By Gene Kira, Nov. 12, 2001, as published in Western Outdoor News:
Back when I was gathering Baja stories and "facts" for The Unforgettable Sea of Cortez there were three people that I most regretted not being able to interview: Ray Cannon, Bud Parr, and Lou Federico.
Ray, of course, was the original Western Outdoor News Baja columnist, from 1953 until his death in 1977, and he probably knew more than any other person about the Golden Age of Baja that was the book's subject matter. Although I had thousands of his photos and manuscripts, I couldn't interview Ray himself, sadly, because he had already gone off to that Big-Dorado-Bite-In-The-Sky.
The same was true of Bud Parr, who was one of the earliest builder-pioneers of Baja California Sur, with interests in Rancho Las Cruces, the Hotel Cabo San Lucas, and the Hotel Hacienda, among others. Parr died in Los Angeles in 1994, taking with him an enormous treasure of Baja stories, such as the time he negotiated with five women owners to buy the land for the Hotel Cabo San Lucas, or the time he caught two striped marlin on the same day with four-pound test line.
But, who the heck was Lou Federico?
Don't feel bad if you haven't heard that name. You have to be a real old time Baja nut to know about him. In fact, there was so little hard information on Lou that I misspelled his name two different ways in the book.
Anyway, Lou Federico was the original builder in 1958 of a little hotel, now defunct, up on the crest of the hill on the north side of the Mulege River. It was opposite to where the Serenidad is today, and over the years it had more names than you could hold in a ten-gallon bait scoop, including Loma Linda, Club Aereo Mulege, Hotel Mulege, and lastly Vista Hermosa. It was an army camp for a while, and the last time I drove up there, it was completely abandoned. Later, Lou was the original builder of the remote resort just north of Mulege that became the famous Hotel Punta Chivato.
That certainly makes Lou Federico an important part of Baja history, but the real reason I had always wanted to interview him was that he was one of the few people in the world who I was certain had personally fished for giant snook in the Mulege River with Ray Cannon, and there are more Baja tall tales and "stretchers" associated with that story than any other.
So the other day, when the phone rang and the caller introduced himself as Lou Federico, I nearly fell out of my chair.
Turns out, he's alive and very well, living in Central California, and he's got near total recall of those great days with Ray. How big were those snook? Lou swears there were "lots" of 40-pounders and at least one that would have gone 70 pounds if it had been weighed. The big ones were so powerful they were never stopped with rod and reel, but were harpooned at night using canoes and carbide miners' lamps. They were wiped out, says Lou, by the big chubasco of 1958 that silted in the river. After that, he says, there were never any giants again, just small ones.
All of this exactly corroborated Ray's old Western Outdoor News columns about fishing at Mulege, and I felt a surge of pride and happiness as I heard him tell it, but there was one more story I had to ask about, a "dark" Ray Cannon legend that I didn't want to be true. Did Ray ever really have dead snook flown in from Los Mochis for those famous photographs?
Lou snorted indignantly, "No way!! That's bull! We didn't have to do that! We had those fish right there in the river."
Not only that, but Lou Federico has his own collection of photographs to back up the final truth about Mulege's giant snook, and he's invited me up to see them and make copies. Hold the phone, Lou. I'm on the way...!
(Related Mulege articles and reports may be found at Mexfish.com's main Mulege information page. See weekly fishing news, photos, and reports from the major sportfishing vacation areas of Mexico including the Mulege area in "Mexico Fishing News.")