a few yards from the Resort and Manuel was there waiting for me.
At 7:00 AM, Manuel and I pushed off for our second day of fishing. This time, it was almost daylight as we pushed away from the beach. Shortly after, I witnessed another beautiful sunrise over the Sea of Cortez. The weather was almost exactly the same as yesterday—a comfortable 75 degrees before daylight and about 90 degrees by noon. Again, a comfortable breeze off the Gulf made for perfect fishing weather.
After the snafu of missing Manuel at the lighthouse, we quickly encountered the second snafu of the day. On this day, we went south of Cerralvo Island but there was no bait boat to be found. Manuel shrugged and headed of towards another part of the island. We found a bait boat, but they had not caught any bait yet. Manuel shrugged again and took out a large net. He then proceeded to net enough bait for the day of fishing.
Because of these two snafus, we did not get the lines into the water until about 8:15 AM. Then, within what seemed like a very short 30 minutes, I caught 3 small Yellowfin Tuna – 18” (7-lbs), 19” (8-lbs), and 20” (9-lbs). Tuna are such strong fish, that even these smaller Tuna put up a good fight and are fun to catch.
At around 9:00 AM, I hooked a much larger Tuna and discovered that not all of them are fun to catch. When a Tuna is hooked, it heads towards the bottom to get as deep as it can. Once it gets there, it uses all its strength to stay there. The bigger the Tuna, the more strength it has to hold its position on the bottom.
The only way a fisherman can bring a big Tuna to the surface is to work hard to exhaust the fish. With Manuel yelling “reel, reel” I would pull the fish off of the bottom a little ways, then it would immediately pull back towards the bottom. Each time this was repeated, both the fish and the fisherman would begin to tire, and it becomes a contest to see who can last the longest. My fish was a nice one, but it was not huge and it took me about 15 minutes to bring it up to the boat—it was 24” (12-lbs).
Manuel was the type of fisherman who was always out to catch the biggest fish, and I am sure that most of his customers also want to catch the big one. However, at 73 years old and weighing less than 100-lbs, I preferred smaller fish—preferably species that I have not previously caught. These smaller fish were not a challenge for him, so I had to constantly tell him “no more big fish.”
However, at about 9:30 AM, he began to change his fishing style to big fish mode. He stopped using live sardinas hooked through the eye and began using a dead one hooked through the body. He would cast the bait out and then wait, open bail with a finger on the line, for the big one to bite. Suddenly, he closed the bail and handed me the pole while yelling “reel, reel”. Watching him, I had not even detected that there was a bite, but he obviously felt it.
It was a huge Tuna on the line and for the next 45 minutes, I battled it with all of the strength I had. Like the monster Sailfish, I immediately wished that I (Manuel) never hooked it. A couple of times, Manuel had to spell me again so I could regain some strength to continue the battle. Working together, we finally got the fish up into the boat and then almost lost it when Manuel broke his homemade gaff on it. Using the strength of the big clumsy pole, and the 50-lb line set at just the right drag, we somehow got the fish over the gunwale and into the Panga. It was a monster Yellowfin Tuna—55” (50-lb). Although it was only half as heavy compared to the Sailfish, it was much harder to land because of its strength and ability to hold onto the bottom. In contrast, the Sailfish did most of its fighting near the surface.
It was 10:30 AM by now and once again I was rattled by a large fish. I once again told Manuel “no more large fish, just some small Dorado now.” So, for the rest of the morning, we cruised around looking for a nice school of Dorado. Our luck had been so good up until now that I was hoping, but not really expecting, to find the school that Manuel was looking for.
At about 11:00 AM, Manuel got excited. We were suddenly surrounded by a group of jumping Dorado. You could not miss them leaping out of the water because of their golden-yellow color. We found ourselves right in the middle of a school that was in a feeding frenzy. Manuel was all action now. As fast as he could bait a hook and cast the line, we would have a bite. Often, they would have our bait before we could strike.
It only lasted for a short time—approximately 15 minutes. Then, just as quickly as they came, they disappeared. However, during those 15 minutes, we landed 4 beautiful Dorado. One was 36” (16-lbs) and 3 of them were 34” (15-lbs). Each one was like a leaping, jumping acrobat on my line. The thrill of catching the Sailfish and the huge Tuna was great, but this brief 15 minute session with the school of Dorado was the finest part of my trip to Baja Mexico.
By noon, we were out of bait. We had used a lot of it during our frenzied session with the Dorados, so we headed back to Las Arenas to take photos of our catch.
Back in my room at 1:00 PM, I was a real mess. I had fish slime and blood all over my only set of fishing clothes. Somehow, I had to clean them up for one more day of fishing. I skipped the dining room lunch and instead made one of my in-room noodle dinners. It wan’t great, but at least it was onion and pepper free which is rare in Mexico.
During my in-room lunch, a strange thing happened. I heard a loud clunk out on my balcony and when I looked out, I saw a large Pelican lying on the floor of the balcony. It had fallen either from the sky or the roof of the resort, and it was obvious that it was sick and in bad shape. I think that it was old and getting ready to die. It tried to follow me into my room and I did not want that, so I lifted it over onto the balcony next to mine (I think the room was vacant). It was in such bad shape that I knew it would not be able to get back over onto my balcony.
At 2:30 PM, I was off with the small brown pole that I brought and a bag of dead Sardinas to fish the deep pool along the shoreline that I had found the previous day. I did not have much hope that I would catch anything, but it would be my only chance to fish solo in the Sea of Cortez.
I fished for the next 3 hours using dead Sardinas tied to a single #1 hook. I used a 3 oz breakaway weight and fished open bale. Throughout the 3 hours, I made 7 casts and snagged off my weight 5 times. However, on one of the 2 casts that did not snag off, I got a strong running bite. I closed the bale and started to “reel, reel” like crazy.
The ledge that I was fishing off of was a good 6 feet above the surface of the Gulf. As a result, I was hoping not to hook a monster fish because there would be no way to hoist it up to the ledge. When I got it reeled in, I saw a small Sculpin-like fish on my line. I hoisted it up the 6-foot vertical cliff hoping that my knots on the 25-lb line would hold and they did. My single, solo catch measured 14” (2-lbs). The fishing book that I had brought with me said that it was called a Scorpionfish.
I was back at my 2nd-floor room at Las Arenas by 6:00 PM. One of the first things I did was take a look at the old Pelican. It was still alive, but it was not looking good at all. I cleaned-up for dinner and again wished I could take a hot shower. I had to settle for a warm Pepsi since I had no ice to cool it off.
At 8:00 PM, I headed for the dining room and was served a huge platter of fish which was more than I could possibly eat. I could not understand exactly what the waiter said when he served it, but I think it may have been from the 50-lb Tuna I had caught earlier in the day. Back in my room, I had another hot chocolate with cookies and then cleaned-up my notes for the day.
Before going to bed, I took a look at my inventory of Pepsi and bottled water. I had just one more full day at the resort and needed to make sure that my supply would last the entire time. It turns out that it did and I hit the sack at 11:00 PM—a bit earlier than usual. After my grueling battle with the 50-lb Yellowfin Tuna, I felt like I needed a little extra rest and recovery. Just before turning off the lights, I took a last peak and my Pelican friend. He was still there and still breathing and for I moment, I wondered if he still wanted to follow me into my room.
Summary: This was a super-spectacular day of fishing on the Sea of Cortez. We fished from 8:15 AM until noon when we ran out of bait. I caught a total of 10 fish during the 4 hours at Sea and during the afternoon on shore. They were the 5 Yellowfin Tuna (7-lbs, 8-lbs, 9-lbs, 12-lbs, and then the 50-lb monster), 4 beautiful Dorado (3 at 15-lbs and 1 at 16-lbs), and the 2-lb Scorpionfish.
The Day's Catch - Day 2 in Baja
#1 - 55" (50-lbs) Yellowfin Tuna
#2 - 24" (12-lbs) Yellowfin Tuna
#3 - 20" (9-lbs) Yellowfin Tuna
#4 - 19" (8-lbs) Yellowfin Tuna
#5 - 18" (7-lbs) Yellowfin Tuna
Sunrise over the Sea of Cortez
It would turn out to be another great day of fishing in the Gulf.
55" (50-lbs) Yellowfin Tuna
Manuel said that Yellowfin Tuna were biting like crazy at one of his favorite spots. If I knew what I was in for, I might have decided not to go after Tuna. It took me 45 minutes of fighting to bring this monster up from the bottom of the Gulf.
55" (50-lbs) Yellowfin Tuna
Manuel had to take over the fight a couple of times so that I could rest my old body. It was the 2nd largest fish I had caught to date.
One of the smaller Tuna we caught. These guys put up a good fight and were fun to catch.
55" (50-lbs) Yellowfin Tuna
I made it back to the shore with this monster fish.
Another "smaller" Yellowfin Tuna
This one was also fun to catch before we hooked the big one.
36" (16-lbs) Dorado
This was the largest Dorado I caught during a feeding frenzy right under our boat.
14" (2-lbs) Scorpionfish
I caught this along the shoreline that was just a few minutes from my room. I used the brown pole I had brought to Baja with 25-lbs line and used a bag of dead Sardinas that I saved from the morning of Panga fishing. I fished open bale with the bait on the bottom. During my 3 hours of fishing, I cast 7 times and snagged off 5 times.
Shells in the dirt and rocks
Almost all of the dirt and rocks along the shoreline were full of shells.
Las Arenas Resort
This was the view from the shoreline along the Sea of Cortez where I fished solo for a few hours. I fished in a deep pool that I had found the previous day.
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