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Jonathan Roldan – BAJA BEAT

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Thursday, June 20, 2019
Living the dream
Thursday, August 15, 2019
A man’s junk

I don’t always tell people where I fish… but when I do, it’s a lie!
Fishermen are funny folks.

Most of them that I know will give you the shirts off their backs. They’ll invite perfect strangers to sit down for dinner and a beer.

They’ll happily give you every fish recipe they know. They’ll patiently show you how to tie every knot or explain their gear to you.

But, there’s a caveat and limit to generosity. Fishermen have a reputation for tall tales and outright lies. It’s in our nature.

Nowhere is that more evident than when you ask an angler where his secret fishing spots are located.

He or she will give up the combination to the family safe or tell you where the family jewels are stashed before revealing their honey hole fishing spots.

In my years down here, I have seen some crazy things.

With our fleets here in La Paz, let me preface by saying that most of the captains are related by blood or marriage. Overall, no matter which fleets they work for, there’s a general spirit of cooperation.

Most times!

There’s mutual respect and at the end of the day, they all have to go home to the same families, neighborhoods and, in some cases, the same homes together.

But, like competing football teams, that doesn’t mean there’s any lack of competitiveness or shenanigans.

For example, there’s radio channels.

There are the general channels that everyone listens to or for emergencies. But then each fleet also has it’s own channel that everyone in that particular fleet tunes to. Everyone knows the other fleet’s frequencies.

And there’s the “secret channel” where anyone can listen, but the fleet broadcasts its phoney-baloney info! And the channels change all the time to keep the competition off-balance.

For instance, they’ll broadcast the wrong locations to catch bait or where the dorado or tuna are biting. They’ll outright lie about what they’ve caught in their fish boxes or where they are located.

And all seems fair.

It’s part of the game and strategy because everyone is doing it. The “hot” guy one day might be ice cold the next. He might be giggling about his secret spot today but tomorrow, he’s the goat and gets duped by false info.

The secret to playing the game is scanning through all the radio junk and know who’s broadcasting what info and recognizing voices.

To us it sounds like one continuous Spanish word and a lot of squawking, but there’s a method to the madness. I’ve even seen them disguise their voices.

Almost like the Navajo radiomen in World War II.

So, if your captain seems like he’s spending a lot of time on the radio, he’s wading through all the chatter and keying on what’s happening on the oceanic gameboard.

This was all explained to me years ago by one of my captains after I asked him why he spent so much seemingly useless time on the radio.

He laughed and said, “I’m playing the game! My youngest brother and uncle work for the other fleet. My older brother and cousin work for you so we screw with each other all day. So do all the other captains!”

Gamesmanship! Know when to hold ‘em. Know when to fold ’em.

He also said, “We know the gringo guys in the big yachts are trying to listen as well and we do not want them to know our spots and ruin the bite!”

Well, OK then…

Another time with one of our favorite skippers, he told us to bring colorful beach towels with us. Sure. No big deal.

Later in the day, he brought us to one of his “secret spots.” We were having a blast catching fish.

But, whenever another panga (from another “team”) got close to us, he would quickly tell us to take down the rods and hide them. He told us to grab the beach towels and pretend we had been swimming.

He told us to make a lot of noise and pretend we were drying off and wave at the other boat as it went by.

As soon as they were gone, out came the rods again! Sneaky.

There was another year when we had a huge dorado bite going off north of town. The “fish magnet” turned out to be a huge Christmas tree that someone had set adrift.

Floating upside down, it attracted huge schools of sizeable dorado and other species. Whoever was on the spot could easily load up on fish and/or catch- and-release as quickly as you could put a bait in the water. It was epic.

One or two boats would fish the spot and load it up. It would then call in other friendly pangas. They would get their limits. They would leave and call in others. And so-on-and-so-on in a great rotation!

All the while, phoney radio transmissions were getting sent out. But…word eventually got out to the other fleets.

Every few nights, each fleet would “steal” the tree and tow it to another secret spot known only to it’s captains.

A few nights later, having deciphered all the crazy radio broadcasts, some other fleet would steal it back. This went on for two weeks until the currents carried it away or the tree simply disintegrated.

Even on a daily basis, when our own captains return each day to give me their reports, I ask where they were fishing or where they found the bite.

“Where were you fishing today?"

I get winks and a smile, “In the Sea of Cortez, Senor Jonathan!”

Let the games continue… can’t trust a fisherman to give a straight answer.

*  *  *

Jonathan can be reached at his Tailhunter Sportfishing Fleet in La Paz at

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