Recently I had the opportunity to sit down with Captain Peter “Pete” Groesbeck to talk about bill fishing in both Southern California and Baja. Pete has spent over 30 years in pursuit of exceptional sportfishing in such spectacular destinations as Alaska, Hawaii, Tahiti, Australia, Costa Rica, Panama, and of course, Baja and Southern California. Currently, he is a member of the Team Bad Company, a professional sportfishing team fishing the billfish tournament circuit in Southern California and Mexico. He also works with Robert Ross, a Baja Developer of the new marina, Puerto San Cosme, http://www.puertodesancosme.com/Main.html just north of Agua Verde between La Paz and Loreto. Pete is considered by many to be one of the best Captains on the West Coast.
I began our conversation by asking how he thought the Southern California fishery compared to the Baja fishery. Pete feels that the volume of striped marlin in California has diminished while the below-the-border marlin population has remained constant or perhaps expanded somewhat. As an example, in the Los Suenos Tournament in Costa Rica last year, out of 18 marlin caught, 16 were striped marlin which are seldom found that far south.
In his opinion, the diminishing marlin in Southern California is cyclical, rather than overfishing.
Pete agrees that the fish caught off the coast of Baja, on average, are smaller than the fish caught in Southern California. The high boat totals recorded earlier this year on the Golden Gate and Finger Bank above Cabo San Lucas were mostly smaller fish in the 60 to 80 pound class, significantly less than the 120 pound average in California. Because of the warmer water and smaller size, Baja stripers are perceived to be less strong than their northern counterparts. However, he was quick to point out that during the Bisbee Cup, he had two fish, both hooked in the corner of the mouth with circle hooks, yet it took 1 ½ hours to subdue each of them.
He stated that another important difference between the two fisheries is that while Southern California marlin season is limited to a few months in the late summer and fall, Baja offers year round striped marlin fishing, giving anglers more opportunity to experiment with new techniques.
Even though the Bad Company Team has been extraordinarily successful, they spend much of their time experimenting with new techniques to improve their performance during tournaments. As Groesbeck puts it, “We are constantly mixing old and new methods that may provide that ‘missing piece’ of the puzzle in a given situation“.
Since the World Championship Billfish Release Tournament required circle hooks four years ago, The Bad Company Team has used them exclusively. Their preferred hook is Eagle Claw 2004 which has proven to be a plus. The wire hooks disintegrate quickly and have only broken in a few rare instances when buried in the bone and twisted. New anglers, unsure of setting the hook when they have a bite, can simply throw the reel in gear and wind. Another advantage to using the circle hook is when the fish sounds, the angler backs off the drag and the fish almost immediately returns to the surface allowing faster release times.
When baiting fish from the bow, star dragged reels are their tackle choice. When I asked why Groesbeck explained, “We prefer lever drags in the cockpit for drop backs. However, on the bow when we are casting to fish the star drag reel can be put in gear instantly and it works better with circle hooks. We are working with Penn on a mid-range casting reel with both a lever and star drag with detents, so that when the drag is backed off, say three clicks, it’s easy to return the drag to its original setting”.
Accurate temperature, chlorophyll and weather charts provide information that can save hours of time and gallons of fuel, eliminating areas where it is unlikely that conditions would attract either bait or marlin, allowing more time to fish the promising areas.
The team’s success can also be contributed immensely to their sophisticated array of electronics coupled with a crew equipped with stabilized binoculars.
What advice did Groesbeck offer to aspiring marlin fishermen? “Don’t fall into a rigid routine; try new methods. Mix and match techniques… don’t forget the old ones nor ignore the new ones. The one thing you can be sure of is that conditions are constantly changing. The angler who understands this and is willing to adapt will always be the one who is the most successful.”
If you would like to listen to the entire recorded interview. http://www.bajabackroom.com/