Thursday, August 13, 2015

Blast from the Past, La Palmas de Cortez, 1997

Nice Bull Dorado
Saturday was spent running back to Wisconsin to attend a wedding party in Mondovi with my wife and her relatives.  Here I thought it was an outside affair but it turned out to be simply a party as they did the ceremonial stuff on Friday which means I dressed up for nothing!  I did met a gentleman by the name of Steve that after a few questions determined that he enjoyed fishing as much as I did. He lives in Durand so I explained the time when I was about 16 and I got the royal crap beat out of me by a guy in Durand and it expanded from there.  Today he fishes Lake Pepin, something I am anxious to try and hopefully he will contact me sometime to let me tag along.  With little opportunity to go fishing last week last week I was looking for something interesting and ran across a small photo album with some great past fishing pictures, including some from my trip to Cabo San Lucas.  In April of 1997 I was invited to go fishing with a business associate, Walt Benecki of Arnold Engineering.  For a number of years only his company would produce a special part needed in an implantable application which made us successful.  Walt had learned I love to fish and over the years we had talked about fishing the Sea of Cortez and that year it finally happened.  As a note, Walt wrote a book about his fishing adventures and it's still available on Amazon HERE.  His book was the influence for me to start my blog to document my fishing experiences.  So, getting back to the story all I needed to do was get to LAX by 6:00 AM on April 25th and he would take care of everything else.  What was interesting is Paul Wenaas had a round trip travel voucher that was due to expire on April 30th so we he heard I was going offered me a really good deal, $125, I was set. The flight was due in at around 10:00 the evening before however we sat on the runway till 11:00 and it was midnight before I got to my hotel.  Unfortunately the person who booked my room at $69 had done it for Friday instead of Thursday and of course there were no rooms left at "that price" and the
First Days catch, 3 nice Dorado's.
hotel was full.  After some checking they miraculously fine one room left at $149, it was now almost 1:00 and I had to get up at 5:00, I'll take it.  I supposed the right thing might have been to just wait at the airport, I could hardly sleep anyway but the little sleep I got helped.  At 6:00 I met Walt, Fred, and Shok as we boarded for Los Cabos Airport at the tip of the Baja Peninsula.  Arriving at around 10:30 we loaded into a van and headed northeast, not before stopping at a little shack and getting a Pacifico for the ride to La Palmas de Cortez, our destination.  It was really cool driving through the desert then coming over the hill to see the Sea of Cortez, it's aqua blue color and the white sands of the beaches below.  We arrived at the resort and it certainly was the most impressive place I'd ever been to.  Unpacking in a gorgeous room overlooking the ocean we headed to the beach to sit at the veranda just in time to watch the boats come in.  I'll never forget that afternoon when we met some guys from Intel Corporation, Portland Oregon.  After a few introductions and where we were from (Eleva, Wisconsin) the head guy looks at me and says, that explains it.  Explains what? I asked.  Well it's not pronounced Oregon (last syllable sounds like on) the way you midwestern guys say it but rather Oregon (las syllable sounds like gun).  I explained that it has an O in it and not a U, still he insisted.  Ok, then tell me if you are from Oregun, are you an Oregunian or an Oregonian? FU was his answer, you can't outsmart an Eleva boy as he bought margaretta's the rest of the night.  The next morning we woke up at 6:00 to have breakfast in the dining area before boarding our fishing vessel for the day, a 26 foot with a single engine and a fly bridge for spotting marlin.  Our first stop was at a small boat just off shore where they purchased bait, maybe a few hundred minnows about 5 - 6 inches.  We headed out about 5 miles into the deeper waters and started looking around anything floating whether it be net buoys, vegetation or garbage in the water as you could easily see 40 feet or more down, they would look for fish, especially dorado.  Often the captain's mate would throw a few minnows in the water and with no cover they swam for their lives.  If there were any fish in the area they would definitely make themselves known.  The second they saw something they'd rig a pole up with a hook and a minnow and toss it overboard trying to get it to hit.  Usually they were successful and as soon as the fish was on they handed you the pole.  Because there were 2 of us fishing, we flipped for the first fish then it was every other hookup meaning if you a pole was handed to you, that was your turn regardless if you landed it or not.

Neon colors at their finest
I was first and immediately fought and landed a huge bull dorado that you see in the first picture. Pictures and words can not describe both how beautiful these fish are in the water and how awesome they fight.  Many saltwater fish light up like a neon sign when under stress and the dorado is the king. Bright neon blues, greens, and yellows it's a sight to see for sure.  Not only are these fish fun to catch but they are fabulous to eat, which I will get into later.
The next hookup was another dorado and it was up to Fred to land the fish which he did perfectly.  I was 52 at the time and Fred was around 62 but not as good of shape as I was. These fish took a lot of effort to land them as you needed a break after your turn was complete.  The next fish hooked was nice 9 1/2 foot striped marlin and it was my turn!  I have never experienced what I was about to embark as this thing used all it's power to shake the hook.  Of course being an avid fan of the Sunday morning fishing shows on cable, I was familiar with the antics of a marlin however experiencing it was a whole new deal.  After a number of crazy runs and leaps out of the water, it's final strategy was to go deep directly under the boat.  Man, it was like reeling in a big rock. 30 minutes later the marlin was along side the boat with it's pectoral fins lit up in a neon blue.  I have to admit I needed a break.  We snapped a few pictures and released the fish to fight another day.  The next couple fish were hooked and release then Fred hooked a very nice dorado. Besides having fun, the other thing going on was Walt's annual Cabo Fishing Tournament.  Each fisherman was assessed points based on type of fish and its rarity along with other factors such as total catch in your boat as well as bonus sizes for trophy sized fish, say a 500 pound billfish.  Black Marlin were worth 40 points, blue marlin 30, striped marlin 25, sailfish 20, wahoo 15, dorado 3, and tuna 2.  These are pretty much based on how common those fish are.  The other qualifier is each rod has a leader connected to a swivel and a "caught fish" was awarded when the swivel passed the rod tip, regardless if it got off after that.  Well Fred was battling this dorado and the swivel was about a foot from the tip when all of a sudden the boat surges forward as the captain cranked on the throttle, he had seen a marlin in front of the boat and marlins = tips.  Poor Fred was hanging on for dear life (as well as shouting a few expletives) as the line was peeling off the reel.  About 100 yards later no sign of the marlin and Fred was stuck reeling that fish back in again, I thought he was going to have a heart attack.  Later that night Fred demanded that he should be awarded double the points for having had to reel it in twice.  No such luck but we did end the day with 3 dorado caught and a striped marlin.

Ready to Land a Striped Marlin, notice the blue fin.
What was fabulous about La Palmas de Cortez is they kept the dorado, often known as Mahi Mahi, and serve it each night for dinner.  It's absolutely fabulous and I really made a pig of myself, so much that the older Mexican lady serving it told me "Senor, you will get ill eating like you do!" The next day was my turn to be with Walt in his boat as we changed strategy for the morning bite and went for yellowfin tuna. Even though they are the least amount of points, you can usually catch quite a few if you get into them.  Unfortunately most of what I caught were bonita, basically a trash member of the tuna family.  They did fight excellent and I did finally catch a yellowfin and the rest of the day was pretty slow.  In then end my score was 63 which puts me in the middle of the list of guys that fished during the 13 years that Walt held this contest.  It was a great time, I met a lot of great people and there is nothing better than relaxing on the veranda on the beach drinking a Negra Modelo, which unfortunately by Saturday night had cleaned out the resort of this great beer.  I have it on my bucket list to get back to La Palmas de Cortez, it's still relatively inexpensive place to go and hopefully my brother Steve and I can make it someday.  That trip ranks in the top 5 of my lifetime fishing experiences for sure.

The Mille Lacs situation continues to play itself out and I will definitely have more to say on that later. This week we have finalized the dates for our September Lac Seul trip as we will leave on the 21st and return on the 25th.  This time my brother Steve is coming with and I am really excited to return the favor from him inviting me on his trip a couple years ago to Burrows Lake, east of Lake Nipigon, Ontario.  Lots to do!!!

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