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Fish Tales


Novicia Fishing Ladies


Dell Menzies and Patsy Sparrow show that marlin fishing is not just a man's sport ...

This year Patsy and I went on our usual January holiday. This time it was to the Mexican Baja peninsula south of California between the Sea of Cortez and the Pacific Ocean. Our destination was Cabo San Lucas.

It was once a fishing village but has now become a very Americanized tourist haven. Cabo San Lucas has five-star hotels, and a marina which holds over 360 cruisers of all sizes. Even the large cruise ships come in. There are 5 championship golf course and whale watching is popular. Most of the people speak English as the tourists come from the west coast of the USA and Canada. We stayed at the hotel Plaza Los Glorias which is on the marina and in the centre of town. The Mexican food is very good, with sea food, beans and hot peppers. The drinks are bottled water, Margaritas and beer.

The second day we were there we chartered a panga to go deep sea fishing from a Mexican name Pablo who looked very much like Zorba the Greek. A panga is an open 23' flat bottom boat with 2 outboard motors on it. (50 hp) . The cost was $180 US for 6 hours, and included a Captain named Chenko who didn't speak a word of English. He supplied fishing equipment and lures.

We started out at 6 am. on a nice clear day with little surf. Chenko took us out on the Pacific Ocean about a mile. Until around 9 we bounced around in the waves and I began to think this was a waste of money. We were trolling with 4 rods using yellow eye bait and a 50 lb test line.

We then got a strike. Chenko set the hook while Patsy and I reeled the other lines in. He pointed to the fishing chair which had a rod holder and told me to get there. He then handed me the rod and told me to "riba" which is Spanish for reel in hard. It was relatively easy to reel in at first. Then the fish leaped in the air and Chenko got very excited and yelled "RIBA". The fish was about 150 yards away and its whole body was out of the water, it was huge. The colour was blue glimmering in the sun. When he dove the reeling got much harder as he was pulling very hard and I was getting exhausted. I told Patsy to take my place in the chair. She started reeling with success for awhile until the fish decided to make a run and that caused the drag to go out until it was as far away as originally. I was standing behind her yelling "Riba" and she said the fish was pulling so hard that she couldn't reel.

After awhile she got tired and I took over. I then found out what she meant when she said the fish was pulling hard. Chenko would motor toward the fish and it became easier to reel in but it was very hard work when the fish made a run for it. Patsy took over getting in a good rhythm by pulling up then lowering the rod and reeling in.

It got discouraging when the fish took a run for it and we lost all that we had gained. I then took the reel. By this time my adrenaline was flowing and I had extra energy but still tired easily. I suggested to Patsy that we let Chenko reel for awhile she said "NO WAY" and took over the reel. We were now making progress and the fish was very close to the boat Chenko told me to steer the boat while he got out the gaffe and the club.

The fish was at the front of the boat and would move from one side of the boat to the other. I was suppose to steer so the fish was on the right side The fish in the water was a very pretty iridescent turquoise, an aqua colour to a brilliant royal blue, a colour that I will never forget. Chenko got the gaffe into the fish and gave it some mighty belts on the head with the club until it no longer moved. It was dead.

Patsy was still holding the reel. Chenko move to the back of the boat where the fish was still hooked and gaffed. Patsy gave the reel to Chenko. He grabbed the fish behind the gills and pulled it into the boat.

Chenko was about 5'6" with strong shoulders and arms. He was about 30 years old and had been fishing all his life. He was perspiring profusely and very excited that we had caught such a big fish. The fish took up the whole back of the boat and had a very long bill. Patsy patted the fish and said it was very smooth and felt like leather (no scales). It took us over a hour to bring the fish in. We considered this the greatest feat of our lives. So Patsy and I sat down and drank a beer to calm our nerves.. Chenko didn't want one - I guess he had nerves of steel. Patsy said that the battery in her camera went dead after two shots shortly after we hooked the fish. I don't think we would have had time to take pictures as we were so busy catching the fish.

We still had 2 more hours to fish. Chenko put a live mackerel on a hook and let out 2 lines. Suddenly a fish jumped out of the water about 500 yards away. He went full speed to this area. We then hooked another fish not quite as big as the last one. At this point we had some idea what to do. While Patsy sat in the fishing chair and started to reel in, I reeled in the other line then took my turn reeling in the fish. Then Patsy took her turn and reeled in the fish to the side of the boat. I steered while Chenko got the gaffe and released the fish as only one marlin is allowed per boat per day.

We returned to the dock at full speed bouncy bounce. In the harbour dozens of pelicans welcomed us trying to get at the live bait and the fish. I had a mop which I used to keep them away. We docked and a large group of people appeared. We got out and Chenko took the boat and the fish to the weigh in station.

The locals tied a rope around the fish's tail and pulled the fish up a ramp then raised it up on a scaffold to weigh and measure it. The fish was a striped marlin 101" long and 140 lbs. The average weight is 40 - 100 lbs. and they are rarely over 130 lbs. Ours was considered a trophy fish.

A photographer for a fee took our picture after getting information from Patsy to put on a blackboard. A taxidermy man wanted to know if we wanted it mounted. The price was so much an inch. He said it would cost us $840 US . He also wanted to know what to do with the meat. I told him to give it to Chenko as he was such a good captain. Pablo saw us and came over and gave us a big hug and called us "novicia fishing ladies"

We went to the hotel in the taxidermy mans truck and I paid him with my visa $440 US. He said the fish would be sent to Gray's Taxidermy in Pompono Beach, Florida. And would be ready in about 3 months. That evening the pictures were delivered to the hotel. We spent the next 2 weeks showing the picture to everyone we met. The usual reaction were expressions of disbelief. One man said his idea of a person who caught such a big fish was a rich man on a cruiser with a paunch who was chewing a cigar.

We went down to the fishing dock daily when the fishing boats came in to check out the size of fish. None were bigger than 100 lbs. Since then we received an invoice from Grays they want $290 US extra to crate the fish and we will have to pay shipping COD This could easily be the $2000 fish. As Homer Simpson sang after catching General Sherman, "We are the Champions".

On June 30, 1996 the marlin was delivered to Patsy's house in Markdale and mounted on her front porch. The colour was the same as we had seen it in the waters of the Pacific Ocean. It now weights about 20 lbs and is finished with the left side the other side is not finished and has a strong hanger on that side. The fish was mounted in my living room on October 14, 1996 and will be here until April 1997. The arrangement is that I get the fish for the winter months and Patsy gets it for the summer.

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