CALIFORNIA'S ONLY SPORTSMAN'S NEWS SINCE 1953

Gary Graham – ROAD TREKKER



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

Magdalena Bay warming up for Fall
As the Baja summer fades away and the fall season creeps in, the noise coming out of Magdalena Bay sure sounds promising. This time of year, a large number of anglers are eager to get updates on the billfish: the usual target from mid-October extending until after Thanksgiving.

Others are partial to the extraordinary wahoo bite that usually precedes the billfish season. Bill Erhard, from Loreto, who fishes offshore every year, posted the following several weeks ago:


“I fished outside Mag Bay for what will be the last time in August and notched my fifth wahoo limit of the month. I’ve made a note of the other rod and reel fishing boats I’ve encountered on the Ridge so far this year, and the total amount is one – if you don’t count three long-range cattle boats out of San Diego.” 


anotherintriguing
ANOTHER INTRIGUING MAG BAY adventure I just learned about was a flotilla of five Hobie Kayaks (four Pro Angler 12s and one Mirage Outback) organized by Joseph Zaragoza, director/manager of Mag Bay Lodge, and his buddies.


A promising start, if – and yeah, there is always an if – the chubasco season passes quietly. Meanwhile, there is also favorable news inside the bay from charter operations like Bob Hoyt’s “Mag Bay Outfitters.” They reported that the snook, one of my personal favorites, were on the chew, adding that they had voluntarily decided to enforce a ‘one captured fish limit’ per day with the rest carefully released. Most of those caught weighed less than 10 pounds, judging from the photos.


However, last year, Capt. Juan Cook was catching some that were much larger. He described one that had gotten away that was well over 50 pounds, which might have been a new IGFA World Record. FYI: The current all-tackle record for Pacific Black Snook is 59 pounds, 8 ounces. News like that certainly enhances the notion of heading up there myself after the October Tournaments in Cabo San Lucas.


Another intriguing Mag Bay adventure I just learned about was a flotilla of five Hobie Kayaks (four Pro Angler 12s and one Mirage Outback) organized by Joseph Zaragoza, director/manager, Mag Bay Lodge and his buddies.


Using pangas as support boats to move them from place to place, they fished the 23 for very little, then moved to the Thetis Bank where they scored on yellowfin tuna, dorado and bottom fish before loading the kayaks on the pangas and heading for home.


The following day, they followed a buoy line aboard the pangas until they stumbled on some dorado, and it was “game on” as they launched the kayaks. Later they spotted a bait ball with marlin. They hooked two blue marlin with one putting on a show and another that they brought to the boat and released. On the way back in, they stopped at one of the pangueros’ grouper spots where Joe was rocked four times in a row. Vowing to return with 200-pound instead of 100-pound fluorocarbon leader material, they succeeded and hooked two blue marlin, with one putting on a show and another that they brought to the boat and released.


theyhookedtwo
THEY HOOKED TWO blue marlin with one putting on a show and another that they brought to the boat and released.

Capping off the trip on the final day, they departed at 9:20 a.m., and traveled down the 45-mile long Mangrove-lined channel to Puerto San Carlos via kayaks. The group fished their way down twists and turns to explore the many “fishy looking” spots along the way, catching and releasing grouper, pargo, jack and corvina as they pedaled their way.


As time started slipping away in the tropical heat, they decided to pick up the pace since they had miles to go; they put fishing rods away and concentrated on navigating to San Carlos. As they pedaled away, the sun set around 7:30 and they still had miles to go.


They finally arrived at San Carlos after midnight, exhausted and hungry after fifteen hours of pedaling – they had covered 45 miles of water, catching fish, fueling up on PB&J sandwiches and smoked ahi. At times, they were lost in the dark weaving through shallow water mangroves before getting to San Carlos.


Some of the locals predicted the flotilla would never complete the 45-mile voyage in a single day, but they were almost proven wrong when the kayaks arrived at the beach in San Carlos at 12:30 a.m.


“The guys and I who made this journey will never forget this challenge, and I can say I am extremely proud of us for completing it. Would I do it again? Probably not! If someone asks me if they should do this same journey in one day, I’d tell them they are crazy!”... Ricardo Holden


With the stunning, rugged, desert landscape shaping a unique backdrop for the hundreds of miles of mangrove-lined channels, Magdalena Bay attracts an overwhelming collection of wildlife unduplicated elsewhere in Baja.


ifishedoutside
I FISHED OUTSIDE Mag Bay for what will be the last time in August and notched my fifth wahoo limit of the month.

Five barrier islands along the West Coast of Baja protects this bay. As large as San Francisco Bay, this 131-mile waterway has remained an enigma, enticing and mystifying even the most seasoned Baja traveler.


Most visitors are drawn to the populated, more popular tourist destinations scattered across the Baja landscape with easy access by commercial aircraft. Even those who drive the length and breadth of Baja’s Peninsula seldom venture the extra 30-plus miles out to Puerto San Carlos or Lopez Mateos, the largest villages on the bay. Therefore, the bay’s location and inaccessibility have allowed it to remain one of those places in Baja that time has virtually left behind.


People frequently ask if I were to settle in Baja once again, with all the magnificent places available, where would it be? Of course, my answer would have to be Magdalena Bay!


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We hope you enjoyed this article on our no-charge website wonews.com. Of course, this site contains only a small fraction of the stories that Western Outdoor Publications produces each week in its two northern and southern editions and its special supplements. You can subscribe to the print issue that is mailed weekly and includes the easy flip-page full-color digital issues, or you can purchase a digital only subscription. Click here to see the choice.


Bye Bye RoadTrek
You may be aware of my monumental decision to stop driving Mex 1.

It’s been over 46 years since a couple of my buddies – David Lewis, Jim Sipman and I – crossed the border in a “sixty-something van” beginning what became a lifetime of adventure for me driving.


Even then, I turned my trips into a business venture. I was a founding partner selling Mexican auto insurance at the Visitor Information Center in Mission Bay – Tour-Insure. In 1973, my partners assigned me the task of creating a Mex 1 Guidebook for the recently-completed highway once it was connected at Punta Prieta with all its government pomp and circumstance. The monument stands there, boasting of the accomplishment that many said couldn’t be done.


byebye
BYE BYE, RoadTrek. Look for me at the airport.

On that first trip, my buddies and I audio taped each leg of the journey – describing every wonder, mountain, desert and scene that astounded us, but we also included the gas stations, the hotels and even the vados and dangerous curves for everyone who might be traveling that road after us.


Recently, I ran across one of our tapes from the trip. On the first day, we made it to El Rosario. Mamá Espinoza’s Restaurant was already an established “must-visit” attraction. When we meandered in, Mamá Espinoza herself showed us to a table. This dignified lady filled us with awe as she shared stories of the days her husband, the anthropologist, had scoured the mountains and the ravines for prehistoric artifacts. What a fascinating time we had as she served us and we gorged on lobster tacos with all the trimmings and drank too much cerveza into the late afternoon. Our first day on the road had already put us in that “Baja state of mind.”


The tape I mentioned described our afternoon spent searching dirt roads for Punta Baja. Frankly, now as I listen to the slurring of our words on the tape, I can recall all the laughter and fun, but at the time, it didn’t seem like we were slurring our words at all.


Back to business – my “Goodby to my Mex 1” story.” My last drive on Mex 1 was November 2017 when, as usual, I was driving alone, my trek home for the year.


Late the first day, I stopped in Punta Prieta at dusk and paid a farmer 10 bucks to park in his yard. Exhausted, I was soon sound asleep. I woke up about 1:00 a.m. to a beautifully bright full moon.


Since the Laguna Chapala turnoff wasn’t far, where speeds were around 20 mph max, and there was very little traffic, I shot some great sunrise photos. Alone with my thoughts, I remembered the hundreds and hundreds of times I had traveled this road, many times with family – my large family – hanging out windows with luggage everywhere we could tie it down. I thought of the kids, now older adults themselves, who had been teens and younger, and then their babies who had driven many times on the road with us, stopping to camp on the beach or heading dead ahead to our home. We even carried a potty chair or two for the two-year-old emergencies!


Time and miles passed, and the Google maps on my cell directed me to the Sentri Line in Mexicali; I crossed the line in 15 minutes or so. EASY PEASY.


Then, I was on the freeway headed for Lake Elsinore. In Escondido, I decided to top off my fuel. I pulled off the freeway, slowing for a red light. Almost immediately, the engine warning lights come on and the overheating alarm wailed. Sure enough, I opened the hood to find that fluid was dripping from both the radiator and water pump. Fortunately, several blocks farther a service station attendant recommended a shop less than a block away. I nursed the van that final block. The owner spoke little English, but we managed to work it out. Soon Yvonne arrived to give me a ride the rest of the way home.


Although you may have heard this story when we have run into each other, and interestingly, the question almost always seems to be: Did I quit driving because of being afraid to drive the road?


The answer is “no!” It’s a matter of convenience and economy. I had given the trips a lot of thought over the past few years. My 1998 Dodge Van is 20 years old and has131,000 miles on it.


The days are long gone when we packed a van of family and friends and drove to our home or camped along the way. In recent years I drove the Road Trek back and forth on Mex 1, nearly 80,000 miles alone. There are many factors, primarily scheduling and my inclination to wander off the main road and explore, which is not very easy to schedule trips around.


As a salute to my partner – my van: during the 12 years, it has never stranded me, driving alone with all the stuff I carry – tackle, cameras, computers, and more. I wouldn’t trade those thousands of miles driven back and forth from the border for anything. The adventures, the stories and the extraordinary times I have shared with family and friends will remain with me for the rest of my life. It has been my home away from home my office, and an easy way to explore and rest.


But there is the economic factor as well. It’s cheaper and easier to fly and then rent a car to drive to my destination. With lower airfares and CBX access through Tijuana and with the convenience of clearing customs before boarding the plane, flying has become an economical alternative. Lastly, when I began driving, gas was under 50 cents a gallon — today, it’s approaching $4.00 in Baja.


I have continued to find new places and new ways to explore my Baja, which has played such an essential role in my family’s and my life.


Bye bye, RoadTrek. Look for me at the airport.


* * *

We hope you enjoyed this article on our no-charge website wonews.com. Of course, this site contains only a small fraction of the stories that Western Outdoor Publications produces each week in its two northern and southern editions and its special supplements. You can subscribe to the print issue that is mailed weekly and includes the easy flip-page full-color digital issues, or you can purchase a digital only subscription. Click here to see the choice.


“We are the Champions!”*
The “Gran Final Copa Calisureños” is the annual gathering of all winners of the Baja Sur Government Sepada, and Fonmar-sponsored sportfishing tournaments held throughout the state of Baja Sur, BCS.

Many teams arrive with their well-equipped trailer boats in tow stuffed with state-of-the-art tackle; others have chartered their favorite local boats and captains. Almost all choose to pre-fish at least one day before the Sunday tournament.


with165children
WITH 165 CHILDREN from the five municipalities from Baja Sur, BCS, participating, the first Shore Fishing Children's Tournament was held on the jetty of the Loreto Marina.


The town was abuzz the week before the tournament, as teams and anglers along with their families and friends, descended on Loreto. By Friday evening, children had already registered for the Kids’ Tournament on Saturday morning.


Meanwhile, the final chance to qualify for “Gran Final Copa Calisureños” was holding registration up the beach (also in Loreto) for the Torneo de Pesca Tiro Caza y Pesca 2019, for their Saturday competition.


With 165 children from the five municipalities from Baja Sur, BCS participating, the first Shore Fishing Children's Tournament was held on the jetty of the Loreto Marina. It was the result of the efforts of IGFA, SAC, and Stars & Stripes, which sponsored Children's Clinics conducted by Gonzalo Camacho. More than 500 youths had participated in their introduction to the finer points of sportfishing.


Midday on Saturday, the registration for the Gran Final Copa Calisureños opened and the teams trickled in. A first for the event was a “Sashimi Contest” complete with sushi chefs from around the state preparing their specialties to be judged and sampled by spectators.


Throughout the afternoon, the line grew as anglers waited to register. Onlookers enjoyed watching the teams with their matching shirts and hats that added style and swagger while they did their best to exude confidence as they mingled with other anglers. Sizing up their competition, the teams explored their options and prospects as to which species they would target: dorado or billfish (blue, black and striped marlin that must weigh a minimum of 100 pounds).


The anglers enjoyed the afternoon that seemed to be wrapped in remarkable familiarity and camaraderie that had been earned over time.


asthesmoke
AS THE SMOKE from the flare traveled across the sky, it was augmented by a spectacular fireworks display which sent the fleet of boats ranging from pangas to tricked-out sportfishers racing out to sea toward the Baja sun that had begun peeking over the eastern horizon.


By the time registration was at last completed and the captains’ meeting was called to order, there were a record number of 148 teams with 550 anglers competing in the tournament, including the first-time-ever group of 37 anglers in kayaks.


Sunday morning a crowd of locals joined visiting spectators on the end of the jetty at the Marina, mingling with government officials – local, municipal and state officials – waiting for the flare gun start. As the smoke from the flare traveled across the sky, it was augmented by a spectacular fireworks display, which sent the fleet of boats ranging from pangas to tricked-out sportfishers racing out to sea toward the Baja sun that had begun peeking over the eastern horizon. Moments later, they were followed by a second start for the flotilla of kayaks at a noticeably slower pace headed along the shoreline.


By all accounts, the fishing was good, but the catching was slow. The weigh-station opened from noon until 2 p.m. for the kayak division and a mix of triggerfish, barrilete, puffer fish, as well as a dorado that failed to be weighed before the scale closed at 2.


Throughout the afternoon, teams brought a parade of small dorado (with a few larger ones mixed in), barrilete, grouper and marlin to the scale. The rumored larger dorado from the preceding week failed to materialize as losers congratulated winners, who in turn consoled those returning without anything to weigh.


Later that evening, at an elaborate outdoor dinner on the Malecon along the shore of the Sea of Cortez, specialties of the chefs were served by local restaurants, and entertainment by "California brass" and Chucho Montaño.


Dinner was followed by the awards, raffling of a Toyota Truck and Suzuki Outboard motor.


Winners included:


“4 Amigos”, 1st billfish, Jose, Andres, Rodriguez, Villalejo $139,500
Plus a Yamaha 115hp 4 stroke motor


Portegas, 2nd billfish Felix, Enrique, Ortega, Garcia $93,000


Torito Rosa Del Mar 1, 3rd billfish, Carlos, Peralta, Zumaya $46,500


Las Winnas, Roberto, Carlos, Contreras, Rojas dorado 23.20 pounds $139,500 and a Suzuki 140 hp 4 stroke motor.


Coca Cola, Jorge, Angulo Cota, dorado 22.80 pounds $93,000 


Luis Francisco Cota Ulloa, team member of the coca cola team was also the winner of the Toyota hilux 2019 raffle.


Karlita, Antonio Valdivia Almaraz dorado 22.80 pounds $46,500


A unique aspect of this event was that in spite of the poor fishing, there wasn’t the usual grumbling. At the awards ceremony — and even the following day at the airport, anglers were happy — with grins on their faces, they understood that sometimes the catching can be slow. Accepting that fact and still having a good time seems to be a “given” for these winning anglers who made up the “Champions.”


As an observation, I can attest that this group is on to something that we all should consider.


*"We Are the Champions" written by Freddie Mercury, lead singer in the British rock band Queen , and it was first released in 1977 on their album News of the World .


* * *

We hope you enjoyed this article on our no-charge website wonews.com. Of course, this site contains only a small fraction of the stories that Western Outdoor Publications produces each week in its two northern and southern editions and its special supplements. You can subscribe to the print issue that is mailed weekly and includes the easy flip-page full-color digital issues, or you can purchase a digital only subscription. Click here to see the choice.


Baja whines and whispers
It’s been quite a while since I’ve flown into the Los Cabos Airport, as I have been flying into Loreto and using CBX for most of my trips the past year. Tuesday morning before I departed, in a last-minute conversation with Mark Rayor of JenWren Sportfishing, he had shared that one of his clients reported that there were Global Entry machines now located along the back wall in the immense room where immigration cleared arriving passengers in the Los Cabos Airport.

My Alaska flight from San Diego was a piece of cake, and smugly I marched at a fast pace to the hall, ignoring the line and headed toward the far wall where the Global Entry machines awaited. As I neared the machines, a uniformed agent waved me off. Thinking he believed I didn’t have the proper credentials, I waved my passport and Sentri card in his face.


itseemsas
IT SEEMS AS though some of the palapa roofs at Rancho Buena Vista Hotel had been replaced and one of the locals in the bar confirmed that the dining room had been reopened and had an excellent menu.

“Sorry, these machines are only for families with children to use,” he snarled, while pointing me back to the long line that snaked back and forth across the huge room.


Slowly, the long line melted and 45 minutes later I snatched my checked bag and headed for the next room where the melted line from the other room had reformed, only this time bearing their baggage. Each group paused at the counter, handed over their importation form, showed their passport and were directed to push the red button which in turn activated either a green (go) or red (go to secondary or x-ray).


So much for Global Entry machines …


Still with me? Everyone was directed to put their bags on a conveyor belt. Except for the fellow in front of me, who was directed to place his suitcases on the table; and I was instructed to do the same with my backpack.


Inside his bags, he had a drone and two cameras. The agent asked him the value of the drone, to which he responded $200. He was informed he would have to pay taxes on it. Then the agent turned to my bag and asked the same question. Apparently, since I possessed only two cameras and lenses which were legal, I went through with no additional taxes. Finally, I made it to my shuttle.


The shuttle driver – my friend Eduardo – quickly loaded my bags, and we headed for East Cape.


Quite chatty as always, he pointed out how dry the countryside was, adding there had been very little rain this summer. That is, until the past week, when it had poured around Miraflores. It showed as we approached the area; the brush along the road was already turning green.


When we passed the turnoff to La Ribera, Eduardo commented that the new Four Seasons Resort  was nearly finished, along with the golf course that Gary Barnes-Webb, the former manager at Rancho Leonero Hotel, was now supervising full time.


His next bombshell was that the Punta Colorado property had been sold to the former Governor of Baja Sur. He didn’t seem to have many details. However, when I mentioned the conversation to Mark Rayor later that evening, he confirmed that he had heard the same rumor, but wasn’t certain it was true.


Eduardo had still more. Did I know that they were remodeling Rancho Buena Vista?


Sixty rooms, he thought, adding that the dining room had also been reopened recently.


The next morning I checked in at Buena Vista Beach Resort, host for the Bisbee East Cape Offshore tournament later this week. I ran into Axel Valdez, owner/operator of the hotel and he explained how the event had been reduced to the same format as the Bisbee Los Cabos Offshore – it would now be two days of fishing on Friday and Saturday with the awards dinner on Sunday night. This would allow Cabo boats to fish the shortened event without having to fuel at East Cape — plus the schedule would be easier for the East Cape locals who would not require the entire week to be able to participate


Next, I headed to Rancho Buena Vista to confirm Eduardo’s information about the remodeling. It seems as though some of the palapa roofs had been replaced and one of the locals in the bar confirmed that the dining room had been reopened and had an excellent menu. The bartender added that there were now 43 rooms being rented on the weekends to Mexican families visiting from La Paz and Cabo San Lucas. It was often sold out.


I plan to track down more information between registration, weigh-ins, and awards at the ECO later this week.


* * *

We hope you enjoyed this article on our no-charge website wonews.com. Of course, this site contains only a small fraction of the stories that Western Outdoor Publications produces each week in its two northern and southern editions and its special supplements. You can subscribe to the print issue that is mailed weekly and includes the easy flip-page full-color digital issues, or you can purchase a digital only subscription. Click here to see the choice.


ICAST – a field of dreams
It was the capper of another year, another 96-hour marathon of red-eye flights and, according to my fitness watch, 19.1 miles of walking around the ICAST show for two days in July while catching up with many friends and making some new ones.

It’s that “kid in a candy store time” when I reach my destination and the show doors finally open. There are so many new items that have popped up over the past year, and I’m eager to test them all.


imperiumoutfitters
IMPERIUM OUTFITTERS WAS one of the most intriguing booths that my friend Ryan Donavan of Redrum Sportfishing in Cabo insisted I visit.

Imperium Outfitters was one of the most intriguing booths that my friend Ryan Donavan of Redrum Sportfishing in Cabo insisted I visit. There, he introduced me to Robert Mergenthaler, president, and Russel Snipe, the tech guy.


The display consisted of various-sized trolling lure heads that had been created/printed during the show. Some were skirted. They were flanked on either side by a 3D Printer. As they explained, it was possible to replicate any lure head with their system, including old favorites that had become irreplaceable – a Godsend for some captains who had their own collection of old treasured lures that were now cracked and chipped.


Hobie Kayaks introduced a gamechanger for the kayak set – a new Mirage drive with 360-degree technology. I’ve been a Hobie Kayak fan since shortly after I began traveling in the Roadtrek when I was introduced to their inflatable.


The new Hobie MirageDrive 360 propulsion system is a 360-degree rotating pedal drive that allows anglers to easily maneuver their 2020 Mirage Pro Angler 360 12 and 14 fishing kayak in every direction – backwards, forward, sideways, diagonally – it can even spin on its own length. Upping the ante with all-new Kick-Up Fins that automatically retract upon impact, the new MirageDrive 360 delivers precision boat control and close-quarter maneuverability that’s unrivaled by any other human-powered watercraft. Anglers can go where they want and fish how they want with total control and complete confidence.


My buddies over at AFTCO also have been busy this year branching out with new products. According to Greg Stotesbury, Vice President, their new Saiko Pro is a 100-percent custom formula fluorocarbon featuring a supple, yet hard finish that provides better abrasion resistance; it also tests stronger after abrasion than other similar products. In 12- to 80-pound test, it’s available in both clear and pink; 100- to 300-pound test is available in clear. The knot and crimped strength of AFTCO's leader is unmatched, and the line promises to generate more bites from finicky tuna, billfish, and inshore species. I’m told that the new product will be available Aug. 1, just in time for the late summer and fall bites. They will also soon be introducing their own set of custom fish cleaning knives available sometime in September.


thismaterialis
THIS MATERIAL IS tough, resilient, and almost impervious to fish bites! Sebile delights in having an unsuspecting spectator grab hold of one end of the tail and pull with all their might.


Patrick Sebile was at the Band of Anglers booth demonstrating his “latest and greatest” lure designs. I have always found his lure designs fascinating remember the Sebile Magic Swimmer? However, his new Daartspin™ has its merits as well. First and foremost is the material it is made of “Hyperplastics™.”


This material is tough, resilient, and almost impervious to fish bites! Sebile delights in having an unsuspecting spectator grab hold of one end of the tail and pull with all their might. So far, I’ve never seen one break. Nor have I had one come back bitten in half – a real plus if you are fishing in remote parts of Baja, miles from any sort of tackle store.


The new design has a minnow-shaped body with a willow blade solidly embedded into its tail. It can be fished on a weedless hook, jighead, drop-shot rig, Carolina or Texas rig, or retrieved on top (or deep) with a circle hook through its nose. It offers a wide variety of action, depending on how it’s used.


Candace Fersch, who I met several years ago at WON Tuna Jackpot, insisted I couldn’t live without the Cuda Bait De-Hooker. This was another gadget that caught my eye that I must admit certainly seemed more practical than the butter knife that has always been my tool of choice for removing mackerel from a Sabiki or Lucky Joe bait rig.


Bill Pino of Squidnation, another WON Tuna Jackpot veteran, was also at ICAST displaying his latest dredges ( AKA Mud Flaps) equipped with new, tougher material that will not tear or shred.


Another Baja Buddy, Stephen Jansen, was displaying his “Cabo Killer” line of lures along with his hand-painted T-shirts designed himself and displayed the first time at ICAST.


I have so many extensive new product notes following two days at ICAST that it’s hard to choose my favorites. Remember, I walked nearly 10 miles a day, meaning there are a jillion or so more I can’t cover here. Perhaps another time.


* * *

We hope you enjoyed this article on our no-charge website wonews.com. Of course, this site contains only a small fraction of the stories that Western Outdoor Publications produces each week in its two northern and southern editions and its special supplements. You can subscribe to the print issue that is mailed weekly and includes the easy flip-page full-color digital issues, or you can purchase a digital only subscription. Click here to see the choice.


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