4 weeks ago, I flew down to San Diego, from Seattle, to
go dove hunting with my younger brother, Geoff, and his
18-year-old son, Jared. This was quite a big deal because
I hadn't seen Jared since he was 8 years old. Now fully
grown at 6' 2" and 235 lbs., I can see why he was a 4-year
letterman and MVP offensive tackle. While we were in Parker,
hunting doves, I invited Geoff and Jared along on my annual
trip to Cabo for my birthday. Besides, I still owed Geoff
for that marlin he missed on his first ever trip marlin
fishing last May. Sticking my neck out even more, I told
Jared that the possibilities of him catching one were also
very high. This would be a great birthday present for me
getting both Geoff and Jared their first marlin, and a blue
at that. My hopes for pulling this off started to dim when
I ran into last minute difficulties getting a boat lined
up. None of my aces were available, but we booked our air
and hotel anyway. At the last minute, the boat came through,
another tournament rigged Blackfin. So, the three Vallons',
John, Geoff and Jared, were all lined out on Tony Berkowitz's
30' Blackfin, GoDeep.
Summary for two days of fishing:
Weather: Mid to upper 90's and lows to upper 70's, afternoon
light breeze from the south. Sunny except for Sunday.
Water: 84 to 86, clear everywhere.
Friday: 9/29/00 (my b-day). We slow trolled a yellowfin
tuna, and 3 bonita on the Gorda Banks. We made all the bait
at the outer bank. We had the first knockdown at 9:45 AM,
but it was a wahoo that sliced the 500# leader neatly in
half. At 12:20 PM, an estimated 450# blue marlin attacked
the yellowfin that was being trolled on my 130# Penn 2-speed.
Jared was up first and after getting him situated in the
chair he quickly got the nice blue to the tag in 20 minutes
time. We changed to lures around 1:30 PM and headed towards
Santa Maria Canyon. Only other hook up was our dinner for
the evening, a small dorado. Most fleet boats returning
had multiple dorado and tuna flags. Only 3 blues reported
caught today. Most fleet boats fished the old lighthouse
area and straight out 2-3 miles.
Saturday: 9/30/00. Same story as yesterday, except the
blue was slightly smaller, estimated to be 425#'s, and it
hit one of the 80 wide Tiagras. Geoff was now fighting the
marlin I owed him. As before, the fish was tagged and released.
Geoff's bite came early, around 8:20 AM. Next bite came
at 12:50 PM, another nice blue, but the hooks pulled before
I got in the chair. Again, another banner day for the fleet
boats on dorado and tuna, with a few sailfish.
Note: We have elected not to post the pictures of the marlin
that we released because both blues threw their stomachs
out because of being gut hooked. We decided to leave the
images in our minds.
Before leaving for the airport on Friday morning, I checked
my e-mail and found one from Lisa Dobson, of Pacific Blue
Water Sportfishing. Lisa warned me that the whole street
along the hotel Mar de Cortez, where we would be staying,
was torn up, and raw sewer was all over. I called the hotel
and was told that it was indeed torn up, but it didn't impact
the guests and had nothing to do with the hotel.
We arrived at San Jose on time, gathered up our luggage
and got a taxi to take us directly to the hotel, bypassing
the cattle wagon. Whew, $70. Strange, it's only $40 from
the hotel to the airport! Lisa was right, the whole street
was torn up, but we were able to go down a few side streets
(the wrong way) and eventually make it to the hotel. Upon
checking in, I was handed a message from Tony: John -
Call me upon arrival. OK? Welcome back. Tony and I had
only spoken on the phone a few times to set this trip up.
We had never met face-to-face before. I hoped nothing had
changed, but the fact that he had come over to leave the
note, was somewhat puzzling. As it turned out, it was just
about the street being dug up. We decided that we would
take a taxi to the boat in the morning instead of him picking
us up as we had planned. Tony said his boat was at the new
marina and that we couldn't miss it. No problem, I thought.
After a quick change of clothes we were at the Latitude
22 having the blue plate special and a few beers. Jared's
first exposure to marlin was the marlins hanging in the
back room. He was overwhelmed at the size. After dinner
we headed to the super Mercado plaza Aramuro for lunches
and water. We finally turned in around 1:30 AM after talking
all night about the next day of fishing. Our wake-up call
was set for 5:00 AM.
Friday, 9/29/00. 6:00 AM we are headed for the new
marina, where we met with Mori, the captain. Tony and the
mate hadn't shown up yet so we took the time to get some
coffee and more ice before heading to the fuel dock. Tony
finally arrived and we went over the equipment that I brought
along. Tony looked over the wind-on leaders I had and was
really impressed with how well they were made. We got the
scale out and set the drags on all of my Penn's. 36 pounds
on the 130ST strike position, 24 pounds on the 50SW strike
position, and 18 pounds on the 30SW.
I told Tony what we wanted to do for the day. Target blues
only. I made my decision based on Lance Watkins' outstanding
success a few weeks ago of making bait at the bank early
and slow trolling. We may not get a shot at a 500+ black
or a 700+ blue as he did, but, if we are persistent, we
might have success. Everything was in our favor. Lances'
recent success, no storms lately or in site, beautiful water,
same tidal conditions, and a first quarter moon, but with
a morning rise, meant the blues would be hungry. The only
thing left to chance would be the ability to make bait.
It was a 1-hour run to the outer bank at 24.5 knots over
calm water with a slight breeze. We joined about 3 pangas
that were chunking for yellowfin. The Checkmate was
right behind us, along with a few private boats and a few
We put out feathers and cedar plugs, and in 10 minutes,
all lines were hooked up. We put 3 bonita in the tuna tubes
on this stop. One more stop and we had 2 more bonita and
a 12 to 14 pound yellowfin.
Mori put the yellowfin on the 130, and 3 of the bonita's
on the 80 Tiagras. With all these perfect conditions, it
would just be a matter of time I thought.
At 9:45 AM we got the first knockdown on the starboard rigger.
I grabbed the rod out of the holder only to find the line
slack; a big wahoo had bitten through the 500# leader just
above the bridled bonita. We continued to troll the live
baits, but it was apparent that the local bait had moved
out of the area and by now, there were many boats sitting
on the bank. Mori suggested that we troll south to La Fortuna
to see if we could find more activity. The bonita's and
yellowfin were holding up real well, so I agreed, but with
the stipulation that we would return by noon if things didn't
look any better further south. The tide would peak at 10:01
AM, and I wanted to fish the downside as much as possible
at the bank.
We returned to the bank around noon without seeing even
so much as a bird the whole time. I was beginning to worry
about my plan, but I stuck to it. Everyone was pretty much
bored with slow trolling the live baits, but I new that
dragging lures would be even more boring. Mori asked me
if I wanted to switch to lures, which the rest of the team
would not have objected to, but I said no. The baits are
still lively and we still had 2 in the tubes, I explained.
As I looked around I noticed that most of the boats had
left the area and I could see some skipjacks breaking the
surface up ahead with birds above them. Mori quickly turned
the boat and headed to the schooling skipjack.
Just as we got alongside the outer edge of the school,
the 130 went off with a vengeance! Even with my really bad
hearing, I could here the line snap from the release clip
and the clicker sounding off. This is what we had been waiting
for. This must be a marlin this time I thought. Mori yelled
"blue marlin" while the mate was setting the hook. Jared
moved to the chair as we had practiced on the way out in
the morning, and the mate passed him the rod with the marlin
Jared's eyes were popping out with excitement at the sudden
feel of strength from the huge marlin. Line was peeling
off as he sat helplessly in the chair. Jared, being 6'2"
and 235 lbs., was quite a stretch for this chair, and we
couldn't get the footrest fully extended to allow him to
straighten out his legs. "I'm reeling but the line is still
going out" he cried.
In his excitement, he forgot everything we had gone over
on the way out. The marlin made a short run, and then
slowed without ever jumping. I guessed that it was either
gut hooked or foul hooked. I recall that the mate let the
fish run a little too long before hitting the drag. Jared
was now pumping the marlin as we had practiced but was a
little jerky with the pump. After a few of these he settled
down and was gaining line like a pro. Within 20 minutes
the marlin was alongside. Mori came down and tagged the
fish while the mate removed the hook. The marlin had a lot
of girth so they estimated it at 450 pounds. I'm sure that
Jared would have estimated the weight at 1000 pounds! For
a guy that runs a mile everyday and works out with weights,
that marlin really tired him out.
Now it was Geoff's turn. We still had plenty of bait and
possibly another hour, maybe two to fish for the day, so
things still looked promising for another score. I think
the next hour was all spent talking about Jared's first
marlin. What a score for an 18 year old out on his first
trip to the ocean. Hey, Jared, a lot more fun than catching
bass, I joked with him. It will be a few days before this
sinks in with him.
Activity at the bank came to a halt, so I suggested that
we put out the lures and troll towards Santa Maria Canyon
and try to put some dinner on board before heading in. There
had been tons of dorado caught all week so that shouldn't
have been too difficult. It wasn't long before we had a
small female on the starboard flat line. I told the mate
to release it because of it's size, but before he could
get the hooks out, one of the hooks punctured the dorado's
eye critically injuring it, so we kept it and headed in.
Tony was at the slip waiting for us when we returned. He
congratulated us on sticking to our plan. "Well, you guys
came down here to target blue marlin and even brought your
big stuff. You patiently stuck to the plan and it paid off.
Good job guys!" Tony asked what we wanted to do the final
morning. I told him we wanted to do the exact same thing,
but we'd like to get an earlier start. I wanted to be on
the bank early enough to make bait and get them in the water
by sunrise when the marlin would be the most aggressive.
The best he could do was a 6:00 AM departure. Close enough,
I agreed. We took the dorado to Cabo Wabo for dinner. What
a day I thought while digging into the garlic and oil seasoned
After dinner we headed over to see Mini at Minerva's Tackle
Shop. She was so happy for Jared, and wasted no time telling
him what the odds were of getting a big blue on his very
first trip. "A million to 1" she said. Mini told us that
only 2 marlin were caught today and they were both small,
so that added to the sense of accomplishment.
Saturday, 9/30/00. 6:00 AM we arrive at the marina.
The boat is dark, the marina store isn't open yet and we
are accompanied by a little breeze from the south. Soon
two cars appear, one with our captain, Mori, and the other
with the clerk for the store. Mori helped us with getting
the water and ice aboard. This time we will take 4 gallons
of water instead of 2 (we ran out of water yesterday around
noon and had to drink water from the melted ice). Today
we would have a mate named Hobie with us. He was young,
around 25 years old, lean, and spoke excellent English.
He normally works on a private 42 foot Ocean Yacht - I can't
remember the name he told us.
The run out was a little rough this morning because of
the southerly wind blowing, but it died completely out as
we got near the banks. We arrived just past 7:00 AM and
found no boats and lots of bait - tuna, skipjack and bonita
along with an occasional small pod of porpoises.
We wasted little time making bait. We split up into two
teams: as we caught the bait, the mate and captain bridled
them and put them out while I ran the video. All of a sudden
Geoff cried out "marlin right off the bow". As I turned
to look, I couldn't believe my eyes. A huge blue jumped
three times, not more than 20 feet from the bow. We all
saw the marlin lit up by the sunrise at our backs. The marlin
had a bright greenish hue - something I've never seen before.
We caught several more bait and put them in the tubes for
This morning we trolled 5 baits, way too many I thought.
Sure enough, they soon became tangled when we made turns
so I asked Hobie to pull 2 of them in. It wasn't long before
we would hear that sound of the reel clicker singing in
the warm breeze. 20 minutes into our trolling we got a knockdown
on the starboard outrigger. Without saying a word, Geoff
was in the chair even before the mate got to the rod. Jared
and I helped bring in the remaining baits while Hobie handed
off the rod to Geoff. With the cockpit cleared now, I started
to get the video out when it dawned on me that the backrest
was still mounted on the chair. No wonder Jared looked so
bunched up yesterday. I removed the backrest and stored
Geoff was now more relaxed and able to put more of his weight
into the marlin instead of using his arms. Geoff had watched
the video I took last year in Madeira of Lance and I taking
turns on the grander, so he was able to mimic what we were
doing more easily with the backrest off. I told Geoff that
he was using 80# tackle now, and not the 130 that Jared
had yesterday, so this was going to take a little longer.
Each time the marlin got within leader distance, she would
peel off again. After repeating this several times Geoff
started to question what was going on. I told him that Tony
has a shark painted on the bottom of the hull! Everyone
laughed. Hobie said, "take your time, we have all day".
Finally, after 40 minutes, Hobie grabbed the leader and
got a tag in.
Well, it was finally my turn in the chair. Everyone was
anxious to see how I would perform on a big blue with all
the orders and advice that I had been giving out over the
past two days. Experience, however, told me that the chances
of tagging another one like the first two were fairly low.
I could see the look on Geoff's and Jared's faces - we all
wanted to go 3 for 3, but if not, I was still glad for their
first time success, and after all, I've surely caught my
share in the past. But hey, we were on a roll here. We still
had perfect conditions and plenty of bait. I was surprised
at how long these bonita's had held up. It was just past
9:00 AM so we had plenty of time. Even if we went 3 for
4, that would be outstanding I thought.
By 12:30 PM I was beginning to feel that I wasn't going
to join the blues list. Time was running out and so were
Jared's hopes of another tour of duty in the chair. Then
the starboard outrigger went off again. Hobie had been sitting
in the cockpit watching the lines ever since Geoff got his
blue, so he was right on it. Unfortunately the hook pulled
and the line went slack on us.
Was the trip a success? You bet. I'll take 2 for 3 on blues
anytime. Tony met us as we came in again and upon seeing
another blue marlin tag and the release tag flying, he was
smiling from ear to ear.