Fisherman's Landing Tackle Days

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.

¡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.


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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.


theresalot

“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!


Chubasco envy
A Chubasco is a violent squall complete with thunder and lightning encountered during the rainy season along the Baja Penin­sula, West Coast of Mexico, Central America, or South America. Chubascos are simply another aspect to the Baja peninsula’s rugged and fearsome personality… but to some, it’s part of the allure.

A number of these Chubas­cos (hurricanes) have impacted Yvonne and me in one way or another since we began traveling to Baja in the late 1960s.


We have always been amazed at how resilient the people are who fall victim to these storms and hurricanes; how quickly they rebuild and repair, moving forward and not looking back.


One of the worst we encountered before Odile, was Kiko on August 27, 1989, but not only did Odile ravage Cabo San Lucas, it was more widespread, causing damage up the entire peninsula all the way to the U.S. border and beyond.





Those of us who have spent years in Baja have our own collection of “Chubasco experiences” where we faced Mother Nature’s fury first hand. Or, we have heard tales of frightening moments when others were caught in swirling winds of 100-plus mph capable of ripping off roofs, shattering windows, and flinging cars and trucks like children’s toys.


The strongest known hurricane to ever hit the Baja Peninsula, Odile, has just raised the bar of devastation and destruction to tragic heights… outdoing even Kiko, which blew the sliding doors out of the front of our home on the Baja beach, through the house and left them shattered along with the back sliding doors inside the back yard. Sand completely covered our block wall and the winds blew all the furniture outside, breaking it into pieces. Luckily, we weren’t there to “ride it out” and by the time we returned six weeks later, there were no signs there had even been a Chubasco.


It is interesting how often many who hear these stories respond in wonder with “WOW! Wouldn’t it have been exciting to be there for one?”


Even though it should be obvious that death or injury are real possibilities, we have had guests who we barely managed to get to safety before one struck who have expressed regret that they were missing it.


We try to tell them there is nothing exciting, adventurous or fun about remaining in the path of an approaching raging, roaring Baja storm!


Ask anyone who has survived the fury of a hurricane and you will realize the devil is in the details. Longtime friend and Baja veteran George Landrum posted the following the day before Odile slammed into Cabo San Lucas … “I have been through five Category-Fives, best to prepare for the worst, ’cause if you are caught in one, you don’t want to be under-prepared. All the laundry is done, cash machine done yesterday and today, medicines filled for a month, cat and dog food done, water and other assorted drinks done, ice, candles, batteries, thank goodness the stove and grill are on gas!”


Landrum’s well-thought-out list demonstrates the kind of commodities that one can expect to do without during a severe storm.


Always a given after such a storm are bugs! No-see’ums, mosquitoes and flies to name a few are more than nuisances. They spread diseases. And no water means no showers (hot or cold) or restrooms. You get the picture.


The point is this: Chubascos are not for anyone’s entertainment! They are not an amusement park thrill ride to be enjoyed in a controlled environment. They are Mother Nature’s dirty little secret that can be hazardous to your health, exposing the worst that Nature can dish out leaving death, destruction and discomfort to those who were unlucky enough to find themselves in the midst of one. Advice? Be very careful what you wish for!


One man's blessing, another's curse
On Aug. 25, 2014, as Marie, the first Cat 5 hurricane since Celia in 2010, thundered northwest past the tip of Baja, local residents breathed a sigh of relief in spite of warnings of large waves predicted to impact Baja California and the southern California coast.


Offshore along the approximately 1,000 miles of coastline from Baja to Southern California, the growing swells from the 160-mph velocity winds silently rolled in, creating enormous surf the likes of which hadn't been seen since the early 80s in California.


Top surfers from faraway places hurried to the Southern California, joining locals as the waves grew to epic heights, outnumbered only by the hordes of spectators who perched on cliffs and sandy berms. The lyrics from the Beach Boys "Surfin' Safari" echoed over the roar of the growing surf … "At Huntington and Malibu, they're shooting the pier, at Rincon they're walking the nose."


The local and national media was filled with the surfing exploits, the gathering of the spectators and of course the damage and destruction to piers and property in Southern California, overshadowing what was happening down the west coast and tip of Baja.


For the Baja surfers it was equally exciting and many locals journeyed long distances eager to capitalize on favored surfing spots dotting the west coast of Baja.


However, for the sportfishing contingency, conditions left behind by Marie were entirely different.


"Worse week of fishing we ever had," lamented Jonathan Roldan of Tailhunters International, speaking of the fishing at both La Paz and Las Arenas. Thinking that the "no fish thing" was a local problem, I checked with Mark Rayor, JenWren Sportfishing at Los Barriles. "It's like a desert out there," he confirmed.


It wasn’t until I reached San Jose that the mood began to change— well sort of. Barely making it back to port before Hurricane Marie closed it was the 335-pound yellowfin tuna landed by Miguel Angel Castro after a two-hour fight involving three fishermen, on 80-pound-test line according to Eric Brictson, Gordo Banks Pangas.


Around the corner and up to Magdalena Bay, Bob Hoyt confirmed the surf was huge in Santa Maria Bay. "Our guests at the cabins on the island were surfing in the entrance to the Estero," he observed. Adding more good news, "There are lots of striped marlin, dorado and tuna out on the banks."


At La Bocana and Blanca Portella, Les Heil recalled that there were sizeable waves, but nothing larger than past storms and no significant damage. "It's so very odd that Bahía Asunción was slammed," she added. "Even the fishing seemed back on track by September 1st, producing tuna and wahoo."


However, just 40 miles farther up the coast along the south-facing beaches at Bahía Asunción, surf from Marie struck, battering the shore with the highest pounding surf that anyone in the community could remember in twenty years.


Shari Bondy, La Bufadora Inn, posted: "The beaches of our town face exactly south and were hard hit by the 20 plus-foot waves that destroyed the Pismo clam population here. Things are finally calming down now after the biggest swell I've ever seen here."


"The beaches are changing each day with shells, black sand and old bones surfacing and I mourn the death of thousands of Pismo clams. The fishing cooperative collected around 2,000 clams to take to the lab in hopes of saving some in tanks of water, but it will be years before Pismo's population recovers," she added.


Hurricane Marie was the 13th hurricane in the eastern Pacific. Will there be more eastern Pacific hurricanes? Undoubtedly! The conditions that spawned Marie still exist. The incubator south of Mexico normally produces storms in every month of the hurricane season (May 15 to Nov. 30).


As September begins, soon-to-be Hurricane Norbert is on its way up the line. No surprises there, according NOAA. September has had the largest total of hurricanes historically, 53 thus far compared to a total of 51 for the other six months.


Hurricane Marie will be memorable in many different ways. Surfers will remember with exultation the surf of a lifetime, anglers will be disappointed that the bite shut-off, businesses and homeowners will remember with fear an ocean they sought to be near, and finally a small Baja coastal community will be mourning the loss of an important resource that may take decades to recover, reminding us all of us of the old adage, "One man's blessing, another's curse."


thebeachesare

THE BEAHCHES ARE changing each day with shells, black sand and old bones surfacing and I mourn the death of thousands of Pismo clams.

Hotel Rancho Buena Vista resurrected
Hotel Rancho Buena Vista was brought to life in 1952 when Herb Tansey began transforming the “goat farm” into a fishing destination. After several trips with his pal Ray Cannon, retired U.S. Army Colonel Gene Walters bought the 12-room hotel, expanded it and turned it into the resort of choice for his friends from Hollywood, including Richard Boone, Chuck Connors, James Garner, John Wayne, and even Dwight Eisenhower after he was no longer President.

Located on the shore of the Sea of Cortez south of La Paz and north of Cabo San Lucas, the Ranch offered some of the finest fishing in the world.


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MARK WALTERS, OWNER of Rancho Buena Vista and grandson of its founder, with bartender Tony Marron.


The hotel thrived, adding rooms and the first portable pier, thanks to the ingenuity of a transplanted MIT graduate, Ted Bonney, who escaped the U.S. and made his home at the Ranch until his death; plus generations of local families who were employees of the hotel… captains, waiters, cooks, and maids. And there were the three generations of Walters: the Colonel, then Chuck and Mark.


Then, in 2008, with Mark Walters as the on-site manager, Seby R. “Russ” Jones, President of Davidson and Jones Corporation of North Carolina, elected to take out an option to purchase this quiet, successful fishing lodge with the intent of turning it into something first-class, something grand… the first of its kind in East Cape. But they didn’t succeed.


In 2011, Jones announced via e-mail the permanent closing of Rancho Buena Vista Hotel, noting that, “RBV has aged well, but we no longer foresee the ability to keep the hotel in good enough shape to offer that experience. So, after six decades of operation, it’s time to say goodbye.”


This was quickly followed by a second e-mail from Mark Walters, a partner of Rancho Buena Vista Hotel, and grandson of the Colonel, and third generation Baja entrepreneur. Paraphrasing Mark Twain, Walters wrote, “The reports of RBV’s closing are greatly exaggerated.”


He continued, “The Davidson and Jones Cor­pora­tion has been managing/operating the hotel for the past few years and has decided to call it quits. The actual owners, the Hermosillo family and myself, are currently reviewing our options. The hotel will be closed only temporarily.”


Since 2011, Rancho Buena Vista with Walters as on-site manager, has confounded the dire predictions of the U.S. businessman by going back to the basics of capitalizing on existing assets.


On a recent visit to RBV, I was pleased to see the seaside pool surrounded by both Mexican and American families taking advantage of another sparkling sunny Baja summer day. Kids and adults alike plunged into the pool to cool off in the afternoon heat.


Later, I caught up with Mark in the palapa-covered bar overlooking the Sea of Cortez.


“Have a seat,” he beckoned, pulling out a leather-woven rattan chair. “Join me for a virgin Bloody Mary? I hope you like Tabasco sauce!” he grinned as he ordered a couple from Tony Marron behind the bar.


In answer to my question of what he had been up to, Mark replied, “Still playing lots of golf and tennis.” Tony set the drinks on the leather-topped table and Mark continued. “I’ve also been playing quite a bit in our band, ‘Skeleton Key.’ We’ve had 50 gigs since last November,” he said with an infectious grin.


“Aside from that, it’s business as usual, more or less, since the Davidson and Jones Corporation group fled in 2011. The Hermosillos and I first decided to reopen the bar, which was always popular. Next, we started renting rooms on a nightly basis. The basic difference is that while the kitchen is operational, it is used only occasionally for private parties.”


“RBV has become very popular with locals, with relocated foreign retirees, as well as with many of our former clients. We have 25 rooms available during the week and during the summer months they are very popular with both working and professional families and with groups from Cabo and La Paz who just want to get away for a weekend.”


“On weekends, all those barbeques you see out there around the pool are in use. We even added a DIY barbeque where folks in the bar can cook their own hot dogs and hamburgers. My wife Jesi came up with that idea and it was a good one,” he said with pride.


“Jesi and I often stop by in the afternoon when different groups are serving everything from carne asada to ceviche. They often invite us to sample their fantastic dishes. It’s great! We also host weddings and parties, you know, everything from birthdays to anniversaries. It’s all a lot of fun! We even offer two 31-foot Island Hopper sportfishers for our guests now.”


They recently re-listed the hotel.


“If it sells, Jesi and I will simply build a new house on some property we own and remain in the area. This is our home and we just want to live happily ever after.”


Not only is the hotel back and thriving, so is Mark Walters.


“You know, I almost killed myself with addiction by the time I was 38. Now I look back at all the fun I’ve had from then to now, and I’m so thankful that I had friends who stood by me through that period of my life,” Mark concluded.


Although the “suits” decided to decline on their company’s option to purchase RBV and were willing to walk away from six decades of history, Mark Walters and his partners, the Hermosillos, went back to basics and breathed new life into the old girl; RBV seems to be thriving once again.


As we departed, the laughter and shouts echoed in my ears as Mark and I walked past the pool. Then we headed to my Roadtrek, strolling past the famous rock table still sitting in its place of honor on the long porch where hundreds if not thousands of card games had taken place, on past the scales where an equal number of trophy fish had been hung and photographed during the past seven decades.


The historical significance of RBV surrounded us like the cool breezes that were blowing across the sea. I carefully stepped across the cattle guard as Walters commented, “We have had many great folks visit Rancho Buena Vista throughout the years; I miss seeing them, and mourn the loss of the ones who are gone forever.”


But Rancho Buena Vista endures.



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