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The Cannon Chair



By Gene Kira, Oct. 8, 2001, as published in Western Outdoor News:

Way back in 1953, I seriously doubt that Burt Twilegar and Ray Cannon could have had any real idea of what they were starting when Burt and Earl Hardage published the first issue of Western Outdoor News, and Ray wrote the first of what was to become an amazing, unbroken string of over 1,200 of these Baja sportfishing columns.

By the time Ray died in 1977, Western Outdoor News had recorded and, in many ways, helped to foster Baja California's post-World War II economic development from a land of ox carts and dugout canoes to a fledgling sport fishing destination, with remote resorts supported by private planes and early airlines that got their start flying war surplus DC-3s.

In 1977, this column was taken over by Tom Miller, just as Baja was undergoing another evolutionary change triggered by the completion four years earlier of the 1,000-mile Transpeninsular Highway. The winding ribbon of pavement called "Mex 1" brought hordes of tourists from the U.S. border, and a whole new generation of anglers, retirees, naturalists, surfers, kayakers, divers, and trailer boaters discovered an appreciation for Baja based not so much on just fishing, but also on the fantastic natural beauty of the desert and tropic sea that we all love so much.

Fred Hoctor, my buen amigo, became the third occupant of the Cannon Chair in 1986. Very sadly, Fred's tenure at Western Outdoor News ended when he passed away four weeks ago, after suffering a heart attack at his home at Punta Banda. But, during his fifteen-year career as the writer of this column, Fred's unique, inside-out sense of humor, his great intelligence, and his heroic efforts to promote conservation, oversaw yet another sea change in Baja that will be crucially important to the future:

First, the southern state of Baja California Sur became the focus of large-scale tourism, with championship golf courses, multi-story resort hotels, real estate development, and an enormous sport fishing industry of pangas and cruisers, all catering to an international clientele arriving--not by road--but in fleets of modern airliners.

Second, the people of Baja California, native and foreigner alike, began to work seriously toward the preservation of the natural wonder and beauty that is at once a national heritage for Mexico, and a precious treasure that they hold in trust for the rest of the world.

In no small part because of Fred Hoctor's columns in Western Outdoor News, these two new forces became synergistic; the growing economic clout of a prospering travel industry began to provide the financial and political muscle behind a social awareness that the resources of the sea must be preserved for future generations, that in the long run, a fish is much more valuable as a tourist attraction than in a cannery or fertilizer plant.

So far, it's just a beginning, but it's finally happening, right now, and I wish that Fred, and Ray, and Tom could be here to watch their efforts over the last half-century come to fruition. I wish they could be here to watch as this new, modern Baja becomes the savior and protector of the Sea of Cortez over the coming decades.

As the fourth member of a very small and fortunate group of "fishing guys" who have been privileged to sit in the Cannon Chair and write about the beauty of Baja California for Western Outdoor News, I look forward to carrying on the tradition of this column, as my predecessors have so ably and honorably established it.

Thanks, Ray. Thanks, Tom. Thanks, Fred. I'm on it.

(Related Baja California, Mexico, articles and reports may be found at's main Baja California information page. See weekly fishing news, photos, and reports from the major sportfishing vacation areas of Mexico including the Baja California area in "Mexico Fishing News.")