CALIFORNIA'S ONLY SPORTSMAN'S NEWS SINCE 1953

Gary Graham's Blog



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

Being Prepared
I received an IM from Russell E. Fritz recently about his personal ‘best catch’ at East Cape — a 110-pound wahoo. He questioned whether it would have been a record on 30-pound test continuing that it wouldn’t have mattered because the scale was an old sliding weight scale, probably not calibrated since manufacture, and wouldn’t be certifiable. It had been used for weighing cows after slaughter.

hequestionedwhether
HE QUESTIONED WHETHER it would have been a record on 30-pound test continuing that it wouldn’t have mattered because the scale was an old sliding weigh scale, probably not calibrated since manufacture, and wouldn’t be certifiable.


As it turned out, the current IGFA World Record is held by Dean Ettinger, MD, who spends quite a bit of time at Los Barriles and has fished there for years, evidenced by the date of his record which was caught in 1994 on 30-pound test and weighed 127 pounds.


Back to Fritz’s wahoo: “The fish measured 5 feet, 11 inches long, from the nose to the fork in the tail, and was 34 inches in girth at the midsection. My reel is a Penn 16 two-speed, with over 300 yards of 50-pound Spectra, with a top-shot of 200 yards of 30-pound Ande mono. The lure was a Billy Bait black & purple, Shake Rattle & Troll — 10-inch long Mylar skirt, with a heavy head.” He further mentioned that his 30-pound top shot had been attached to the 50-pound spectra backing.


I explained that because the two were attached, the heavier line would have been the line class used to determine the IGFA World Record.


He responded with a question. “Is that true for fly fishermen who use a 10-pound tippet and 50-pound backing? The logic seems a bit contrary, to count the backing as the line test, when the lighter line is what the fish is being fought on, for most of the fight. I know I’m showing my ignorance, and a bit of old age crankiness and no harm is intended. Very little of today's world seems to make sense to me anymore. I do not wish to tilt at windmills...”


I referred Fritz to the IGFA Rules: https://www.igfa.org/Fish/INTERNATIONAL-ANGLING-RULES.aspx


Conventional Tackle


If the fishing line is attached to backing, the catch shall be classified under the heavier of the lines.


Fly Tackle


Any type of fly line and backing may be used. The breaking strength of the flyline and backing are not restricted. Only the leader (tippet) breaking strength matters.


Since I’m often asked about fishing in a small boat at East Cape, at my request, Fritz shared the details of his fishing day in his small boat out of La Ribera. Here is a synopsis of his day:


He and a buddy left from the La Ribera Marina before sun up. After paying their launch fee and collecting some bait at the receiver, they cleared the jetty around 6 a.m.


For several years, Fritz and his fishing buddy have been targeting wahoo, trolling fairly fast (14 mph) on their way to wherever they plan to fish. This particular day, it was off Los Frailes where they would bait fish for yellowfin tuna on the drift, then troll for wahoo on the return trip.


According to Fritz, they trolled with heavy-head, large feather jigs, rigged with short wire, and long 300-pound mono, purple/black with chrome Mylar in one corner. His choice as he followed the old rule: 'Dark day, dark lure." The opposite lure was dark blue/white with the same chrome Mylar. However, they had no bites as they ran down to their tuna spot.


The return trip to Punta Arena was the same until they were above the Lighthouse where they landed a 16-pound dorado in 170 feet of water. After several circles of the area, they headed for the Marina. Approximately one mile south of the entrance in 80-feet, they had a rod doubling strike that peeled off nearly 350 yards of line! No jump — so they assumed the fish was either a wahoo or large jack crevalle. Even after several more runs, they still had no clue as to what it was. Repeatedly, Russell could feel the head shake, and the line shudder, but not the pump… pump… pump of a big tuna!


The first time he brought the fish to the boat, his fishing partner, Boney, saw that the mono leader was in his mouth and spoke very rapidly in Spanish, with Russell catching only one word "Toyota"... indicating a prize-winning fish. Boney gaffed it behind the head, and held it while Fritz got a second gaff in, and together they pulled the large wahoo over the rail and into the fish box.


“This fish swallowed almost 18 inches of lure and leader, and had the 300-pound mono in his jaws. Why he did not snip it off, I will never know!”… Russell E. Fritz


When I shared the story with Michael L. Farrior, IGFA Trustee and experienced world angler who was inducted into the California Hall of Fame recently, he advised. “Be prepared…IGFA World Records are one bite away!” He added, “I cannot overemphasize the importance of reviewing the IGFA Rules and Regulations and making sure ones tackle is in conformance before that world record catch comes along!”


Baja children discover Sport Fishing
Beach trips have always been part of the Baja families’ routine . . . particularly in the dog days of summer when an afternoon outing on a beach is a welcome way of cooling off for adults and children alike. Often they are multi-family affairs that include not only kids, but parents and grandparents all enjoying each other’s company and camaraderie. Of course fishing from the shore is always a welcomed and popular pastime.


bisbeegazeddown
WAYNE BISBEE GAZED down the long line of children and instructors and murmured, "What a great program for the kids; our foundation can and will help in the future."

Sunday afternoons seems to be the favorite time and day for the outings and you can see clusters of people, both young and old, frolicking in the water, or hiding from the sun under blanket-canopied shelters. Often the youngsters hand-line fish, using a soda can with line wrapped around the can with a hook tied onto the end of the line.


Once, as I was riding on the beach on an ATV, I spotted a bent rod in a family group ahead of me. I slowed to a stop to watch as an older Mexican clutched his spinning rod, turning the handle very slowly. This seemed pretty normal until my eyes followed the line coming off the tip of the rod which a youngster was retrieving hand-over-hand. The team effort was a success and a nice-sized jack was soon flopping on the wet sand.


For a number of years each June now, a group of local men offer a shoreline sportfishing clinic for children from 6 to 12 years-old — the goal is to teach the boys and girls how to set up a rod and reel for fishing from the shoreline. Originally conceived by Captain Lorenzo Bello, the clinics became so successful he turned to Stephen Jansen, the Navy Base and API to assist him in pulling off the event.


This year’s event was held on July 30 from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. on the Black Coral Beach, behind the old Cannery. Kids began lining up early and by 8 a.m., there were over a hundred youngsters eager to learn how to fish from shore.


They were divided into groups of 10 and were matched up with volunteer instructors. The eager young students listened carefully as Lorenzo Bello, Stephen and Monica Jansen and other instructors outlined the finer points of fishing from the beach…covering tackle, knots, baiting hooks, casting, and reeling ’em in. Soon the excited future anglers were ready to get their fishing rods and reels and put into practice what they had been taught. 


everyonegatheredaroundEVERYONE GATHERED AROUND the tables heavily laden with 50 rod and reel combos donated by Stephen and Monica Jansen. Captain Lorenzo Bello, joined by the representatives of the Navy Base and API invited Clicerio Mercado to assist in passing out the combos and other prizes to the thrilled winners.


For the next two hours shouts and laughter could be heard over the gentle sound of the waves lapping along the sandy beach. Cries of “hookup” and “I’ve got one” periodically echoed up and down the beach as the kids’ enthusiasm became infectious. Instructors “oohed” and “awed” over the catches and sympathized with the lost fish or missed bites.


After two hours it was time for awards. Everyone gathered around the tables heavily laden with 50 rod and reel combos donated by Stephen and Monica Jansen. Captain Lorenzo Bello, joined by the representatives of the Navy Base and API invited Clicerio Mercado to assist in passing out the combos and other prizes to the thrilled winners. Combos that were left over were raffled off at the end of the day.


One of the mothers at the kids’ tournament commented to Stephen Jansen: “Super cool! You’re a natural teacher, Stephen. What a great way to pass on your legacy and passion for the sport!”


Wayne Bisbee and Mercado joined in the fun, watching the budding anglers demonstrate what they had learned in their respective classes earlier in the morning. Bisbee gazed down the long line of children and instructors and murmured, "What a great program for the kids; our foundation can and will help in the future."


The smiles of the kids and parents were more than enough reward for all of the organizers, whose smiles mirrored the joy of the kids.


This sums up how significant these types of clinics are to the future of sportfishing for Baja and beyond.


ICAST — a daydreamer’s paradise…
California was well represented at the 2016 ICAST and International Fly Tackle Dealer Show in Orlando recently. On a whirlwind trip of only two, tightly packed days, I ran into the Fred Hall Gang including Bart and Ginny Hall, Mike Lum and Tim Baker — Mike and Tim were organizing the 2016 ICAST New Product Showcase for the 12th year. There were a number of other California’s in the aisles and booths.

icsastshow
ICast Show

In the Orlando Orange County Convention Center Marine Accessories Pavilion, which encompasses 650,000 square feet in the West Building of the OCCC, ICAST hosted 552 exhibitors in 1850 booths, with an overall, combined exhibitor count of more than 700 . . .impressive.


I faced a daunting task of trying to visit all the booths in my two days with more than 1,000 tackle products and accessories entered by 240 plus companies into 24 “Best of Show” categories in the New Product Showcase, all vying for the overall ICAST 2016 “Best of Show” award.


Aisle after aisle of booths exhibited their latest and greatest new products and I didn’t want to miss any of them. While walking with Wanda Taylor, Temple Fork Outfitters, one afternoon, she asked if I had a gait that wasn’t “run.” Each time I would slow to her pace and a few seconds later, I would find myself six or eight booths ahead of her. I didn’t want to miss one booth!


Many caught my attention. The Hobie Kayak, with its innovative pedal drive, has been a favorite of mine since I first tried it in 2009. I still carry my Hobie inflatable in my “Roadtrek” on my Baja trips.


pedaldrive
Pedal Drive

Pedal Drive — Doug Skidmore - President of Hobie (worldwide), assisted by Morgan Promnitz, introduced the biggest evolution for the Hobie’s Mirage Drive propulsion system for kayaks first introduced in 1997.


Three years in the making the new patent-pending Hobie MirageDrive 180 forward-reverse propulsion system is a game-changer that will be integrated into all of the year 2017 model Mirage kayaks. It allows anglers to pedal their kayaks either forward or backward by a pull of a cable. 


aquadroneAquaDroneE

AquaDronE — Of course, I couldn’t resist the new AquaDrone that the developer promised is 100 percent fully-waterproof and capable of landing and taking off in fresh or saltwater without harming the drone or its accessories.


A unique innovation is the quick change accessory pods that can be installed or removed with the just a twist of the wrist. FIND POD: A sonar fish finder pod that can send the fish finder’s image to your smartphone or Wi-Fi-enabled tablet, providing a full-color sonar image, water’s depth and temperature via a free app. FISH POD: A line flier pod that allows you to carry and drop your line to inaccessible and remote waterways. This pod can also be used for skip bait fishing across the water’s surface. CAMERA POD: A waterproof camera takes still and video images from above or under the water’s surface with the 100 percdent waterproof, 360-degree 4K camera (according to the manufacturer). Plus the “follow me” features that have become so popular make this drone a “must see” for anyone in the market for a drone.


aquaviewiball
Aqua View IBall


Aqua View IBall — Aqua View IBall Wireless Trailer Hitch Ball Camera — I don’t have a trailer boat anymore, but I promise you if I did this is definitely an aftermarket item that would be on my rig. The screen plugs into the 12v receptacle on the dash and the camera has a magnet for mounting on the rear of your rig and is operated with a rechargeable battery.


Like the Fred Hall Shows earlier in the year, ICAST ignites the imagination. Many of the items are not quite ready for the beasts of Baja, but probably soon will be. I was like a kid in a candy store. I couldn’t get enough and I don’t have sufficient space to write about all of the great items I found.


Road Ramblings
When I left you in the last column, I had just reached Mex 1, continuing my journey southward. I have been driving this road for the past 43 years; my my how time flies. Often driving alone, as I was on this trip, I’m always astonished at the memories that flash by at this turn or that intersection. Breakdowns, flat tires, lunch stops, fuel stops, potty stops, near misses and so on. Some are amusing; almost all have become part of our family lore. Many are recalled at our frequent family gatherings.

itturnedout
IT TURNED OUT that Loreto was just a shadow of its former self with few tourists to be found.


The road was in great shape and with the exception of some construction just south of Guerrero Negro it was clear cruising. By late afternoon I was pulling into Loreto while Yvonne was giving directions to “El Morro” a block off of the Malecón with a handful of motel room and a couple of RV spaces.


It turned out that Loreto was just a shadow of its former self with few tourists to be found. Apparently, the word is out about the lack of dorado during the summer months that fueled the summer sportfishing in the past. Unfortunately, the news hasn’t filtered out that everything else is still biting.


The next morning – after an early (sunrise) photo session at the marina plus a fast walk-through a couple of the hotels to confirm my earlier observation – I was headed south. Twenty-four or so miles north of La Paz was a 10 mile stretch of intense road construction, by far the worst encountered on the Mex 1 portion. However, by mid-afternoon I was in my assigned space at East Cape RV Resort in Los Barriles.


Greg and Viv Stotesbury of AFTCO, were staying with Mark Rayor. Turned out that Viv had licked a 140-pound yellowfin tuna, skipping the next day’s trip on Jen Wren and Greg invited me along. In addition to the tuna, the big news was that the swordfish were finning, and even more importantly, biting.


itisthe

IT IS THE only sportfishing tournament that departs from Chileno Bay where the 35 teams board the boats via an elaborately engineered custom-designed pier used only for the event. Fishing was slower than hoped as the wind kicked up the first day.


The day was a classic Baja flat sea day with the most life I had seen in a while with porpoise, squid and bonito everywhere. Greg released a striper after hanging it with a drop-back caballito. However, while we were jousting with the striped marlin, boats around us spotted, baited and in a few cases, caught the swordfish we sought.


It is the only sportfishing tournament that departs from Chileno Bay where the 35 teams board the boats via an elaborately engineered custom-designed pier used only for the event. 


Turned out it was Greg’s birthday trip so we headed to La Casita restaurant in Los Barriles that opened earlier this year and been receiving well-deserved rave reviews on Trip Advisor. 


Moving on, the next day I continued south to Cabo San Lucas to attend the Stars and Stripes charity sportfishing tournament. Benefiting youth charities on both sides of the border since 1996, it is really more of a "fishing, golf, and music festival." This world-class charity fundraiser combines spectacular deep sea fishing and golf on Mexico’s finest courses with beautiful accommodations and top-notch musical entertainment to a sold-out crowd of 700 attendees headquartered at the Hilton Los Cabos Beach & Golf Resort.


thelastleg

THE LEG OF my trip was a drive back up to Villa del Palmar at the Islands of Loreto which is a self-contained resort approximately 20 miles south of Loreto.


The awards dinner on the beach in front of the Hilton was remarkable. And the Wes Quave Band starring Tommy Tutone, Wally Palmar, Mark McGrath, Skip Martin and John Cafferty entertained the crowd until late in the night. 


The night before the event started, I had a text from Pat McDonell and joined him and Bill Jubb to celebrate his 223-pound yellowfin tuna he caught with “Renegade Mike” with fresh sushi more ways than I could count at Solomon's Landing Restaurant-Sushi bar on the Malecón.


The last leg of my trip was a drive back up to Villa del Palmar at the Islands of Loreto which is a self-contained resort approximately 20 miles south of Loreto. If you know where Ligüi is near the base of the grade heading south toward Insurgentes, there is a turnoff to the resort.


The 181 room hotel plus a glamping bungalow offers an unusual opportunity to experience a remote Baja in a luxurious setting away from population and city lights providing a glimpse of sparkling canopy of a million stars… as well as offering easy access to the five islands of Loreto. There’s world-class snorkeling, kayaking and paddle boarding with some their paddle boards even equipped with underwater light for night paddles. Add golf, hiking, off-road biking – and, if you just want to relax – there are five different pools and Jacuzzis for just that.


Of course, they also offer sportfishing departing from Puerto Escondido up the road toward Loreto.


It was a whirlwind trip prior to returning to Los Cabos Airport where I stored “Roadtrek” before flying back to San Diego. It was a remarkably quick 23 days; now I’m off to ICAST, the world’s largest sportfishing trade show in Orlando, Florida before returning to East Cape for the first of the Billfish Tournaments: the Bisbee’s East Cape Offshore in early August.


Mex 3 – 5: Roads less traveled
Several weeks ago on a Friday afternoon, Yvonne and I took our first trip through Guadalupe Valley. Kenia Zamarripa, SAC’s Director of Marketing and International Affairs, and Heidy Salum, Binational Liaison for the Government of Baja California Secretary of Tourism of Baja California, guided us through Guadalupe Valley to kick off a weekend trip to Ensenada at Hotel Coral and Marina with the Sportfishing Association of California President, Captain Ken Franke, and the “Let’s Talk Hook-Up” crew which included Pete Gray and his sound engineer, Rick Cutler, (Hookup1090.com). The SAC group was there to continue the very successful series of interactions between Mexican and American representatives from Government agencies, hotels, and fishing fleets, and on Saturday morning, the two-hour radio show shared information vital to anglers, tourists and boats cruising the waters off Baja’s coast.

knowingtherewas
KNOWING THERE WAS over 20 miles of dirt road ahead, I stopped and visited with "Coco" at his elaborately decorated (literally) “wide spot in the road” named appropriately "Coco's Corner."

Guadalupe Valley, with its many vineyards, restaurants and wineries was quite a pleasant surprise. It reminded Yvonne and me of Sonoma Valley in Northern California — certainly an interesting option for a weekend getaway. The sprawling vineyards with the beautiful mountains behind them made a picturesque backdrop for the unique selection of restaurants and quaint hotels. A bonus: there were menus to fit every budget.


Later that evening we had a great dinner at a small restaurant near the waterfront area with an unusual floor-to-ceiling back bar -- straight from the U.S. Prohibition years delivered from San Francisco by a two-masted schooner. We arrived in "Uber" taxis . . . yes, Uber . . . another surprise and convenience to find Uber in Ensenada!


After a quick buffet breakfast at the hotel on Saturday, Yvonne hitched a ride with the gang back to the border and I began my journey southward on several roads I had never traveled. The first was Mex 3.


Mex 3 is located on the south side of Ensenada where Mex 1 continued south. Meandering east through town before climbing into the mountains which looked similar to San Diego's East County. Eventually, the road descended into an agricultural area with more vineyards and farms, ultimately reaching the coast.


There it ran into Mex 5 heading south toward San Felipe. Up to that point, both Mex 3 and Mex 5 were in good condition and repair.


However, beyond San Felipe there were potholes and some of the worst dips I've encountered in Baja on a paved road. They would catch me unaware and even traveling at a normal driving speed, I could find myself airborne. I counted at least three damaged and abandoned boat trailers, apparently from the dips. TAKE IT EASY!


Once you reach Gonzaga Bay the road is new and in great shape.


laterthatevening
LATER THAT EVENING we had a great dinner at a small restaurant near the waterfront area with an unusual floor-to-ceiling back bar — straight from the U.S. Prohibition years delivered from San Francisco by a two-masted schooner.

I spend the night in my Roadtrek next to a palapa ($20) on Gonzaga Bay Beach and resumed my trip the following morning. Knowing there was over 20 miles of dirt road ahead, I stopped and visited with "Coco" at his elaborately decorated (literally) “wide spot in the road” named appropriately "Coco's Corner."


He served me a cup of coffee and proceeded to give a thumbnail version of his compelling life story. Born in Tijuana in 1937, he first visited the area in 1966 during the first NORRA Baja 500. Overwhelmed by the area’s rugged beauty and remoteness, he returned several times and grew fonder of the isolation and solitude he enjoyed with each trip.


He lost both legs in an accident prior to1990 and was confined to a wheelchair. Upon receipt of a settlement and pension, in his words, he said "bye-bye Ensenada." Since that time, he has called that desolate corner his home, making infrequent trips to Ensenada in a specially equipped truck.


I asked him about the new highway being built through his home of 27 years. Either he didn’t understand the impact the new road would have on him or he didn’t mind.


His observation was that the completion would be three more years coming before the entire project would be completed. He also pointed out that work had stopped for a month and a half because of a lack of government funds and all the equipment 14 kilometers south was currently silent.


I had read in Baja Forum that Coco liked to read so I brought him some paperbacks and magazines. He seemed pleased to receive them. However, while he spoke English, he had friends translate and read the books written in English to him.


Beyond Coco’s Corner, a serious Baja Dirt road was littered with big and small rocks requiring speeds of less than 10 mph in many places. I encountered a number of large semi-trucks that seemed to prefer the new route already as well as a few passenger cars. The length of the dirt portion was about 20 miles which took me less than two hours to reach the junction onto Mex 1.


Undoubtedly, eventually the new route will change the face of Baja from a driving perspective, but for now, in my opinion, a drive on the less-traveled Mex 5 makes one appreciate Mex 1 more.


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