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

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.

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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.


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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.


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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.

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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.


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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.


Keeper of the flame
I first met Pam Bolles when she invited Gene Kira, Lani Waller, Jeff Solis, and I to attend a fly-fishing tournament in 1996 hosted by her company, “The Baja Big Fish Company.”

Kira was introducing his latest reprint of “Baja Catch,” Waller was a fly-fishing guide, one of the most recognized names in steelhead fishing and angling travel, and Solis, also a widely recognized fly fishing guide was the owner of the San Diego Fly Shop. Yvonne and I also ran a guide company based out of Baja, “Baja on the Fly.”


Incensedbythe425
INCENSED BY THE recent killing of a 100-plus pound roosterfish, Pam noted that “Roosterfish that large taste like bad cat food!” and she urged Captains, mates and anglers alike to practice CPR.

Since that time, Pam has assimilated the culture of Loreto, adopting the language and knowledge as her own, guiding several years before marrying and raising a family. All the while, Pam was running her business while working side by side with most of the sport fishing captains in Loreto.


More recently, she has been active in several fishing tournaments as well as continuing her guide/charter service business, and has even added the title of “naturalist guide” to her resume in the winter months. On her days off, when the weather is nice, you will find her enjoying her world — hiking, fishing or whale watching.


Bolles has earned the respect of the local sportfishing and tourism community over the years; she has recognized some of the current issues facing her community, sportfishing specifically, and she has become an authority on Loreto and its many resources. Her recent focus has been on the upcoming season and tournaments.


Simply stated, when Bolles speaks, not only her local community in Loreto but the fishing communities that lie beyond, listen as well.


Incensed by the recent killing of a 100+ pound roosterfish, Pam noted that “Roosterfish that large taste like bad cat food!” and she urged Captains, mates and anglers alike to practice CPR — Catch-Photograph-Release. (This popular dictum was originally coined some years ago by Photojournalist/Fish Biologist/TV Producer-Host Bill Boyce.)


“This season's pelagic fishery will be very challenging with the lack of sardina, squid and the sargasso that attracts the area’s most popular target, “dorado” during the summer months,” Bolles admonished organizers and directors of the upcoming Loreto tournaments in a recent email while she encouraged their participants to fish responsibly in order to manage the fishery.


Adding that local tournaments are an important addition to the town’s economy when managed properly, she continued that often a Loreto tournament is specifically for dorado or yellowtail and will only add an "other species" category when fishing is slow. It is with these other categories that the irresponsibility can occur.


The killing of a billfish or a roosterfish is bad enough, but weighing and displaying them is counterproductive. It provides critics to sportfishing (environmentalists) an argument to end sport fishing in our marine-protected area.


She proposed that all Loreto tournaments consider a proposal to add roosterfish, sailfish, marlin, spearfish and even sharks to a “release only category,” if included, in any event.


Concluding her email with, “I apologize for taking your time but on our capture of a very big roosterfish, I wanted to bring this to your attention.” Bolles offered to assist any of the Tournament Directors organizing tournaments this year the alternatives to killing these magnificent fish . . . “Fishing responsibly will be a win/win situation for all of us,” she avowed.


Pam’s plea has not gone unnoticed, and it didn’t take my friend, Juan C. Acerto Cervera, Director of the Sinaloa Sportfishing Association, long to respond. “I agree! We should continue to encourage “CPR” for all of the species you have mentioned Pam.” He continued, “We have commercial fleets fishing with nets from Sinaloa all over the area in front to Isla Ceralvo, Espíritu Santo and San Jose, 40 miles out. If I can be of any assistance please let me know.” Bolles is to be congratulated for having the courage to call the matter to the attention of tournament organizers in her community and beyond. With more than a half-dozen tournaments scheduled in and around Loreto throughout the summer, her plea could have a major impact on the fishery.


Pam, this keeper of the flame, is taking a stand in her adopted country to make it a better place for not only her angling peers, but for the future generations, her children and theirs.


We applaud your courage in standing up for what’s right Pam. You have come a long way and worked hard for this Baja that we both love. I’m proud to stand beside you and will find it interesting to watch the outcome.


A fiesta in the making
Pesca La Baja, a tournament series of five events promoted by SEPESCABC in its third year, is a unique concept that has established itself among the vast array of Baja sportfishing events.

Those events include the Bisbee’s Black & Blue Tournaments that began over 30 years ago in the Los Cabos region of the Baja Peninsula, which holds the record for the largest payout in sportfishing history, $4,165,960 was awarded to the winners in 2006.


bepreparedto
BE PREPARED TO see local politicians, judges, business owners, farmers, cowboys, families, children and fishermen all gathered together for a fiesta – all free-spirited, laid-back and unpretentious . . . all having a great time.

Another event is the Stars and Stripes Tournament — the largest sportfishing and golf charity event in the Western Hemisphere that according to Tournament Director Richard Gebhart has raised more than $20,000,000 in its 20-year history for children on both sides of the Border.


Although “Pesca la Baja” cannot match the dollars raised for charity or the cash handed out to winners by some of the other affairs, or for that matter, even the numbers of participants or spectators, yet in terms of enthusiasm, and the unification of the locals with visiting anglers into a unique celebration of sportfishing in towns and villages throughout Baja Norte, “Pesca la Baja” carves its own niche!


These five events, held in remote towns on both the Sea of Cortez and the West Coast of Baja Norte, are inexpensive, local affairs sponsored by Sepesca Baja California.


The format at each venue is identical, beginning with a Friday registration, fishing Saturday and awards Saturday night. Entry is $600 pesos for adults and $200 pesos for children 12 and under.


Awards and cash prizes are given for both surface and bottom fishing species: Surface: yellowfin tuna, big eye, albacore, marlin, dorado, yellowtail, sierra and seabass.


Bottom: All species except ray, shark and protected species.


For those competing in all four events there is a special fish-off at the fifth and final event to determine the overall champions.


The first event — (San Felipe) — was held earlier in May, shattering attendance records with 138 participants according to the staff. There were many qualifying fish in all categories brought to the scale and the largest was also a record for the event – a 147.6-pound black seabass brought to the scales by angler, Ricardo Elizondo.


San Felipe – May 13 and 14. The remaining events include:


San Luis Gonzaga, B.C. — June 10 and 11


Bahía de los Ángeles, B.C. — July 15 and 16


San Quintín, B.C. — Aug. 19 and 20


GRAND FINALE Ensenada, B.C. — Sept. 23 and 24


The San Luis Gonzaga event will be based at Hotel Alfonsina's with registration on Friday, June 10. Boat departure: Saturday, 6 a.m. (beach front Hotel Alfonsina's). The scales open at noon and close at 4 p.m. followed by an awards ceremony at Hotel Alfonsina's at 6 p.m.


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THERE WERE MANY qualifying fish in all categories brought to the scale and the largest was also a record for the event – a 147.6-pound black seabass brought to the scales by angler, Ricardo Elizondo.

For the uninitiated, attending even one of these affairs is an opportunity to become immersed in Baja’s rich family and fishing culture for a brief moment in time. Each venue, on both the Sea of Cortez and the West Coast of Baja Norte, offers a glimpse of its unique personality where residents share a fierce pride in their hometowns and lifestyles.


Grass roots affairs, the tournaments mirror the proud heritage and unique lifestyles of the Baja people seldom seen by the casual visitor. Resonating with a growing number of travelers who venture across the border, the popularity of the events has nourished camaraderie among the participants, forging lasting friendships for many.


For you who complain about the crowded, noisy and unappealing (your words, not mine) popular destinations in Baja, this is your chance to rub shoulders with the locals. Be prepared to see local politicians, judges, business owners, farmers, cowboys, families, children and fishermen all gathered together for a fiesta – all free-spirited, laid-back and unpretentious . . . all having a great time.


It’s an inexpensive opportunity for you to enjoy a peek at distinctly different, easily accessible Baja communities just a few hours from the border and it’s a great way to spend the weekend while making some new friends…


See ya there!


http://www.pescalabaja.com/p-pescalabaja2015english.php


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