By Gene Kira, Dec. 27, 2001, as published in Western Outdoor News:
The year 2001 was one of high drama and some sadness for Baja California sportfishing aficionados, and some good news as well, as the Mexican federal government took several strong and positive steps toward furthering the cause of conservation in the sea surrounding the peninsula.
In early 2001, a proposal to increase longlining within the critical striped marlin core zone off southern Baja was defeated in Mexico City, as the result of lobbying by the Mexican Billfish Foundation and strong support generated in the U.S. by articles written by WON Baja editor, Fred Hoctor. This resounding victory was followed in the closing days of 2001 by a high-level conference held in Manzanillo where proposals were defeated that would have allowed the commercial fishing of dorado, billfish, roosterfish, and tarpon.
In July, we mourned the passing of longtime Baja editor, Hoctor, who died after suffering a heart attack at his home at Punta Banda. Hoctor had covered Baja for Western Outdoor News for 15 years, and was widely known for his wit, his humor, his humanity, his courageous advocacy of conservation issues, and his classic Baja book, Baja Haha. At a memorial gathering attended by about 200 people at Punta Banda, his ashes were scattered on the Pacific ocean by his wife, Sylvia, from a panga belonging to his old friend, Ivan Villarino.
On September 11, the terrorist attacks briefly made Baja fishing areas unreachable by air for the first time in memory, and the Baja tourist industry entered a period of duress that continues to the present.
Less than three weeks later, a second hammer blow hit Baja in the form of powerful Hurricane Juliette, that severed communications and roads, and tore out infrastructure from Cabo San Lucas northwards to Mulege. Overnight, the federal and state governments launched an emergency program to care for the local population and rebuild infrastructure in time for the rapidly approaching big-tournament season at Los Cabos.
Due to the double blows of September 11 and Hurricane Juliette, many Baja sportfishing areas suffered drastic drops in tourist business, and some hotels went completely empty for days at a time. Nevertheless, the large Los Cabos tournaments were held on schedule in late October and early November, just as emergency repairs were bringing services back on line. Participation was less than in previous years for all but the WON Los Cabos Tuna Jackpot, which registered an increase in entrants, despite the generally slow conditions.
At year's end, another victory for conservation was anticipated at a federal conference scheduled for Cabo San Lucas in late January, and the Los Cabos corridor was also looking forward to the enormous Pacific Rim conference scheduled to fill 4,000 rooms in October. But overall, the mood in Baja was one of general relief that the long autumn of 2001 was finally drawing to a close, and of hopes that 2002 would be a better year.
Week-by-week, from the pages of Western Outdoor News, here is Baja's year 2001 in review:
Jan. 5: Mexico City lawmakers approved measures in December to give increased protection to sport fishing species and for the monitoring by a corps of neutral observers of longliners and drift netters, as well as the commercial panga fleets. The new measures, which have yet to be effectively enforced, were the result of lobbying by the Mexican Billfish Foundation. They called for the total banning of longlining within 50 miles of the Mexican coast, plus the banning of commercial fishing for all marlin species, sailfish, shortbilled spearfish, swordfish, dorado, roosterfish, and tarpon.
Jan. 12: Mike Bales of the Vagabundos del Mar led a group of trailer boaters 800 miles south of the border for an outstanding fishing trip out of San Carlos on Magdalena Bay. Bales' 12 anglers fished the Thetis Bank area for essentially unlimited catches of marlin, tuna, dorado, and wahoo. The Vagabundo boats anchored at Bahia Santa Maria, or stayed at the Mag Bay Tours camp on Punta Hughes.
Jan. 19: In Cabo San Lucas, Western Outdoor News presented framed certificates of appreciation to Mexican Secretary of Tourism Leticia Navarro, and Baja California Sur Governor Lionel Cota Montano, for the government's recent work in passing landmark fisheries protection legislation. Awards were also presented for Mexican President Vicente Fox Quesada, and to key members of the Mexican Billfish Foundation, including a special presentation to Luis Bulnes Molleda, owner of the Hotel Solmar.
Jan. 26: Yellowfin tuna made a good showing off the Gordo Banks, and Gary Graham of Baja On The Fly reported on several successful new techniques for catching snook at Magdalena Bay, including the use of a side-view sonar until in the winding mangrove channels. Western Outdoor News made the first announcement of the 2001 Los Cabos Tuna Jackpot Tournament, which was scheduled for November 7-10.
Feb. 2: The Excel with Capt. Pat Cavanaugh checked in with a 17-day trip to Clarion Island that scored on 22 yellowfin tuna over 200 pounds, including two fish over 300 pounds. Capt. Randy Toussaint of the Royal Star noted that four San Diego long range boats fishing in the hot January bite at Clarion Island took a total of 50 yellowfin tuna over 200 pounds.
Feb. 9: A standing room only crowd filled the room for the fifth annual Burch Ford Baja Seminar in La Habra, featuring instructors Paul Lepore and Kit McNear. Hands-on Baja fishing information was presented to a crowd of over 160 anglers, and dealership owner Marty Burch donated free rib dinners for all. Over $2,000 in prizes was also awarded from Ande, Burch Ford, Cannon, Costa del Mar, Eagle Claw, Furuno, Kalin, Penn, Sevenstrand, and Yamaha outboards. Meanwhile, Cabo San Lucas turned on with a raging yellowfin tuna bite, and a surprising, off-season 432-pound blue marlin landed by Pisces Fleet.
Feb. 16: In another attempt to implement a concept that has been around since the 1950s, the Mexican government announced plans for the Escalera Nautica (Nautical Stairway) project that would construct a series of marinas along the coast of Baja California and mainland Mexico. By year's end, little progress would be evident in Baja, aside from about $100,000 worth of road signs announcing the project, and a short stretch of pavement leading from Mex 1 to the Pacific village of Santa Rosalillita. In La Paz, there were a flurry of protests over a dolphin encounter enclosure built next to La Concha Beach Resort.
Feb. 23: Winter winds made conditions tough all around southern Baja, and fish counts fell along with the water temperatures, off Cabo San Lucas, San Jose del Cabo, East Cape, La Paz, and Loreto. Farther south, the San Diego long range fleet was waiting for action to pick up off Roca Partida and Clarion Island. In Southern California, Baja anglers were anticipating the largest Fred Hall Show ever, scheduled for Long Beach, March 7-11.
March 2: Western Outdoor News published its biggest edition ever for the 55th annual Fred Hall Fishing and Boat Show in Long Beach, March 7-11. Bluewater Tours' John Mestrin announced plans for a unique panga camping trip to San Nicolas Bay north of Loreto. With pangas from Arturo's Sportfishing of Loreto, anglers were to be transported 30 miles north by van, then take a short panga ride to the very remote cove of Saquicismunde for superb winter yellowtail action. This successful innovation was to be repeated in 2002.
March 9: Rain and cold weather knocked billfish counts down at Cabo San Lucas, as boaters mulled the announcement the previous week that the marina would be selling 10-year leases on slip space. Sportfishing fleets concentrated on scarce miscellaneous species, with billfish being landed by about one boat out of four. At La Playita, panga fleets were staying close to shore in miserable conditions and scratching up a mixed catch of dorado, tuna, and inshore species.
March 16: Water temperatures off the tip of Baja were hovering near their seasonal lows, about 64-68 degrees, and fishing was slow, for all species, except for a flurry of unusually large sierra between San Jose del Cabo and East Cape. This was a precursor of what was to be a very good year for sierra in this area. By fall, East Cape would be enjoying a month-long run of some of the biggest specimens seen in several years. In northern Baja, angler Mike Palmer reported on a remote early-spring trip for resident reef fish to the Islas Encantadas and around Gonzaga Bay,
March 23: WON editorial director Pat McDonell checked in from an 8-day fishing trip aboard the International Star where he reported on a good wahoo bite at Roca Partida, but most of the San Diego long range fleet was finding spotty action at the Revillagigedos. Only a few yellowfin tuna, and none of trophy size, were being taken. Off Cabo San Lucas, fleet boats were still suffering from a spate of slow fishing for marlin, with only about one boat in five landing a billfish.
March 30: Totuava poaching reached a frenzied pitch in the area between Puertecitos and the northern end of the Sea of Cortez, as the endangered and federally-protected fish approached the estuary of the Colorado River for their spring spawn. Baja residents between Puertecitos and San Felipe reported nets strung out along the Islas Encantada, and the beaches around Black Mountain. Fish to 50 pounds were being killed for market. Near Loreto, Ty Miller of El Fuerte Sportfishing reported explosive spring yellowtail action around Isla Catalan.
April 6: Cabo San Lucas surf fishing guru Jeff Klassen announced his unique Surf 'n' Roosterfish Klassic fishing tournament for July. The new formula combined a day-and-a-half of panga fishing with a day-and-a-half of surf fishing. With local fishing around Cabo still struggling, the Royal Polaris checked in with the season's sixth 300-pound plus yellowfin tuna from Clarion Island. Western Outdoor News announced plans for the annual WON/Yamaha Ensenada Rodeo, planned for June 22-24 at the Hotel Marina Coral.
April 13: Striped marlin fishing at Cabo San Lucas hit an amazing low, when only a single billfish was caught by all fleets combined. The honors went to Pisces Fleet angler Jeff Goodwin of Stockton, who caught the top fish for the week 30 miles off San Jose del Cabo. Water temperatures were still very cool, in the 64-66 degree range.
April 20: Angler Danny Liming of Claremont reported to Pat McDonell on a rare panga mothership trip to Isla Socorro, including a mix of inshore action and heavy panga fishing for yellowfin tuna on 50 to 80-pound tackle. McDonell also reported on the catching of a trophy 306-pound yellowfin on April 6, 27 miles east of Cabo San Lucas, aboard the charter yacht, Yahoo.
April 27: Fred Hoctor's Baja Beat column described a citizen's meeting in Bahia de los Angeles that displayed a lack of confidence in recent proposals for a marina and marine park in the bay, similar to Loreto's. Hoctor portrayed local residents as liking the idea of a marine park, but wanting to continue the traditional commercial fishing that has reduced Bahia de los Angeles from a gold mine to a sport fishing backwater.
May 4: Western Outdoor News published its annual Baja fishing supplement, with 32 pages of information and tips on fishing and travel destinations. On May 7, Burch Ford of La Habra hosted another Baja information seminar, free dinner, drawing, and school, hosted by Marty Burch, and featuring Kit McNear, Jim Scarlatta, and Paul Lepore. At Cabo San Lucas, striped marlin action was on an upswing, as water temperatures reached nearly ten degrees warmer than their 64-degree lows in March and early April.
May 11: A solo early-season albacore was caught 8 miles of Cabo Colnett aboard the Pegasus. The Qualifier was returning to San Diego with six yellowfin tuna over 200 pounds and one over 300 pounds. And Steve Ichinokuchi caught a 322-pounder aboard the Royal Star, the eighth 300-pound plus fish for the season. At Cabo San Lucas, the first blue marlin of the season, a 410-pounder, was caught by an angler from Japan, Mr. Fujimoto. Mexico's Fundacion para la Conservacion de Picudos was awarded the U.S. Billfish Foundation's highest honor, the Pacific Group Conservation Award. The award was presented by Winthrop P. Rockefeller to Julio Berdegue in Mazatlan.
May 18: WON's Rich Holland reported on a sport fishing trip aboard the Qualifier 105, as the San Diego long range boat fleet found excellent action on yellowfin tuna and wahoo at Clipperton, Clarion, and Socorro islands. After a long, cold spring, water temperatures were finally climbing all around Baja, and fishing action was improving in most areas. In Ensenada, warming water caused the first big show of the year for yellowtail and white seabass to 30 pounds.
May 25: Fishing action picked up dramatically at East Cape, with a hot bite on dorado developing under floating sargassum weed patches that would last for several months. Water temperatures were nearing 80 degrees off Bahia de las Palmas, and the annual migration of marlin into the Sea of Cortez was well underway. In the Midriff Islands, the San Felipe motherships were finding slow early spring action in 70-degree waters from Bahia de los Angeles south to Isla San Lorenzo.
June 1: Multi-day boats fishing northern Baja waters scored on wide-open bites of 10 to 30-pound albacore, and at Ensenada the first serious flurries of summer yellowtail and albacore were seen, although the albacore were still not biting. In the Sea of Cortez, the spring migration was bringing dorado and even billfish north as far as Loreto, and at Cabo San Lucas, a mysterious, potential world-record, 40-pound snook was reportedly caught by a woman who left it at the dock.
June 8: Albacore made the year's first big showing for San Quintin, with sportfishing boats scoring about 25 miles out on 10 to 20-pound class fish. At Cabo San Lucas, the large, 40-pound snook caught last week was followed by at least 2 others in the same weight class. Hurricane Adolph passed within 450 miles of Cabo San Lucas, creating high surf that kept the La Playita pangas pinned to shore. At Ensenada, a sudden swirl of cool water shut down the bite, and only a few yellowtail were taken.
June 16: Albacore action caught fire off northern Baja as local fishing boats loaded up close to shore and San Diego landings produced 1,000-plus fish counts. Off Ensenada, even six-pack boats were loading up on as many as 48 fish per trip. The fish were averaging 15 to 20 pounds. Cabo San Lucas, meanwhile was recording the lowest June water temperatures in local memory, 67 degrees, but the striped marlin were still making a good showing and hitting on live bait.
June 22: Gary Graham of Baja On The Fly reported on finding a legendary fishing estero on the west shore of Bahia Almeja, after being tipped off by old accounts from WON's Fred Hoctor. This spot, originally discovered by Gaspar Spindola of La Paz, used to hold gigantic snook, and on this trip produced large pargo and grouper for Graham. The third WON/Yamaha Saltwater Rodeo was held at Ensenada's Marina Coral in good conditions, with more than $50,000 in prizes awarded.
June 29: The Baja fishing community was stunned to learn of the sudden passing of Larry Burson, 62, of Jigstop Tours, who died of a heart attack while undergoing tests in a Los Angeles hospital. Burson and his wife, Joan, operated the store for 27 years and organized many charter trips to Baja, including bookings for the Capt. Villegas panga mothership out of San Felipe, and Victor's Pangas at San Jose del Cabo. In La Paz, union problems caused the brief closure of the historic Hotel los Arcos.
July 6: Yellowtail went on a rip at Bahia de los Angeles, with boats reporting 15 to 20 fish per day at Punta Pescador and Smith Island. Fred Hoctor's Baja Beat column reported that some illegal canning was being done at Punta la Gringa, and he also mentioned the fact that one San Felipe panga mothership that had been allowing its American clients to kill totuava had stopped the illegal practice. The fifth annual Punta Chivato Dorado Derby attracted 33 boats and 85 anglers to the remote hotel north of Mulege. The top dorado caught weighed 45 pounds. One boat, the Popeye, released 54 fish.
July 13: Don Eddie's Landing at San Quintin held a successful tournament that filled the joint and overflowed to nearby businesses, as anglers enjoyed the hottest tuna bite of the season. The 36 anglers entered scored on 188 yellowfin tuna, 37 yellowtail, and 94 albacore in two days of fishing. Top fish was a 35.5 pound yellowfin caught by Lou Lopez of Orange County. In Loreto, the dorado season moved into high gear on 30-pound class fish mixed with tailing marlin and sailfish. In the midriff, the San Felipe motherships continued to find slower than normal action in the islands from Gonzaga Bay to Isla San Lorenzo.
July 20: The dorado bite moved into high gear as far north as Mulege, with exceptional action from Punta Concepcion to the north end of Isla San Marcos, and the San Felipe motherships were starting to run into concentrations of dorado in the Midriff Islands as the fish moved steadily north. A tropical storm off the southern end of Baja made launching conditions tough for the pangas at San Jose del Cabo, and at East Cape, the first of a long and steady bite on football yellowfin tuna showed up. The yellowtail bite at Bahia de los Angeles was on the down slide, with scattered fish to 15 pounds still being caught.
July 27: Fred Hoctor, WON Baja columnist for the past 15 years, passed away in Ensenada, on July 24, after suffering a heart attack at his home at Punta Banda. Memorial services and a scattering of ashes were scheduled at the La Jolla Beach Camp, at 1 p.m., on Aug. 12.
Aug. 3: As a testimony to Fred Hoctor, WON this week reprinted his first Baja Beat column, originally published on May 9, 1986. The weekly Baja fishing report was written by interim Baja editor Gene Kira. Hurricane Dalia passed within 300 miles of Cabo San Lucas, bringing high surf that shut down the La Playita panga fleets, as fishing conditions were mixed in most areas, except the northern Pacific coast, where a very good albacore bite continued to build. At East Cape, the 2nd Annual Bisbee's East Cape Tournament was fished in unsettled conditions, with just one blue marlin making the 300-pound minimum qualifying weight.
Aug. 10: Water temperatures around the tip of Baja rose several degrees and blue marlin made their first good showing of the season, with a 700-pound class fish landed by Pedro Morin of Monterey, Mexico. At the opposite end of Baja, albacore were making a strong showing off Ensenada, as many boats checked in with full limits. In the Midriff area, dorado were making their most northerly penetration, in 81-degree water around Bahia de los Angeles in a bite that would only last about 10 days.
Aug. 17: On the warm, cloudy afternoon of Aug. 12, about 200 friends and family members of Fred Hoctor gathered for a memorial service at La Jolla Beach Camp at Punta Banda. Fred's ashes and fishing rod were scattered on the sea off Punta Banda by his wife Sylvia, from the panga of his friend, Ivan Villarino. Later, a reception was held at the park clubhouse, and many, many stories, some funny, others very touching, were told about Fred's long life.
Aug. 24: Western Outdoor News named Gene Kira as its fourth Baja editor in half-a-century of publication. Succeeding Fred Hoctor, who held the post from 1986 to 2001, Kira wrote his first Baja column about the traditions of the "Cannon Chair," established by Ray Cannon in 1953, and also held by Tom Miller from 1977 to 1986. The same issue ran photos of Fred Hoctor's memorial service at Punta Banda, including one of Richard Gillenberg playing the accordion. Gillenberg was the original "Music Man" in Hoctor's classic book, Baja Haha.
Aug. 31: Hot, muggy weather settled over southern Baja, but the fishing finally picked up in the La Paz area after a very slow spring, with a steady bite of 30 to 60-pound yellowfin tuna around the Bajo and the around the south end of Isla Cerralvo. At Loreto's Puerto Escondido, FONATUR finally began charging a launch fee at the ramp, after years of free use. A 24-hour-per-day guard kiosk was opened at the newly fenced launch ramp parking lot. Continuing a trend that began in the spring, another very large snook was caught the previous week at Cabo San Lucas, this one a reported 51-pounder.
Sept. 7: Two very large black marlin were hooked in southern Baja, as air temperatures hovered near 100 degrees and water temperatures reached the mid-80s. At La Paz, a rare 662-pound black marlin (incorrectly reported as a blue) won a tournament for a pair of first-timers from the Midwest, and at Cabo San Lucas, an estimated 800-pound marlin was lost at the boat, after a stand-up fight by Mike Contreas on 130-pound tackle. At Bahia de los Angeles, local residents were mostly against the proposed Escalera Nautical marina project, after listening to a presentation by federal officials.
Sept. 14: Offshore fishing action off northern Baja almost came to the beach as yellowfin tuna and albacore were caught as close as three miles off Punta Banda, and fish counts exploded. Sammy Susarrey of Lily Fleet called it "incredible...with so many fish all over." The near-shore bite extended at least as far south as San Quintin, where boats were loading up on yellowfin, albacore and yellowtail only 8 to 10 miles off the point.
Sept. 21: The September 11th terrorist attacks shut down all U.S. air travel temporarily, and began what was to become one of the worst periods on record for the Baja tourism industry. Many travelers stranded in Baja were given discounts, or even free accommodations, until they could make their way back to a United States still in a state of shock. Coupled with Hurricane Juliette, which would strike in a few weeks, the terrorist attacks brought Baja tourism to a temporary standstill in most areas outside the Los Cabos corridor.
Sept. 28: Tourist traffic plummeted all over Baja, although limited air travel was being reinstated to Loreto, La Paz and Los Cabos. Increased security at the U.S. border, both for ground travel and private aviation, emptied hotels and campgrounds in all northern areas. Vehicular traffic on Mex 1 fell to the lowest levels ever seen. At East Cape, Thomas Pak caught 22 bonefish on the fly in a single morning at the estero near La Ribera. He was guided by Gary Graham of Baja On The Fly.
Oct. 5: In a second hammer blow to Baja sportfishing and tourism, powerful Hurricane Juliette slammed into Cabo San Lucas on Sept. 28, and inundated areas as far north as Mulege with torrential rains that wiped out all communications and cut all major roads. Mexican government crews sprang into action with amazing speed, restoring basic infrastructure within about 10 days. Food and emergency supplies would be flown into stranded areas by helicopter for the next two weeks. The worst damage was at Cabo San Lucas where the ramshackle neighborhood of La Gunia lost hundreds of homes.
Oct. 12: Thousands of clean-up workers swarmed over Cabo San Lucas in a desperate program to restore enough infrastructure for the coming big tournament season only a few weeks ahead. Heavy equipment and crews were brought from northern Baja and mainland Mexico, and they worked around the clock to restore power, communications, bridges, and sewer lines. The big SEMATUR ferry made its first appearance in the Cabo harbor in 15 years, bringing essential supplies such as gasoline and food from the mainland. Helicopters filled the air, taking supplies to outlying areas. Remarkably, only two fatalities and almost no injuries were reported as a result of the hurricane. The was credited to advance notice and prompt evacuation of low-lying areas before the storm struck.
Oct. 19: The anticipated post-hurricane dorado bite took off all around southern Baja as big schools swarmed in to feed around debris and trash lines created by the massive runoff. Limited numbers of tourists were beginning to trickle back into Baja, as fishing operations resumed in most areas. Even at the San Jose del Cabo panga launching beach of La Playita, boats were fishing again. In this area, the entire front beach of the arroyo of San Jose del Cabo had been washed out by Hurricane Juliette, the first time in recent memory that this has happened. In the arroyo itself, the landmark giant banyan tree that shaded the main crossing road was washed away. In Cabo San Lucas, the 70-year old commercial cannery pier was also gone.
Oct. 26: Three major tournaments were held in one week at Cabo San Lucas, just as work crews put the finishing touches on the massive clean-up campaign. A total of over 100 boats competed in the Bisbee's Alumni vs. Champions Challenge, the For Pete's Sake Charity, and the Los Cabos Hotel Association Billfish tournaments. At San Quintin, the landmark Old Mill Restaurant and Bar was closed down amid a flurry of conflicting allegations, and a lawsuit filed by operators Al and Nolo Gaston and their daughter Brenda Hays. In possession of the deserted property was Lee La Rosa of the U.S., and his partners, Sergio Guzman, a former Old Mill employee, and Jaime Ferre Nunez, formerly an associate of the Gastons.
Nov. 2: A total of $1,666,070 in prize money was awarded in Cabo San Lucas' Bisbee's Black & Blue Marlin Jackpot Tournament, with the Stimulator, a 46-foot Bertram owned and skippered by Jay Bush taking home $684,265 winnings for a 518-pound black marlin. Lethal Weapon came in second with $395,190, and in third place was Blackjack with $260,238. Off Magdalena Bay, early signs of the Thetis Bank fall fish pile-up were not promising, as boats reported spotty action for everything except yellowfin tuna up and down the Ridge.
Nov. 9: The flora and insect fauna of Baja exploded to life in the wake of Hurricane Juliette, with 20-foot tall cardon cactuses being covered by new shrubs and small trees. All over Baja, bobos, jejenes, zancudos, and plain old mosquitoes were very thick, especially around Bahia Concepcion where they at times formed dense clouds that were visible from a distance. In San Jose del Cabo, big crowds of returning tourists were keeping the panga fleets busy, and boats were averaging 8 to 12 fish per day in excellent conditions.
Nov. 16: Incredibly, the same boat that won the Bisbee's Black & Blue marlin tournament a few weeks before, turned right around and won the Western Outdoor News Tuna Jackpot Tournament. Stimulator, owned and skippered by Jay Bush, took home $170,680 of the total purse of $300,920, with a 170-pound yellowfin tuna. The Tuna Jackpot reversed this year's tournament downtrend in the wake of September 11th and Hurricane Juliette, drawing a total of 154 teams as opposed to last year's 136. Picante Express came in second place, with $126,280, with a 146-pound tuna. Meanwhile, the year's biggest marlin, an 871.5-pound blue, was caught by Capt. Tony Nungaray, fishing with Pisces Fleet.
Nov. 23: Another huge blue marlin was landed at Cabo, this one an 820-pounder caught by the Mucho Loco II off Cabo Falso. At East Cape, local legend, Jim Smith, was working hard signing his new book of Baja stories, The Grinning Gargoyle Spills The Beans. Off Magdalena Bay, the Thetis Bank fall fish pile-up was still being stubborn and refusing to catch fire. Some boats were reporting double-digit marlin per day, but others were struggling, and the overall action was nothing like the last few years. All along the Sea of Cortez, the first winter winds were making themselves felt a few days per week.
Nov. 30: San Diego long range trips found good early season action for yellowfin tuna at the Hurricane Bank and Roca Partida. The Shogun, skippered by Norm Kagawa, found a 234-pound tuna for Bill Mueller, and two other fish in the 190-pound class. At San Jose del Cabo, a large influx of tourists kept the panga fleets virtually sold out all week, with boats averaging 2 to 5 tuna in the 40 to 75-pound range. Barbara and David Henderson of Orange County trailered their boat to launch at San Diego's Shelter Island, and scored on 13 late season albacore located about 32 miles off Ensenada.
Dec. 7: The Pete's Sake Marlin Tournament held in Cabo San Lucas in October announced grants totaling $280,000 for cancer research to be awarded to scientists at the UCSD Cancer Research Center. The annual tournament is named for Pete Lopiccola, a popular Cabo San Lucas sport fishing captain who died of leukemia in 1988. At Cabo San Lucas, a sizzling bite materialized on medium-sized dorado, with all boats limiting, and there were some boats reported to be taking them illegally for sale. Fishing was generally slow on the Sea of Cortez, as winter winds kept boats pinned close to shore.
Dec. 14: Early reports from the San Diego long range fleet looked promising as the Breezers scored on the year's first big yellowfin tuna, a 294-pounder caught by co-owner Tony Bykerk at Clarion Island. Near San Felipe, a group of marine biologists from the Universidad Autonoma de Baja California at Ensenada, released 1,400 juvenile totuava into the Sea of Cortez in an on-going program to bring the endangered species back from the brink of extinction. Off Cabo San Lucas, a red-hot bite on dorado was underway, and at the Thetis Bank, the striped marlin action was turning on, just as most boats were leaving for the season.
Dec. 21: The first Cabo San Lucas Billfish Challenge Charity Fishing Tournament raised $4,000 to benefit the Sudden Infant Death Syndrome Foundation of Southern California. Eighteen anglers were entered in the two-day tournament, competing in categories for Most Billfish Releases, Largest Tuna, and Largest Dorado. The Most Billfish award went to James Decker, Randy Jones, Larry Rankin and Duane Decker.
Dec. 29: John Ireland of East Cape's Rancho Leonero announced the opening of a new reservations office in Leucadia, CA. Rancho Leonero's former exclusive U.S. Agent, Cass Tours, would still be booking reservations, Ireland said, but no longer on an exclusive basis. In Cabo San Lucas, the Mexican Federal Department of Tourism scheduled a high-level conference for January, which will address conservation issues. The APEC Pacific Rim conference was scheduled for Los Cabos in October 2002. The conference was reserving 4,000 rooms for the event, which is expected to be attended by more than 20 heads of state.
(Related Baja California, Mexico, articles and reports may be found at Mexfish.com'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.")