Mexico Madness, 2010
WOW, the size of some of the fish we caught in Mexico this year was amazing! No, they weren't marlin or sailfish, they were rooster fish and jack cravalle, two great species of hard-fighting saltwater fish.
Our trip started off with a day on the cruiser with our regular guide, Lance, along to lend his expertise on our flies, help us land our fish, and just provide us with an all-around super day. As we trolled along near some of the small, beautiful coves along the sandy, rocky beaches of the azure Sea of Cortez, our captain suddenly saw schools of fish crashing on bait balls just a few feet off the bank. Needless to say, we headed right over there. The captain's and Lances practiced eyes identified the fish as roosters and jack cravalle, both prized targets for our flies.
What a blast we had cruising right through the bait fish with our clouser minnows and Lefty's deceivers at the ready. Soon we noticed that some of the fish would follow and even bump the fly, but not always take. So, Lance had us switch to various forms of poppers. The fish reacted just as we'd hoped, and the party really heated up. Finally one of the truly big boys appeared and headed for a fly being "popped" along just as fast as it could go. The take was absolutely volcanic! Water sprayed everywhere as he turned and ran, spooling line off the Ross big-game #6 reel at an incredible pace while also putting a major bend in the 12-wt rod at the same time.
The frenzy of bait balls was attracting fish all around us while the big rooster, with his awesome comb splayed-out just at the surface of the water took line at an unbelievable rate. Five times he came to the boat only to take off again before Lance could tail him. What a specimen!
With a couple of pictures and a very careful release, we sent him back to his buddies, and continued fishing. The next huge fish turned out to be a very chubby and very strong and resolute jack cravalle. Round and round the boat he ran as Penny kept her cool and dipped her rod in the water when he went under the boat, and palmed her reel just a little to keep him under control just when it seemed that he was taking off for the horizon.
Strong, steady pulls characterized a fight that went on and on as we watched and cheered. It was a real demonstration of determined woman against determined fish. The woman won and proudly displayed her beefy prize for us all to admire, before he, too, was safely returned to the water.
Conditions were actually pretty tough this year because there was no small, sardinia bait around. Now, don't get the idea that we use bait on the end of a fly rod. Ours are strictly fly fishing trips. Nope, the bait is used to tease the fish up near the surface and to help keep the fish around the boat once we locate them. When we switched to the pangas, the available bait was just too long a ride away for us to access it easily. We did manage to buy some mackerel "big bait", and trolled one of them along with no hook in it to help us fool the fish.
Most years we manage to park ourselves right in the middle of a huge school of skipjack tuna and/or white bonito. This year we had some of both. Sandy not only caught several of each, but also turned out to be the only one of the bunch who landed a nice sierra mackrel that became the exceptional ceviche that the hotel creates for us to compliment our margaritas on the deck before dinner. Lady fish were on her and Penny's species list as well. Sierra are a prized eating fish, and we were hoping to catch several to have for dinner, but every time I got one on it managed to cut my line with its jagged teeth (in spite of a 30 lb test bite tippet).
The definite species queen this year was Karen with eight different species altogether during the two days we spent on the pangas. Two large, skipjack tuna started her off one day when everyone else was still warming up. Then, later in the afternoon as other boats were pursuing more rooster fish, she proceeded to get one different species after another as we cruised over a huge, deep rock formation that went on for miles. Her 350 wt Teeny sink-tip line and small clouser minows proved to be the perfect ammunition for this spot. She caught several rare zebra perch and then moved on to needle fish, coronet fish, a Panama graysby, a spotted cabrilla-or five or six, a Mexican bonito or two, and then topped it all off with a very unique, large orangeside trigger fish that amazed even our captain. There was no way I could have named them all had I not had my trusty copy of the Fishes of the Pacific Coast in my pack.