By Gene Kira, Dec. 9, 2002, as published in Western Outdoor News:
I had a busy three days last week, visiting with Tony Reyes at San Felipe, Baja California, Mexico, and uncovering several local gold nuggets, not the least of which were a couple of fantastic meals at the high-end Langosta Roja (locals call it the Red Lobster) Italian restaurant on the main drag into town. San Felipe's downtown Langosta Roja, ably managed by Roberto Islas of Mexico City, is one of the best Italian restaurants I have ever discovered outside of Italy, and I doubt you will ever find a better seafood-pesto risotto or a more refined and satisfying menu anywhere in North America. It's that good.
Occasionally tearing myself away from the Langosta's table for short bursts of other activities, I also did a couple of casual slide talks at Catalina Meders' Title Company Bookstore overlooking Bahía de San Felipe, visited San Felipe's municipal sewage plant way out in the middle of the desert (always wondered about that), and finally, I met the owners of the historic Campo No. 1, also known as Campo Uno, one of Baja California's earliest tourist operations, which was visited by Ray Cannon on his very first trip to Baja in 1947.
(Incredibly, the neat-as-a-pin Campo No. 1 is still almost pristine and untouched, preserved in time, on the most sheltered little cove in San Felipe. It is found at the extreme north end of town on the dirt road leading to the shrimp processing plant. This is one of the best little beach campgrounds in Baja, and hardly anybody has ever heard of it.)
On a "somewhat larger scale," I also visited the sprawling, 35,000-acre El Dorado real estate project that straddles Highway 5 as it stretches from the sea to the mountains a few miles north of town. The project's owner, Pat Butler of Denver, explained that El Dorado intersects with the Alto Golfo Biosphere Reserve and is being developed in close cooperation with SEMARNAT, Mexico's federal Department of Natural Resources.
El Dorado already employs about 350 people from San Felipe, and will soon include a low impact golf course and a 260-room hotel, in addition to thousands of vacation homes built by Americans. In the years to come, El Dorado will become the dominant demographic feature of this part of Baja California, and its attentions to the environment and the social needs of the local population are designed to make its impact as positive as possible.
Another San Felipe gold nugget was announced by Tony Reyes himself. It's a Midriff Islands fishing tournament to be sponsored next year by the owners of the town's four panga motherships: Capt. Villegas, Celia Angelina, Erik, and Jose Andres. A key aspect of this cash tournament is that it is absolutely free. Anyone who fishes on a San Felipe mothership between April 30, 2003, and September 30, 2003, is automatically entered, and cash prizes are being offered for the year's four largest yellowtail and four largest cabrilla, as officially weighed at the dock. (Tony says all potential winning fish will be carefully inspected to catch any rockcod sinkers that might have accidentally found their way inside.)
For the four largest yellowtail and four largest cabrilla caught during the season, the winners will get $2,000, $1,000, $750, and $500, respectively. Fifth through tenth places will receive sponsored merchandise prizes. Winning boat captains get $1,000, and $1,000 also goes to the winning guides. (Prizes will be awarded at the annual San Felipe Shrimp Festival.)
There will be more announcements as the season approaches, and you'll see the flyers at the Fred Hall Shows, etc., but to be a contestant, all you really need to do is fish on a panga mothership anytime during the contest, and if you catch a potential winner, you must fill out a form and have the fish officially weighed at the dock when the boat returns to San Felipe. For this cash prize tournament, there are no entry fees at all, and that sounds like a solid gold deal to me.
(Related San Felipe articles and reports may be found at Mexfish.com's main San Felipe information page. See weekly fishing news, photos, and reports from the major sportfishing vacation areas of Mexico including the San Felipe area in "Mexico Fishing News.")