COMPILED BY PAT McDONELL
Readers share their experiences over the years, and they are not all about fishing! The first in a series of remembrances and adventures as Mexico continues its isolation efforts through at least May 30… So we wait, and remember the days of past adventures.
For many of us, there are almost too many Baja memories, of trailers breaking, hangovers, pulling on big fish, tournaments, dirt roads, islands, deserts and new and lost friendships along the way. WON has been there since 1954 when Ray Cannon penned his columns in remote areas, those tales followed by those of Tom Miller, Fred and Gloria Jones, Fred Hoctor, Gene Kira and Jonathan Roldan among many other writers and WON readers.
Baja is closed to visitors, and soon enough we will be back down the Mexican roads, paved or not. For now we head down memory lane these next few weeks. We start off with a pretty current report, from Cabo Surfcaster guide Wesley Brough who a few weeks ago turned up a monster pargo, while casting a rock!
“This is my personal best, 61.5 pounds,” said Brough who has been fishing solo a lot these days without a flow of customers. “I was fishing from 20 feet up on a rock and I hadn’t had a bite all morning. Everything I had was geared for a nice snapper from the rocks except I forgot to bring heavier pound test leader. I had 80-pound J-Flouro. Usually I would fish 150-pound, I was throwing the 9-foot Savage Gear Mack Stick that I swapped out for BKK Raptor swivels. I worked it with a slow twitch all the way up to the edge of the foam line by the rocks and paused it. Right at the pause, this beast came and ambushed the lure in about 5 feet of water!”
He continued, “I still didn’t know how big this guy was but when I went to set the hook and pulled back hard he didn’t seem to want to budge – then he took off hard, ripping line off toward submerged rockpiles. I had to pull out all my fighting tricks to keep him from breaking me off on the rocks, and knowing my leader was fairly light, I was careful not to put too much pressure on him. I knew I had to land him through the rocks so I waited for the right wave to help me push him up onto the rocks.
“When I finally saw him out of the water I was blown away by the size. From up where I was I could see a big set of waves coming and I thought maybe one more good wave could push him up a little higher on the rocks and as the wave came in I pulled and – snap – the leader broke right at the lure! I threw down my rod – I mean I gently set it down – and flew off that rock like a cat and managed to grab hold of him before the next wave came in and washed him in. Success! At this pointy my whole body was shaking with adrenalin. And this is why these guys are my favorite fish to catch.”
JONATHAN ROLDAN – I know this is supposed to be about fishing and the story I’m about to relate is definitely about fishing. It’s definitely about the Baja experience and is certainly about something “biting.”
At the behest of the fishermen who were there that day and my captain who all promised NOT to tell anyone, I figure I might as well tell you since about half the city of La Paz came up to me the next day offering either (a) condolences (b) remedies (c) ideas on how NOT to let it happen again… as if this were a regular occurrence or (d) all of the above PLUS laughingly assaulting my manhood by calling me names like “wussie” and “little girl”. Believe me, as you’ll see, my manhood had already been abused.
This story is about the dorado and the African killer bees. . .
I was working a super panga off Espiritu Santo Island with two of my amigos/clients, Don Meluci and Mitch Chavira of San Diego. As stories go, we were into a pretty nice dorado bite and had a couple aboard. Don and Mitch had brought a nice group of guys down to fish with us and instead of the usual blustery November days with scratchy fishing, waters were flat and warm. The sun was out and the dorado had come to play. There were lots of easy smiles. We were into the early afternoon and already had a nice box of dorado and had released a handful of others.
But, as I said, this story is not about catching. It’s about biting…
My memory is a bit foggy at this point, but I recall that I was leaning over the rail about to gaff a fish for Mitch when an incredible pain radiated from between my legs. Imagine someone holding a lit cigar to your nether regions where the sun rarely shines. Use your imagination on exactly WHERE this was coming from, but I’ll tell you it was on the LEFT twin! I yelled and immediately started tearing off my shorts doing the craziest panga dance ever seen in the Baja. I knew what it was. A bee had flown up my shorts and decided to put its stinger to MY stinger!
I could still feel “it” buzzing in there because as someone told me later, these are African killer bees with little claws that hold on and they DO NOT DIE, but repeatedly sting and sting. On one leg… then the other leg… grabbing at my crotch and tearing at my shorts… oh the pain. Now up and twirling from stern to bow. Yelling and whooping like a man with well… a bee in his shorts! My friends got to see that I was not born this tanned and why some call me “Casper Butt” as my shorts end up around my knees.
Needless to say, my amigos had no sympathy (you are paying double price next year, my friends, for the extra entertainment) and could not stop laughing. I do not know what happened to the dorado I was supposed to gaff. It probably knocked itself off the hook laughing as well.
Fifteen minutes later, I’m settled down, at least enough to sit down and breathe again. I’m still in pain. It feels like a burn that travels down my left thigh radiates up my mid-section and throbs like heck “down there.” Don’t you bet that I can still hear the snickers from my friends who are expressing sympathy, but deep down cannot wait to spread the story. Good thing the dorado kept biting so I wouldn’t have to listen to more laughs.
But, as I said, this is not about catching. This is about biting…
An hour later, we’re hooked up to another feisty dorado. This one should put us at about limits and we’re hooting and hollering again when WHAM!!!! I’m still feeling the pain in one spot when another excruciating pain shoots up the inside of my right nalga cheek about 4 inches below the waistband and just west of the longitude line. Yeow… Another bee has flown into my shorts and I’m off on the panga two-step again clawing and yelling and using moves like Jerry Lewis as the nutty professor. OUCH that hurts and again, I’m tearing at my shorts, my butt, my crotch trying to get that guy outta there as I do a pirouette at the stern bait tank all the while screaming and see a bee fall outta my shorts, onto the deck and fly away. Rat bastard bug. I can already feel the painful swelling on my butt joining the painful swelling on my left twin. Yes, I yelled like a little girl. No, I cannot dance. No, I’ve never ever been afraid of bees and in thousands of hours on the water year after year this has never happened to me. I’ve cut fingers, busted bones, twisted ankles and knees, had gaffs and hooks go through my hand, but never ever had not one… but TWO bees fly up my shorts. And yes… it hurt worse than any of those other mishaps. In fact, it hurt for about 2 days.
By the way, about an hour later, another bee flew into my t-shirt and stung me under the right arm pit. That’s me, the human pin-cushion. My amigos did not get a single bite. However, by dinner word had spread through La Paz about why Jonathan wasn’t able to dance at the beach barbecue I threw that night.
As I was to find out over the next few days, for some reason there had been an infestation of African killer bees around La Paz that week. Interestingly, they had only been over the water and there were reports of swarms of them following dive and fishing boats for a few days. Then, they were gone. A few people got ONE sting. I got THREE. Only in Baja. Just when I thought I had seen everything.