Thank you Michael for writing this amazing trip report.
Every year is different
After 51 weeks of anticipation the usual suspects as well as a few new people met up at Jack in the Box in Calexico for the yearly Steve Enright charter aboard the Tony Reyes. I would like to offer a special thank you , to the CHP for having some mercy on a certain driver from Safford Arizona, whose right foot must have had all his lead weights in it, he must not have seen the speedometer as he was on his phone and was only rewarded with a minor citation.
After telling the guys I had not seen for a year how much fatter, and uglier they had gotten and suggesting they should just have water with lemon instead of the curly fries our caravan rolled across the border into Mexicali where we had to stop and get visas. There has been some chatter about the Mexican government doing this to collect additional money from Americans, but there is no charge for getting a visa, you just have to fill out a form and they stamp your passport. There was only one person working at the office but as he saw us all roll in a few calls were made for re-enforcements and 15 minutes later we were on our way to San Felipe, it was a piece of cake.
The drive to San Felipe was uneventful, they are doing some work on a the salt flat and there were about 10 places where you had to drive off the road, but it was not to bad. Upon arrival in San Felipe we dropped our gear off at the boat and put our stuff into the state rooms and then checked into our hotels, there were not a lot of rooms left as there were a large number kids who were in marching bands, and their soccer watching, tecate drinking, likes to scream soccer chants at 1am quasi chaperones. Most of us had dinner at the Del Mar, the food there is pretty good but you need to not be in a hurry if you go there, one of our group could attest to that as he took a 30 minute siesta while waiting for dinner. There were a few pics of that but this is about fishing so they won’t be posted.
Sunday morning was the usual, a few of us had breakfast at the hotel and then we headed off for the boat, once all the passengers had successfully loaded all the cocktail ice they thought they would use and the drivers had returned from parking their trucks at Tony’s house, the lines were thrown and we were off. Prior to leaving the doc the military boarded the boat with a dog, they were very polite but checked out the pangas and rooms and the rest of the boat, not sure what they were looking for but it was very uninvasive and they seemed friendly enough.The safety meeting was again very short, so if you ever go on the boat just make sure you know where stuff is if that is a concern for you. Most of the day was spent rigging gear and filling up spools.
Our charter master called his usual meeting after lunch, which was club sandwiches and french fries, and in his usual to the point and humorous way let us know the following. 1. We will know where we are going when we get there, so don’t ask. 2. We will know what time we are getting there when we get there. 3.We will know if we will be making bait when we get there. He also told us the charter prior to us struggled a bit getting yellowtail, but as we all know, everyday is different.
There were a few private matters from the year prior that were discussed as to who the true recipient of a certain prize should have been. The story was recounted by some of the involved parties and it was pretty much decided at that point that the person who committed said act would be the winner of the
prize this year provided no other anglers made any egregious errors in judgement to dethrone the front runner. It is a pretty good one but I will not bore you with the details.
Dinner as usual was chili rellenos made by someone in Tony’s family, most of the passengers went to bed early in anticipation of the next day.
It was around 5am when I heard the anchor splash, when I went outside I could see we were at Snake Island, the south part of La Guardia. I like this place, there is always fish on the surface and they eat the surface.
We had the same pangero from the last 4 years, Marcos, he is always ready to get out on the water early and we had a pretty good morning in store.
Our 3 guys with some help from Marcos landed 18 yellowtail for the morning with the largest coming in at 26 pounds and the smallest about 20. It was not the normal snake island bite, only one fish came on surface iron with the rest being yo-yo fish. If you have never hooked into a sea of cortez yellow they have some shoulders from swimming around the current daily and when you catch them at 200 feet they drop an ass kicking on you. Four jigs were donated to the ocean that morning by yours truly due to rocks. Scrambled egg, blue and white, dorado 6x and 6x jr were the ticket with at least 40 pound test. Around noon we headed in to the boat for burgers, our panga had a solid showing for the morning, a few of the others had managed a few nice cabrilla as well. The Eric’s pangas were in the area as well and it became apparent that they were not familiar with anything except trolling and making the fish sink out, I did my best to not fire some iron at them as the passed 50 feet from where we were fishing.
A few notables for the first morning were 18 inch squid launching 3 feet out of the water spraying ink, a huge mako sighting and Dennis Jacob scratching a line off his bucket list by taking a ride on a whale shark
For the afternoon we went right back out where we started and it was a tough afternoon for me, the panga managed 5 nice yellows but I could not get bit to save my life, it was just one of those afternoons where you just have to keep grinding and know that you will get bit sometime, even if that sometime is the next day.
There were some motor problems with one of the pangas, so our motor was handed off to them and Marcos being a senior pangero had a new motor put on his panga.
After a nice fried chicken breast and mashed potatoes some reloading of mono was in order , it was decided by the powers that be that we would stay at Snake Island, for that I was happy.
It is not common in my daily routine to wake up at 430 but I was excited for the day, we left the boat about 5am and headed out to the reef to fish, it was a pretty good morning, the drags on all my reels were hammered down, if fish were going to be lost they were going to have to break 40 and 50 pound, they were not going to rock me. A 6x jr with one hook of the treble hook missing on a single speed jx 4.6 to 1 was the hot stick of the morning, usually when yo yoing you go as fast as you can, this day you got bit and a steady grind and stopping and starting, the other thing that worked was a regular 6x blue and white on an HX with 50 pound.
Hanging fish on a hammered drag is a new experience, you go for broke, it is you, your knots and your gear against the fish, and on this morning victory was mine. Marcos made the call to fish south near Partida for part of the morning and by noon we had 13 more nice yellows on the panga and headed in for tostado Tuesday, accompanied by rolled tacos and guac.
We pulled the hook during lunch and headed to Salsupuedes for the afternoon, as the captained dropped the hook my nap ended and we jumped in the pangas for the afternoon, it was pretty warm but we found some birds working and breaking fish and started throwing at them, there was a panga in the same area that kept hooking up, at one time they had 4 fish hanging and we had nothing. The fish were in groups of 5 to 10 and all of the sudden 3 of us got bit, I was lucky enough to lose my hot 6x but we did manage to land 1 fish. We did not do well that afternoon but a lot of the boats in a different area whacked a smaller grade of yellows pretty good and the charter master had a killer cabrilla afternoon with 45 of them. Dinner that night was fajitas, the cook changed it up a bit this year and I have to say he is doing an excellent job. We made an effort to make bait that night, there were only a few macs caught and and bunch of dines, not really what we were hoping for but that is life..
We stayed at Salsuepuedes and got out early again, even though I had caught a few macs we did not take any bait, all iron all the time and a little plastic. Marcos hit a few rocky spots and we got 5 cabrilla in the first hour, follwe by a nice little panga ride to Laraza and Lorenzo Islands for some good yellowtail action, they birds were working hard and surface and yo yo produced again, the yellows were still that 20-27 pound range and it was run and gun style boil chasing. I had a curado 300 loaded with 50 spectra and a 6 inch storm swimbait tied on, after waiting for the right time I threw it right on a boil and started cranking, the fish missed it twice and then swallowed it and dove, as the spectra peeled off I kept turning the star drag until the fish stopped, 10 minutes later a nice yellow got a gaff sunk in it, the fight hurt me a little but it was worth it.
With 11 yellows and 5 cabrilla in the box we made the 1 hour ride back to the boat where we were greeted by a 5 gallon container of yellowtail ceviche, not sure what they ate for lunch because afer a few bowls of ceviche I was down for a nap for our trip back to Snake Island for the afternoon.
Es pescado, Baja no move- was Marcos’ favorite thing to say, that is how you know if you hooked the bottom or a fish.
It was a great afternoon, we were on the reef again and the fish were biting, we had 15 for the after noon, and it was a yo yo bite and 7 jigs from my tackle box went back to the ocean as I discovered a few week points in my line. After working to get a jig hung off the bottom loose, three cranks later it gets hammered and broke off. The jackpot fish for the trip was caught by Edward Lopez and it was 33 pounds. In other news one of my panga mates donated a rod and reel to the ocean while pulling on a big yellow, it is a strange sight to see a rod disappear. This was just unbelievable fishing, very exciting all of the 9 pangas were right in the same area driving up the reef and drifting back. The cook had made teriyaki yellowtail with onion and pepper cooked in foil and served over rice, the mango icecream for desert was a very nice touch. We pulled the hook and headed north for Refugio, the wind blew very hard but with a boat full of tired anglers no one seemed to notice.
Refugio is a beautiful place, it is cool to see the sun come up in such a nice place, our goal for the day was to catch some cabrilla, we were good on yellowtail and had our sights set on some leopard grouper.
Steve, the charter master has been extolling the virtues of the salas dx for years, although attempting to use it, success had always eluded me. I had reached point where I wondered why I even carried them around and was even close to accusing Steve of being a witch doctor because he would always catch fish on them. On this day I decided I would give it one last shot, my retrieve was usually real fast but for some reason I slowed it way down and managed 2 cabrilla 10-12 pounds, as well as a small yellow (released) and bonita and barracuda (released). I offer my sincerest apologies to Salas for questioning their questionable business practices of selling me the DX, I now like them and have come to realize Steve is not a witch doctor, his pangero Ramon may be though with his DX skills.
The cabrilla bite died out a little so we tried for some Pargo and seabass but only managed 1 with Pat whacking a nice 13 pound pargo, as always pinto bass rounded out our box for the morning.
During lunch we made our move towards the mainland for our afternoon session but as we got there the wind was just howling so the call was made to not fish and head towards what I believed would be Gonzaga Bay to make some makes for our last morning of fishing. As we passed Gonzaga headed straight for the enchanted islands we were treated to some yellowtail sashimi from a nice yellow Rich Rose had donated, it was very good stuff and a few hours later I had to choke down a steak and baked potatoe and some birthday cake Ann Jacob made for her Pangero Ted who was celebrating his birthday. The boat slowed up and dropped anchor in the lee of an island, we tried to make some bait under the full moon but only small flying fish were in the area so it is jig fishing as usual.
A week of panga fishing goes by fast, and the last day sucks because you know you are headed for the barn today, Marcos cruised to a few nearby islands and we could not get anything to go, a few move later while throwing my new favorite blue and white dx a nice cabrilla ripped about 30 feet of line from my reel before coming out of the rocks and to the panga. Our panga headed to a nearby reef for some pinto bass and a cabrilla, around 9 we made a move to another island and after throwing to a boil that looked like barracuda another cabrilla ate my favorite jig. We decided to troll some mirror lures over a reef for some cabrilla, I was lucky enough to have afew mirror lures in my bag and so we trolled 40 and 50 pound test for cabrilla, we managed 4-5 and one break off of something and as we trolled over the reef again Pat gets hit on an orange mirror lure pulled by a half spool of 40 pound test wound on a single speed avet lx matched nicely to a not for trolling 8 foot rod, it was evident right away that it was a big fish. Marcos said, wind, wind, wind mucho grande. After screaming at Pat to put down his purse and wind that thing in, we watched for about 5 minutes as he wound in a 32 pound grouper, the pangas in the area heard us screaming profanity laced cheers.
In 5 years this is the first grouper I had ever seen caught on a panga I was on. We managed a few more cabrilla and I am sure Marcos was the last panga to the boat on purpose so everyone could get a look at the fish as he unloaded it. I was thinking it was about 40 pounds but on the scale it was 32, jackpot for the day (given to the pangero of course) but a pound short of the big fish for the week jackpot. 11 cabrilla, a few pintos and a grouper was a nice way to finish, after the crew washed our gear in fresh water and soap the pangas were loaded, a final lunch of green chili burritos was a nice meal before napping for the ride in. The charter master Steve had a final meeting to award the honorary hat, there were a few contestants but the honors went to the candidate from the year before, Congrats George, you earned it. Our crew had over 500 yellows and 400 cabrilla and some other stuff. The weather going in was a little nasty so we arrived at the doc around 10 where the gear was unloaded and inspected by the military. Afer checking into the hotels we hit the taco stand that has the mechanical bull then turned in for the night.
Saturday morning we hit the road about 7 and made it through the border with a 90 minute wait and about 300 pounds of fish each.
As always it was a great trip, the cost is 1000.00 or 975 if you have your Mexican license, it includes all your meals, your pangero, beer, soda, fishing cleaning, vacuum packing of your catch, ice for your cooler and your air conditioned room. You will never find a better value, it is about 12 hours of fishing a day, in addition to that cost we each tip our pangero 100 bucks, each give the deck guys 40 and the kitchen 20-40. The crew works very hard, and Tony runs a very good operation. If you plan on going you need a passport and a free visa to board, you should also a positive attitude, sunscreen , blue and white and scrambled egg 6x jrs, but most importantly a salas dx. For those of you who like to put hooks into your body, do not let that keep you from coming, Tony can get them out pretty quickly with little pain, someone does it every year, just part of the game.
There are 6 heads and 4 showers on board, the boat makes its own water and the food is solid. Your bunk includes a sheet, blanket and pillow, I bring an extra blanket and pillow.
As far a safety in Mexico, we travel in a convoy in Mexico, in San Felipe it feels pretty safe but we travel in groups, if you want to look for trouble you could probably find it but it does not feel unwelcoming or dangerous. As in any foreign country common sense and courtesy are a must. The cost of a hotel is 50-60 bucks, with security watched parking.
The merchants all take pesos or dollars.
Once again thanks to Steve Enright for the great trip and thanks to Dennis and Ann Jacob for giving me a ride. With only 51 weeks until the next one I am excited.