March 15, 2000, by Gene Kira, Western Outdoor News:
I was at the Long Beach Fred Hall Show last Saturday night, and I must admit a moment of awkwardness as I greeted Pete Gray of the Let's Talk Hookup radio show and asked him how he was doing. Neither of us knew quite what to say, because looming over the entire show and all those thousands and thousands of Baja fishing people was a piece of sad news that we had been living with all day long: Fred Hall had passed away.
For the tightly-packed throngs of show goers and their children, this news had gone mostly unnoticed, and that's the way it should be, for they had come to enjoy themselves in an atmosphere of fun and excitement.
But for those of us who have come to the show each year because our lives were somehow bound up with the crazy world of the Baja sport fishing industry, the death of Fred Hall signaled the end of an era that reaches back to the early post-World War II years. For a very long time now, Fred Hall's big show has been an annual rite of spring where old friendships are renewed, contacts are made, and new products are introduced by the hopeful.
The Fred Hall Show will go on, of course, in the hands of Fred's son, Bart Hall, and I'm sure it will just keep getting bigger and bigger, but nonetheless, there has been a great loss to all of us who love and live sport fishing.
For us Baja types, the annual Fred Hall Shows have also been a time when we get a chance to meet many of our friends from south of the border. We cruise from booth to booth, seeking out the regulars, some of whom come north just for this show.
On Sunday, I was making my way down a particularly crowded aisle at the show, and my way was blocked by a large man wearing an impressively tailored jacket of elegant brown leather. He had his back toward me, and I couldn't see his face as I waited patiently for him to move his considerable backside out of my way.
But he was engrossed in conversation and wouldn't move. Eventually, I grabbed his elbow (gently) and attempted to steer him to the side, and he whirled around to look at me. It turned out that the big man in the leather jacket was none other than Ronnie Verdugo, son of Martin Verdugo. Their family runs one of my favorite places in Baja, Martin Verdugo's RV Park (now called Hotel), in the East Cape village of Los Barriles.
If any of you have read my novel, King Of The Moon, it was the roosters of Martin Verdugo's RV Park that inspired the opening scene. I really don't know how many beautiful Baja mornings I have listened to those roosters as I waited for the sun to come up so I could launch the boat and go fishing!
After realizing that it was Ronnie Verdugo in front of me, I was even more surprised to look over, or more properly, around his shoulder, and see that the Verdugo family had a booth at the Fred Hall Show, and standing in that booth was my favorite Baja senorita, Marisol Verdugo. It took a moment to recognize her, because to me, Marisol will always be a shy little girl about four feet tall, and she will be holding a rake in her hands as she helps her father operate the RV park in the early years, when it consisted of little more than some sand dunes and a couple of trash barrels.
Over the seasons, the hurricanes came and went, the palm trees grew high and shady, the RV hookups went in, the kids were sent to college and returned to Los Barriles with their degrees, then the pool and motel rooms went in, then the panga and cruisers, and more hotel rooms, and somehow Marisol grew tall and stylish and extremely articulate in English, and here she was, suddenly all grown up and inviting me to her wedding this spring! It made me feel (very briefly) like an old man.
A few minutes later, I was cruising down another aisle and discovered the booth of what might as well be called the LA Bay Sportfishing Association. It was staffed by four young men from the famous fishing and mining village that received Baja's first paved side road in 1974, Bahia de los Angeles. LA Bay has had its problems over the years, and it was wonderful to see such cooperation among families that have a stake in the future of sport fishing there.
Some people have voiced the opinion that Bahia de los Angeles should remain forever "primitive," but really, that's just another word for "poor and shabby." It is through the development of modern sport fishing and other forms of tourism that the problems of the past will be corrected, and the families who came to the show are taking a leadership role in a village that has badly needed it ever since the death of Antero Diaz. Present at the Fred Hall Show booth during my visit were Igor Galvan of Guillermo's RV Park and Restaurant; Ruben Daggett and his son, of Daggett's Beach Camp; and Dr. Abraham Silva Vazquez of Campo Gecko. Good for you guys!
So we have, in the span of a single week, the death of Fred Hall, news of the marriage of Marisol Verdugo, and the beginnings of a new era of cooperation in LA Bay. And with this first column, and this first fishing report, so appropriately from L.A. Bay where I made my first trip to Baja in 1964, I now launch this new Baja website, BajaDestinations.com, which is dedicated to the development of modern sport fishing and tourism as a means of helping Mexico to preserve its beautiful Sea of Cortez for future generations.
(Related Baja California, Mexico, articles and reports may be found at Mexfish.com's main Baja California information page. See weekly fishing news, photos, and reports from the major sportfishing vacation areas of Mexico including the Baja California area in "Mexico Fishing News.")