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@verizon.net.

Los Cabos renewed community spirit
Still reeling from the effects of Hurricane Odile a month earlier, in mid-October the community of Cabo San Lucas and surrounding areas although still suffering, were energized by the unprecedented international, national, regional and local support offered.

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DURING THE AWARDS banquet on the final night of the event, McDonell announced that $50,000 (100 percent without any administration fees) had been collected to build a minimum of 15 homes for specifically selected families.

Numerous humanitarian organizations, NPO's, NGO's and individuals had gathered the desperately needed food, water treatment equipment, clothes, shoes, shampoo, hygiene products, (feminine products), bedding (limited), and baby needs: Diapers, powdered milk, baby wipes, baby food as well as the many other items which included cleaning supplies (brooms, gloves, cleaning towels and rags, bleach and soaps..), vitamins, electrolytes, mosquito repellent, Ensure (for elderly or disabled), diapers for adults and those who are bedridden, dog and cat food, etc.


However, the key to the success of this monumental task was locating "boots on the ground" groups that could be depended on to distribute these collected items to those in need. Many different groups and organizations were reviewed and recruited.


There were many who volunteered to help. One of the first to step up after the devastating tragedy was Rebecca (Becca) Ehrenberg and her family. Only 25, Becca already had a rich background beginning with a degree in International Development and Sustainability (Honors: Cum Laude) from Point Loma Nazarene University in San Diego. Plus she had experience as a volunteer in South Africa, Mozambique, Swaziland and Ghana, all of which made her an ideal candidate for the task ahead.


Rebecca’s family owns Pisces Group Cabo, which is comprised of Pisces Sportfishing, Pisces Real Estate and Captain Tony’s Restaurant. On the afternoon following the hurricane, the Ehrenbergs recognized the urgent need to get help to all who had been affected so severely by Odile’s passing. Eight of their employees had been left without a home. Their employees, friends and family formed groups to help with cleaning homes and debris, and meals were served to those who needed them at Captain Tony’s Restaurant.



Zuki Page and Barbara Alvarez made up Rebecca’s 's WON Team.

They realized that clothing was desperately needed. Even though some had clothes, they had gotten completely soaked and dirty, as many had no homes or their homes were without roofs, and because many were without water and power, they had no way to wash.


Thus began a huge push for clothing of all kinds! Captain Tony’s became a collection center and Rebecca had surrounded herself with six key people, consistently and whole-heartedly giving all that they could to meeting the needs of the people who came for help.


Word spread quickly and since the Ehrenberg’s had a generator, they were able to charge electronic devices as well. They began documenting the work and Pisces Sportfishing and the family’s personal Facebook pages shared all the information of what was happening in the area and how best to help.


The effort grew quickly. The Distribution Center was moved from Captain Tony's to Vida Nueva Church (non-denominational) in Colonia Cactus. The pastor, Prospero Alejandro Tapia, stepped in and gave her full use of the church facility. With her help, Becca and her team continued their work of dispensing aid.


Trucks began arriving from the United States. Glenn Ehrenberg, Rebecca’s brother who is studying in San Diego coordinated Cabo expats and friends, organizing donations and donation drop-off centers with the help of two nonprofits, Earth Angels and Fundacion Sarahuaro. Glenn and his friends, the Aramburos, set up a website, www.helpcabo.org with all the latest information on Cabo happenings and how to donate.


The second truck that arrived was filled with much-needed items donated entirely by Stars and Stripes Tournament, the largest charity sportfishing tournament of its kind in the world held annually in Baja, and coordinated by Glenn and Tournament Director, Dick Gebhart.


Waves for Water, an international organization provided much-needed personal water filtration systems. Catherine Murphy, Hurricane Odile’s Project Manager for Waves for Water, praised Becca and her team for their dedication in assisting in the delivery of clean water systems to those in need.


Plus there was a large donation of items such as blankets, towels and food from El Dorado Foundation and other donations received by locals (in-kind) and from other parts of Mexico (mostly medical).


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REBECCA INVITED McDonell to tour Colonia Cactus to see the effects of Odile as well as what had been done and what was planned for the future of the residents.

With so many donations, they were able to set up a Community Kitchen in Colonia Cactus to assist the many community kitchens already in place, including the kitchens of Feeding Los Cabos Kids.


Rebecca and her team began moving on to Phase II of their project: Replacing destroyed homes with ones built out of block and cement -- homes that would last, be sustainable, and survive another hurricane.


She explained, “Criteria for those we will help rebuild: 60 percent of the homes must have been destroyed or affected by the hurricane, captains and mates homes. Must have papers to the land (no squatters), must be willing to participate in the rebuild. We want to make sure that the people we are helping also have some involvement so that they appreciate the work done and so that they value it. We want the fishing community to come together and help each other … we have seen this happen in our fleet already with captains and mates lending a hand and helping rebuild and clean each other's homes. In the case of total rebuilds, we will construct a 4 by 6 m block and cement room with kitchen or bathroom and anticipate a cost of approximately $5,000 per unit. Currently we have 18 families slated for rebuilds.”


Rebecca and her team were asked to assist with the recent 15th annual Western Outdoor News/Yamaha Los Cabos Tuna Jackpot by Pat McDonell who was invited to tour Colonia Cactus to see the effects of Odile as well as what had been done and what was planned for the future of the residents. He joined in on the loading of shoes and shampoo and distributed them with other staffers, including assistant director Mike Packard and his family that night. They all sprayed themselves with repellant as the threate of Dengue feveral carries by mosquitos is still very real.


“It was an incredible experience. Very emotional, and the parents and children of all ages, 100 of them who were waiting for the shoes, were so polite, so grateful. The need is beyond comprehension for those of us in the United States.”


Impressed by the recovery efforts he had witnessed, McDonell decided that all of the tournament’s usual charity efforts this year would be dedicated to the construction of the 15 or more new homes and some elements of charity like the silent auction would be added as well.


He praised Rebecca and her team later at the awards dinner on Saturday.


"We lost two key staffers this year and Rebecca and her friends who have been part of the Odile relief efforts were recommended as replacements. I was blessed with having them be part of the event. They were everywhere! They just meshed beautifully with the rest of the crew who also stepped up their game this year to meet the challenges."


During the Awards banquet on the final night of the event, McDonell announced that $50,000 (100 percent without any administration fees) had been collected to build 15 or more homes for specifically selected families. In addition to the efforts on behalf of charity by the tournament, there were spontaneous acts of kindness by individuals, teams and of course our great sponsors.


While Odile will be remembered for the destruction and devastation left in its path, the collective community response bolstered by universal worldwide support seems to have left Los Cabos with a stronger community spirit then it has ever enjoyed in the past. Hopefully over time #Cabo Strong and #Unstoppable will remain an anthem for continued improvement and the community spirit won’t be abandoned or squandered.


There is still a need. More work needs to be done. If you would like to contribute to the rebuilding project, either visit https://www.facebook.com/reconstructcabo/timeline or email bajafly@baja.com and we will pass your message along to Rebecca and her team.


An easy decision
After a quick, one-week trip home, it’s back to Los Cabos.

By the time you read this, I will be in Cabo preparing for the Los Cabos Tuna Jackpot extravaganza with the staff. Of course, the in-box has filled up with questions ranging from (old news) Odile’s recovery… through the efforts of thousands the region is enjoying one of the most rapid recoveries from a Category 4 on record… to Hurricane Vance, (more current news) which appeared mid-week, is projected to churn its way northward, bending back toward the mainland by Sunday with its outer band just missing the tip of Baja — according to Chris Dunn, “I think the National Hurri­cane Center forecast track (attached) for Vance is a good representation of other models I have looked at. It’ll pass within 100 miles or so of Clipperton Island, then swing back up towards the north in response to the storm system that moves into SoCal this weekend. The leftover trough will result in a weakness in the atmosphere which will tend to ‘pull’ or guide the storm to the north, then the northeast. As it does, that will introduce some vertical shear which tends to weaken tropical cyclones, which is why the NHC forecast has it going from a hurricane back to a Tropical Storm. Puerto Vallarta and Mazatlan will be on alert… and it’s within the realm of possibilities to impact Cabo, even if it is just higher seas and outer rain bands as the storm passes by to the south. That’s probably a best case scenario for Baja.” 


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THE FISHING WEATERMAN’S latest observations.

One final note is that there has never been a Baja hurricane recorded in November.


Several road questions are best answered by recent reader reports:


“Returned from Punta Chivato a few days ago; road report is good… La Misión detour still on. Many new stretches of pavement. Those guys are fast! We encountered only a few minor detours with some potholes remaining north and south of Catavina.” — Craig + Jilly Cove First Light, Menifee, Calif.


“The construction project 14 miles south of Loreto at the Mirador is complete including new paving; Mex 1 is once again open with no delays. They are still working on the wall and sidewalk along the eastern edge with a large paved area for parking. They are also securing the western hillside with wire to prevent loose rocks from coming down onto the highway in the future.” — Baja Pony Express


“On the fishing front, the fishing has been spotty offshore due to a lack of porpoise schools last week. We went straight out 30 miles from Cabo on Tues­day and did not find the tuna although the water was beautiful with lots of bait in the area. Most of the boats going out for tuna have had a hard time, but there has been the occasional 100 pounder caught. It’s been very hit or miss.” — Renegade Mike


Pat McDonell, Tournament Director, commented prior to his departure Friday, “I don’t see Vance affecting the tournament that starts Wednesday with fishing Thursday and Friday, but we could see some rain prior to check-in on Wednesday. As with all weather projections, it can change, but it is not expected to be on a track anywhere close to Cabo.”


Monty Hall hosted “Let’s Make a Deal,” the show which famously asked contestants to choose “Door Number One, Door Number Two, or Door Number Three.” Like a contestant on that show, a decision must be made, whether to go to the best “Fish Hard, Party Harder” event in Cabo, procrastinate, or not go at all.


For me, all indications point to Door #1. Hope to see you there.


Boots on the ground in Cabo after Odile
Observations at Tourney Central

Hurricane Odile slammed the Baja California peninsula on Sept. 14, hitting Cabo San Lucas, San Jose del Cabo, La Paz, Mulege, Bahia de Los Angeles and others. Stark images of damage and destruction presented a dismal picture in the news and across social media. Post hurricane Odile like zombie apocalypse headlined one worldwide news organization’s account of the disaster.


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WAVES FOR WATER working with Yacht Aid Global arranged for the delivery of humanitarian supplies by motor yacht Seven Js, a 156-foot motor yacht which included medical supplies, fresh milk, 1,000 buckets donated by Home Depot, plus in-the-field water filtration kits.

Slowly at first, then gaining momentum, hope conquered the fear and desolation. Local residents, joined by local, regional and national government representatives, rallied in the biggest leanups in Baja's history.


A month after the storm, I arrived as is my annual practice to attend a series of October tournaments. During the month – from the middle of September to my arrival around the middle of October – there had been speculation that the events would be postponed until the Los Cabos Airport was operational, and utilities and communication, including internet, could be restored.


This trip, I flew into the La Paz Airport, and as I landed and drove into the city of La Paz, aside from more military being visible, everything seemed pretty normal. I picked up my baggage and caught a shuttle to the bus stop.


Along the way even a month later, there was standing water on some of the roads. Billboards and light standards which had been no match for the 120+ mph winds could be seen strewn along the roadways and there was definitely some property damage to both businesses and residential areas, but cleanup crews were hard at work piling debris in huge mounds for removal.


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IN CABO SAN LUCAS, manager Darren Carey and his crews are working around the clock to make the necessary repairs needed to the IGY Marina.


Yet, aside from a few detours, the main highways were repaired and passable all the way from La Paz to Cabo San Lucas. However, a few blocks off the main roads it was obvious that there was still a lot more work needed before things would return to normal.


While I haven’t visited Puerto Los Cabos Marina, I was informed by the manager that fuel for boat owners is available.


In Cabo San Lucas, Manager Darren Carey and his crews are working around the clock to make the necessary repairs needed to the IGY Marina and although it is not completely restored, the boats are fishing every day and all services are available.


I arrived in Baja in time to experience three major sportfishing tournaments. There have been 225 teams competing in those events over eight days. It’s almost embarrassing to even suggest that it’s not business as usual. It isn't until you look behind the curtain that you realize the herculean effort it has taken to make the tournaments happen. From Mexico's President to the street cleaners, all have hunkered down and accepted the challenge of cleaning up after Odile. They have made their motto CABO STRONG and swathed it in HOPE for a better Baja in the future.


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THERE HAVE BEEN 225 teams competing in the three major sportfishing events over eight days in October.


By their own account, literally thousands have flocked from around the world to assist in the recovery, allowing the community to accomplish so much in so little time.


The personal and collective achievements of the people of Baja along with the volunteers will be admired for many years to come. As a group, they have faced insurmountable odds and have set the bar for responding to natural disasters in the future.


Not resting on their accomplishments, they quickly point out that there is so much more to be done and they still need all the help they can get. You can support them simply by visiting and having a good time so they can resume their jobs. Or donate to one of the many organizations that are lending a hand.


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ALTHOUGH NOT COMPLETELY restored, all services at IGY Marina are available and boats are fishing every day.


¡Buen viaje!
Recently, as is customary this time of year, I returned to Baja for the fall tournament season. When making my reservation this time, however, due to the aftermath of Odile, international flights into Los Cabos were not resuming until Oct. 8. Although flights have resumed (earlier than promised) and carriers are ramping up their schedules as rapidly as possible, I elected to depart from Tijuana and fly to La Paz, which offered me more options.

Truth be known, that was where my very first trip to the Baja interior began back in 1969 with my son Greg. But that’s another story.


aspromisedupon
AS PROMISED, UPON arrival Gonzlez processed my bus ticket and arranged for a driver to transport me to the bus stop.

For this trip, Volaris Airlines (http://volaris.com/en/) offered an alternative flight to La Paz. Their website in English was easy to navigate and, in addition to a choice of flights, had a Chinese restaurant-style menu approach offering choices of customizing flights and costs, up to and including a shuttle departing from the San Diego Train Depot or Lindberg Field, both of which would take me across the border to the Tijuana airport. Prices were competitive and in a few minutes I had my confirmed reservation for an 11 a.m. departure, complete with a shuttle.


Prior to printing out my boarding pass on the morning of my flight, I contacted another company that I had recently been introduced to: Ecobajatours (www.ecobajatours.com My email inquired if they had a shuttle from La Paz to Los Barriles.


Allowing ample time for traffic delays, we left Lake Elsinore at 6 a.m. and arrived at the San Diego Train Depot in plenty of time for the 8 o’clock shuttle, which departed promptly.


The ride to the border in the Greyhound-style bus was uneventful and we soon pulled up at Mexican Customs where we removed our luggage and carry-ons for inspection and purchased an FMM, required to enter the Baja interior. In a few minutes, we were out the door; driver and bus were waiting and we re-boarded.


The Tijuana Airport was next and after exchanging some dollars for pesos and checking my bag, I made my way to the assigned gate. Remarkably, the entire time lapsed from boarding the shuttle in San Diego to my arrival at the gate was less than 90 minutes.


Checking my email, I saw a reply from Ecobajatours. Alejandro Gonzlez, (agonzlez@ecobajatours.com) who explained that since the storm, they had discontinued the shuttle service because of lack of visitors. However, they could arrange to take me to the bus stop to catch a bus that departed an hour after my arrival. He explained that they had an office at the La Paz Airport and would take care of everything after I arrived.


As promised, upon arrival Gonzlez processed my bus ticket and arranged for a driver to transport me to the bus stop. The cost, including the bus fare to Buena Vista was $140 in pesos plus a tip. I had a short wait and was pleasantly surprised to find that the bus was air-conditioned and comfortable, and a new adventure was in store for me. When I arrived, my total trip time from boarding the shuttle in San Diego to my destination in Los Barriles was slightly more than eight hours.


Although the entire region was whacked pretty good by this year’s storm season, the recovery has been remarkable. Since my arrival, I have driven to the tip and back with only a few minor detours. Of course, repairs are ongoing and in evidence, but there is little signs of the destruction that we read about.


All the tournaments normally scheduled for October and November are going forward. I attended the Registration and Captains meeting for the Los Cabos Billfish Tournament at the Playa Grande overlooking the sparkling Pacific last night and while participation was down, with 14 boats, Tournament Director Dan Jacobs assured me it was business as usual. He and his staff have gone all out to make the event a success.


Those same sentiments were echoed by Wayne Bisbee, Tournament Coordinator for Bisbee Tournaments, which will begin in a few days. "We’re pleased with the turnout thus far. That would not have been possible without everyone, from government officials to cleanup crews and persons in-between, who have pitched in to bring about this rapid recovery," he said


Pat McDonell, editor of WON and director of the Tuna Jackpot Tournament coming up Nov. 5-8, confirmed, "Response for our event has been exciting. The signups were off the charts before the hurricane, then slowed of course, and is now picking back up. I expect to be in the 120-boat range when all the dust clears.”


Don't let what happened in September spoil your trip to Baja. Look for alternative means of travel if you need to and enjoy the adventures associated with them. Isn't that why you began coming to Baja in the first place?


¡Buen viaje!


Viscaino Peninsula maybe the 2014 Mag Bay
Southern California anglers continue to savor a fishing season to remember that began in May 2014 and has produced some remarkable catches. Although fall is here and winter is soon to follow, the fishing hasn’t slowed all that much. There are tuna beyond San Clemente, striped marlin appearing in gangs in trolling patterns resulting in multiple hookups and just yesterday, the second day of October, one excited Captain excitedly declared on his VHF radio, “It’s just like Mag Bay with several fish behind every lure at once — a real Indian attack!”


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ACCORDING TO THE most recent SST’s from Terrafin, the water temperatures slightly south of Bahia Tortugas are approaching 80 degrees.


Now forgive my raised eyebrows at the captain’s hyperbole. We have been on the water for two days, the first and second day of October, and yes, there were reports of similar “attacks” by other boats here and there, but they were laced with comments about lack of eyeball fish in-between. Those of us who fish Mag Bay on a regular basis would consider, one, two or even three such events to be a pretty slow day.


We had such an event ourselves aboard the C Bandit, a 75-foot yacht sportfisher built by Titan Marine USA which allowed the owner, Bill McWethy, to qualify for his 16-pound button from the Marlin Club of San Diego … a second time. (Another story.)


It’s a crap shoot as to when the SoCal season will burn itself out. It appears that the warm water push was still 74 degrees on the 9 Mile Bank yesterday and farther down the Baja Coast the water is even hotter which may be good news for sportfishers who usually journey to Magdalena Bay for a final-final to top off their season. According to the most recent SST’s from Terrafin, the water temperatures slightly south of Bahia Tortugas are approaching 80 degrees.


Up and down the Viscaino Peninsula the reports seem to support the theory that offshore fishing is lighting up.


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“THERE’RE A LOT of wahoo in La Bocana, BC. Incredible fishing!”


Shari Bondy of La Bufadora Inn, Bahía Asunción, excitedly reported last week, “We’ve been waiting years for the tuna to show again so it’s going to be a great fall season here. Water temps are still very high — around 80 — and air temps are also in the 80s. Yesterday a guy caught a huge wahoo… woo-hoo!”


Confirming that the phenomena is coast-wide throughout the area, La Bocana Adventure, (http://www.wonews.com/Blog.aspx?id=2379) along with Juanchys Aguilar gleefully posted that, “There’re a lot of wahoo in La Bocana, BC. Incredible fishing!”


And even farther south at Punta Abreojos the reports have been similar — very encouraging news for this remote coastline that is often overlooked. For the most part, the sportfishing by locals is in pangas that remain close to shore. Offshore a bit farther, the billfish are found on various banks and high spots that are both uncrowded and easily accessible.


The area can be a suitable option for private boats wanting to extend their season. The distance from the border is around 375 miles to Bahia Tortuga where fuel and other limited supplies are available. From there the coastline stretches south nearly a 110 miles with villages, Bahía Asunción, La Bocana and Punta Abreojos, about 180 miles short of the Magdalena Bay entrada. Less crowded with limited supplies and anchorages, they are out of range for most of the Los Cabos fleet.


For those of you who prefer to drive down and tow your boat the distance by road from the border to Viscaino is 400 miles and headed west to Bahía Asunción is another 65 miles.


For Punta Abreojos continue on Mex 1 for 29 miles to the turnoff heading west 50 miles.


If you are planning to fish with local charter services, be aware that most of the sportfishing offered in Bahía Asunción, La Bocana and Punta Abreojos is aboard pangas with a few exceptions. All three villages offer lodging, fuel and other services including restaurants and markets, etc.


While visiting this virtually ignored stretch of Baja’s west coast with its gritty Baja charm, you will travel back in time to a forgotten Baja that many crave to find. If you are looking for an escape from the glitz and glam’ of the popular tourist destinations, this is it!


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