Lured by the prospects of hooking a lingering blue marlin
or a returning striper, John
and Louis Vallon decided to spend Christmas in Cabo San
Lucas. Here is a report of their exploits ...
Day 1, Christmas Eve
We arrived at San Jose, December 24th at 2:20PM, about
20 minutes early due to strong tail winds. We waited until
3:15, but our friend Jaime Gopar didn't show, so we took
the shuttle to our hotel for about $10 each, a good deal.
After the 30 minute drive, we checked into to the Calinda
Beach Hotel and were told that the extra night was no problem
(we were only able to book 3 nights with the travel agent).
About this time, Jaime shows up and wonders why he missed
us at the airport. He was told that we were not on any of
the two Alaska flights!
After securing our room we promptly headed for the pool.
By 4:20, Margarita, our favorite waitress, was serving us
the usual Piña Coladas Loso rockos (on the rocks).
Jaime orders a bottle of beer, which came in a Café
Combate Surpremo can in place of an ice bucket. Louis gives
Jaime the Christmas presents for him and his wife that we
brought with us. Jaime is now probably the only broker at
the marina with an Eddie Bauer shirt.
Jaime tells us that the blue marlin have all but vanished
from the area, but sailfish, stripers and dorado were showing
in decent numbers. Jaime said he had a boat for us on the
26th, called the GRACIELITA, one of 4 boats owned by an
American woman living in Cabo.
We decide to head to town for food and water supplies and
dinner. Jaime drops us off at the Super Plaza Aramburo (super
market) located in the middle of town. Before leaving, he
agrees to pick us up at our hotel and drive us to the marina
on Thursday morning to go fishing.
The super market was pretty much cleaned out due to the
holidays. No fresh bread, green onions, or celery for our
tuna sandwiches that we make for our lunches. Plenty of
rum and Piña Colada mix, so all is not lost.
Finished with shopping, we walk to the Latitude 22+, at
the north end of town, for dinner. The sign on the door
says they are closed, but will reopen Christmas day for
their famous $14 turkey dinner (served 364 dinners last
year on Christmas day). We decide to go to our alternate,
the Cool Hippos, for tacos. This is where you can order
4 tacos and a beer for $5, but the bar tab always ends up
over $60 (many shots of tequila). The waiter and bartender
remember us from our many previous visits.
We are back to the hotel by 9:00 PM to finish unpacking.
Day 2, Christmas
Christmas day is spent at the pool side. We observe passing
boats with our new binoculars, and listen to the skippers
chatter on our hand held marine radio on channels 70 and
71. Since we don't understand much Spanish, the radio wasn't
much help in gaining any insight as to the fishing results.
In fact, one of our pool side neighbors asked me to turn
the volume down. No problem I said. Later he came back and
apologized and we chatted about fishing in Cabo.
Around 3:00 PM we pack up and head to the marina to check
the day's fishing results. The first thing we notice is
the fish cleaning area and traditional "gut pile" is under
going some major changes. The area is now surrounded with
a 8 foot high chain link fence, enclosing a new concrete
deck with built in drainage canals, and equipped with about
8 stainless steel tables for cleaning fish. It isn't completely
finished yet, as someone was working on bolting the tables
to the concrete floor. The old wooden tables were just outside
of the fenced off area. I suppose it is a change for the
better. The wooden tables certainly give rise to a lot of
breeding bacteria. In theory, the stainless steel surfaces
can be sanitized on a daily basis, which is good, but it's
certainly going to cost more to have your catch cleaned.
The 'gut pile' had the remnants of 8 dorado, 2 sailfish,
and 2 stripers, all completely picked clean by the pelicans
and gulls. We were told that only about 10 boats went out,
so it wasn't too discouraging. We watched as a local fisherman
with his young son picked through the carcasses for some
bait. They were only able to scavenge enough to fill a styrofoam
coffee cup half full.
Getting a little hungry by this time, we decide to walk
the 2 miles to the Latitude 22+ for that turkey dinner.
Surprise. The place is packed and there is a line to get
in. After waiting more than 45 minutes to get seated at
a table, we take the offered spot at the bar. The waitress
promptly comes over to take our order. I look at the plate
just brought to the guy sitting next to me and I respond,
"We'll have two orders of what he is has!" Midway through
the cold beer, the plates arrive. These are not ordinary
plates. They measured at least 14" by 8" - more like a serving
plate. Very generous portions of white and dark turkey meat,
dressing, fresh corn, real mashed potatoes and gravy, fresh
green vegetable salad, and cranberry covered the plates,
rounded out with a basket of freshly baked bread. One of
the best turkey dinners I've ever had.
After catching the 7:00 shuttle we get back to our hotel
and schedule a wake up call for 4:30AM. The girl at the
front desk said that she will enter the call into the computer
which will automatically dial our room at the scheduled
time. I explained to her that the last time we were here,
the girl entered the wrong room number and we missed our
boat and forfeited our deposit. So I asked her to test it.
Guess what? Our phone didn't work. We had a new phone installed
in about 30 minutes. While waiting for the new phone, Louis
readied the fishing tackle and I made the lunches. Best
bet for lunch is to make your own. Tuna sandwiches are the
easiest to make, everything can be bought at the super market:
freshly baked bread, Star-Kist Tuna, Best Foods mayonnaise,
green onions etc. Use one 12-ounce can of tuna per person.
Make it up into a Tupperware bowel with a tight fitting
lid and build the sandwiches as you need them. We keep the
tuna in the cooler along with the water jugs.
Jaime picks us up at our hotel at 6:00AM to take us to
the marina. After stopping for some coffee at the donut
shop, we arrive at the marina by 6:30 and find the GRACIELITA
waiting for us. The captain is Victor Hugo Montaño,
and the deck hand is Ciro Gutierrez Gonzalez.
I asked Jaime to tell the captain that I would like to
hook my GPS into the boats 12 volt system. An American male
overhearing this, who was obviously involved with the owners,
promptly told me that we can't fool with any of their electronics.
It was too dark anyway (later, Victor helped me connect
it to a deck light that wasn't being used).
We take on 10 caballitos from the bait vendor waiting in
the harbor and head out by 6:45AM. Victor asks what we want
to go after and we tell him billfish off of Punta San Cristobol
(this is where the action had been reported the past couple
of days). A quick check of the GPs indicates we are making
about 18 knots.
Just after we passed Cabo Falso heading north, Victor stops
the boat and shuts down the engine for no apparent reason.
When asked why, he pointed to the temperature gauge which
was reading about 125 degrees C. After letting the engine
cool down for 10 minutes, we resume our trip up the pacific
side. Lines are out at 7:30AM and tuna sandwiches are served
The first action was at 8:26AM, as a boat trolling near
us fights a small striper.
Next, at 9:10 a dorado hits the starboard outrigger (Hot
Pink Head Knocker). Louis grabs the pole while I throw out
a pitch bait and get hooked the second it hits the water.
Ten minutes later my fish is on board and Louis did an involuntary
catch and release about twenty feet from the boat.
No less than ten minutes later another dorado strike on
the Head Knocker. This time Louis brings it aboard while
I run the video. We continue the drive north to about 2
miles off of Pozo de Cota. At this point Victor turns around
heading south west and we have a few more tuna sandwiches.
At 10:21 we spot the first billfish, a striper on the surface,
and quickly maneuver the boat to offer the trolled lures.
Nothing happens so we pitch a few baits. He's not interested.
We repeat this scenario on not less than 4 more spotted
fins with no luck.
Activity heightens at 12:15 as 2 dorados hit both outriggers
at the same time, we boat a 15- and 35-pounder at this stop
and devour more tuna sandwiches. We resume the troll, but
15 minutes later the engine overheats again. This time,
Victor is going to look into the over heating problem. He
climbs down from the bridge and opens the engine compartment
cover and proceeds to remove and inspect the raw water pump.
Meanwhile, Louis looks over the side and suddenly yells,
"dorado". I could hardly believe this, but here, dead in
the water, there are 5 or 6 dorado schooling under the boat.
Two pitch baits and two dorado on board. Both over 25 pounds.
Victor has no clue as to why the engine is overheating.
"The raw water pump is working fine" he says. We resume
the troll at 1:30PM.
15 minutes into the troll, while I'm back at the stern
realigning the lures, the port rod bends over.. No one hears
the alarm, and for a second, I wonder if its all a dream:
it's my rod, my reel, and my turn! I grab the pole, set
the hook, and the striper starts his dance. Something is
wrong with the drag on the 30SW, as this fish pulls off
some 250 yards before I can make any adjustments. Victor
laughs at the sight. Twenty minutes later the fish is along
side. Ciro asks what we want to do with the fish. I tell
him we take a quick picture and then release it, but to
drag him for a several minutes to revive him. Ciro says
the fish is OK because his tail is still waging. I tell
him that the fish is exhausted and needs to have water forced
over his gills to get re-oxygenated. I motion to Victor
to put it in gear and move forward. After several minutes,
the fish regains its colors and I tell Ciro its OK to release
the fish now.
At 2:20 we decide to call it a day and begin the trip back.
Ciro fillets the days catch dorado while en route to the
marina. Just as we get to Cabo Falso, the engine over heats
again, so its stop and find something to do. We are about
300 yards from the beach and a great time to try for some
roosterfish. Victor calls the office on the marine radio
for instructions...they will send a boat to tow us in. While
waiting, Victor fires up the engine long enough to move
us from the dangerous surf out to a safer distance. We repeat
this until 4:30. Now the engine has cooled enough to continue
on to the marina. We made it to about the Arch, but hit
a huge wave that launched the boat, causing the raw water
pickup to suck air. Dead in the water again.
The other boat from the fleet that was dispatched to tow
us in was there to tow us in the last few miles to the marina.
As we approach the dock, Louis and I ready our things to
disembark. We discuss the amount of tip for the crew. Louis
and I agree that $40 would be appropriate, based on the
fact that they knew the raw water pump was bad from the
day before, and we lost several hours of fishing, not to
mention the time we sat waiting for a tow boat. I hand Victor
280 pesos and he asks "is this for both of us?" I fork over
another 200 pesos thinking that we were misinformed about
the typical amount of tip. Is it 10% for the boat? Or 10%
for each of the crew. I learn later it's 10% for the boat.
I'm still sore about this. Next time we will clear this
up before leaving the dock in the morning.
The morning starts out similar to yesterday, with Jaime
picking us up at our hotel. We arrive at the marina at 6:00AM
for a scheduled trip on the EDITH I. We haven't fished this
particular boat before but have gone out on the EDITH III
which fished very well. The captain is Jesus Romaro and
the mate is Gregorio Miranda. This time when I asked to
connect my GPs, Jesus knew exactly what to do, and without
any hesitance connected my cable into the boats 12 volt
system. This sure saves on throwaway batteries.
This time, something new. We took on live bait while still
at the dock! The bait vendor just walks along the dock filling
everyone's bait tanks. I've never seen this before, or have
just never noticed. This saves a lot of time. So we are
off at 6:20AM. We tell Jesus that we want to fish the same
area that we did yesterday with the hopes of baiting more
stripers. This boat cruises at 16 knots according to my
GPs The sunrise this morning was beautiful.
No two consecutive trips are alike I guess, with these
two being no exceptions. Unlike yesterday, only two events
occurred by 1:00PM. At 8:00AM we miss a dorado strike just
south of San Cristobol point, but 20 minutes later Louis
hooks, boats and releases an 85-lb sailfish that hit the
Headknocker. We never knew what it was until the fish was
brought alongside - it never jumped, and put up no battle.
Then came the prize event: we are trolling as usual, about
a mile off San Cristobol point, with one of the Gaviota
boats about 100 yards off our starboard beam, both of us
heading in a westerly direction. It's also quite windy now
with 2-3 foot wind chop from the west and 4 to 5 foot rollers
from the north. All of a sudden the VHF radio goes wild
with chatter - seconds later Jesus yells to hurry and wind
in the lines. The Gaviota boat is at full throttle, literally
leaping out of the water as it heads west. Jesus explains
that someone located some debris about 4 miles further west
with a huge school of dorado under it, and we are on our
way at full speed. Jesus occasionally throttles back to
prevent launching the boat, and for a moment I think I'm
in an offshore power boat race. Things are getting banged
up, my video camera jumps 3 feet off the cushion, lands
on the deck and breaks into pieces.
After about 15 minutes we arrive to find about 5 to 6 boats
circled around a huge piece of drift wood that was shaped
like a wish bone. The opening was facing upstream and had
3 large sea turtles going for a free ride on it. There was
a lot of bait swimming all around the drift wood - they
had a dark purple color and I have no idea what they were.
Every one on the other boats were hooked up. During the
frantic ride out we had prepared live bait rods and wasted
no time getting the lines out. Within seconds of the bait
hitting the water the bait was picked up by a dorado. Louis
and Jesus got tangled with two fish on. I was working on
my first run which resulted in a 40-pounder going into the
fish box. Louis lands his, another nice 40-pounder.
There was really no reason to cast the bait, just dropping
it over the side was equally productive. In fact it was
more fun, since you could watch the dorado suddenly appear
and take the bait.
This was nonstop action for at least 30 minutes when we
ran out of bait. We had 8 baits to start with, lost two
and landed a total of 6 with the remaining. One of my losses
was bizarre to say the least. The big bull peeled off about
50 yards of line and was jumping like mad, when all of a
sudden the line broke, snapping back and almost hitting
me in the face. I grabbed another pole and casted the last
bait, which resulted in another 30-pounder going into the
fish box, but not before Jesus said that both of us had
hooked the fish! The fish actually had two lines coming
out of its mouth, but the second line didn't lead to Louis's
pole, it was dead ended about 3 yards from the leader. This
was the same fish I had broke off just seconds earlier!
We even compared the two ends of the broken lines and they
Out of bait and enough fillets, we decide to call it a
day and head in. Not a bad stop: one 30-, 2 40- and 3 20-pounders.
One note about the EDITH I. Both Louis and myself agreed
that this boat doesn't fish well and we probably won't use
it again unless they add more rod holders. There were only
two rod holders in each of the two corners of the transom.
At each corner the holders were separated by about 3 inches
from each other with the outboard holder for the outrigger
and the inboard holder for the flat line. There was a line
of rocket launchers up and behind the two crew chairs for
unused rods, but it was very difficult to put a rod in or
remove one because the tarp was in the way.
It is very important to reel in all lines when there is
a hookup and move the rods out of the way of the lucky dog
fighting the fish, and then get a pitch bait out. This is
not possible with this setup. There is no place to put the
rods, other than to lay them on the deck. Then you have
to wrestle the bait rod out of the rocket launcher. A second
thing that I disliked was the safety lines for the outrigger
poles did not have any snaps. They tied the safety line
to the reel by tying a knot in it. You can't set the hook
with the safety line attached and trying to untie a knot
when you are really excited can be very difficult.
Since I'm well known as a complainer, my last gripe is
the railing on the transom. Both Louis and I prefer to fish
standing up. The low height of the railing results in very
colorful black and blue spots on the groin of both legs!
We arrive back at the marina at 3:15PM and as usual, Jaime
greets us and helps carry our things to his car and take
us back to the Calinda Beach Hotel. When we arrive at the
hotel, Louis takes the cooler of fillets down to the freezer
to add to yesterdays catch. He comes back reporting that
the freezer isn't working and yesterdays catch is spoiled.
On our previous trip, we noticed that it took a long time
to get the fish frozen, and that there was a very bad smell
inside. Now, this thing has so many leaks from being rusted
out, it is useless. This will be our last trip to this hotel
until they replace the freezer.
We will make one more trip to Cabo in the spring, then
we should be ready for The Tropic Star Lodge in Panama.