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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

Returning to my roots
Before I begin my account of my recent trip to Loreto, I would like to comment on a very sad happening some 450 miles away. I join with others in expressing my outrage at the tragic news of the recent homicides in Bahia de Los Angeles. Hopefully, the perpetrators of this horrible crime will be apprehended quickly, and peace and calm can be restored to this community. My sympathy goes out to the families of both Jo Anne Butler and Ray Ball.

At the end of May, I was invited to tag along with the Sportfishing Association of California (SAC) team, Ken Franke, Edwin Reyes, Pete Gray, and Rick Cutler, along with Celia Conditt and Captain Art Taylor of Searcher Sportfishing.


themostfashion
THE MOST FASHIONABLE is the La Mision, a 70-room hotel located on the Malecón offering extraordinary views of the glistening Sea of Cortez, located just a few short blocks from the launch ramp and Marina.


The entire team was headed down to Loreto to take part in the 6th Gastronomic Festival of the Almeja Chocolata, which would include a live broadcast of Pete Gray’s “Let’s Talk Hookup” on Saturday morning following the Yellowtail Tournament flare gun start at dawn.


As most of you know, Loreto was where my Baja journey first began decades ago, and this was an opportunity for me to return to my roots. On this trip, we used the Cross-Border Xpress as our port of entry, and less than 45-minutes from our arrival at the border we were at the Aero Calafia gate awaiting our flight.


I have visited Loreto countless times. What seemed like a small village on my first visit, has by comparison to other cities in Baja Sur retained that small-town atmosphere despite the many changes over the years.


Ed Tabor is long gone, as is his Flying Sportsmen Lodge where I stayed on my first visit. However, some colorful hotels now line the Malecón. The most fashionable is the La Mision, a 70-room hotel located on the Malecón offering extraordinary views of the glistening Sea of Cortez, located just a few short blocks from the launch ramp and Marina.


Before dinner our first evening, we had a meeting with the members of the event committee, along with business owners and visiting government officials, to determine the subjects that they would cover during the radio program.


We were later joined for dinner by representatives of SEPEDA and CONAPESCA. The hotel chef outdid himself with an impressive array of local seafood dishes. The team and visitors bantered over who would catch the largest fish on Friday with the winning angler/team earning a dinner at the expense of the loser.


On the morning of the tournament, light wind and nearly flat seas greeted the teams as they topped off the bait tanks with live bait and headed north to San Bruno where a handful of boats were already fighting fish.


The morning passed quickly. Only a handful of yellowtail were caught with Celia Conditt and Art Taylor each scoring one. Ken Franke and Pete Gray failed to match them which provided Art and Celia with bragging rights all weekend, plus a free dinner. Then it was back to the hotel for lunch before part of the team headed for a guided tour with VIVE Loreto, Rafael Villegas, and Maria to Mission San Javier, one of the oldest and best preserved of all the Jesuit missions in Mexico and the U.S., located only 32 km outside of Loreto on a paved road through the foothills.


bytheend
BY THE END of the day, the largest fish of the tournament was a 28.2-pound mossback belonging to Team Harker.


Later that evening after strolling through the quiet street in front of the Mission in town, we had dinner at the popular Mi Loreto, a family restaurant known for its truly authentic traditional Mexican foods, only steps from the Mission de Nuestra Señora de Loreto Conchó.


The following morning began before dawn on the jetty surrounding the Marina as local anglers and government officials gathered to signal the start of the fishing tournament. The flare streaked over the Bay, and 22 teams raced toward their favorite spot in search of the largest yellowtail.


The two-hour live radio show, “Let’s Talk Hookup” was broadcast from the 4th floor of the La Mision Hotel overlooking the Sea of Cortez. Throughout the show, a steady stream of government officials, locals representing hotels, sportfishing, diving and other companies involved in tourism popped in. Pete and his guests fielded callers’ questions about what Loreto had to offer its visitors during their stay.


From 12 noon until 3 p.m. there was a parade of boats returning to weigh their catches. Over thirty yellowtail were caught, but only sixteen fish were weighed as the largest fish only scored. By the end of the day, the largest fish of the tournament was a 28.2-pound mossback belonging to Team Harker.


The centerpiece of the weekend was the 6th Annual Gastronomic Festival of the Almeja Chocolata which also included the award ceremony for the fishing tournament. The Gastronomic Festival attracted hundreds of tourists and locals alike who gathered to taste the traditional Loreto cuisine.


“The cuisine of Baja California Sur is recognized worldwide for the authenticity and deliciousness of its dishes, making it an important tourist attraction,” Secretary of Tourism, Economy and Sustainability (SETUES), Luis Humberto Araiza López, declared.


The secretary emphasized that this traditional festival internationally projected the vast and rich variety of Loreto cuisine, which in addition to its natural beauty and historical richness, attracts hundreds of people from different countries each year to taste the dozens of dishes made from local clams, fish, and seafood.


Following dinner, the cash awards, along with invitations to compete in the great Final SEPESCA 2018 series to be held August 10-11 at Loreto, were distributed to the winning teams.


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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.


Baja Tournament Time
Tournament time can mean different things to different folks. Although the big money/big fish events often dominate the news – where millions of dollars are at stake and huge billfish won’t even qualify unless they’re over 300 pounds – there are numerous local and regional tournaments throughout Baja and Mexico with fewer participants and even smaller cash amounts, or even just trophies, that are very popular.

WON hosts the Los Cabos Tuna Jackpot in November, where the top yellowfin often exceeds 200 pounds, earning the winning teams hundreds of thousands in cash prizes.


“Mexico has amazing sportfishing resources offering more than 200 sportfishing tournaments a year in some 250 sportfishing destinations throughout the country,” disclosed Mario GilbertoAguilar, National Commissioner of Aquaculture and Fisheries.


Both Baja Norte and Baja Sur have their own state-sponsored series that many locals and visiting anglers find challenging … as well as just plain fun.


The “Pesca La Baja” series, in its fifth year, began May 18-19 with its first event in San Luis Gonzaga. Despite its remote location, more than 180 anglers and over 40 boats were registered – the largest number in the event’s history, organized by the Association of Sports Fishing Clubs in Baja California. Many traveled some distance to participate.


After an early flare gun start, boats headed in different directions on the calm Sea of Cortez. The catch for the day included gulf grouper, yellowtail and cabrilla, enough to fill all but one of the categories. The largest qualifying fish was a gulf grouper weighing 26 pounds.


Pesca La Baja’s next scheduled event is in San Felipe, June 22-23, followed by San Quintin on July 20-21, with Ensenada completing the circuit Aug. 24-25.


The Gran Final takes place at Bahia de Los Angeles on Sept. 28-29.


http://www.pescalabaja.com/


It is expected there will be a large turnout of locals again this year with residents of the hosting community enjoying home field advantage. However, they always welcome the competition of visitors from the other areas.


All the venues are within one day’s driving distance from the border, which allows anglers visiting from California reasonable access to the hosting areas.


Farther south in Baja Sur, the Serial Dos Mares Baja Tournaments are the catalysts that encourage sportfishing at a grass roots level by hosting a series of local Baja Sur tournaments in five municipalities annually: Cabo San Lucas, San Jose del Cabo, La Paz, Loreto, El Cardonal, Buena Vista, Punta Chivato, Bahia Ascension, Punta Abreojos, Todos Santos, as well as other locations.


Baja Sur Tournament Series are community affairs. They involve most of the local and state government officials as well as resident anglers and their families. Visiting anglers who choose to participate are welcome as well. Entry fees are small; visitors and locals are encouraged to fish in these government-sponsored events, which seem more like fiestas than tournaments. These take place throughout the entire year.


My next stop will be Loreto, where I will be joining the SAC team for a meeting with the state government officials, representatives from the tourism and sportfishing industries and local business owners on June 1.


Later in the afternoon, anglers will register for the fourth Annual Torneo Gastronómico for one of the Serial Dos Mares Baja Tournaments.


It’s a 6 a.m. (local time) flare-gun start on June 2. At 7 a.m. (California time), the Let’s Talk HookUp Radio 1090 with Pete Gray kicks off with the SAC team, Loreto officials, tourist representatives, sportfishing industries , business owners and call-ins eager to talk about Loreto and what it has to offer. If you have a question, please call in during the show.


Tournament weigh-in will begin at 2 p.m., followed by the award ceremony, to be held during the culinary Festival de la Almeja Chocolata.


There are several more qualifying tournaments scheduled in June preceding the GRAN FINAL held in Loreto. For more information about the remaining events:


*Torneo de Pesca Blue Anchor 2018 - Loreto. June 15, 6 a.m. - June 16, 6 p.m.

*Torneo Bulls Only 2018 - Punta Chivato. June 22, 6 a.m. - June 24, 6 p.m.


For more information, visit – http://www.serialsepada.com/calendar/


afteranearly
AFTER AN EARLY flare gun start, boats headed in different directions on the calm Sea of Cortez.


farthersouthin
FARTHER SOUTH IN Baja Sur, the Serial Dos Mares Baja Tournaments are the catalysts that encourage sportfishing at a grass roots level by hosting a series of local Baja Sur tournaments in five municipalities annually.


thepescalabaja
THE "PESCA LA BAJA" series, in its fifth year, began May 18-19 with its first event in San Luis Gonzaga.


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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.



Tools for Baja Travelers
Mex 1 opened in 1973 … a narrow two-lane paved road with no shoulders extending 1,063 miles from Tijuana to Cabo San Lucas, offering many challenges to the bold tourists eager to explore Baja.

Over its 45-year history, its challenges have become legend – lack of services along the road, gasoline shortages, lack of mechanics, lack of communication with the outside world, flooding in arroyos and vados when it rained, delays that could be measured from hours or even stretching into days.


Constantly evolving, some of the problems were slowly solved while others disappeared and reappeared. News concerning the road conditions was difficult to come by.


Those in-the-know reached out to two travel clubs for information prior to traveling down the peninsula. Those two active clubs still provide a wealth of information about Baja, including the highways themselves.


Vagabundos del Mar Boat & Travel Club was founded more than 50 years ago when a group of trailer boaters “buddied up” to go on a cruise on the Sea of Cortez. Over the years, those without boats began caravanning in their vehicles. The club has evolved into a non-profit organization boasting thousands of members and offering up-to-date information along with low-cost insurance, adventure tours, discounts, books, clothing and much more.


Discover Baja, a family-owned and operated club,was founded by Hugh and Carol Kramer 27 years ago. “Our aim through Discover Baja,” Hugh observed in an early newsletter, “is to enhance your understanding of this fascinating and ever-changing peninsula, Baja California. We provide the most current travel information in order that you can enjoy the best that Baja has to offer as you explore its awesome sights.”


Over the years, the scope of services, information and products has grown tremendously. Carol and Hugh, along with their daughter Jennifer Kramer and the Discover Baja staff, provide low-cost insurance, books, tours, and clothing and are available to answer questions and to assist Baja visitors to ensure their travels to Baja are safe and enjoyable.


Other sources of information are social media sites which are always active: Twitter, Instagram and Facebook have many individuals and groups featuring both Baja fishing and travel updates. “Talk Baja” and “On the Road in Mexico” are full of valuable information.


Recently, several apps for your IOS or Android smart phones have surfaced:


Discover Baja Trip Bucket brings you an interactive guide to Baja and all it has to offer. This app includes a broad range of features including visiting major cities such as Cabo San Lucas and Tijuana, kayaking in the Sea of Cortez, and swimming with whale sharks off La Paz; it even informs you when to watch the Baja 1000.


It provides a fun and easy way to Plan, Do and Share those "Must-Do" experiences while you are on the peninsula with its descriptions, maps, local weather, relevant articles, Tips and Things to Do.


Cabo Map is a must if you spend a couple of days or more this season in the Cabo area; this Cabo Map app will assist you during your stay. It’s available for both IOS and Android operating systems. Currently it is free. Take a look.


Let’s Talk Hookup If you already listen to the show, download this app – it’s a no-brainer for every angler. If you’ve never listened to this radio show and have a passion for fishing, or are curious about what is going on here in So-Cal and Baja, you will find this app a must.


Google Translate allows audio translation of many different languages including English and Spanish in both directions.


Google maps are great for direction while driving or even walking in Baja.


Savvy travelers, and those interested in sportfishing, use all of the above as tools to keep up with the latest road conditions, as well as important information about the routes available from Calexico, Tecate or Tijuana and any other routes available now.


The apps mentioned also provide easy access to anglers for the latest fishing information on both the Pacific and Sea of Cortez side of the Baja Peninsula to problems encountered in the area, as well as species being taken and bait, lures or flies that are successful.


However, the list just scratches the surface. There are weather and navigations apps with local charts and apps that allow the user to access a remarkable array of information about Baja.


Another reason not to leave home without your smartphone.


savvytravelers
SAVVY TRAVELERS AND those interested in sportfishing use all the above to keep up with road conditions, as well as the latest regarding all the latest routes available From Calexico, Tecate or Tijuana.

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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.




Blowing in the Wind
Winter is slinking out the back door while April fades away on the Sea of Cortez – hopefully leaving only a few more days of North Winds to frustrate Baja anglers from San Felipe to Cabo.

At this point, predicting the upcoming season is mostly a “guesstimate.” Most of the reports are filled with grumpy observations filled with many four-letter words, most often “WIND” among others, but seldom do they include “BITE.”


Despite the North Wind grumbling, there have been some encouraging tidbits filtering through from both sides of the peninsula that should be noted.


beforescreamintat
BEFORE SCREAMING AT seagulls flying overhead, “I just caught the largest yellowtail of my life!”


Savvy locals and visitors to Bahia de Los Angeles and Gonzaga Bay have been scoring on some remarkable, early-season grouper and cabrilla action as well as a few yellowtail.


Captain Juan Cook spent the larger part of his winter at Gonzaga Bay since conditions inshore at San Quintin have been sketchy, to say the least. His results seem even better at BOLA, and as late as this week he reported that clients have landed trophy-sized grouper and cabrilla along with yellowtail and corvina.


More good noise out of Loreto as local Rick Hill reports that the Sargasso has started to move in and he is predicting dorado soon … maybe “hoping” is a better choice of words than “predicting.”


However, there is a nice grade of yellowtail in Loreto right now. There is a ton of bait in the area – sardina are everywhere – so the fish are fat, but a little finicky. Although it has been windy, according to Chris Wheaton, IGFA Representative and avid angler, it should be beautiful now.


Speaking of sardina, after several years of being among the missing, Loreto is one of the areas where they have suddenly reappeared. Jonathan Roldan’s fleets in both La Paz and Las Arenas have them, however, at Las Arenas they are at Isla Cerralvo and if the wind is up, the bait guys have difficulty getting to them.


John Ireland, Rancho Leonero, commented on Pete Gray’s “Let’s Talk Hookup” show last week that sardina were available at East Cape as they are farther down at Puerto Las Cabo and Cabo San Lucas.


On the Pacific side, the bluefin tuna are strung out from the border to Cedros according to the long-range sportfishers and yachts traveling up and down the coast with a few over 200 pounds landed. This answers the ongoing debate about a third back-to-back bluefin year. Guess that box is officially ticked.


Weather remains a factor a long the Pacific and prevents serious fishing from the Coronado Islands down to Todos Santos Bay and San Quintin.


And as to Ross Zoerof’s discovery of a Pacific Sunfish (Mola Mola) at Bahia Ascension last week while fishing close to shore in his skiff, “It was the first one I’ve ever seen here,” he mused.


Then, only a few days later, one of the local pangueros brought in a huge opah he found floating in the cold, green water.


At Magdalena Bay, the whales have split for points north, another sure sign that winter is behind us; by all accounts the spring season is underway.


Underscoring the 2018 Baja winter was the 50-pound yellowtail caught by Andrew Deems while fishing on his Malibu Ocean Kayak out of the El Pescador cove near Puerto Nuevo, brought to my attention by his girlfriend Megan, who said, “I am so proud of my man!”


Andy reported, “It was quite an amazing feat and feast! Her parents were visiting and I thought it would be nice to catch something for dinner. I headed out into a strong headwind to catch some yellowtail armed with nothing but a couple of jigs and my Sabiki rig to catch bait.


“There was plenty of bait in the water, but nothing seemed to bite, when all of a sudden, the bait disappeared; I had a hunch something was chasing them.


Grabbing my rod, I cast, and it was on. The first run of the yellowtail I realized my drag was too tight and if I hadn’t been on a kayak, it would have broken off; instead, I was towed out into deep water.


“The ensuing tug of war took at least half an hour before I muscled this giant creature to the boat and realized it was much larger than what I had gone after! I gaffed the huge fish and thanked it before screaming at seagulls flying overhead, ‘I just caught the largest yellowtail of my life!’


“With the wind at my back helping me paddle to shore, and the added adrenaline, the return ride seemed effortless.


“Hauling my kayak, fishing gear and a giant yellowtail up to El Pescador, a stone’s throw from Puerto Nuevo, our neighbor Lisa, running to help me screamed, ‘Holy Crap!’


“I was able to have not only Megan’s parents, but all the neighbors from the block over for a yellowtail feast. Plus, there’s still a freezer full of fish. It’s nice to be able to eat like that from fishing off my kayak in my front yard. The ocean will share its bounty when you respect it and work hard.”


Once again, the Baja winter has disappointed many, challenged others and rewarded a few. But there have been enough clues Blowin’ in the Wind to increase expectations for an awesome 2018 Baja Spring season … just around the corner.


* * *

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 weekly 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.


In the Blink of an Eye
Easter week 1969, with my 9-year-old son Greg, I made my first trip into Baja … Loreto to be exact. It was quite an adventure for us with many moving parts. When I planned the trip, we were scheduled to depart from Tijuana on a DC-3 that Loreto’s Ed Tabor, founder of “Flying Sportsmen Lodge,” piloted.

I soon learned traveling in Baja in those early days required flexibility, often demanding last-minute adjustments to schedules. This time our trip began with a cranky motor that refused to start.


afteralong
AFTER A LONG, hot ride with all the windows open (no air conditioning), we pulled into the Flying Sportsmen Lodge, poised on the beachfront with a long pier extending into the sparkling Sea of Cortez. In the blink of an eye, my son and I became Baja aficionados for life … not quite understanding exactly what that really meant.


With Greg and our luggage in tow, I went to the ticket counter of an airline where we were able to catch a flight to La Paz later that same day. Since our destination was Loreto, this required we spend the night in Hotel La Perla on the malecón overlooking La Paz Bay. Next morning, we hired a cab to drive us to Loreto.


After a long, hot ride with all the windows open (no air conditioning), we pulled into the Flying Sportsmen Lodge, poised on the beachfront with a long pier extending into the sparkling Sea of Cortez. In the blink of an eye, my son and I became Baja aficionados for life … not quite understanding exactly what that really meant. At that moment, it meant we were charmed by all we saw.


The fishing exceeded all expectations I had derived from WON’s Ray Cannon columns as well as his book, “Sea of Cortez.” Loreto’s dorado dazzled both of us and we returned frequently each summer.


Soon, Greg’s younger brother Geoff was coming along on the trips, and after Mex One opened in 1973, I wasn’t waiting for summer vacation. I began exploring Baja from border to Lands End, frequently with friends and family in a van and I added a 19-foot Bayliner to explore the waters.


We discovered a remote beach named Nopolo Cove a few miles south of Loreto. It was the perfect set-up for us, and the sleepy village of Loreto became a frequent destination.


By the mid-’70s, Yvonne and her family, Teri, Julie and Michael and mine merged. In another “blink of an eye” there were seven of us enjoying many of the hidden treasured spots Baja had to offer.


Our “blink of an eye” moments continued. The little 17-foot boat led to larger boats; our vans and beach camping let to “Rancho Deluxe,” our home on an East Cape beach, which lasted 18 years; then, that home was followed by the self-contained “Roadtrek” van.


Somewhere in the midst of those moments, Greg, Geoff and I made a return trip and paused at Puerto Escondido for a rest stop. Both boys pulled a couple of rods out of the van and soon were happily catching small cabrilla and grouper.


thefisingexceeded
THE FISHING EXCEEDED all expectations I had derived from WON’s Ray Cannon columns as well as his book, “Sea of Cortez.” Loreto’s dorado dazzled both of us and we returned frequently each summer


A local resident stood beside me watching them, volunteering that there was a marina being planned for the small, shallow bay. Frankly, stories like that were common and the likelihood of that becoming a reality seemed remote, and, like many other rumors, I dismissed it.


Yet, slowly, very slowly, with a few fits and starts, the marina did begin to take shape. Our remote Nopolo Cove, where we had camped with not another soul in site for many years, became a golf course, and in the past few years Puerto Escondido Marina with fits and starts and a couple of owners later, is now a reality.


It seems as though I’ve been back in Loreto more frequently the past several years. In a “Roadtrekker” Column titled, “ Mex 1 road trip conquered with common sense, coupled with modern technology,” I briefly mentioned touring Marina Puerto Escondido with Gregory Nash Rhew, manager of the Puerto Escondido Marine facility.


http://www.wonews.com/Blog.aspx?id=4062&AuthorID=0&t=Mex-1-road-trip-conquered-with-common-se


But the local fishing came of age “in a blink of an eye” moments earlier this year when three giant yellowfin tuna weighing 424.6, 319, and 212.5 pounds were caught over a three-day period early January off Loreto.


This underscored the impact that the new Marina Puerto Escondido is having on local sportfishing, drawing larger sportfishers capable of fishing farther offshore than the smaller pangas and sportfishers in the past. No longer is Loreto as dependent on only the traditional dorado and yellowtail fishery.


According to the website of Jay Yadon, owner of Outpost Charters in Loreto, he offers a 40-foot Luhrs Express model boat, powered by two 430 HP Caterpillar engines, which can take up to 10 guests, a fact the other boats cannot match. I’m almost certain that it won’t be long before additional larger boats join that one in the newly-completed Puerto Escondido Marina facility.


Rhew recently agreed. “Those yellowfin tuna catches, along with the new marina facility have certainly drawn a lot of interest in Loreto.”


In the “blink of an eye,” the little village of Loreto that had trouble getting an airline to fly in regularly grew, and like Cabo and some of the other villages that have become cities, Loreto is on its way.


No, you say, and you dismiss it as another rumor…


* * *

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 weekly 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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