BY MEGAN McDONELL
In 1985, a 30-year-old Eric Brictson launched his first panga from the sand into the Sea of Cortez – and with it a business that would be known for its integrity, honesty and reliability for 37 years.
Last month, on September 4, a flotilla of cruisers and pangas filled with family, friends and fellow pescadores gathered across the Gordo Banks to celebrate Eric, who recently passed at age 67 from a heart attack – to spread his ashes and ensure he would always be part of the sea he spent so much of his life on.
Eric was introduced to Baja at a young age. His father, Robert, taught him to fish at five years old, and their family often visited Mexico from their home in Santa Monica, California.
In his early 20s, Eric started a guide service on the Rogue River in Oregon. During those years, he made frequent trips to Baja, which became more extended with each visit, until he moved permanently to his new home in La Playita and started a small sportfishing fleet. Long before there was a marina, Eric would launch his super pangas from the beach with his truck.
Eventually, the Puerto Los Cabos Marina was completed with ample slips to accommodate Gordo Banks Pangas, which had grown from a few boats to one of the largest panga fleets in the Baja Peninsula. Over the years, Eric’s influence on sportfishing has been extraordinary. Gary Graham and his wife Yvonne met Eric in the late eighties, and immediately recognized Eric as a trailblazer in the area. “His passion for Gordo Banks was infectious,” says Graham. “Eric’s dedication to every aspect of sportfishing made him one of Baja Sur’s most memorable ambassadors. He exchanged his sportfishing knowledge and skills with locals who were equally eager to share their local knowledge about the Gordo Banks.”
Kit McNear, who has run a tournament out of the marina where Gordo Banks Pangas is based, knew him at that time too. “He was the wahoo expert for the area,” recalls McNear, “and one of the pioneers running a charter business before the marina was built.”
Decades later, everyone in La Playita seemed to know Eric, or at least saw his smiling face frequently at the marina. J.Barbosa said he will personally always miss Eric greeting him in the dark at the dock, giving him “friendly grief” for bringing way too much gear. A good friend of his, Matt Dutra, said “the marina will never be the same.”
Phil Maher, who was introduced to Eric in 2017 and eventually booked many trips through him, said, “I’d see him at the marina hanging out having a beer around the fish-cutting tables, and he was always fun to talk to…he had incredible local knowledge about fishing, baja culture and life.” Like many others, Maher recalls Eric always willing to help in any way. He said, “One time I ran into him at the local grocery store, and he had just gotten a call to go help someone tow a boat that had gotten stuck…he was one of the most resourceful and clever people I’ve ever met.”
Ethan Schaffer remembers the kindness and care he showed his group on a trip they’d booked with him in 2003. “We were staying about an hour away, so [we] had to drive to the beach early in the morning to meet him,” says Maher. “Unfortunately, our vehicle got stuck in the sand, and our expected 6am arrival time turned into a 9am arrival time. We didn’t have cell service back then either, but when we finally got there, Eric was still waiting with his Captain to take us fishing. He was more concerned that we were ok…That was the first time I met him, and that’s the man I came to know over the next 20 years.”
Beyond the marina, Eric was widely known through his weekly fishing reports, which many anglers read religiously for their reliable, unbiased and straightforward information. “They were a must-read for everyone interested in Baja sportfishing and the Gordo Banks,” says Gary Graham. Added former WON Editor Pat McDonell, “From my standpoint, his weekly reports, detailed and honest, were crucial to promoting Baja fishing, and he never lost focus, that of preserving the fishery and supporting the many local families dependent on the business of fishing.”
John Schaible, who went to school with Eric’s kids, can attest to his passion for the fisheries. “[Eric] was an activist for the people of the community and fought hard to keep our fisheries safe and open for tourism.” And he did a lot for the locals. “Eric would graciously donate his boats for school events growing up,” says Schaible. “Eric not only taught me how to fish, he also taught my entire family. His knowledge in fishing will live on for many years, thanks to the time he spent teaching future generations.”
Everyone will remember Eric as a stand-up guy, both personally and professionally. Tracy Ehrenberg, owner of Pisces Sportfishing in Cabo, said, “Eric was a hard-working, honest and great fishing charter operator. He faithfully reported catches and was my go-to referral always, to ensure that our clients were treated right and got a fair deal. He consistently, along with his crews, gave great service for decades. We are forever grateful for all he did for the sportfishing industry of Los Cabos.”
There’s no question Eric helped put Los Cabos on the map as one of the best fishing destinations in the world – and his passing is a huge loss for not only the La Playita community, but the Baja fishing community as a whole. “Eric was to fishing southern Baja as live bait are to catching fish,” said one angler.
Fortunately, Eric’s business – and legacy – lives on. His son Brian has taken over as owner and operator of Gordo Banks Pangas. Says Brian, “We will continue to be a growing part of our community, and we will try our hardest to follow in his footsteps.” Adds John Schaible, “Fishermen who have used Eric for years can trust they will receive the same attention they always have. There will just be a new smiling face at the dock.”
Eric will still be there in a way too, forever blessing the fleet coming and going from La Playita. After most of his ashes were spread and a few cervezas were hoisted in his honor, a local compadre named Scott free dove to the bottom of the marina opening to place a handful of Eric’s ashes in the water as a final tribute to him.
Eric always signed his reports off with “Good Fishing” – a tradition Brian is keeping alive in his father’s memory.
So Good Fishing, Eric. Rest in peace.
Eric Brictson is survived by his wife, Mely; son, Brian; daughters, Kate and Tina; granddaughter, Eliana; and sisters, Janet and Jill.
A special thank you to the Brictson family for sharing their memories and photos and to Gary Graham for his contributions to this piece.