Thursday, July 21, 2011

Baja's Intoxicating Target "Dorado"

No other fish motivates the masses like the dorado and nowhere is that more evident than in Loreto.
The impatient anglers begin arriving in June hoping to find an early bite along with discounted room rates. The savvy make their reservations early for July, the heart of the season when the sun is the hottest and the humidity is almost unbearable. The hesitant wait until the reports confirm that the season is in full swing before deciding to go; and often, they are disappointed that their belated arrival coincides with a season that is fizzling out. 

Dorado are like warm, freshly salted tortilla chips. What is there not to like and chances are one is not enough, which is fine because most of the time they come by the basketful.
They are wrapped in many different colors constantly changing hues like a soap bubble. Ask a cockpit full of anglers what color their fish was and each will have a different answer. 
Few fish have as many desirable traits in one package. Fast growing in ideal conditions, a one pound male dorado distinguished placed in a large tank at the San Diego Sea World grew to 35 pounds in eight months.
Almost anything floating on the surface, from a piece of rope to sargasso, (a form of seaweed) can provide enough cover in the hot Baja sun to attract huge schools of dorado as dense as a swirling bait ball.

When located the fish will usually eat almost any bait or artificial offered, is seldom line-shy and  provides a memorable fight punctuated with repeated dazzlingly-colorful acrobatic leaps. They can be caught on any tackle and are the absolute favorite saltwater catch for many flyrodders in Baja.
The past several years have been disappointing.  Dorado goes with Baja sportfishing like the salt on the rim of an icy margarita.  It's just not the same without them.

Some say this has been caused by the illegal commercial fishing recently addressed by the Mexican Government. Others point to the extreme El Nino/La Nina events as the culprit.  However, we all agree that a missing ingredient has been the lack of the sargasso seaweed patches that usually provide  cover for the dorado and other species.

This year early reports of plenty of sargasso seaweed is being reported throughout the Sea of Cortez all the way down to East Cape along with the early arrival of some large fish up and down the coast from Mulege to Cabo San Lucas.

The results of the Bomberos de Mulegé Fishing Tournament is encouraging for the upcoming season right around the corner....lots and lots of fish were caught on both days all the way from just a few miles off the river mouth to 30 miles out. The water temperature throughout the event was right around 76 degrees.

Congratulations to the following winners of a turnout of 74 anglers in 29 boats!
Dorado First: Charles Jetton 33.7 pounds on "Reel Music"
Dorado Second: John Macy (very exciting!) 27.2 pounds on "Poco Mas"
Dorado Third: John Dinning 25.0 pounds on "Mi Mujer"
Largest Other, Cabrilla:  Marlin Larsen 16.0 pounds on "Marlin Azul"

The tournament committee announced that a total of 59,000 pesos had been raised for the charities in Mulegé supported by the annual event.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Old East Cape fading

An aerial view of the 900-acre Cabo Riviera…a 285-slip full-service Marina for vessels from pangas to super yachts under construction with the contractual promise of opening by early 2012.

While the media has been filled with the constant barrage of misinformation regarding the hazards of traveling in Baja over the past couple of years, the steady roar of bulldozers and the low grumble of dredges have been deafening along the East Cape beaches as the landscape is carved and molded to accommodate new developments anchored by marinas and golf courses. Apparently,  there are still plenty of investors and developers, both foreign and local, who are not frightened off by the media stories as they are committing huge sums of money into these ambitious East Cape area developments.

Several weeks ago I flew down to Buena Vista Beach Hotel to attend the memorial for my friend, San Diego Contractor R.E. 'Togo' Hazard. Since most of my trips are in my Roadtrek, I welcomed the opportunity to sit back and take in the scenery as the shuttle sped up the road to the hotel. As I stared out the tinted window I commented to my fellow passengers that after all of these years of driving Mex 1 there are many stretches along the 1,000 mile road that still remained unchanged.

My arrival coincided with Cinco de Mayo and the hotel was decorated in festive Mexican colors commemorating the defeat of the French and traitor Mexican army of 8,000 at Puebla, Mexico, 100 miles east of Mexico City on the morning of May 5, 1862 by the loyal, patriotic Mexican soldiers.

The hotel was crowded with guests including more than thirty friends and family who had arrived for Togo's Memorial. That evening's party at dinner with traditional Mexican music and dancers was just the beginning of celebrations that extended until late Saturday night.
As others departed on Sunday,  I had  time to explore the beaches that had once been my backyard from the early '80s to 2005 when we lived in our home, Rancho Deluxe, on the East Cape beach at La Capilla.

The beach in front of La Capilla where Rancho Deluxe and the trailer park once stood and the surrounding homes were leveled back in 2006 in preparation for a new development by American investment group. Today the property remains bare.

But another mile down the beach is the site of El Anhelo Marina and Resort Project which when built will include a hotel, villas, 500 boat slips, Marina village, residential lots,  and an 18-hole golf course. This project is being developed by the local Van Warmer family and El Cid group from Mazatlan with construction to begin later this year.

Five miles farther down the beach is the current granddaddy of projects…the 900-acre Cabo Riviera…a 285-slip full-service Marina for vessels from pangas to super yachts under construction with the contractual promise of opening by early 2012.

Their web site states: "The Marina Harbor is anchored by an European-style Artists Village with casually elegant condominiums, apartments, boutiques, shops, and a replica of a Colonial-era church. The Artists Village offers opportunities for casual dining that are unparalleled in Baja, plus a fabulous spa, all served by water taxis that transport guests between various elements of the harbor-oriented community. Handsome brick and stone-clad buildings overlooking the harbor house an exclusive yacht club and a small boutique hotel. Facing the harbor on the west is Cabo Riviera's five-star 150-key hotel managed by an international concern, and complete with branded residences, a luxurious spa, and private docks for hotel guests. Cabo Riviera residents and guests will have privileges at the championship golf course."

I suppose all of this sounds really cool to some…those faint of heart who want to find exactly what they left behind in another upscale country.   But for me, I want to find the 25 or 30 miles of beach that I could explore and fish…rarely seeing another angler, and when I did, it was often a local with a Mexican spinning reel (tin can wrapped with fishing line), hand-lining his fish from the beach. 

It doesn't seem like that long ago that we had to stand in line in a cinder block building  with a grumpy operator who spoke no English (or didn't use it if she did) out beside a dirt road to telephone home. I can remember the welcomed change when real telephones became available and how we praised the progress that they represented. We were pretty naïve then and never imagined that over the years one small change at a time would eventually  swallow the old Baja that lured most of us here in the first place.

One longtime retired resident who always took his morning walks on the nearly deserted La Ribera beaches decades ago had this to say. "I’m sure I’m not the only local who has major misgivings about the project and all the changes it will bring."

Even the powerful, negative media hasn't been able to keep out the investors and changes have arrived.  My advice to those of you who want to see any part of old Baja before it fades into the new Baja is to visit soon…times are a'changing.