Thank you Michael Huss so much for giving this report to me, its excellent as usual.
After a very long two year wait last week we finally got back on the Tony Reyes for the annual Steve Enright Charter and as usual it did not disappoint.
As is usually the case there were alot of the same cast of characters ie. dregs of society, scalawags and purveyors of malfeasance along with a few very well behaved members of society with a few new people mixed in, my panga consisted of Queso who was on his second trip and I had a new guy in my panga from Phoenix, Baron who I have worked with at events and I was confident he could handle what was coming and was on his first saltwater trip and could not wait to see his reaction to what he was getting himself into. In the months leading up to the trip he had been practicing casting and he could throw a jig 30-40 yards pretty consistently so I felt like he was right where he needed to be.
If you ever go on one of these trips practice casting before the trip and you will save yourself a lot of time, and headache.
There was some chatter (chatter means hand wringing, excessive discussion and needless worrying) leading up to the trip about hurricane Blanca and what path it would take and what it would do to our water, I believe Tony is a very good mariner as he has spent his whole life in that sea and the last thing he would want it to put any passengers or any of his crew in danger as I try to explain to people on this trip, you can save yourself a lot of time if you just go with the flow and don’t worry too much about the weather, if it blows we find shelter, if it rains we get wet, really your only concern should be that when your panga comes up to the boat in the morning your are ready to fish as hard as you can. I also have long since quit worrying about where we are going to fish too, you will know where you are fishing when you hear the anchor splash and the chain rattle, until then enjoy the ride and take in some of the most beautiful scenery on earth and all the wildlife that makes the Sea of Cortez its home.
We headed towards our meeting place in Calexico a little late so we crossed the border after most of the other guys did and got our visas, I am not totally sure what goes on in that office but I can tell you there is never a rush to get anything done, we had one guy wait in the truck while we got our visas and the immigration dude made us go get the guy who stayed in the truck passport and fill out his paperwork then we waited for 25 minutes while they sat and did nothing, finally he runs them through and asks us where the other guy is, it was explained that he was still in the truck and immigration dude said next time make sure he comes in with you. Got it. We were on our way.
The road down to San Felipe is in really good shape now and traffic was not bad with the exception of the chase trucks for the Baja Race running up and down the road at 100+ and we made it to the boat to unload the truck, I always grab 2-3 younger kids at the dock to unload the stuff and by stuff I mean the thousand or so pounds of gear you need for fishing, there is lots of storage on that boat so we put it to good use, be sure to tip those kids good they are not afraid to work hard.
We rolled into San Felipe and got some rooms at the El Capitan and found some other guys on the trip staying there as well, a double room there is $55 and they are pretty clean and have decent AC and is the parking lot appears to be safe, we leave a lot of stuff in the trucks on the way back and have never had a problem. A bunch of us headed downtown to get some dinner and listen to the battle of the bands that all have an accordian , a tuba, a snare drum and various other horns and louds things to accompany the battery operated speaker that the singer is singing way to loudly in. None of them knew Freebird, not even for 50 pesos.
Sunday morning we all got to the boat around 10am as the tide was going out and by 11am the boat was resting on the mud, the crew started rolling in and the drivers were sent on their way to park at Tony’s house, the infamous bus that serves as taxi had taken a dump so the drivers came back in the back of a pickup, they all looked very cozy and happy. Around 2pm everyone that was coming was on the boat and we threw the lines and headed south for an afternoon of rigging, tying, mixing and lying. You know if its Sunday you can look forward to a lunch of club sandwiches and a chili relleno dinner, and Marcos and Carlos in the kitchen are still doing a great job and is taking pride in their work, they are now wearing chef coats and pants, and doing great presentation work while feeding three meals a day to 40 some odd people on the boat all while keeping a skinny little dude named George happy by making him a special plate.
I never sleep very good the night before we fish, so I woke up early on Monday morning to a cloud covered drizzly day thanks to the front edge of Blanca but as we dropped the pick at Punta Diablo the rain would not keep us from giving it a shot so off we went. Our panga driver would be Marcos again this year, I have fished with him for the last 7 years and really like him, he knows how I like to fish and consistently puts us in a great position to catch them. I threw my whole tackle box at them that morning and we did not end up with much, we had one keeper cabrilla, and lots of smaller ones released along with the biggest sculpin I have ever seen caught by Baron, we were going to let him grab it as a joke but decided we didn’t want to ruin his day so we sent it back. We did have some dolphins come up on us right next to shore who thought it would be funny to jump really high and splash us, I think they thought the constant drizzle did not have us damp enough, always cool to see those guys out there messing around. It was a pretty slow morning all around with not much caught due to the low pressure system that was headed our way and when we go back to the boat we got the news that we were headed to Bay of LA to hide from the approaching storm. Apparently a few people used the morning to get hooks buried in their bodies as we saw Tony perfectly execute a few extractions.
I used the afternoon to teach a margarita making class, but no one really wanted to learn they just wanted me to make it for them so I obliged. We got to our safe place in the early evening had nice chicken breast dinner and soon after a poker game was arranged in the galley that went until 2am while the movie Noah was being played in Spanish, there were a few of us that only lasted a short time but Beto a pangero who recently came back to the boat was doing well with a big stack of money going, I left at 1am and am not sure who came out on top but I heard Rich and Alex did very well. Just ask them, they love to talk about how much money they made.
Tuesday morning we were still in BOLA waiting and finally headed out around 11 some sleep was caught up on which was nice, I did not ask where we were going because it really doesn’t matter but after a few hours we pulled into the bay at Partida and everyone was ready to roll including the yellowtail. A few drops on a reef and we were hanging fish in the 15 pound range with a 20 pounder mixed in every now and then, it was a straight drop and crank with 6x and 6xjr in just about any color working, I dropped a knife jig down a few times and got bit as well. Baron landed the first yellowtail followed quickly by 6 more at which point he asked me if I had the rod belt I had offered him on the first day that he declined, I laughed and handed it to him and he questioned why he had not taken my advice earlier. It takes a few years of sticking that rod butt in your gut to get a tolerance and get that muscle conditioned. We made a little move and got on a surface bite where you got bit every cast once we got what we wanted we started releasing fish, and we ended the day with 34 yellowtail kept and 20 something released. Everyone on the boat had a pretty good day and we put some meat in the freezer, I think the big fish of the day was 27 pounds but not sure who got it. Chicken fajitas and sore hands made it easy to go sleep and wait for the morning to see where Santa would take us next.
Wednesday morning the anchor splashed early and as it started to get light I noticed and Island that resembled Partida and like normal our panga driver Marcos had us out first and headed towards that way, once we got to the middle of the ocean he decided there was a reef underneath us and we should drop. I don’t know if you have ever yo-yoed at 250-300 feet but it so easy, all you have to do is turn the handle. My only coaching advice to Baron was to wind it up everytime like you believe you are going to get hit and evidently that worked, a few drops in I see his rod go bendo on a 6x scrambled egg and seconds later I get bent hard on a single hook knife jig, I settle in for fight when all of the sudden Barons fish comes off, and of course 10 seconds later so does mine. Marcos off course reminds us that we are rancheros but after winding up we had a straightened out hook on the 6x and the hook on my knife jig has been snapped clean off at the eye. That one will haunt me for a few year.
A few drops later Baron gets bent hard again and into low gear the HX went and after a 4 minute fight Marcos sinks his gaff into a 32 pound yellowtail he was lucking enough to have his go-pro turned on as well, it is nice to set the bar high on personal bests. Not sure why but he decides he wants a green and yellow 6x and proceeds to start slaying yellowtail and then he hooks into something that does not have a headshake but has some pull to it and up comes a 26 pound broomtail. As the morning progressed someone in the panga who will remain nameless (it was not me, marcos or baron) said there is no way anyone caught a bigger yellowtail this morning, I believe some profanity was used when I explained that we had just been jinxed.
What a great morning of fishing, we had a few over 25 and Queso stuck and nice 27 pounder and we had a nice box full of yellows. We came in for lunch to weigh up the fish and as luck would have it George decided he would take the JP from us with a 37 pound pig but we were not shaken and after some corn chowder and taquitos with guacamole I went down for a nap to get ready for the afternoon killing spree. The anchor is a great alarm clock and when I got outside we were back by Partida just 4 miles east by a bird sanctuary that had no birds on it due to lack of bait in the water, there were a few micro baits but nothing like years past.
We made a move to Snake Island to fish the reef for some bigger model yellows but it was not to be, we worked for a few hours then headed back to Partida to see if the reef was still producing like it was the day before but it was a bit dead, we did scratch out a few yellows and a few decent cabrilla but we called it a day and headed for the boat ready for the next morning.
Thursday morning usually means Refugio, but we started a few miles down the beach working cuts and rocks on the shore line for cabrilla, I love thing kind of fishing and throw a dx up against the rocks and slow wind it back in anticipation of getting hammered. We caught a lot of smaller cabrilla all released and Mr. Lucky Baron of course catches a 15 pound baby grouper that is promptly released, we did stick a few decent ones before making the move up to Refugio. After working some islands for nada we headed to the huge bird shit rock west of the fishermen’s shrine and they were on the chew with a little wind and chop to throw us around, it was cabrilla and yellowtail, most of the pangas were there drifting over the reef hooking up every drift so we had a chance to put a bunch in our box before heading back to the boat for lasagna and trip towards the mainland, mainland baja not mainland mexico for you purist.
Once we stopped and loaded the pangas we kept hearing things slap against the water evidently it was a gathering of the rays and as far as you could see in either direction the rays were crammed together in huge circles with one or two of them flying out of the water ever couple seconds and smacking the water. Nature always has some cool stuff up its sleave. The fishing was a little slow, we tried throwing on the shore but had no luck, so against my better judgement I agreed to troll for a little bit, and in go the mirolures, pink and a pink and green tiger stripe and it paid off quickly, with 6 good cabrilla and few 20 pound yellowtail. Once our spot dried up we moved closer to Gonzaga to finish of the day, we trolled around a little more for a cabrilla and a bonito which came to the boat and then fell off the lure, which would prove to be a bad thing, we managed one more bonito and a few cabrilla on a pink salas dx. Marcos called it a day and we headed back to the boat as the sun was setting and after a carne asada dinner Tony pointed the boat towards the Echanted Islands for what was a very windy ride over for our final morning of fishing.
The Enchanted Islands are beautiful but I had fishing at them because I know we have about 6 hours of fishing left before the trip is over but as we left the boat in the morning Marcos told us we were going to try for grouper and he wanted the heaviest set up we had which was 80 pound on a 4/0 Avet reel, with a pinned down drag, from the previous day Marcos had kept the one bonito so we had one bait and one shot. We got to the reef and started rigging up right as another panga showed up and we both went in the water together about 20 yards apart and in 3 minutes Rich on the other panga gets hammered and 3 minutes later a 100 pound plus grouper gets stuck. We chose Queso for the honors on the panga I was on and we moved around a few times and sure enough we got hammered, everyone was screaming at him to wind on the fish and 3 seconds later it was off, up came the bait to reveal only the head of the bonito, pinche lobo. With no bait left we made the best of it and threw some iron around the islands and took a field trip to the lagoon for a swim and then trolled around for a few nice cabrilla and called it a trip. There was a pretty large crowd gathered on deck looking at something as we approached the boat and sure enough 2 of the pangas had hit paydirt with 2 groupers each with the biggest going to Chris Jacob who managed 120 pounder for the jackpot fish for the week. It is cool to see the jackpot winners hand the cash to the pangero
The boat got back to San Felipe around 8pm following an afternoon of tearing down gear and packing and settling up with Tony and tipping the pangero, kitchen and crew. Our group has come to a consensus that you should tip the pangero a minimum of $100, $40 for the kitchen and $50 for the crew and more is encouraged
Once back at the dock the crew started the long process of cutting fish and that gave us a chance to grab a hotel room and some dinner and then come back to the dock to pick up our fish. The fish this year was in pretty good shape there were a few that were a little mushy but very good quality on most of it, the filets were bagged one gallon ziplock bags so bring some down if you are on one of these trips and give them to your pangero
Overall it was a great trip, we did lose some time to the hurricane but that is how it goes, the boat is in pretty good shape as are the pangas, I would advise anyone coming on a trip to bring their own bedding and pillows as the boat does not have any.
The crew on the boat is still top notch, they work hard and fast and do a great job keeping the boat clean. The pangeros seem to have really stepped up their game with Beto coming back so that is good to see as well.
The gear used the most was a minimum of 40 pound test, lots of 50 for yo-yo on a JX/Hx size 2 speed reel. You can get by with a few jig colors, blue/white, dorado, scrambled egg and green and white if you have a few in DX, 6x jr, and 6x, for trolling pink and the pink and green tiger stripe both worked. For knife jigs blue and silver worked for me as did a ivory colored butterfly jig.
If you ever have a chance to do one of these trips don’t be afraid, it will make you a better fisherman, you won’t have to worry about pinning a bait on 20 pound floro and setting drag at 5 pounds and finding an open spot in the stern. You just need to button the drag down and turn the handle on your 50 pound rig and believe you are going to get bit and you will.
Thanks to Steve Enright again for being a great charter master and keeping this group together and fishing hard.