By Gene Kira, Sept. 2, 2002, as published in Western Outdoor News:
I'm headed down to La Paz, Baja California Sur, Mexico, in a couple of weeks with two main goals in mind: 1) Eat as many handmade fruit ice cream cones as possible at the La Fuente shop on the Malecon. 2) Get a first-hand giant roosterfish catching lesson from Bill Mathias.
"La Fuente," of course, is the landmark waterfront ice cream parlor near La Paz' historic Hotel Los Arcos. It's so well-loved by natives and tourists alike that it has become a hallowed shrine to the worship of the white-magic art of ice cream making.
I was first told about this place by Tony Schuck, the witty, perennial, bon vivant president of the Vagabundos del Mar, as we were driving toward La Paz in Tony's van, about 100 kilometers north of the city. Tony, who knows his way around a dessert dish as well as anybody, just about drove off the road when I said that I'd never been to La Fuente. Needless to say, as soon as we got to La Paz, we put a couple of big dents in their inventory, and to this day, I never approach within 50 miles of the city without a hit. This is a great people-watching spot on hot summer evenings, the homemade ice cream is super, super-good, and the selection of flavors makes Baskin Robbins look like a table-top vending machine. You could go a lifetime here and never finish your first lap.
But...on to the fishing.
The other reason for this La Paz trip is to meet Bill Mathias and learn exactly how he catches so dang many big roosterfish.
You could think of Bill as sort of the La Fuente of pez gallo. He's a pro at his art, and his favorite roosterfish water is around Las Arenas, where he fishes several times every year with David Jones' Fishermen's Fleet pangas.
In case you missed last week's fishing report, the lead story was about Bill's latest exploits, which were exceptional even for him. In six days, he caught 7 roosterfish estimated at 80 pounds or better, including 4 fish estimated at over 100 pounds, and at least one fish, estimated at 124 pounds, which would have broken the current all-tackle record of 114 pounds (Abe Sackheim, La Paz, 1960).
I've actually known Bill for a while, but only by phone. He's the author of the well-known Spanish-English Dictionary of Sport Fishing, and we talk fish stuff occasionally, and every now and then, a bit of news filters in about his catches.
But he's a real quiet guy. What I didn't know, was that the reason he holds no world records for roosterfish is because he refuses to kill one in order to weigh it. This has cost him a bunch of glory. With the 20-pound IGFA roosterfish record at only 85 pounds 13 ounces, it is likely that he broke this record several times on his last trip alone.
"It crossed my mind that maybe I ought to keep it," Mathias said of his 124-pound all-tackle breaker. "It was an obvious world record. But, then I decided I just couldn't. I have a fixation on those stupid fish. They have such a nice surface strike."
Bill always fishes with circle hooks and 20-pound line, and he has promised to reveal some of the things that he's learned over the years about how to catch big roosterfish regularly. For instance, after extensive testing on flotillas of them, he's convinced that the oft-recommended super-long wait before hookset is baloney. "You only need to wait a couple of seconds," he says, "until the line starts to pull out."
But for the full story, we'll need to spend some happy-fishin' time in David Jones' pangas, and for sure, a couple of serious visits to La Fuente. I can taste the mango-watermelon already.
(Related La Paz articles and reports may be found at Mexfish.com's main La Paz information page. See weekly fishing news, photos, and reports from the major sportfishing vacation areas of Mexico including the La Paz area in "Mexico Fishing News.")