Thursday, April 2, 2009
The snook show has been great here for the past couple of weeks although I have yet to be able to put a big one on the bank...we have broken off numerous giants. My wife, Roz, has been spooled twice, and I was spooled with my 8wt.
Standing in the Western Outdoor News Booth at Fred Hall, Kit McNear turned to me and said, “You’re the snook guy?”
Of course I acknowledged that I am. I’m the one who ran fifty-five miles in a panga several years ago inside the esteros at Magdalena Bay chasing an old snook tale that my predecessor Baja Columnist, Fred Hoctor, had told me. When I went on that, I wasn’t sure I believed him, but that run paid off! One of the snook I caught on that trip ended up on the cover of my Magdalena Bay book.
Kit continued, “And now snook are going off in La Paz Bay! The locals are catching some slugs around the wrecks. My boat is in the Marina and I am going to try to fish for them a few days every month. Do you want to go?” He asked.
My head nodded like a bobble head doll on a Baja taxi dash, “You bet!” I replied.
The following week as I was posting my report on the Baja Nomad Online Forum, I saw a posting that jumped out at me… Mulegé Snook. The thread went on for two pages all about a snook show in the Santa Rosalia River that runs through the middle of Mulegé.
No way, I thought. I have driven over the river on the Mex 1 Bridge looking down at the murky brownish green water hundreds of times, while retelling one of my favorite Ray Cannon stories about the almost mythical snook caught in the old days to any ‘newbie’ riding down with me.
According to my friend, Gene Kira, author of The Unforgettable Sea of Cortez, he had tracked down Lou Federico who fished the river with Cannon in the early fifties.
“How large were those snook?”
Lou swore there were "lots" of 40-pounders and at least one that would have gone 70 pounds if it had been weighed. The big ones were so powerful they couldn’t be stopped with a rod and reel, but were harpooned at night using canoes and carbide miners' lamps.
“They were wiped out,” says Lou, “by the big Chubasco of 1958 that silted in the river.”
“After that,” he continued, “there were never any giants again, just small ones.”
So for more than thirty years everyone took it for granted that they were gone forever. Don’t you love these kind of Baja stories…they’re back!
One explanation for the recent ‘Snook Stirring’ is that the Government recently dredged the river and cleaned out undergrowth to facilitate quicker runoff during floods and improved the river bank access.
One of the individuals posting on the Nomad Board was my friend, Mike Reichner, who lives on the river.
Mike said, “I don't think they just showed up...I think they have been here for awhile but no one targeted them. That was my job...just decided one day to walk the river and fish...they might have been here for some time.”
“The snook show has been great here for the past couple of weeks although I have yet to be able to put a big one on the bank...we have broken off numerous giants. My wife, Roz, has been spooled twice, and I was spooled with my 8wt. There ARE some Grande’s here!”
“The snook are chomping anything, jerk baits, crank baits, large Clousers, but the river is a tackle-grabbing-monster so floating lures are the way to go unless you feel like leaving your tackle box on the bottom of the river.”
Mike added, “The average fish is around 5 pounds with many, many smaller ones, a good sign! Everyone is releasing their snook!”
Big Baja snook are as rare as a fifty-cent margarita and tougher than a shot of cheap tequila. When you see a photo of someone holding a smallish snook with a sheepish smile, they have probably been dusted by a big one and are grudgingly allowing themselves to be photographed with the consolation prize.
Will the Snook Stirring continue? Time will tell, I just hope can get there before it ends.