Gary Graham's Blog

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:

Mex I, here I come
Preparations for my annual Baja road trip is already underway.

Out comes the tattered checklist that resides in the driver's seat pocket — ranging from mundane items that need to be restocked to van maintenance — the result of countless Baja road trips spanning forty-two years. At the bottom of this printed list of the usual items are the hastily scribbled notations of parts that need to be replaced or repaired.

Soon after the road was connected in 1973 between Baja Norte and Baja Sur, I made the first of my many trips with two friends, Jim Sipman and David Lewis, both from San Diego, in an old Dodge van equipped with two bucket seats plus a few chaise lounges, a couple of fold up beach chairs and a shower curtain separating the cargo area which was filled with enough supplies and food to last a couple of weeks.


AT THE IGY Marina filled with mega yachts and custom sportfishers of all sizes which will provide an exciting backdrop for the largest event of its kind in Baja Sur.

Talk about brand loyalty … these days, it's still a Dodge van though aside from the name, nothing is the same. Now it’s a one-ton Roadtrek with more modern conveniences than my first bachelor pad – coffee pot, microwave, toaster oven, refrigerator, television, bathroom, queen bed, and yes, a real stove and oven. It even has a desk/table for me to work on.

These days restocking is narrowed down to fishing tackle, clothing, a few snacks and ample Starbucks coffee to last the entire seven months the Roadtrek will remain in Baja. Much easier than driving back and forth, leaving the Roadtrek in Baja saves wear and tear on me as well as the van.

This year's Baja adventure will begin a month earlier than usual with a departure coinciding with Cinco de Mayo. Accepting the invitation of Sergio Igartua, founder and organizer of the Sixth Annual Cabo Marine Show held Thursday, May 14, through Saturday, May 16, my ultimate destination will be to attend the Show in Cabo San Lucas which will also include the popular used-boat market, local and domestic yacht brokers, marine products and services and recognized activities tour operators along the Malecon. At the IGY Marina filled with mega yachts and custom sportfishers of all sizes which will provide an exciting backdrop for the largest event of its kind in Baja Sur.

I am looking forward to catching up with Brian Solomon, owner of Solomon’s Landing Restaurant while I’m in Cabo. Solomon has announced a new TV series entitled, "Destination Baja Sur" recently at the weekly meeting of the "Knights of Cortés," a group of local business owners and community leaders.

The ambitious project is programmed for a total of five years, eventually covering the entire Baja Peninsula according to Solomon, named associate producer of the project.

The series will be filmed with Bill Boyce, Executive Producer and host. Boyce is a marine biologist, pro-angler, long-time Baja resident and a well-known TV host of several award-winning television productions who will be exploring Baja Sur in 13 episodes of prime TV.

The ambitious project is programmed for a total of five years, eventually covering the entire Baja Peninsula according to Solomon, named associate producer of the project.

The half-reality/half documentary series will begin filming in June 2015, exploring remote fishing locations, the Mexican culture and Spanish history throughout Baja Sur and will be aired from January - June, 2016 to over 128 million homes in the U.S., Canada, the Caribbean and Latin America on NBC Sport Network, the Pursuit Channel and the World Fishing Network.

Another novel idea that was added to the Marina earlier this year by "Knights of Cortés" is the Cultural Circuit Tour around the Cabo San Lucas Marina which has become a popular weekend event for both locals and tourists alike where local artists, craftsmen and entrepreneurs display and market their works. I look forward to seeing the popular weekly event while I'm visiting Los Cabos.

WOW! If the first month is any clue, my 2015 Baja Adventure is going to be a busy one. My June the calendar is filing up. First an Outdoor Writers Association of California Conference in Big Bear mid-June where I will compare notes with Ingrid Niehaus from Hobie Kayaks and where we will work out the final details of the Hobie-Loreto trip. Immediately following the conference, I will be flying back to Baja Sur for the Stars and Stripes Tournament, the largest Charity tournament of its kind in Cabo. Then backtracking to Loreto for the Hobie trip with Morgan Promnitz, Hobie, Fishing Product Manager and Doug Olander, Sport Fishing's editor-in-chief.

Once again, I'm looking forward to the upcoming trips with as much enthusiasm as I had 42 years ago on my first road trip. How lucky am I to have found such a cool place so long ago?

Heads up as spring training begins
April is usually the transition month when north winds subside and water temperatures begin to climb – but not this year. 2015 seems to be the "winter that never happened!"

All winter, the Baja's West Coast – from the border to the Viscaino peninsula – has been kicking out some lunkers for local and visiting anglers. During the just completed Fred Hall Shows, it seemed as though everyone from those areas had cell phone photos to illustrate their fish stories of their personal best yellowtail, white seabass and calico bass. 

AT THE FRED HALL Show last week, Chris Wheaton, IGFA Representative, huddled with Jonathan and Jill Roldan, Tailhunter International, pouring over the 2015 IGFA World Record Book.

All of this while most of Baja Sur remained silent. Then several weeks ago, someone flipped a switch and suddenly the Sea of Cortez lit up.

Gary Black sent a text from Punta Chivato: "Yellowtail were wide open and large … most hitting the 30-pound mark, confirmed with a photo of a buddy with a fat mossback."

Loreto also seemed to shake off the winter doldrums as the yellowtail began to chew.

Limits of yellowtail – most averaging 25 pounds – have been the norm for most days. …Rick Hill

Pam Bolles, Baja Big Fish Company, added, “Yellowtail fishing is very good – they're moving around some.”

“Most boats are getting them off the northern portion of Carmen Island from La Cholla to Perico. They are also way north off El Pulpito. Females have been full of eggs, but still eating. Fishing is deep with 10- to 12-ounce weights, 20-feet of 30-pound leader and a 50-pound main line. We expect great yellowtail fishing as the Hotel la Mision Classic Yellowtail Tournament nears April 23-25 and it should continue into June,” she smiled.

At the Fred Hall Show last week, IGFA Representative Chris Wheaton huddled with Jonathan and Jill Roldan of Tailhunter International, pouring over the 2015 IGFA World Record Book. Seems like Ron Brown, one of their clients from Wrangell, Alaska, had caught a barred pargo that could have been a contender. Instead, Captain Boli enjoyed it for his dinner, joining the legion of others with the same sad story over the years. Don't let that happen to you!

Roldan added, "We have had some really solid rocking fishing, at both our La Paz and Las Arenas fleets. Catching tuna, yellowtail, wahoo and even a few marlin giving us an early jump on the spring season."

Farther down the coast at East Cape, the few visiting anglers joined locals for a phenomenal striped marlin bite scoring multiple releases.

And there's more. John Ireland, Rancho Leonero, also at the Fred Hall–Del Mar Show added: “We have been releasing some large striped marlin every day for the boats targeting them for several weeks, close off of La Ribera. In addition, we have hooked and released more thresher sharks this week than any time in the past 30 years that I've been around the East Cape. 200-pound fish are being taken daily by about half our fleet … plus lots of break offs.”

Underscoring the positive news from East Cape was a "good news/bad luck" story from Mark Rayor, Team JenWren. "We hung a cow (YFT) today offshore while looking for broadbill. Right gear, but after 1 hour and 20 minutes, it came unbuttoned!"

Clearly, the Mar de Cortés fishing is heating up early by a month or so. Is it a trend or a blip for the 2015 season? Only time will tell.

A couple of other updates:

According to Terry Kauffman of Vagabundos del Mar, “Highway 5 south of San Felipe is paved for 15 miles south of the turnoff for Papa Fernandez, just north of Gonzaga Bay. From there, heading toward Mex 1, the unpaved portion of the road is in bad shape. They grade it and add dirt now and then; however, the combination of hurricanes and more use have erased all the fill dirt. It is a fairly level road, but there are sharp rocks the entire distance past Cocos at 10 miles and then another 7 to Highway 1 at Laguna Seca. Estimated driving time on the dirt portion is approximately three hours.

Once completed, this route is sure to become popular for many traveling south as it avoids all of the congestion and traffic along Mex 1 from the border to San Quintin.”

Mexico’s CONAPESCA has a new and improved website: to simplify its permitting and visa requirements for U.S. fishermen and boaters. In addition to making all of the latest regulations and other information available, there is now an App for Android cell phones and will soon be one for iPhones at

Crazy good fishing, IGFA tip, news about a better road coming and a new CONAPESCA website chocked full of up to date info. Should be enough Spring Training items to help you improve your Baja swing for 2015!

A few of my favorite things
While standing in the huge hall at the Long Beach Convention Center and Arena the night before the Fred Hall Boat Show’s Wednesday opening, I watch as the forklifts scurry in and out from the loading area through the cluttered aisles while dodging stacked boxes. This chaotic scene continues throughout the night and into the next morning as the rows and rows of over 600 exhibits take shape.

As the opening hour of 1 p.m. creeps closer, the anticipation of the eager exhibitors putting their finishing touches on their respective booths is hard to miss. Outside, a massive crowd of excited attendees form long lines, eagerly waiting for the gates to swing open.

IT SHOULD BE well worth the wait however as Baermann promises the information in the book is exactly the same as he offers his clients during his 300 guiding days a year.

Finally allowed to enter, they grab one of the thousands of WON-produced official programs – as thick as the L.A. Times – then quickly flood the huge facility, filling the aisles. Like feeding fish pursuing baitballs, the frenzy will ebb and flow over the next five days until the weary exhibitors at last tear down their booths on Sunday night.

"The numbers of the first day’s crowd is definitely up from last year," smiled Terry Goodridge, exhibits manager, Western Outdoor Publications, as he sat near the front door.

In the first few days of the show, I walked the aisles and noted a few of my favorite things including some old and others new.

One of those in the new category was Rich Whitaker’s Bait Wraps. His intriguing motto "Bling to Fling" caught my eye as I walked past his booth. If, like me, you have a bucketful of old iron jigs that swim perfectly – in fact, they swim so well, numbers of fish were convinced they were the real thing and the paint has been chewed off. Well, Rich will refurb those old lures with new wraps in any color combination you like for a very reasonable price. Turnaround time is about six weeks. Just remove the rings and hooks and sand them down before sending to him. He even includes new hooks and rings. Plus, he has new lures for sale as well. Just search his name on Facebook.

FOR A VERY reasonable price. Turnaround time is about six weeks.

Lynn Rose of Lynn Rose Tours has hosted the "East Cape Classic" with the motto "Catch a fish ... leave a legacy" for the past 25 years! She was in the same booth she's been in since the beginning.

Eddie Damalu, Van Wormer Resorts, said it best: “Lynn Rose has helped raise hundreds of thousands of dollars to help the East Cape community. Much of the money raised by her tournaments benefited the town of Los Barriles, going directly to help build a library, parks, and senior centers as well as to purchase school buses and ambulances. For the past eight years, Lynn has also donated funds to the annual t-shirt and shoe “give-away” hosted by Casting 4 Soles in Los Barriles. This event helps over 3,000 people in need each year. The landscape of the East Cape would be much different if not for all the money raised by Lynn Rose and her East Cape Classic.”

Dennis Braid, Braid Products, was another exhibitor who was encouraged by the show’s turnout. "Our wholesale customers are ordering early and in quantity," Braid said. He showed me his newest lure, a Frantic Flyer that pops, darts and swims behind the boat while being trolled at any speed. It creates a great bubble trail, attractive to dorado, billfish and tuna and it can be rigged in a variety of ways … including my personal favorite – in front of a naked ballyhoo.

Additional personal favorites were several books that caught my interest. Some were introduced and another is promised to be out next year.

Captain Mark Wisch, holding court in the Pacific Edge booth, took time to tell me about his new book due to come out before next year's show. Aptly titled "Way Out West," which stemmed from a conversation he had with Mike Callan back in 1984 – an "El Niño" year when the big tuna and marlin were being caught in large numbers. Wisch had missed a trip with Callan and met them as they returned with an impressive catch of the big fish. When he asked Callan where the fish had been caught, Callan replied, "Out west, way out west!” With Wisch's vast bluewater experiences (over nearly four decades in Southern California waters), his newest book should be on your “must-read” list.

Lastly, in the book group is Lee Baermann's Fly Fishing the Surf. His new book of the same name was due to be delivered before the show, but was held up because of a port strike at Long Beach. It should be well worth the wait however as Baermann promises the information in the book is exactly the same as he offers his clients during his 300 guiding days a year.

Those are a few of my favorite things thus far. I still have three more days to walk the aisles and rub shoulders with some of the sport's most knowledgeable captains, crews and anglers … how awesome is that?

Baja, Del Mar-style
If you missed out at the Fred Hall Long Beach Show, many of the same Baja folks – from Ensenada to the tip of Baja – will be in colorful display booths eager to share the latest news about their respective locations.

I will be at the show all four days. Stop by the International Game Fish Association (IGFA) booth next to Bill Boyce's booth by the front door and say hello.

THE DEL MAR SHOW will have its usual Baja flavor at some pretty fun booths, over four days, March 26-29. WON PHOTOS BY GARY GRAHAM

The Mexican Tourism Board will be represented by:

Marina Coral from Ensenada, BCS, MX, Fito Espinoza;

Marina Puerto Los Cabos from San Jose del Cabo, BCS, MX, Enrique Fernandez;

Marina La Paz, BCS, MX, Malcolm Shroyer;

Marina Puerto Escondido, BCS, MX, Enrique Salcedo;

Marina El Cid, Mazatlan, MX, Geronimo Cevallos;

Marina Riviera Nayarit, Nayarit, MX, Rafael Alcantara;

Marina Vallarta and Opequimar, Jalisco, MX, Carlos Verjan.

Secretaria de Pesca y Acuacultura de B.C:

Clark’s Outdoor Sporting Adventures

Clark’s Outdoor Sporting Adventures represents only hand-picked premier lodges in the best destinations in Baja … visited and endorsed by Roy Clark himself. Those include the Van Wormer Resorts and Pueblo Bonita in Los Cabos. Additionally, Clark hosts or co-hosts several tournaments. Visit their booth to learn about their 2015 Events.

Hotel Coral and Marina Discover an exclusive getaway in Baja California at Hotel Coral & Marina, only 75 miles south of San Diego. A 10-minute drive from Baja’s famous wine country, beautiful San Miguel Beach and vibrant downtown Ensenada, it is an oceanfront escape of unparalleled luxury, with Ensenada’s only World-Class Marina boasting 353 slips and shared access to the hotel’s five-star amenities. Cedros Adventures

Cedros Adventures, the first fishing resort established on Cedros Island, was founded by two tuna-spotting pilots, Adrian Ojeda and Tom Greene. Their vision created an American-style resort with attention to detail that has always been at the forefront.

Cedros Adventures offers three pangas modified with center-consoles, flat-surfaced platforms plus a 25-foot Mako center console boat, guided by professional captains with excellent knowledge of the local fishery. Cedros Adventures trips are all-inclusive (excluding gratuities and alcohol).

Cedros Outdoor Adventures

Cedros Outdoor Adventures U.S. Inc. is affiliated with Baja Islands Outfitters of Mexico. They offer the best of Baja with the highest service standards for the safe enjoyment of outdoor adventures.

Guests can enjoy the opportunity of visiting an exotic destination while pursuing a variety of outdoor activities: snorkeling, photography, hiking, mountain biking, animal and bird watching, fishing and eco tours; providing jobs for locals whenever possible, and helping to promote a diversified economy based on sustainable activities.

Cedros Outdoor Adventures offers $50 discounts to those who bring or pay their $600 deposits for the Cedros Island fishing trips of 2015. This is in addition to the $100 off on the regular price that they are offering to those who sign up before March 31. There are a limited number of these discounts.

Hotel Zam-Mar

Zam-Mar Cedros Fishing Destination Adventures can fly an individual traveler and groups to the island and have them fishing the same day. They offer fishing aboard 27- to 30-foot super pangas with lodging in the Hotel Zam-Mar. All meals included.

Rancho Leonero

In this land where mega-hotels with many rooms and much acreage are the benchmark by which hotels are judged, Rancho Leonero is an anomaly with its mere 34 rooms. Each is unique, in character with its own special view of surrounding rugged Baja Desert or shimmering Sea of Cortez; this hotel offers you a taste of Baja that you cannot experience in the hustle and bustle of larger hotels, where you become lost in the numbers. Here you can find your Baja home … a place you can return to year after year where you are treated as family.

Just far enough from Baja's tip inside the Sea of Cortez to offer you much calmer waters with little surf and limitless fishing opportunities that have intrigued visitors for years, Rancho boats target billfish and other offshore exotics. Dorado, roosterfish, sierra, bonito, skipjack and other middleweight species can often be hooked-up within minutes of departure from their pier. Drop by for their show specials.

Van Wormer Properties

Located in the East Cape region of Baja California Sur, and situated on Baja’s world-renowned Sea of Cortez, Hotels Palmas de Cortez, Playa del Sol and Villas de Cortez are known as some of the premier vacation and big game fishing spots in the world that consistently produce huge numbers of blue and striped marlin, sailfish, dorado, wahoo, yellowfin tuna, roosterfish and more.

A private dock is located in front of each resort, providing a quick and convenient way to board and depart on your fishing adventure. If phenomenal fishing, spectacular diving, kayaking, golfing or just relaxing poolside in the sunshine is for you, then you deserve the best the East Cape has to offer, which can be found at the Van Wormer Resorts.

They will be offering show specials that are the lowest rates of the year with up to 20% off on fishing packages. Visit their booth #223 during the show for more information.

Baja Bay of Dreams

Located at the pristine, practically undeveloped Bahia De Los Sueños, 35 miles Southeast of La Paz, B.C.S. They provide the ultimate aquatic-oriented outdoor adventure experience.

Guided by renowned fishermen Mike "Oso" McClune and Captain Adam Cargill, their 31-foot Ocean Master and 30-foot Ocean Runner center consoles with 35-plus-knot cruising speeds will get you to the south end of the island or anywhere else offshore, in minutes.

They also offer kayak rentals and guided kayak fishing excursions. Stand-up paddleboards, ATVs, camping gear and snorkeling equipment are also available to rent.

Accommodations are currently available in Agua Amarga, Las Ventanas and La Paz. Construction of the Baja Bay of Dreams Hotel and Muertos Sportfishing Center will be completed in 2016.

Baja Pirates Fishing Fleet

Baja Pirates boasts not only the largest fleet of owner/operated fishing boats in La Paz, but the only fleet of ALL-American-style fishing boats. They offer three-day to one-month vacations designed to satisfy every family member. Whether you are looking for conventional fishing, fly-fishing, spear fishing, snorkeling, diving, kayaking, golf or day tours in La Paz, Baja Pirates can arrange the perfect vacation package for your entire family.

Tailhunter International

Jonathan and Jill Roldan always draw a crowd looking for a quickie Baja fix to their festive palapa-covered booth. If you haven't visited them at the show before, you are in for a treat. They make it seem more like a party than a fishing show.

If you're looking for a Mexican vacation getaway alone, with someone special, or you just need to feel the warm sand underfoot and a bent rod in your hand, Tailhunter International is your answer. They will be on the main aisle just about in the middle of the middle! In a corner booth!

Interactive Tagging program deploys first satellite tag in roosterfish
JACO, Costa Rica — "Todd Flanders," the first roosterfish ever tagged with a satellite tag, was tagged last month, traveled 40 miles from the Río Tusubres mouth in Costa Rica to where the tag was retrieved after 15 days.

This history-making, Multi-Species Charter Boat Tagging program, developed over the past two years with the non-profit Gray Fishtag Research, Inc., was announced by Bill Dobbelaer, general manager of Gray Taxidermy, Pompano Beach, Fla.

BILL DOBBELAER, DAVID Kerstetter and the rest of the crew at Los Sueños, Costa Rica.

The fully interactive tagging program will eventually link about 10,000 world-wide charter boat captains and mates who are currently representing Gray Taxidermy, allowing them to report their customer catches directly to the scientific community for review and study.

The program will be administered by Dr. David Kerstetter, Nova Southeastern University; Prof. Arthur Mariano, University of Miami; and Dr. Mitchell Roffer, Ph.D. Roffer’s Ocean Fishing Forecasting Service and Nova Southeastern University will manage the distribution of the data as it is collected from the field and recorded. Tags, applicators, data cards and support to all professional fishermen involved is available free to ensure an accurate and consistent data collection flow. The intent is to fund the effort through corporate sponsors and donations from interested parties, Dobbelaer said.

An interactive data base is available on their website [see below.] This program is expected to produce instant data for the scientific community and other interested parties.

The interactive program will connect professional fishermen with scientists looking for data, while at the same time introducing anglers catching the fish into the exciting and fascinating world of fish tracking. The program has been designed first and foremost to make conservation fun and interesting. The founders believe this is the only way to make the program work … by taking technology that often produces information that is of little use to the average angler and creating an exciting program on an interactive platform (mobile/web) for fishermen to use world-wide in the future, according to Dobbelaer.

HISTORY IN THE MAKING!!! The first ever Roosterfish Satellite Tagged!!! Jan. 22, 2015

This will allow the sponsors to take part in a program that links professional fishermen and scientists together and that not only provides viable catch and release data providing significant insights into the behavior of the various targeted species, but also produces scientific research on migration patterns, growth rates, size, and weight comparisons.

Four major marinas in Costa Rica are submitting daily data cards through the active customers, while some are logging the data together with their clients to provide near real-time data recovery information with the support system at each of the contributing marinas.

Advisor, Captain Bouncer Smith, Miami, FL is assisting in launching the program in Southeast Florida, while AFTCO, Santa Ana, Calif., has agreed to provide gold aluminum trademarked tag sticks for participants in that area.

“Another team is headed for the southernmost part of the East Coast study in the Cancun/Cozumel area and hopefully all of those areas will be operational within the next 30 days,” said Dobbelaer.

Their plan is to conduct a full study in Costa Rica as well as in Panama and to deploy four more satellite tags in roosterfish at the remaining Research Centers including Tropic Star.

Although Fishtag Research has received commitments from some of the largest manufacturers in the industry including Costa, AFTCO and Moldcraft, they are still seeking ideas on how to fund the completion of the roosterfish study in Costa Rica.

Dobbelaer and his team’s two-year collaborative effort is already making a difference in the International sport fishing community. Barely launched, the organization has assembled an impressive advisory panel of industry leaders – all game-changers in their own right, who recognize potential international possibilities that would combine recreational angling, sportfishing operations, scientists and researchers globally. This information would provide data that could assist world leaders in making the best possible decisions in order to preserve world-wide resources for generations to come.

For more information visit

UPDATE: Gray Fishtag Research sees quick results

Quick results are coming in already with some interesting facts on fish movement


Special to Western Outdoor News

On Jan. 15, 2015 a team from Zancudo Lodge, one of our Central American Research Centers located about 12 to 14 miles east of Crocodile Bay, caught and tagged a small roosterfish in a place called Punta Blanco. Team member, Robert Eshee, named the fish “Rooster Lane” and released it back into the ocean.

One month later, on the weekend of Feb. 15, Todd Staley, the Manager of Crocodile Bay (another of our Research Centers) in Costa Rica, confirmed that his team caught a small roosterfish approximately five miles north of the Lodge off of Lindor Rock … and it had a pretty green Gray Fishtag in its shoulder! Our Gray Fishtag Research, Inc. tagging feed showed it was the same fish -- caught, named and tagged by Robert Eshee -- after which it had traveled across the bay and ended up five miles north of Crocodile Bay.

The number of fish tags being deployed is gratifying and the information on our website is improving every day, but to have a recovery this early is really special!

It confirms that roosterfish move around quite a bit; that fish was caught, tagged, released, and then migrated and was ready to eat again. It has also shown us that the fishermen are in no way hurting these fish and neither are the tags.

The angler who reported the tag was rewarded with a shiny new pair of Costa sunglasses and the original customer was called and congratulated; ultimately, the fish wins as well!

The team will be returning to Costa Rica next month to delve even deeper into the science.

The model of cooperative marinas/resorts and professional fishermen driving this effort is humbling and demonstrates the power of the cooperative program. The logistics of delivering the data successfully from fishermen to scientists and the real-time interactive support of the charter-boat clients logging their own catch is working. Everyone is delighted with the program and how it has evolved from concept to reality in such a short time.

The quality photos and voluntary videos pouring in are amazing to see. Check out the site as it is updated by the hour. Personally, my favorite part is the live tag feed and photos.

Bill Dobbelaer is general manager of Gray Taxidermy, Pompano Beach, Fla. For more details on the study, see

Page 1 of 36 First | Previous | Next | Last