Thursday, February 17, 2011

Monster Fishing--Magdalena Bay style

Always a challenge searching for the shrimp fishermen can cause some anxious moments until they are found.

Last year at the Fred Hall Show, Dennis Braid, owner of Braid Products and co-host of Trev Gowdy's Monster Fish, stopped me in an aisle and pulled a tattered piece of notepaper out of his pocket.
"You are on my list," he said as he pointed to my name with 'fish Mag Bay snook' scrawled behind it.

We had experienced a banner year for snook in 2009 and a quick check with Bob Hoyt, Mag Bay Outfitters in Lopez Mateos confirmed open dates in November of 2010 and the Monster Fish trip was added to the calendar.

After spending October in Cabo San Lucas where I covered three back-to-back marlin tournaments and the WON/Yamaha Los Cabos Tuna Jackpot, I met Braid, a native Australian, who is considered one of the pioneers of stand-up, big game fishing, and his cameraman Todd Free at the La Paz airport. During the three-plus hour drive to Lopez Mateos in the Roadtrek,  Dennis's enthusiastic questions were non-stop…covering everything from tackle to techniques.

Before sunup the following morning, the truck towing MBO's Mar Gato grumbled to a stop in front of Mag Bay Outfitter's rental. Dennis and his cameraman had already assembled a large pile of gear to be loaded on the 26' outboard-powered catamaran that we would be fishing on for the next week. Always smiling Captain Sergio Garcia helped pack their gear and we bounced along the dirt streets of Lopez to the concrete launch ramp a few blocks away.

In the water, we sped north in search of the pangas rigged with the telltale loge-pole outriggers that seasonally fish for shrimp (camarones) in November. Always a challenge, searching for the shrimp fishermen can cause some anxious moments until they are found. Only in the past few years have we began using live shrimp for bait in the esteros, and the success of this trip was dependent on the availability of the shrimp. Nearly every live bait is bit by something. Don't even waste your time with the dead ones; save those and eat them for dinner. 

A quick inventory of tackle confirmed this wasn't one of my usual light-tackle or fly-rod trips where finesse provided the balance between angler and fish. This tackle was medium to heavy and loaded with fifty pound braid!  It would be game-on for the monsterfish we sought!
Loading up the bait tank with live shrimp, we continued farther to the north. The spot we chose  was a thirty-foot deep channel along the eastern shore of the mangrove-lined estero. The sounder confirmed the depth and an irregular bottom with two-foot ridges covered with sticks and debris. Using small one to two ounce sinkers, depending on the current, the live shrimp were dropped to the bottom and then raised up a couple of reel turns to avoid the debris.

It was as though the fish had been waiting for Dennis to arrive. The bite began with the first drop and continued throughout the day with a little ebb and flow. Every fish hooked demonstrated the strength developed in the tough neighborhood where they dwelled.

Oddly, while there were an unusual number of species caught, the star of show (the snook) didn't appear on stage as often as we had hoped for. The distinctive violent bite of the snook was few and far between.
A few days into our trip, a local pangero we had befriended provided the answer. Sipping one of our icy cervesa's, he volunteered that the divers speared all the snook in our spot two weeks ago. "Grandes," he said as he spread his hands more than four feet apart, signifying the size.

Digesting the disappointing news, A plan quickly evolved into plan B at our friend Elsa's Taco stand that night. Local knowledge provided  us with a laundry list of other snook-producing spots to visit.

For the final few days, we moved from spot to spot covering thirty miles of Magdalena Bay north and south of Lopez Mateos. We pounded the good spots that produced and moved on to the others if they didn't. 

The strategy paid off and we caught the elusive snook…did we get the monster we needed to star in the show? Tune into Outdoor Channel and watch Monsterfish to find out.

ShowTime's are:
Friday Feb. 18 Prime Time 7-11 pm
Saturday Feb 19 9:30 am
Sunday Feb 20 7:00 am