Gary Graham – 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

Team Gray Tagged ‘Misha’ another striped marlin off Cabo
While attending the ICast Tackle Manufacturers Show in Orlando, Fla. last summer, Bill Dobbelaer, General Manager of Gray Taxidermy, extended an invitation for me to be part of the team deploying a special PSAT Satellite tag in Cabo San Lucas.


The Striped Marlin “Tracy” was caught by angler Dave Bulthuis of Costa Sunglasses, and tagged with a satellite tag (PSAT) on Nov. 1st, 2016. The PSAT stayed on the fish and collected data for 38 days.

• Fish length at capture: 79 inches, LJFK

• At its closest point, the fish was 9.05 km (5.6 mi) from the beaches of Los Cabo. The striped marlin in total traveled an approximate distance of 1488 km (924 mi) in a southeast direction. During that time period, the fish traveled over the Mazatlán Basin and went on to spend 10 days around the Rivera Fracture Zone.

• The striped marlin exhibited a large vertical movement pattern, which varied depending on daylight or darkness.

• At nighttime, the average depth was surface to 3 m with occasional dives to 50 m.

During the daytime, the fish had extensive vertical movements with an average depth of 55 m, and rapid dives to 70 m, followed by rapid ascents to 30 m.

• Both striped marlin, “Bill Gray” and “Tracy,” were tagged on the same day; however, one fish went north to the Sea of Cortez and the other fish went south. They both also demonstrated a vertical movement pattern similar in profile to swordfish, with nighttime hours spent at the surface and daytime hours spent at depths 40 to 80 m.

Track of Striped Marlin Named “Bill Gray”

Track of Striped Marlin Named “Tracy”

For more information visit http://grayfishtagresearch.org/

The Gray Fishtag Research, Inc. (GFTR) group included: Dobbelaer and his wife Pamela from Pompano Beach, Fla.; Travis Moore, Gray FishTag, Research Scientist; Tracy Ehrenberg of Cabo’s Pisces Group; Dave Bulthuis from Costa Sunglasses; Bill Pino, Squidnation; and Ray Gardner, Yo-zuri, along with Captain Nayo Winkler; 1st Mate Mario, 2nd mate Dan Lewis plus Rogelio Gonzalez Armas, Ph.D., from Centro Interdisciplinario de Ciencias Marinas (CICIMAR) and I, a Gray FishTag Advisory Panel Member.

We all gathered at Captain Tony’s restaurant at 5 a.m. Oct. 31 before boarding the Tag Team, a 61-foot Viking at the Pisces Marina.

Last year our destination had been the world-famous Finger Bank, known for the extraordinary striped marlin pileup that happens this time of year. Tales of double-digit releases recently were enough to convince Captain Nayo to return.

As we idled out the channel, Moore explained the purpose of our early morning adventure. Last year’s Wildlife Computers, specializing in marine animal behavioral research through the development of tag and telemetry technology, contributed two of their satellite tags for deployment in striped marlin in the waters surrounding Baja’s tip.

The success and the data it provided persuaded Tracy Ehrenberg of the importance of continuing the program. So, along with the owners of the vessel Tag Team, she agreed for the team to return to the Finger Bank – just a click over 50 miles north of Lands’ End, and she also volunteered to fund a tag herself.

The game plan was to deploy the one satellite tag and as many spaghetti tags as possible; plus, this would allow several team members to catch their first striped marlin ever. Both Travis Moore and Pamela Dobbelaer were candidates to check striped marlin off their bucket list.

The weather was our friend and the ride uphill was noticeably smoother as the team prepared for the day’s fishing. Bill Pino had brought a vast selection of some of his Squidnation’s remarkable dredges and daisy chains to tease up the billfish.

While Moore and Dobbelaer loaded the tag sticks and double-checked the video cameras to make certain the team’s efforts were recorded, the boat crew brought out the tackle and also made sure everything was in order.

After several hours, Captain Nayo pulled the throttles back and the boat slid alongside a school of feeding porpoise and the mate dropped back a couple of tuna feathers. Minutes later, the familiar clatter of the drag announced the hookup to a small yellowfin tuna. Dobbelaer snatched the rod from the covering board holder and soon the small fish was on ice in the fish box.

Back up to cruising speed, soon we spotted a handful of sportfishers on the horizon, along with high-circling frigate birds … a sure sign of both bait and striped marlin.

Out went the Squidnation dredges and daisy chains as the high-flying frigates plunged toward the tell-tale white water and the commotion caused by hapless baitfish fleeing the slashing bills of the predators.

Live mackerel were pinned onto circle hooks before being placed back in the bait tanks. Soon Pino roared, “Portside dredge!” Before his words were covered up by the steady rumble of the engines, both baits silently slid back in the wake.

“Fish on!” he yelled, as Tracy, the designated angler, hopped into the fighting chair. Rhythmically, she pumped and wound. The small, leaping striper was soon close to the transom.

Moore shouted, “Spaghetti tag only!” indicating the fish wasn’t frisky enough to gamble with the $5,000 tag.

During the next several hours, Ehrenberg, Bulthuis, Moore, Pamela Dobbelaer and Pino managed to deploy seven spaghetti tags and one satellite tag. Following each tagging session, Armas, the marine biologist, gathered plankton and larvae samples with a large net with small mesh.

The striped marlin was successfully satellite tagged and named “Mischa” after Ehrenberg’s young grandson on Oct. 31.

This is Gray FishTag Research’s third year of collaborative research in Cabo and the Baja region. The major boats collaborating are from local fleets in Cabo, including Pisces Sportfishing, Red Rum, along with a few others.

Over the past three years, six different species of fish have been tagged and released in the Baja Sur region. For the entire GFR program, over 80 different fish species have been tagged worldwide. Over 22,000 conventional tags have been distributed to anglers via charter boats.

Feeding Cabo Kids
October in Cabo is always fun, even if you don’t participate in the many tournaments that take place during the month. The energy is remarkable, the sheer number of anglers and their families or entourages is astonishing. Taking part in many of the festivities and celebrations of the many events, meeting Captains, teams and guests and other participants, only adds excitement to the unique experience of your trip to Land’s End.

One local group that I encountered was Jen and David Limpert and their extended family who operate Hope for Los Cabos; they have collected many of the fish caught during the Bisbee Tournaments since 2015. Seems as though they had one of those “no-brainers” that are so simple that they are overlooked.

are making an impact in the community when a woman who runs a feeding center begins sobbing when the fish is delivered because they had just run out of food for the kids the day before!

Waiting between fish being brought to the scale, the two of them explained how their program had begun. Basically, they realized that most tournaments don’t allow the teams to take their catch in many of the events. However, the distribution of the fish that were brought in to the scale was not very organized; they were passed off on a first come/first serve basis.

Along come Jen and David Limpert with an idea of taking reasonability for all of the catch and arrange to have the fish cleaned, filleted, packaged and then distributed throughout the barrios surrounding the area. If you say that fast, it seems like a simple undertaking. However, upon closer inspection, there are a dizzying number of moving parts required to make it all happen, beginning the moment these huge fish are taken down from the scale.

Their work begins after a tournament team’s exhilarating weigh-in, when the fish is taken down and loaded onto a cart. At that moment, the Limpert volunteers take over … first to clean and fillet the fish and then, in most cases, delivered direct to the dozen strategically located feeding centers as well as distributed to rehabilitation centers and the boys’ orphanage strategically located in the remote communities surrounding Cabo and San Jose.

Since the first time I was introduced to the project, their volunteer staff has grown rapidly from a few helpers to an army of volunteers who manage the increasing flow of fish from their growing list of local tournaments and individual contributors.

So far this year, from just the first two Bisbee events, there were 334 teams with 1,433 anglers, which produced over 4,833 pounds of fresh fish, equaling approximately 14,649 meals for distribution to kids. Those numbers, plus the meals the fish that Black and Blue produces, could set a new record.

Overall, the partnership the Limperts have had with the Bisbee tournaments since they teamed up in 2015 has amounted to an impressive 20,000 pounds, which has resulted in the delivery of nearly 60,000 kids’ meal.

In addition to the Bisbee effort, Dave Limpert also has another “Fishing for Food” program that operates throughout the year.

Limpert’s “Fishing for food” program has donated over 20,000 pounds in the last two years (outside of the Bisbee meals), with a total of over 100,000 meals adding his Fishing for Food program with the Bisbee Tournaments.

Jen Limpert shared recently, “You know you are making an impact in the community when a woman who runs a feeding center begins sobbing when the fish is delivered because they had just run out of food for the kids the day before! So, it’s worth all the hard work involved. We are indeed grateful to have the opportunity to partner with the Bisbee’s — with just their tournament, they help double the yearly amount of fish we are able to distribute to those in need,” she concluded.

If you happen to be fishing in Cabo and your luck is great and you end up with more fish than you can use, the Limperts will be happy to come and pick up your catch to distribute it to needy families in the area. And the gesture just may be good karma for you and your gang on your next trip.

Their contact info for Dave and Jen:

USA 719-377-2973 - Jen

USA 719-428-1331 - Dave

Mexico 624-219-9171 - Jen

Mexico 624-132-3958 - Dave

E-mail: Limpert@Hopeforloscabos.com

Woulda’, coulda’, shoulda’
Over the past decade, it has occurred to me that WON Los Cabos Tuna Jackpot’s core attraction is not particularly the fishing, the place, or even the parties that are at the root of its remarkable popularity.


AS TEAMS, MANY many in their team uniforms ranging from t-shirts with serious, humorous and in some cases risqué team names emblazoned on the backs. Photo by Gary Graham

DURING THE FOUR-DAY event there are various drawings and contests allowing team members to win in many different ways. Photo by Gary Graham

Rather it’s the teams themselves that have become so wrapped up in an infectious camaraderie that they transcend the intense competition. Some, wearing the number of years they have participated included in their logo as their badge of honor — making it a validation of sorts -- and attesting to the fact that they belong to the fraternity of teams that has grown to the largest turnout ever, 168 teams in 2016.

Oct. 31 – Tuesday from 6 to 9 p.m. at the Marlin Sculpture: After that huge turn-out, a pre-registration has been offered to the first 50 teams who have no roster changes allowing them to avoid the long line of Wednesday afternoon’s registration. Those teams can pre-check in if all their anglers are present to fill out their waivers – (no exceptions) ! They will receive angler packets and team flags only. Swag will be handed out at regular check in on Wednesday.

Of course, since it just happens to be Halloween, the tournament committee couldn’t resist the opportunity to add an additional party. So, if you have nothing else to do on Halloween night you can meet the staff in a casual setting with a live band, no-host BBQ party, held between Capt. Tony's and Solomon's Landing restaurants/bars.

Nov. 1 Wednesday afternoon: Registration 1 to 6:30 p.m.beneath a welcome Baja sun there is always a festive affair setting the tone for the event. As teams, many in their team uniforms ranging from t-shirts with serious, humorous and in some cases risqué team names emblazoned on the backs, move though the line past staff who are finalizing registration and passing out WON swag, then on to the sponsors booths where they receive sponsors’ products. Old friendships are renewed and new friendships are established as the music blares in the background.

The fun begins and the real world is left behind as registration is followed by the Yo-Zuri Welcome Party with tequila shots, free gifts, miscellaneous announcements, announcement of optional amounts, video showing, and drawings begin at 6:30 p.m. to 7:45 p.m., Cultural Center Outdoor Amphitheater.

Nov. 2 – Thursday: Costa Shotgun start 7 a.m. at the Cabo Arch. (Start boat is the Cabo Escape leaving IGY fuel dock at 6 a.m.) For $30 each day, the start boat, the Cabo Escape, offers the Costa Charity Party on behalf of SmilesInternationalFoundation.org . There is catered food and drink, including mimosas. A great way for the Team’s family and friends to see the flare gun start before dancing and partying, in the name of charity, prior to returning to the IGY Harbor. Charity raffle tickets for both days’ start boat will be available at the Costa booth from Dave and Amy Bulthuis on Wednesday at check-in.

Gray Taxidermy Weigh-in 3 p.m.- 6 p.m. on both Thursday and Friday. Lines out at 4 p.m. Weigh-in ends at 6 p.m. or when all eligible fish are weighed.

Baja Cantina's Thursday night Fiesta at Maria Corona Restaurant in downtown Cabo. Doors and bar opens and music starts at 7:30 p.m. Mexican buffet dinner and Folklorico entertainment begins at 8 p.m. and at 8:30 staff begins announcements of day's results plus sponsors' drawings.

Nov. 4 – Saturday: Cabo Tuna Jackpot Awards Dinner, on Cruise Line Pier. Bar opens at 5:30 p.m. Mariachi music starts at 6 p.m., and dinner is ready at 6:30. Guess the Fish Contest, Silent Auction, Live Auction, and all sponsors tackle drawings begin at 6:30 p.m. -- awards ceremony begins at 7 p.m.


GRAY TAXIDERMY WEIGH-IN 3 p.m.- 6 p.m. on both Thursday and Friday. Lines out at 4 p.m. Weigh-in ends at 6 p.m. or when all eligible fish are weighed. Photo by Gary Graham

For the uninitiated who have never participated in a Los Cabos Tournament, this event continues to be fine-tuned year after year under the watchful eye of Pat McDonell, Tournament Director, and his staff, to ensure that the “Fish Hard, Party Harder” promise is not overwhelmed by the intense, two-day competition.

Of all the tournaments held in Baja Sur, this is by far one of the most user-friendly. If you and your buddies or family are looking for a soft entry into the world of “Big Fish/Big Money” tournaments, this is a great place to start without breaking the bank … if you get my drift.

Don’t be one of those “woulda’, coulda’, shoulda’” folks who hesitates and misses the time of their lives.

For more info: http://www.loscabostunajackpot.com/2017_coverage/schedule.php

SHOW US YOUR COSTAS! At boat checks, before the shotgun starts, we see the most creative. Photo by Gary Graham

Vaquita revisited...
A year ago, almost to the day, my Roadtrekker column entitled “ Tortuava, totoaba, tuna-pens…vaquita and swim-bladders,” was published in Western Outdoor News. Last Tuesday, September 26, I received the following message from my friend Orchid Martinez:

“I am getting some sad news from our panga services in San Felipe. I guess local authorities are looking to ban ANY sportfishing whatsoever in the San Felipe area! This includes Mexican panga fishing.”

THE $4,000,000,000 RESCUE plan will involve conservationists patrolling the gulf with the help of dolphins trained by the U.S. Navy to pinpoint other cetaceans.

She continued, “This may have to do with the dolphin the U.S. is bringing in to locate and capture the remaining vaquita (porpoises) to try to save the population and assist in their reproduction. All boat motor noises will distract the trained dolphin from finding the elusive vaquita, so they will be banned from running beginning in October. The government claims this may take two or more months. Looks like the ban is from San Felipe north to the deltas. Fishing out of Puertecitos and south will not be affected. … Orchid

I immediately contacted another old friend, Tom Ward, Longfin Tackle, who handles all the bookings for the “Tony Reyes Fishing Tours” for his opinion. Ward responded, “First, I havn’t heard of it, but I will check with Tony Reyes and let you know what he says. We fish 200 miles south of San Felipe so hopefully it will not impact us.” Later, he answered, “Sounds like it just concerns fishing with nets which we don't do, so there should be no impact on the Tony Reyes operations.”

In April 2015, the Mexican government announced a two-year ban on gillnetting in the vaquita habitat, which would be enforced by the Mexican Navy.

Conservation organizations welcomed the initiative, but stressed that unless the ban was made permanent, the measure did not go far enough.

In July 2016, a permanent ban was finally announced, together with a ban on night fishing to aid in the fight against poachers. However, it is the illegal fishing that is responsible for the vaquita’s dramatic decline, and that was unlikely to stop immediately.

So it’s now up to Mexico to enforce the ban, and it’s up to the international community to curb the market for totoaba swim bladders in China and to go after poachers. The fight to save the vaquita continues…

Dr. Anna Hall, Porpoise Conservation Society approved, adding, “There is nothing more we need to worry about, other than gillnets. If we remove the gillnets, we will most likely save the vaquita.”

A local panga operator confided, “It has nothing to do with the nets or how fishing is done. They insist that anything motorized in the area will distract the dolphin from finding the vaquita, requiring the complete closure to sportfishing from San Felipe beginning in early October, 2017 in order to ensure that there is no noise in the northern Sea of Cortez that might distract the sensitive mammals.”

The $4,000,000,000 rescue plan will involve conservationists patrolling the gulf with the help of dolphins trained by the U.S. Navy to pinpoint other cetaceans. The idea is that the animals will then be captured and transported to a sanctuary in San Felipe, Mexico.

But the attempt carries risks. No one has ever tried to capture, transport or care for a vaquita before and scientists do not know how they will react. “Some porpoises, like the harbor porpoise, don’t seem to mind too much when captured, but others, such as the Dall’s porpoise, go into shock,” said Barbara Taylor, of the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. “We don’t know which it is going to be. It is a nerve-racking prospect.”

However, scientists insist there is no choice. “Vaquita numbers are so low it is becoming clear that if we do nothing the vaquita will go extinct very soon,” said Lorenzo Rojas-Bracho, of Mexico’s National Institute of Ecology and Climate Change. “However, if we capture the last few and try to protect them we have a chance to save the species.”

September 28, San Felipe update: Sportfishing with rod & reels on pangas have not been officially listed in the 2 month ban according to local CONAP Official. As long as the noise does not interfere with the trained dolphin work to find the vaquita.

* * *

As the story is still emerging, I will continue to follow and update as the program is implemented.

After Lidia
When I submitted my last column, I had no idea that “Tropical Storm Lidia” would make her presence known in such a big way, as she was only a weak system on the horizon at that time.

Not only did she lash Cabo San Lucas with heavy rains and significant winds and flooding, but the damage that was done on the outskirts of the cities was devastating to many families who were simply overwhelmed. Lidia continued her damage all the way up the Peninsula as far as El Rosario.

REBECCA EHRENBERG, PISCES Yachts, relied on her experience during the aftermath of Odile in 2014 to mobilize many of those same volunteers and gathered others willing to help.

Federal and local government agencies responded swiftly, as did local volunteers, pitching in to clean beaches and repair local streets and public highways of all the debris left by the storm.

Likewise, although the sportfishing fleets from the tip and up both sides of the Peninsula were eager to return to fishing, captains, crews and other organized teams joined forces with groups and organizations (see below) to coordinate the clean up and repair effort.

Rebecca Ehrenberg, Pisces Yachts, relied on her experience during the aftermath of Odile in 2014 to mobilize many of those same volunteers and gathered others willing to help. Some purchased in bulk essential supplies for the barest of survival; others bagged trash and debris piling it high to be picked up and deposited into trash trucks.

Captain George Landrum II realized while delivering supplies to outlying communities that while the families were grateful for the supplies that were offered, many of their pets were surviving on meager scraps. Along with 1,000 sandwiches he and his volunteers packed for the next community, he also stowed 150 kilos of kibble bagged in 1.5-kilo packs for the many hungry pets.

In spite of all the commotion, most of the captains and crews were back out on the water and the fish were biting. A huge tuna and good-sized billfish were released along with plenty of smaller yellowfin, and of course, dorado were found gathering beneath all of the brush and debris dumped out of the arroyos during the torrential rains. Meanwhile, the off-color water has dissipated as Baja Sur continues to shake off the effects of “Lidia.” And from all reports, the fishing is back to what it was before the sneaky storm showed up.

ALONG WITH 1,000 sandwiches he and his volunteers packed for the next community, he also stowed 150 kilos of kibble bagged in 1.5-kilo packs for the many hungry pets.

If you are planning a Baja fishing trip and you plan to drive, do your homework before departing … in either direction! Mex 1 is reported as passable; however, at this time of year expect a rain event almost weekly (we will continue to update in reports).

Plan to sharply reduce travel speed from summer travel because of road conditions and standing water.

Pack a little extra food and water in case you are delayed due to weather.

Do not continue to "forge on' when retreat is perhaps the better option. And while on the road much of it will be without cell service so you will be pretty much on your own.

For those of you who want to help the communities financially, there are several great organizations you can Google and find. Here are a couple that we have verified, and are excellent organizations to assist:

“Hope for Los Cabos”: a US 501 © 3 that is headed by Dave and Jennifer Limpert Theyare great people, and will put your dollars to work very efficiently! They are shopping every day right now to obtain and distribute food, clothing, toiletries, diapers, formula, shoes and more. Please go to www.HopeForLosCabos.com to contact them and to donate right on-line. They’ve been helping Cabo for years and have excellent programs in place in addition to this storm relief.

Cabo San Lucas Fire Department a.k.a. “CSL Bomberos”: They have been and are still going above and beyond the call of duty since the first moments of Lidia and have directly saved countless lives and properties! They have already set up a community’s aid fund and are arranging humanitarian services in many areas, some of which only they have the unique equipment and capabilities to get to.

Coordinator: Ana Lilia Michel
Cell: +521-624-157-2823
Landline Tel: +52-624-173-2230
Email: patronato_bomberoscsl@hotmail.com
US DOLLAR Account is at Banamex.
Branch 7000
ACCOUNT: 9211711
ABA: 002041700092117116

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