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CALIFORNIA'S ONLY SPORTSMAN'S NEWS SINCE 1953

Gary Graham – ROAD TREKKER



ROAD TREKKER /
WON News Column by Gary Graham

Gary Graham's published credits would fill many pages, two books on saltwater fly fishing, and hundreds of feature articles.

His  current leadership activities in the sportfishing community include: Avalon Tuna Club, member since the 1980s, San Diego Marlin Club, International Game Fish Association (IGFA), Baja California representative; Federation of Fly Fishers (FFF), certified fly casting instructor; Outdoor Writers of California, president; Outdoor Writers of America.

Gary Graham can be reached at: roadtrekker1@gmail.com

In the Blink of an Eye
Easter week 1969, with my 9-year-old son Greg, I made my first trip into Baja … Loreto to be exact. It was quite an adventure for us with many moving parts. When I planned the trip, we were scheduled to depart from Tijuana on a DC-3 that Loreto’s Ed Tabor, founder of “Flying Sportsmen Lodge,” piloted.

I soon learned traveling in Baja in those early days required flexibility, often demanding last-minute adjustments to schedules. This time our trip began with a cranky motor that refused to start.


afteralong
AFTER A LONG, hot ride with all the windows open (no air conditioning), we pulled into the Flying Sportsmen Lodge, poised on the beachfront with a long pier extending into the sparkling Sea of Cortez. In the blink of an eye, my son and I became Baja aficionados for life … not quite understanding exactly what that really meant.


With Greg and our luggage in tow, I went to the ticket counter of an airline where we were able to catch a flight to La Paz later that same day. Since our destination was Loreto, this required we spend the night in Hotel La Perla on the malecón overlooking La Paz Bay. Next morning, we hired a cab to drive us to Loreto.


After a long, hot ride with all the windows open (no air conditioning), we pulled into the Flying Sportsmen Lodge, poised on the beachfront with a long pier extending into the sparkling Sea of Cortez. In the blink of an eye, my son and I became Baja aficionados for life … not quite understanding exactly what that really meant. At that moment, it meant we were charmed by all we saw.


The fishing exceeded all expectations I had derived from WON’s Ray Cannon columns as well as his book, “Sea of Cortez.” Loreto’s dorado dazzled both of us and we returned frequently each summer.


Soon, Greg’s younger brother Geoff was coming along on the trips, and after Mex One opened in 1973, I wasn’t waiting for summer vacation. I began exploring Baja from border to Lands End, frequently with friends and family in a van and I added a 19-foot Bayliner to explore the waters.


We discovered a remote beach named Nopolo Cove a few miles south of Loreto. It was the perfect set-up for us, and the sleepy village of Loreto became a frequent destination.


By the mid-’70s, Yvonne and her family, Teri, Julie and Michael and mine merged. In another “blink of an eye” there were seven of us enjoying many of the hidden treasured spots Baja had to offer.


Our “blink of an eye” moments continued. The little 17-foot boat led to larger boats; our vans and beach camping let to “Rancho Deluxe,” our home on an East Cape beach, which lasted 18 years; then, that home was followed by the self-contained “Roadtrek” van.


Somewhere in the midst of those moments, Greg, Geoff and I made a return trip and paused at Puerto Escondido for a rest stop. Both boys pulled a couple of rods out of the van and soon were happily catching small cabrilla and grouper.


thefisingexceeded
THE FISHING EXCEEDED all expectations I had derived from WON’s Ray Cannon columns as well as his book, “Sea of Cortez.” Loreto’s dorado dazzled both of us and we returned frequently each summer


A local resident stood beside me watching them, volunteering that there was a marina being planned for the small, shallow bay. Frankly, stories like that were common and the likelihood of that becoming a reality seemed remote, and, like many other rumors, I dismissed it.


Yet, slowly, very slowly, with a few fits and starts, the marina did begin to take shape. Our remote Nopolo Cove, where we had camped with not another soul in site for many years, became a golf course, and in the past few years Puerto Escondido Marina with fits and starts and a couple of owners later, is now a reality.


It seems as though I’ve been back in Loreto more frequently the past several years. In a “Roadtrekker” Column titled, “ Mex 1 road trip conquered with common sense, coupled with modern technology,” I briefly mentioned touring Marina Puerto Escondido with Gregory Nash Rhew, manager of the Puerto Escondido Marine facility.


http://www.wonews.com/Blog.aspx?id=4062&AuthorID=0&t=Mex-1-road-trip-conquered-with-common-se


But the local fishing came of age “in a blink of an eye” moments earlier this year when three giant yellowfin tuna weighing 424.6, 319, and 212.5 pounds were caught over a three-day period early January off Loreto.


This underscored the impact that the new Marina Puerto Escondido is having on local sportfishing, drawing larger sportfishers capable of fishing farther offshore than the smaller pangas and sportfishers in the past. No longer is Loreto as dependent on only the traditional dorado and yellowtail fishery.


According to the website of Jay Yadon, owner of Outpost Charters in Loreto, he offers a 40-foot Luhrs Express model boat, powered by two 430 HP Caterpillar engines, which can take up to 10 guests, a fact the other boats cannot match. I’m almost certain that it won’t be long before additional larger boats join that one in the newly-completed Puerto Escondido Marina facility.


Rhew recently agreed. “Those yellowfin tuna catches, along with the new marina facility have certainly drawn a lot of interest in Loreto.”


In the “blink of an eye,” the little village of Loreto that had trouble getting an airline to fly in regularly grew, and like Cabo and some of the other villages that have become cities, Loreto is on its way.


No, you say, and you dismiss it as another rumor…


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We hope you enjoyed this article on our no-charge website wonews.com. Of course, this site contains only a small fraction of the stories that Western Outdoor Publications produces each week in its two northern and southern editions and its special weekly supplements. You can subscribe to the print issue that is mailed weekly and includes the easy flip-page full-color digital issues, or you can purchase a digital only subscription. Click here to see the choice.


Fiestas Tradicionales San José, 2018
Recently, I took a last-minute trip to Los Cabos and my long-time friend Lynn Rose suggested Posada Real, a hotel owned by a friend of hers Guillermo Cepeda, which was located a mile or so outside of San Jose del Cabo along a stretch of beach commonly called Hotel Row fronting the Sea of Cortez.

I usually have my home away from home, the Roadtrek, which I have been known to park overnight on a surface street for convenience in lieu of an RV park if there are none in the area.


allofthis1

allofthis2
ALL OF THIS plus the property is located right on the beach overlooking the Sea of Cortez with both a swimming pool and a Jacuzzi.


I decided to give the hotel a try for my three-day stay as I was attending one of the Copa Campeones Calisureños Baja Tournaments series based at the Puertos Los Cabos Marina. It was conveniently located, almost a straight shot via the toll road that runs behind the airport.


Turning onto the Paseo Malecon, the street where the Posada Real was located,it appeared to be filled with huge, multi-story hotels shielding the Sea of Cortez from view and I regretted that I didn’t have my Roadtrek. The Google map voice directed me toward my destination, which, thankfully, was tucked between the first two huge hotels.


A friendly security guard directed me to the lobby of the small, authentic 152-room Mexican hotel that, as it turned out, has been in the Cepeda family since 1997 … a rarity these days and perfect for my short stay. Plus, it was an ideal location, close to the marina at Puertos los Cabos.


I attended the registration at Puertos Los Cabos Marina for the “Torneo de Pesca Deportiva Fiestas Tradicionales”– a qualifying event for CONAPESCA’s Gran Final held every August in Loreto. It was one day of fishing, targeting wahoo, yellowfin tuna and dorado.


Registrations began at 2 p.m. with a steady stream of teams arriving to sign-up and look at some of the various sponsors’ products on display until the 8 p.m. close.


It was a great opportunity for me to catch up with some of the teams I had met last August at the Gran Final along with meeting more teams that entered this event; as well as seeing sponsor products. By the time registration closed at 8, 39 teams had signed up, according to my amigo Clicerio Mercado, tournament coordinator.


Sunday morning at 7, teams departed from both Puertos Los Cabos and IGY Marina at Cabo San Lucas. There were simultaneous flare-gun starts coordinated by VHF radios.


allafternoonteams
ALL AFTERNOON, TEAMS arrived and weighed their catches.


All afternoon, teams arrived, weighing their catches, then joining in the impromptu fiesta with mariachis providing the background music as many other teams awaited the 4 o’clock closing.


Some of the family members of the teams swam in the cove and others fished from the channel jetty. Still other spectators huddled around with handheld VHF radios and cell phones that buzzed with reports of fish landed in all three categories.


The lead in the dorado and tuna divisions changed as heavier fish were brought to the scale. Teams held their breath as fish in each category were brought to be weighed. As the weights were shouted out, they were greeted with either cheers or groans by winning and losing teams.


The yellowfin tuna division was the cliffhanger, with the final tuna of the day clinching the win with a weigh-in of a 44.9-pounder by Captain Carlos Beltran Colzessus aboard the Feeling Azul. The two heaviest fish in the other two categories were a dorado at 19.7-pounds and a wahoo at 21.3-pounds.


A specially prepared fish buffet of ceviche and fish tacos made from the teams’ catches was served to the anglers and their families.


If you are looking for an opportunity to participate in a genuine “grassroots-style,” no frills Mexican sportfishing tournament, participate in one of the Baja Sur Tournament Series events listed. I promise you will make new friends; plus, you never know, you may win an invitation to participate in the “Gran Final” held in Loreto next August. Hope to see your team there!


Posada Real turned out to be a real find for a variety of reasons: First and foremost, it is very economical with attractive rates including meals and liquor if you chose. It’s centrally located – within walking distance of town – and a short cab ride away from the Puertos Las Cabos Marina for fishing. All of this plus the property is located right on the beach overlooking the Sea of Cortez with both a swimming pool and a Jacuzzi.


List of Winners

70 Torneo de Pesca Deportiva

Fiestas Tradicionales San José, 2018

Yellowfin Tuna

1st Place $49,000 pesos

Team Name: Feeling Azul Weight: 44.2 pounds

2nd Place Pass to the Grand Final

Team Name: Alejandra

3rd Place Pass to the Grand Final

Team Name: El Anzuelo

Dorado

1st Place $48,000 pesos

Team Name: Los Indecisos Weight: 19.7 pounds

2nd Place Pass to the Grand Final

Team Name: Casa Panga

3rd Place Pass to the Grand Final

Team Name: Jaqueline

Wahoo

1st Place $48,000 pesos

Team Name: Hook Up

Weight: 21.3 pounds


ifyouare
IF YOU ARE looking for an opportunity to participate in a genuine “grassroots-style,” no frills Mexican sportfishing tournament, participate in one of the Baja Sur Tournament Series events listed.

* * *

We hope you enjoyed this article on our no-charge website wonews.com. Of course, this site contains only a small fraction of the stories that Western Outdoor Publications produces each week in its two northern and southern editions and its special weekly supplements. You can subscribe to the print issue that is mailed weekly and includes the easy flip-page full-color digital issues, or you can purchase a digital only subscription. Click here to see the choice.




Baja Tournaments: Trucks, Bridges, and Berms
For the first time in a decade, I missed most of the Fred Hall Show, Long Beach. Schedules overlapped and I had people I needed to interview; plus there were a couple of tournaments in Baja that I felt I couldn’t miss.

After a whirlwind Wednesday spent at the show, I packed up and flew to Los Cabos early Friday morning. There wasn’t time to drive the road this trip, so leaving my “home away from home” safely garaged, I arrived and made my stop at Hertz, after which I headed up to East Cape.


thelargestfish
THE LARGEST FISH of this event was a 44.9-pound yellowfin tuna caught by Captain Carlos Beltran Colzessus aboard “Feeling Azul.”


First, there was a brief interview with Javier Beltran, Yacht Support, who was overseeing the installation of a Seakeeper in “Vaquera,one of the Mark Rayor’s Team JenWren fleet. Eliminating up to 95 percent of boat roll, it should keep all of Rayor’s clients smiling. The “Vaquera” is the first 35-foot Cabo to have a Seakeeper installed in Mexico. There will be more on that in another column soon.


Next, I stopped at Palmas de Cortez for a wrap-up interview with Kathy Skaggs, the Wedding Planner for Los Barriles. She and her husband, Lyle Brunson, migrated to the area several decades ago and have many interesting stories to tell — another column. Brunson can usually be found at the Palmas’ pier, creating stunning Japanese fish prints for anglers. His fish impressions are called “Gyotaku” (pronounced GHEE-OH-TAH-KOO: Japanese, from gyo fish + taku rubbing.)


Saturday morning, I had enough time for a little #doingthedrone trick at several East Cape hotels before heading to the registration at Puertos Los Cabos Marina for the “Torneo de Pesca Deportiva Fiestas Tradicionales,” a qualifying event for CONAPESCA’s Gran Final held every August in Loreto. This was to be a one-day affair targeting wahoo, yellowfin tuna and dorado. By the close of registration, there were 39 teams, according to Clicerio Mercado, tournament coordinator.


Fortunately, it was short drive to Posada Real, where I would spend the next few days. Saturday morning, I was on the road at 4 a.m. trying to find my way to Migrino Beach, where Stephen Jansen’s (Jansen Inshore Tackle) 6th Annual Sierra Tournament was being held.


My directions were sketchy, and I purposefully allowed ample time to find my destination. After nearly an hour and a half of driving, just as I began to think I was lost and was seriously considering making a u-turn, retracing my path and beginning again, when a big pickup towing a trailer with a Polaris ATV in it passed me.


I drafted the rig as it pulled off on a dirt road before a large bridge; it was the bridge I had been directed to find. In the pitch dark of the very early morning, it felt like I was back in Glamis Dunes in California.


The difference, of course, was that the rigs I managed to follow had 11-foot-or-longer fishing rods sprouting out of them. When the truck turned to head toward the final sand berm overlooking the Pacific Ocean, I wisely stopped my VW compact before I buried it in the soft, moon dust-like sand.


winningthecoveted
WINNING THE COVETED “Sierra Killer Award” was Juan Torres with the largest fish of the tournament — a 6 pounder.


Trudging over the sand, grooved by numerous tires with my cameras in my backpack, I discovered that I had been following none other than Jansen himself. He and his team were frantically unloading boxes of team bags filled with special T-shirts among other things.


“It’s my birthday,” Jansen shared as he greeted me, not slowing down to say much more. Looking around — as far as one could see in either direction — were trucks and campsites of groups that had arrived the night before to secure a favored site. Headlights, torches and flashlights twinkled like fireflies in the fading darkness as it turned to dawn. Loudspeakers blaring music suddenly silenced and Jansen announced lines in the water for one single species: Sierra Mackerel. And the tournament began for the eager anglers who had signed up for the popular event.


The first hour, a steady parade of anglers raced to the scales to weigh their catches, all of which were donated to a local charity to feed children and others in need of a hot meal.


When the event concluded three hours later, the 409 participants from around the world crowded the stage to watch the top 20 anglers receive their prizes of fishing tackle. The “winner” of the coveted “Sierra Killer Award” was Juan Torres with the largest fish of the tournament — a 6 pounder.


Later that afternoon, I returned to Puerto Los Cabos just in time to watch the weigh-in of the largest fish caught in the “Torneo de Pesca Deportiva Fiestas Tradicionales,” a 44.9-pound yellowfin tuna caught by Captain Carlos Beltran Colzessus aboard Feeling Azul. The other two heaviest fish weighed-in were a dorado at 19.7 pounds and a wahoo at 21.3 pounds. After closing of the weigh station, a specially-prepared fish buffet of ceviche and fish tacos made from the teams’ catches was served to the anglers and their families. Cash prizes were handed out to the top catches in the three categories along with invitations to compete in the Gran Final next August in Loreto, BCS.


* * *

We hope you enjoyed this article on our no-charge website wonews.com. Of course, this site contains only a small fraction of the stories that Western Outdoor Publications produces each week in its two northern and southern editions and its special weekly supplements. You can subscribe to the print issue that is mailed weekly and includes the easy flip-page full-color digital issues, or you can purchase a digital only subscription. Click here to see the choice.


Baja Blossoms
Ink on 2018 calendars is barely dry, but it is clear it’s going to be another one of those What a difference a year makes kind of years. With few if any exceptions, the events in the first two months have certainly set the stage for the upcoming Baja season.

Throughout 2017, Baja Sur and the Sea of Cortez suffered from a lack of baitfish in general – specifically, sardina (flat-iron herring). Speculations on the reasons for the increasing shortage of bait stocks are as varied as the speculators. As one can imagine, the list was long: El Niño, La Niña, overfishing or Aunt Sally’s bursitis.


throughoutbajaTHROUGHOUT 2017, Baja Sur and the Sea of Cortez suffered from a lack of baitfish in general – specifically, sardina (flat-iron herring).


thebluefingo
THE BLUEFIN GO all the way up to the east end of Catalina, (as this photo taken last week off the East End reflects).


inshoreroosterfish
INSHORE, ROOSTERFISH, JACKS and sierra mackerel are showing, according to Jeff DeBrown, Reel Baja in Cabo San Lucas.


“The conveyor belt of nutrients from the deep-water cool upwelling almost disappeared and so did the base of the food chain; the roosterfish disappeared,” Gary Bulla of Gary Bulla’s Flyfishing Adventures observed, “However, by all accounts, 2018 should be an epic year for roosters as the sardina have returned. I expect them to show up in packs in Muertos Bay and Isla Cerralvo area.”


Along with the returning sardina is another Baja favorite equally as scarce according to Rebecca Ehrenberg of Pisces Sportfishing – dorado. Recently, dorado catches increased, topping striped marlin for the first time this year.


Other species have increased as well. Inshore, roosterfish, jacks and sierra mackerel are showing, according to Jeff DeBrown, Reel Baja in Cabo San Lucas. “Fishing been great for both January and February; lots of fun on both fly and spin gear.” The increase in sierra is highlighted by Jansen Tackle ownerStephen Jansen’s decision to hold his sierra tournament mentioned in my last column.


In the “WOW!” category was the humungous 424.6-pound yellowfin tuna, caught off Loreto aboard Robert Ross’ 37’ Boston Whaler Rampage by angler Jorge Lazo from Tijuana.


Additionally, Lazo caught another one weighing 319 pounds. Both were caught on an Accurate Valiant BV2-800 reel loaded with 50-pound P-Line, 100-pound Hi-Seas fluorocarbon leader with a Mustad 6/0 hook on a Seeker rod with live mackerel.


The larger fish topped the current IGFA record of 385-pounds, 12 ounces by a click less than 40 pounds. Lazo’s second tuna was a two-day fish total of 743.6-pounds for both the angler and his same tackle.


North winds blew since then, causing the cow-sized tuna to come down with a serious case of lockjaw. Jay Yadon, Outpost Charters, claimed he could still see them lurking around “El Seco” on his depth meter. His guests continued to catch lunker-sized mossback yellowtail which used to be considered a mainstay of Loreto’s sportfishing scene.


Farther up the West Coast of Baja on the Pacific side, beginning below the Mexican border, the bluefin tuna are an item according to sportfishers traveling up and down the coast. Some are reporting bluefin jumpers and foamers all the way up to the east end of Catalina.


“I heard of bluefin off Punta Colonet and sea temps support a good break 15- to 20-miles outside of there. Also, I heard from a customer who received a text from his friend coming back north on what I believe was a 7-day trip; he ran across 30- to 60- or 70-pound bluefin – not sure where they were, (Alijos Rocks?) but the photo he sent had about a dozen fish caught. My guess is that they’re some of those fish that were found at Guadalupe or above on the Ranger Bank in years past.


Another young boy said last week he and his dad “were fishing the pens off Ensenada and were catching bluefin.” - John Doughty, JD's Big Game Tackle.


Several larger boats traveling up and down the coast have found a few spots of willing 20- to 40-pound bluefin and they managed to stay on the same school for most of the day. SST’s indicate that the warmer water is farther offshore and outside with similar sea-temps all the way up to Southern California.


“The bluefin go all the way up to the east end of Catalina, (as this photo taken last week off the East End reflects), and they were at the 43-Spot several weeks ago,” Jason Hayashi, fishdope.com, observed recently.


For the casual observer, it seems like an abundance of positive signs and catches to start off the New Year.


In case you forgot, or you failed to make plans to go to Fred Hall in Long Beach, don’t miss the show! There are at least 30 different Baja government representatives, hotels, RV parks and charter operations to chat with. Not to mention that it’s a great opportunity to see all of the latest and greatest tackle innovations … with bargains to boot.


See you at the Show!


Searching for sierra
My friend Stephen Jansen, owner of Jansen Tackle, texted me: “FYI, I am looking to do my Sierra Tourney again on March 11.” His tackle store was mentioned in my Tackle Talk column last month. Find it at wonews.com.

This was great news since he had opted not to bother for the past few years because of the lack of sardina that attracts foraging fish along local beaches.


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MARCH IS AN excellent time to go looking for the aggressive sierra. With the sardina close inshore, anglers can get shots at the fish as they walk along the beach.


Underscoring Jansen’s decision was another dose of positive vibes from my East Cape buddy, Mark Rayor of JenWren Sportfishing,who said, “From all the signs I'm seeing with the excellent conditions and abundance of bait, this is going to be the year we’ve been waiting for!” WOW!


Pacific sierra mackerel (scomberomorus sierra) are known as a winter and early spring fish. They are usually found in the water surrounding Baja’s tip year ’round and they are beginning to gather along the shore already this year.


March is an excellent time to go looking for the aggressive sierra. With the sardina close inshore, anglers can get shots at the fish as they walk along the beach. A variety of lures, Jansen’s Cabo Killers, Roberts Rangers in almost any color, and just plain chrome spoons, should do the trick. Or for fly anglers, flies that “match the hatch” … in this case, 2½- to 4-inch long sardina … olive, gray or blue-backed Deceivers should work as well.


Jansen’s Sierra Beach Tournament, the largest beach event of its kind ever held in Baja, is held at Playa Migriño and the date is determined by current conditions. According to Jansen, "The warmer water forced us to move the date to March 11."


The tournament is held on Sunday morning from 6:15 to 9:15 a.m. However, many entrants turn the tourney into a family outing beginning on Saturday afternoon, when a stream of cars and trucks arrive at the designated beach with fishing rods poking out of windows or bouncing over the tailgates of the trucks. As the sun sets, the silhouettes of eager anglers can be seen pre-fishing; bonfires appear, glowing up and down the beach as the numbers of campsites grow. Hoots, hollers and laughter echo above the sounds of the surf and family and friends prepare simple-to-elaborate dinners while everyone basks in the camaraderie.


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PACIFIC SIERRA MACKEREL (scomberomorus sierra) are known as a winter and early spring fish.


Sunday comes early as more participants arrive in a procession of pick-ups, SUVs, ATVs and dune buggies, headlights glowing in the gray light of a Baja morning. Anglers and their families unload fishing gear, beach chairs and canopies, while Jansen and his crew of volunteers put the final touches on the stage and weigh station.


The event begins at 6:15 a.m. with the anglers casting lures and poppers, after having plunked down their money in hopes of winning the first prize – a Shimano Stella 14000; optimistically, they begin their quest for the winning sierra mackerel.


Cheers and laughter of spectators can be heard over the roaring surf as they shout encouragement to their favorite anglers. Successful fishermen, with catches in hand, sprint for the weigh station, handing over their fish to be weighed and recorded by tournament officials. Then after taking a few minutes to reload both body and tackle, they race back to their preferred spot at the water's edge in hopes of catching another fish to improve their score.


Finally, the three-hour competition is over, “lines out” is called and the winners receive prizes for their catches, usually accompanied by blaring renditions of Queen's, "We are the Champions," followed by James Brown's, "I Feel Good!"


Minerva Saenz of Minerva's Tackle confided after her first year of sponsorship, "I have never sponsored the Sierra Tournament before, but I remember the first tournament and I'm aware of how much it’s grown! A few of the boys who work in our store fished the tournament and what a feeling of community it has become. Can you imagine over 250 anglers on these magnificent beaches and the winning angler coming from La Paz to fish? When we opened our store over three decades ago, no one fished the shore; now, “surf fishing" in Cabo San Lucas has become a draw both locally and internationally. We have Europeans who bring their surf equipment to fish from the shore. I love it!"


This home-grown tournament has plenty of local support and has joined the ranks of the “big boy” boat tournaments. It provides a land-based opportunity that offers all the fun, excitement, enthusiasm, and camaraderie of its big brothers. It lacks only the roar of the boats and the smell of diesel fumes.


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