As the Southern California fishing show season comes to a close, my thoughts shift to being back on the road, more specifically Mex 1.
The four fishing shows, including the granddaddy of them all, Fred Hall Long Beach, followed by Del Mar in March, then in April, San Diego's Day at the Docks and the relative newcomer, Pacific Coast Sportfishing Festival all are must-attend events for me; they set the stage for the balance of my year in Baja.
Scurrying from booth to booth, I gather information on new destinations as well as a few revitalized old ones to add to my list for the rest of the year. I also gather information on everything from the latest must-have tackle, lures, etc., to discussions on the fishing techniques and innovations of some of the top anglers — all information that helps me assemble my personal Baja Playbook.
THIS YEAR'S BAJA SEASON will commence with my fishing with Captain Mark Rayor of Team JenWren and his buddy Jack Nielson of Accurate Reel fame at East Cape aboard the Jen Wren.
And of course there are old friends to catch up with and new acquaintances who share a few stories. Some have achieved legendary status while others are legends in the making. But more importantly we share common interests.
By the time the last booth at the last show of the season is torn down, my Roadtrek is loaded with gear and I'm eager to hit the road with my laundry list of places to go and things to see.
Each year is different; last year my Baja season began with the trip on a large ocean research vessel…a trip of lifetime.
This year's Baja season will commence with my fishing with Captain Mark Rayor of Team JenWren and his buddy Jack Nielsen of Accurate Reel fame at East Cape aboard the Jen Wren. What an opportunity to practice what well-known photographer, William Boyce calls CPR (catch, photograph, release)! According to recent reports of excellent billfish action, our timing seems to be ‘spot on’.
The next stop will be Loreto, the oldest permanent settlement in Baja, for the Outdoor Writers of California Conference where the local officials have been planning activities to showcase the area, everything from fishing, kayaking to the Coronado Islands, ATV trips to tours to San Javier Mission, one of the oldest in Baja.
Next is the Vagabundos del Mar's board meeting in Lodi, California followed by the 36th Annual Crab Feed, a four-day Feast Extravaganza at the posh Stockton Delta KOA Campground which attracts several hundred of the thousands of club members and their guests who share a common interest rooted in Baja. It’s seldom that one can find that many Baja aficionados in one campground. What fun!
After a few weeks of catching up, I fly back to Baja to go back on the road. Next stop, Punta Chivato for the popular Bulls Only Dorado Tournament, June 21, 22 and 23 — a popular event enjoying its 17th year. For the uninitiated, Punta Chivato, while not exactly off-the-grid is located on the Eastern side of Baja California Sur on the Sea of Cortez. By car, the turn off to Punta Chivato is about 20 miles South of Santa Rosalia and 15 miles North of Mulege. Once on the dirt road, you have about 10 miles more before you arrive.
To be honest, our last visit was many years ago with good friends Don and Shirley Blackman of Blackman Boats and Don and Peggy Sloan. At that time Punta Chivato Hotel was owned by Bill Alvarado.
It was after Thanksgiving and we pulled in for the night. The place was infested with some wild tailless Manx cats that were some of the orneriest we had ever seen. At dinner that evening Alvarado introduced himself. Recognizing Blackman's name, he commented, "You all fish striped marlin a lot?" We nodded and he continued, "We are catching them right now."
We looked at each other in amazement. Our season had ended earlier in the month. Striped marlin in the upper Sea of Cortez was unheard of (to us) at that time. Since then occasional stories have surfaced confirming Alvarado's claim. The most recent, at one of the shows, both Bill Boyce and Ali Hussainy confirmed that the stripers are still there late in the year.
Alvarado is long gone, the hotel has closed and opened several times, and rumor has it the current owners are not exactly fishermen-friendly. However, I'm told there is another hotel inland a few miles that is.
Dang. I can't write about traveling in Baja without a tale or two. My intention was to outline the remaining 2013 Baja Playbook, not just the first month and a half…stay tuned, there’s more to come for July, September, October and November…