Ensenada, Mexico



Sept. 19, 2005, Steve Ross, Ensenada, Baja California, Mexico:

On Saturday, Sept. 17, 2005, at Ensenada Club Nautico sponsored the Torneo Internacional De Pesca Deportiva Verano. It was a huge Baja Norte fishing tournament with over 300 anglers competing in a vastly publicized largest fish contest.

With Gail and I, Juan Lu and our "Marinero" Alex "Jando" Ruiz on board Bad Dog we headed out to the north in seeking a big tuna to win. Juan Lu and Alex are local Ensenada residents who are known on the boardwalk as big game killers and the local fishermen both sport and commercial were eager to see them perform up to their boasting. So this was a war amongst locals. A put up or shut up event.

The first part was to be in Ensenada Harbor at 0200 for the officials to inspect all the boats. We were there at 0130 and found nobody and finally left at 0210 concluding that this must be a pretty small fishing tournament with just a few boats. We had no idea of the magnitude of this event.

With wind and big seas off Ensenada for the past few days we were not disappointed when we cleared the Lighthouse at Todos Santos Norte. My thought was to let Juan Lu and Alex drive the boat while Gail slept on the sofa and I crawled into the comfy Captain's Quarters. After about a half an hour of being raised off the mattress in 6 foot seas I went hand over hand to reach the portable VHF to call Alex on Channel 6 and ask him to slow down the boat so I could make it to the bridge.

As we cleared the Upper 500 and found the blue water, thanks to Jeff Gammon's Chlorophyll Charts, at first light we put out the jigs. Mostly an array of big heavy marlin jigs and one PacLure, an old style wahoo jig which Doug Kern suggested that I use to catch a big eye a few years back, and we did it. I had just taken this jig back home and re-rigged it with a single 13/0 Mustad and 220 Pound Momoi Xtra Tuff. The head is about the size of your fist and it must weigh a pound. We needed big heavy jigs to keep them in the water in these heavy seas.

With one knock down of a suspicious origin we kept heading NW. After realizing that the knock down occurred with a 7 Strand Crystallurz Slight Swimmer in Purple/Black I told Alex to take all the big jigs out and opt for smaller marlin jigs. He cleverly did it, except for one exception...the wahoo jig. Not only did he disobey me but he moved the jig from the port shotgun position to the center #2 position direct off a Int'l 2 speed 50 wide. The rod was a 5 1/2 foot stock Penn tuna stick.

At 0900 the port #2 rod went off with an instant burn. Whatever grabbed it took off running from the back of the boat. "Clear the lines please!" It never surfaced as everyone pitched in to clear the lines. It just kept screaming on a straight line...for a while. Then, it came up jumping to the port...all together now..."IT'S A MARLIN!" I had no idea which jig it took, but never figured on the wahoo jig. I figured to win this tournament it would take a huge ling cod, but if we got lucky maybe we'd catch one of those 20 pound yellowfin that the seiners didn't take away. But now, I'm hooked up to definitely the TOURNAMENT WINNER.

All the marlin left Ensenada weeks ago, and we have one on. Oh My God! Gail took the rod and we got her on the bow somehow as I turned the boat to the starboard and began to follow the line. And there he goes, jumping, jumping, jumping and more jumping. We took a vote later and we decided on the number 24...at least 24 jumps with something black and purple trailing. "What jig is that?" I yelled at Alex. "It's the PacLure" he replied. "No frickin way...I thought we took all the big jigs out?" Everyone that I showed this jig to said the same thing..."You're so lucky, he should have thrown it." I agree, I was waiting for this fish to figure out that 9' from his mouth is something dangling that he can throw back at me and get even. But he didn't, he was greyhounding, not vertical...that's his problem and the weight of the jig simply kept digging the hook in deeper into the roof of his mouth.

As the fish came within 15 feet and almost within gaffing range with Juan Lu and Alex standing over him with a flying gaff and a straight cane pole he decided to run deep where he died. That left Gail the chore of raising the marlin in the seas. Which she did...end of story. But not really.

It was an hour later with Mr. Marlin on the step tucked into his burlap leaf blanket that I spotted a kelp paddy. Gail and Juan Lu were not inspired by it's small size, however Alex knew better and the chum brought boils and he boated a nice 10 pound yellowtail, but not without exclaiming..."There's a lot of fish here." And he rapid fired a mackerel back at the paddy and then boated a 19 pound yellowtail. Juan Lu and Gail were reacting like in a ladies' sewing circle. Gail then threw a chrome Krocodile...why? We had a tankful of mackerel and fabulous big chovies from Mike.

It soon got to be around noon, with what I figured was two tournament winners on board. No one has caught a yellowtail in Ensenada in a month now.

We pulled in the lines and headed on back to Ensenada Harbor...DOWNSWELL...where Alex and I both got very refreshing and badly needed naps.

When we arrived in the Harbor and headed over to the concrete park where the big Mexican flag flies I saw dozens of red and white booths, a stage, and hundreds of people. Alex asked if he could drive the boat...sure. He began honking our horn and yelling at all his cronies on the boardwalk while Juan Lu was pointing down at the swim step for all to see. We became the main attraction in the Harbor. Of course I was flying two flags...one for the marlin and one for the yellowtail. We pulled into the staging area where slips were reserved and offloaded the marlin and two yellowtail and parked the boat there.

That's when all hell broke loose. People started filling the whole park, hundreds of local Mexicans. Rotating bands started playing, with different singers and then...fiesta traditional Mexican dancers in beautiful white dresses from Vera Cruz began dancing and twirling with their male partners who were dressed in white, white and white. An announcer set up and soon he was coordinating a full on show and tables and chairs were set up for all the people and a head table where politicians and dignitaries showed up and sat down. Mexico Viejo began pouring their tequila free to all comers and La Cetto began wine tasting, another booth began frying whole fish for every one to eat (which we did--mine was a sand bass) and fish began arriving off of tournament boats. I had no idea, I was blown away. This party took off. It was extremely loud, everyone was having fun and laughing. The President (Mayor) of Ensenada, the Secretary of Tourism, local TV cameramen, politicians, prominent business people and famous fishermen both sport and commercial began socializing and taking seats. The joint was jumping and there were a heck of a lot of people as the bands played on and they all began dancing.

The yard arms started with our marlin and worked down in size with Alex's yellowtail holding 4th place yielding to two tuna. I have participated in a lot of tournaments in my life but this was the biggest and most exhilarating event I have ever attended in my life. Many of these people had nothing to do with fishing...they were local VIP's on a roll from Mexico's Independence day as well. It was huge.

The second place fish, a 64 pound yellowfin tuna was disqualified because it was proven that the SOB bought the tuna from the Salsipuedes pens. Later others commented that the man who submitted the fish had rock cod on his boat and no gear to catch such a fish. The eyes were white and the fish was black and covered in flies. He got so violent that they called the police and took him to jail. That pushed Alex's 19 pound yellowtail into third place. A skyrocket went off to announce the tournament's conclusion at 5:00 p.m.

The awards presentation was more like the Oscars with pomp and circumstance so to speak. They made a big deal out of it and when they called up Gail, we all went...Team Bad Dog and shook all the hands extended from all these VIP's. We were awarded all new Shimano reels valued at around $2,500 U.S. and Alex received a half a dozen new Shimano's as well worth over $1,000...we were blown away. Then we won in the huge raffle event. Sponsors ran from Coca Cola, Shimano, Tecate, many high profile restaurants, Las Rocas, Squidco and SQC Corp., Fish Trap, Melton Int'l, Telnor, Luhr Jensen, Mercury, El Mexicano, TV Channel CNR, Hotel Calafia, and dozens more.

When we finally left at around 8:00 p.m. in the dark and went back to the boat we were elated. Our heads were buzzing from all the excitement and all four of us couldn't believe what just happened. We won.

1st place...our marlin 136 pounds, Gail was the angler

2nd place...a 19.9 pound yellowfin tuna

3rd place...Alex's 19 pound yellowtail

From there it was ling cods and rock cods, a bonito, and more right down to one pounders...it was unbelievable. The crowd around the fish was huge and deep. All kinds of people were having friends and family take pictures of them with the marlin.

Got back, filleted the fish, the boys took half, we took another half and ours is on it's way to Pt. Loma Seafoods for smoking.

Saturday started with the alarm going off with an hour and a half of sleep to midnight and ended at 11:00 p.m. that night...what do you think? Hell yeah we're exhausted. Exhausted and proud. We love Ensenada and all of it's wonderful people.

P.S. I have learned to favor the Chlorophyll charts over the SST's. Dr. Martin Morris taught me this by paying attention to his Wednesday fish reports...way to go Marty. You could say that we owe all this to Jeff as we were hell bent on fishing the Todos Santos Bay in hopes of a yellowtail. But his charts changed my mind.