CABO SAN LUCAS--At exactly 6:02 p.m. last Thursday, complete bedlam broke loose in front of the Cabo Marina office as WON staffer Judy Morgan looked carefully at the digital scale readout and yelped to the crowd, "two-hundred fifty-six pounds!!!" Someone screamed, "That ain't no fish! It's a FORD!"
The huge yellowfin tuna had just been brought to the dock by Ken Longaker and his partner Karl Bratvold on Griselda, and as everyone knew, it was big enough to trigger the free drawing on Saturday night for a Ford F-150 Super Cab pickup.
The free truck drawing--for all entrants--was the featured top prize for this year's 2002 Western Outdoor News/Mercury Los Cabos Tuna Jackpot Tournament, but it would only be given away if someone caught a fish over 220 pounds. As it turned out, Griselda's first day 256-pounder was the biggest fish landed during a two-fishing-day event that saw more than $160,000 in other free drawing prizes plus $362,000 in cash awards given away.
The 2002 Western Outdoor News/Mercury Los Cabos Tuna Jackpot Tournament, held Nov. 6-9 at Cabo San Lucas, also turned out to be a big winner, growing to 156 teams this year, which made it the season's biggest tournament in Baja California, in terms of boats fishing, and according to local officials it also set an all-time Mexican record for the number of boats chartered.
Probably also setting an "all-tackle" world record for the greatest number of bright yellow tee-shirts ever given away in two days were title sponsor Mercury Outboard's representatives, Dave Bolton and Jay Povlin. Said Povlin as he looked out over the huge, standing room only crowd at Friday night's Mama Roma Shrimp Bucket party: "We passed out 800 Mercury shirts just last night! It's amazing what a free shirt will do for people! Awesome tournament! We're coming back next year for sure!"
Tournament co-director Pat McDonell of Western Outdoor News said, "It's been a great experience. I want to thank all the sponsors and the staff. I don't think Cabo San Lucas has ever seen the numbers and sizes of yellowfin tuna over a two-day period like we had.
"We officially weighed 25 fish over 100 pounds, three over 200 pounds, and nearly 20 fish were turned away that were over 100 pounds but were not going to qualify. To give you a perspective on how good the fishing was, last year we thought we had great action with 16 fish over 100 pounds. We nearly tripled that this year."
In addition to the cash awards totaling $362,000 and the Ford truck, this year's event featured a enormous bonanza of sponsored drawing prizes including a number of big-ticket fishing trips to Alaska, Costa Rica, and Panama, dozens of high-end Shimano reels and G. Loomis rods, and literally thousands of fishing tackle prizes donated by the industry's leading companies. For the three big drawing nights, each featuring over $50,000 in give-aways, the huge mountain of boxes and bags was trucked south from the U.S. with special customs permission arranged by Bobby Van Wormer Jr., Director of Tourism of Baja California Sur.
Owner Hooks, a major tournament sponsor, was represented in Cabo San Lucas by Dennis Yamamoto who talked about this unique feature of the Western Outdoor News/Mercury Los Cabos Tuna Jackpot Tournament: "What other tournament in the world gives you almost $200,000 in raffle prizes? Owner Hooks alone gave over $6,000 worth of hooks. We believe in WON. This is a fantastic tournament, and we support it."
The Western Outdoor News/Mercury Los Cabos Tuna Jackpot Tournament has also received the enthusiastic support of the local Cabo San Lucas community, who made special arrangements ranging from a special fishing license table at the sign-up party to permission for the use of marina facilities. Events such as the shotgun start at the arch on Thursday morning, and the big parties at Mama Roma's Shrimp Bucket and the Hotel Plaza las Glorias were attended by local officials including, Enrique Fernandez del Castillo, General Manager of the Cabo Marina and Vice President of the Mexican Federation of Marinas; Cabo San Lucas Port Captain Manuel Martinez Pano; Cabo San Lucas Mayor, Ulises Ceseña; and Sergio Tabansky, General Manager of API, the Cabo San Lucas marina association.
The record-setting 156 teams fishing in this year's tournament enjoyed near-perfect conditions, and on the first fishing day Thursday it was potluck as boats fanned out over a wide area on both the Pacific and Sea of Cortez sides of the arch. But, after Griselda's big 256 pounder was landed near the Golden Gate Bank, most boats concentrated in that area on the second day.
For this year's tournament, four boats finished in the money:
Griselda; Team #11; Bertram 28; Ken Longaker, Seattle; and Karl Bratvold, Mukilteo, WA; 256.0-pound yellowfin tuna; Day 1; First Place Overall, $51,340.
Edith I; Team 106; California 28; Dreammaker Charters; Lynn Jones, Hemet; Kim Jones, Paso Robles; Mike Gow and Lee Jones, Hemet; 224.0-pound yellowfin tuna; Day 2; Second Place Overall, $6,040; Second Day Jackpots, all but the $3,000 level, $110,000; total winnings, $116,040.
El Vato; Team 42; Nordlund 70; Lewis Feuerstein and David Scheppers of Buttonwillow, CA, Martin Curtin, and Cami Garnier; 219-pound yellowfin tuna; Day 1; Third Place Overall, $3,020; all Day 1 Jackpot levels, $150,800; Total Winnings, $153,820.
Legend of Cabo; Team 157; Super Panga 26; Gino O'Leary, Los Angeles; Hugo Pino Olachea and Augustin Pino Miranda, La Playita, San Jose del Cabo; 182.1 pound yellowfin tuna; Day 2; $3,000 Jackpot Level, $40,000.
In addition, a 74.1-pound wahoo caught by the Minerva II, Team 40, Bertram 33, won the Wahoo/Dorado Award tackle prizes for Chuck Hagen of Homer, AK, and Antonio Colorado and Jaime Contreras.
And, who was the lucky angler that won the Ford F-150 Super Cab pickup?
Sorry! We're not telling! It's a fantastic story of luck, love, and romance, and it will be in next week's 16-page Special Section.
See full tournament details and photos in next week's issue, and check www.loscabostunajackpot.com.
CABO SAN LUCAS, MEXICO: Although fishing at the tip of Baja California was good for striped marlin, dorado, and wahoo last week, angling effort was heavily skewed toward the pursuit of large yellowfin tuna, as 312 boat-days were devoted to the 2002 WON/Mercury Los Cabos Tuna Jackpot Tournament and many tuna over 100 pounds were landed (see separate report).
Cabo weather was generally comfortable, in the mid to high-80s, with water temperatures of 80 to 82 degrees and calm to moderately choppy seas. The large tuna were found on both sides of the arch, but after a 256 pounder was caught near the Golden Gate Bank on Day 1 of the tournament, most of the boats went west for Day 2. During two tournament fishing days, 25 fish over 100 pounds were officially weighed, including 3 fish over 200 pounds. About 20 more 100-pound plus fish were caught but not weighed. The three top fish caught during the tournament came in at 256, 224, and 219 pounds.
CABO SAN LUCAS, MEXICO: Capt. George Landrum of Fly Hooker Sportfishing said, "Marlin were not targeted and to be honest, not really wanted. That may seem strange for Cabo, but this week was the big tuna tournament. It was a long run to find the fish, and almost all the larger fish were found with dolphin. Runs to 40-plus miles were the norm and there were a few boats that went as far as 60 miles. Dolphin action and live baits were the key.
"The tuna tournament was one of the best-run operations I have ever been involved in, and my hat is off to everyone involved. Thank you for a class operation, and may there be many more to come."
CABO SAN LUCAS, MEXICO: Tommy Garcia of Cabo Magic reported on 120 boats chartered during the week with a catch including released fish of: 85 striped marlin, 3 blue marlin, 8 sailfish, 135 dorado, 13 wahoo, 42 yellowfin tuna, and 5 roosterfish.
CABO SAN LUCAS, MEXICO: Larry Edwards of Cortez Yacht Charters said Gaviota Fleet had a catch including released fish of: 2 blue marlin, 38 striped marlin, 4 sailfish, 7 wahoo, 56 yellowfin tuna, and 128 dorado. "The big change was the showing of yellowfin tuna this week, as if they knew they were supposed to be there for the tournament," Edwards said. "Overall, the fishing improved quite a bit for this period. The Pacific side was producing some very good striper catches, along with wahoo and dorado." Gaviota Fleet's largest fish for the week was a 450-pound blue marlin taken aboard the Gracielita by Mike Stone of Long Beach after a fight lasting 3.5 hours on 80-pound line. Generally, the better fishing was found on the Pacific side, according to Edwards.
CABO SAN LUCAS, MEXICO: At Picante Fleet, 7 boats chartered on Thursday had a combined catch including released fish of: 5 striped marlin, 2 sailfish, 11 dorado, 15 yellowfin tuna, and 3 wahoo. Water temperatures were reported from 82 to 76 degrees on both the Pacific and Cortez sides.
CABO SAN LUCAS, MEXICO: At Solmar Fleet, boats fished on both sides of the arch for a combined catch including released fish of: 28 striped marlin, 12 blue marlin, 85 dorado, 47 yellowfin tuna, and 12 wahoo.
CABO SAN LUCAS, MEXICO: At the Hacienda Beach Resort on Saturday, Pete Gray of the Let's Talk Hook Up radio show was doing a special broadcast from the restaurant area overlooking the beach, and mentioned that hotel owner Mark Parr told him about a release of baby sea turtles the previous day. According to Parr, at least 4 female sea turtles still come to lay their eggs on the heavily-used resort beach, right near the hotel. "Mark's really proud of the turtle program," Gray said. The turtle eggs are collected and incubated at a facility in San Jose del Cabo. When the turtles hatch, they are returned to the Hacienda and released to help perpetuate their kind.
ENSENADA, MEXICO: Ivan Villarino of Vonny's Fleet said pangas were still finding good catches of rockcod, lingcod, and bass around the tip of Punta Banda, but that the winter season was bringing periods of light rain, patchy dense fog, moderate winds, and water temperatures of about 62 degrees.
ENSENADA, MEXICO: Chugey Sepulveda reported on an earlier trip to Punta Banda, where he stayed at the Vonny's Fleet cabañas and fished from an aluminum boat: "Fished 2 days last week south of Punta Banda. Had a blast. Fished south of Los Arbolitos, throwing plastics in 40 to 100 feet of water. Released a lot of fish, over 10 species. Also kept some nice lings, a nice assortment of reds, some beautiful calicos to 5 pounds, and a few nice sheephead. The shoreline below the tuna pens is full of life, almost every cast."
PUERTO SANTO TOMAS, MEXICO: Kayak fishing expert Dennis Spike of Coastal Kayak Fishing reported on his recent group trip to Sam Saenz' Puerto Santo Tomas Resort: "Eight anglers, with wide open conditions on lings and rockfish. Very exciting, as nearly every drop produced a fish.
"It was tough getting through the 2 to 3-pound calico bass that attacked the jigs and squid. Ocean whitefish were mixed in. DiCarlo Seafood sent us down with 60 pounds of frozen squid that proved to be key.
"We daisy-chained the kayaks and hauled them to the exposed rocks a few kilometers off the point. Several hot bites and honey holes just exploded. The fish were all keeper class, right down to the treefish, chuckleheads and reds.
"While many fillets were iced for the trip home, the majority of fish were released on this trip.
"Puerto Santo Tomas Resort is an excellent destination, and Sam and Juanita have made significant improvements to the facility since our last visit. Friday night, everybody opted for the lobster dinner at the resort restaurant. Juanita can cook! A giant crab claw appetizer and soup (to die for) led up to the main event. It is a very fishy location and a wonderful place to get away to."
SAN QUINTIN, MEXICO: Jim Harer of the Old Mill Hotel said there were few anglers in town last week, and only 5 pangas went out. San Quintin weather has been sunny, but windy, and 6-foot swells and slow action on yellowtail, but plenty of lingcod.
SAN QUINTIN, MEXICO: Pete Hillis of Pedro's Pangas said action is still good for large rockcod and lingcod at Ben's Rock and the 240 Spot, but yellowtail and white seabass are scattered. Hillis said he's running a winter special, and details are available at 888-568-BAJA.
SAN QUINTIN, MEXICO: Joe Martin said he fished with Bear out of Don Eddie's Landing with his wife Bev and friends for 10 lingcod to 15 pounds, 6 sheephead, an 18-pound bonito, a "whole bunch" of sandbass, and a 30-pound mako shark that was taken as it made a pass at one of the lingcod. Tony Marquez said a few rooms are still available for the Thanksgiving Tournament at Don Eddie's Landing, and winter rates start in December.
MAGDALENA BAY, MEXICO: Gary Graham of Baja On The Fly said his party of three IGFA-rules anglers from Oregon and Florida had a typically exciting "Marlin 101" session at the Thetis Bank fall fish pile-up off Bahia Magdalena last week. "They had 89 striped marlin to the teasers, hooked 20, and landed 12," Graham said. "Dorado and some very aggressive wahoo are just outside the entrada. Inside, there are pompano, sierra, and the usual corvina, halibut and spotted bay bass. Snook are in the mangroves, getting better every day on this tide cycle."
San Carlos weather was generally good outside, but with winds and swells on Friday. Inshore conditions were calm and warm, with water temperatures of 72 to 79 degrees.
MAGDALENA BAY, MEXICO: Brain Freitag of Mag Bay Tours was anticipating a good beginning to the Camp & Champ series of fishing trips, with a strong offshore bite from the Thetis Bank, south past the entrada being reported. "Earlier in the week our anglers returned to camp with a wahoo longer than Steve is tall, and 'really fat!' as Steve put it," Freitag said. "Oddly missing are tuna, with none having been caught for over a week. The inshore story is all about yellowtail. We are still landing good numbers of 'tails off the rocks at the camp."
SAN JOSE DEL CABO, MEXICO: Eric Brictson of Gordo Banks Pangas said local cruiser fleets were operating at full capacity during the WON/Mercury Los Cabos Tuna Jackpot Tournament last week. Northeast winds early in the week made fishing difficult for fleets running up the Cortez side, but conditions off San Jose del Cabo were "paradise like," warm, sunny, in the upper-80s.
Brictson said local boats were catching a wide variety of species, but the most common was yellowfin tuna.
"As was proven in the WON tournament, there are definitely big tuna in these local waters," Brictson said. "Most of the larger tuna are being found further offshore on the Pacific and associated with porpoise. For panga anglers, the inshore areas such as Iman, Red Hill, Chileno and the Hyatt have been producing good numbers of yellowfin tuna in the 10 to 20-pound range. Skipjack and needlefish were mixed in and at times dominated the action."
Brictson said daily catches were averaging 3 to 15 fish of combined species, with counts improving substantially over the weekend. A good wahoo bite was also going on, with some boats landing as many as 8, and sizes averaging 30 to 40 pounds. One wahoo of 80 pounds was also landed.
Bottom fishing with 80-pound line, heavy leader, and small live skipjack for bait was yielding grouper, amberjack, and pargo, although many fish were being lost: "The best technique was to drift fish over rocky areas and use little or no weight at all, sending the bait down towards the bottom. For this, anglers needed a day with no wind and minimal drift."
A week earlier, Stan Woodward reported slow fishing for several days out of San Jose del Cabo:
"We trolled toward Frailes, then out to sea, then looped back towards Palmilla. Five cans of gas later we were back on the beach without so much as a knockdown. The fillet table was a ghost town.
"There were a lot of small skipjack in the general area, so we slow-trolled them for a while, then switched over to heavy gear and sent them to the bottom. We actually had four bites, catching a nice amberjack and a 49-pound broomtail grouper, losing the others to the rocky bottom.
"The bottom fish would only eat live skipjack so we had to refind the school several times, catch and hook the small skippies, and slow-troll them back to the spot and send 'em down. Those were the only nice fish I saw all week.
"The last day we again bought sardinas at Cabo Real and headed towards Cabo. We put in the wahoo gear at Shipwreck Beach and trolled for an hour, had one wahoo zinger that fell off. Slow-trolling and drifting sardinas between Cabeza de Ballena and Cabo Bello got us 6 tuna, 2 going 16 to 18 pounds. All in all, it was unremarkable fishing."
EAST CAPE, MEXICO: Chris Moyers of East Cape Smoke House reported on 188 boats chartered from combined fleets including the Van Wormer resorts of Palmas de Cortez, Playa del Sol, and Punta Colorada, with a combined catch including released fish of: 9 blue marlin, 8 striped marlin, 15 sailfish, 283 dorado, 431 yellowfin tuna, 4 pargo, 3 wahoo, 2 roosterfish, and 2 sierra.
East Cape weather was in the high 80s with occasional afternoon winds and water temperatures ranging from 82 to 88 degrees.
EAST CAPE, MEXICO: Marisol Verdugo of Martin Verdugo's Beach Resort said only a few boats have been fishing lately, mostly pangas, and they are catching mostly tuna in varied sizes, and dorado to good size.
EAST CAPE, MEXICO: At Baja On The Fly, Gary Graham said, "Fall is definitely in the air. It's cooler in the morning, with a low of around 55 to 60. The wind has backed off in the mornings, but continues to blow in the afternoons. Yesterday it held off until almost 3 p.m."
Graham said near shore fly anglers were scoring on roosterfish, bonito, sierra, and jacks, but described up-and-down conditions generally: "Fishing offshore has slowed for sails and marlin with just a couple being hooked each day. There are a few more dorado being caught between Cabo Pulmo and the lighthouse. One boat brought in 15 schoolie dorado yesterday. The tuna have slowed as well, with no one going out to try and find the porpoise. There are lots of small roosters in La Ribera, but they are under the buoys. The water close to the shore is very, very dirty and off-color. Sierra have been showing up there as well, but just a few at a time. Offshore, you've got to search and search for everything. Find the porpoise, and you find the tuna."
EAST CAPE, MEXICO: At Rancho Leonero, John Ireland said boats were finding "plenty of big tuna over 100 pounds. The good dorado bite continues, with lots of smaller schooling dorado at the beginning of the week, with larger fish at week's end. A very consistent blue marlin bite with fish taken daily."
Ireland said the tuna are 5 to 25 miles offshore and at least one 100-pound-plus fish was being taken daily. Boats were catching a couple of blue marlin per day, averaging 250 to 300 pounds. Wahoo to 50 pounds were also coming in daily from Los Frailes, and roosterfish and jacks were caught on the beaches.
LORETO, MEXICO: Arturo Susarrey reported moderate north winds last week, with air temperatures of about 80 degrees, and water temperatures averaging 80 to 84 degrees. Fishing improved last week, Susarrey said, and decent numbers of 6 to 8-pound yellowtail were caught at Punta Baja and Punta Candeleros.
LORETO, MEXICO: Pam Bolles of Baja Big Fish Company said pangas were forced to come back to the marina on Tuesday because of wind that came up suddenly from the north, but the weather was calm again by the end of the week. Good-sized yellowtail were caught on mackerel about 100 feet deep at Punta Perico.
LORETO, MEXICO: At Villas de Loreto, Ron Bellerive reported that right next to the resort, in Estero las Garzas, on Nov. 2, he observed a hatch of more than 25 baby sea turtles: "On a walk on the beach beside the hotel at 7:30 a.m., Wendy and I noticed that Annie (our dog) was paying special attention to something. We went over and discovered that a little turtle was struggling to get to the water. We helped the little guy, who seemed almost exhausted, get into the water. He was so well camouflaged we would never have noticed him without the dog.
"We then noticed another and another, so we quickly took Annie away and called the director of the Loreto Marine Park. In all, we helped about 25 little guys get to the sea. We do not know how many managed to get to the sea earlier, but there were lots of tracks. Looking at I.D. pictures, we figure them to be hawksbill turtle hatchlings. We are hopeful that mother makes it back to the area next year."
SAN FELIPE, MEXICO: Tony Reyes of Tony Reyes Fishing Tours reported on a 6-day Midriff Islands trip by the panga mothership Jose Andres, returning to San Felipe on Nov. 10 with a catch of: 453 yellowtail, 8 to 17 pounds; 6 grouper, 55 to 75 pounds; 1 black sea bass, 145 pounds; 76 sierra, 3 to 6.5 pounds; 20 white seabass, 12 to 16.5 pounds; 16 cabrilla, 8 to 16 pounds; 1 pinto bass, 12 pounds; 23 red snapper, 10 to 14 pounds; 15 spotted bay bass; and 7 shark, 50 to 85 pounds.
SAN FELIPE, MEXICO: At San Felipe, Catalina Meders of the Title Company Bookstore overlooking the bay said warm weather returned last week, and there was lots of noise from a race, but people weren't too sure which one it was, "but on the other hand, it doesn't seem to matter. Since the last of the folks from the Shrimp Festival left, this place has been as melancholy and desolate as the end of a Fellini movie. A little bustle feels normal again."
Meders said there were "a couple of hellacious auto wrecks this past week," both of them on the Mexicali highway at night, and she warned people that it is not a good idea to drive in Baja after dark.
"At any rate," she said, "the bay is blue-green today, and the mountains are crystal clear. I am going to go out and swing for a minute or two in my hanging rope-chair."
MAZATLAN, MEXICO: Larry Edwards of Cortez Yacht Charters said boats out of Marina el Cid were running 18 to 20 miles for 2 to 3 sailfish and about the same number of dorado per day, plus an occasional blue or striped marlin. Mazatlan weather was good, with light breezes, and water temperatures in the 80s. Offshore boats out of Marina el Cid had a combined catch including released fish of: 1 blue marlin, 2 striped marlin, 63 sailfish, 1 mako shark, and 51 dorado. One near shore panga also caught 18 red snapper, and 20 triggerfish.
IXTAPA ZIHUATANEJO, MEXICO: Local guide Ed Kunze said rains kept the port closed four days last week, and the wind moved the blue water farther offshore, which made the sailfish harder to reach. "However, the heavy runoff from the rivers carried a lot of debris, and the 20 to 25-pound dorado fishing has been very good."
Capt. Javier on the Marlin Azul had a day with 5 dorado and a sailfish, and Capt. Adolpho on the Dos Hermanos got 7 roosterfish to 40 pounds in one day.
IXTAPA ZIHUATANEJO, MEXICO: Stan Lushinsky of Ixtapa Sportfishing Charters said boats are averaging 3 to 4 dorado and 1 to 2 sailfish per day.