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Mothership Cruise Down the Sea of Cortez!


Gene Kira Photo, Jose Andres, San Felipe, Baja California, Mexico.

ONE OF OVER 30 SPECIES: Former Western Outdoor News Baja Editor Gene Kira with a nice Humboldt squid caught with a foot-long commercial jig on the San Felipe panga mothership Jose Andres. Photo by Tony Reyes, Jr.


By Gene Kira, July 28, 2003, as published in Western Outdoor News:

As I'm writing these notes, the Tony Reyes Fishing Tours panga mothership, Jose Andres, is quietly anchored in a snug little micro-cove called Animas Slot--halfway between Bahía de Las Animas and Roca Bernabe, about 14 miles south of Bahia de los Angeles.

It's 4:55 p.m. on the fourth day of our fishing trip out of San Felipe, Baja California, Mexico, at the northern end of the Sea of Cortez. This morning, our six pangas burned off our entire, two-tank supply of live mackerel on a hot yellowtail bite south of Isla Angel de la Guarda. (By 8:45 a.m., our panga alone had caught 12 yellowtail of 20 to 29 pounds.)

This has been a wonderful cruise, with a wonderful bunch of shipmates, some of whom have fished on the Jose Andres our of San Felipe for more than a decade. In no particular order: Jim Boos, Bob Futrell, Chad Murray, Tom Murray, Joe Ennis, Steve Martin, Damon Childress, Michael Vincent, David Butler, Ralph Dewberry, Marty Bautista, Mike Alaniz, Daniel Parry, Harold Davitt, Michael Romanosky, and Robert Madrigal. Thanks, amigos! Nobody ever had a better bunch of guys to float around the Sea of Cortez with.

To be honest, I am a bit disappointed that we haven't had more time to fish for species. Due to a shortage of bait, and some wind that limited our fishing opportunities on this trip, we've spent a lot of time on basic yellowtail and cabrilla. But still, I got to use my massive, foot-long commercial jig on a nice Humboldt squid, I learned some new things about using circle hooks on dropper loops, and I got to handline some big triggerfish with my homemade wooden winding board and special, super-soft Araty monofilament from Brazil.

And even though we pounded hard for yellowtail and cabrilla on this trip, the Jose Andres' anglers ended up with at least 31 species, including: spotted bay bass, jurelito (yellowtail leatherjacket), Cortez barracuda, unknown brown forage fish, ocean whitefish, leopard grouper, goldspotted bass, black skipjack (barrilete), true spotted cabrilla, finescale triggerfish, unknown orange bottom fish, caballito, sardine, striped grunt, dorado, yellowtail, giant jawfish (bigmouth bastard), unknown wrasse, sheephead, scorpionfish, pinto bass, Humboldt squid, dorado, pompano, sardina clinuda, huachinango, broomtail grouper, needlefish, flag cabrilla, ribera cabrilla, and yes, a golden grouper. (Boo!)

But for me, the fishing on these San Felipe mothership trips is just sort of an added bonus to the sheer joy of experiencing parts of the Sea of Cortez that are so untouched, so beautiful, and so difficult to reach otherwise.

When the Jose Andres left San Felipe on Sunday morning, I stood on the bridge of this venerable, wooden-hulled boat.

The San Felipe marina was sweltering hot, and the water was a milky blue color as we chugged along the coast, clearing Punta Estrella, and swinging our bow southwards toward the distant Midriff.

As we passed, hours later, by Puertecitos and the Enchanted Islands, the water cleared a little, and turned to a life-rich green soup of porpoise, birds, tiny fish, sargassum weed, and some kind of plankton that floated in patches so thick, it looked like handfuls of coarse sawdust scattered on the surface of the sea.

We picked up an escort of seagulls and boobies, who skimmed only a couple of feet above my post outside the pilot house as they rode the slipstream of our passing (and I kept a careful eye on them, since it seems these sea birds need to poop about every thirty seconds).

The throb of the Jose Andres' diesel motor becomes a mantra, as heat mirages form on the horizon, and we seem to float in space; sea and sky merge together. I stand there for hours, inhaling the hot, salty breeze, and I watch the lowering darkness, the tropic evening clouds in the offing, the lightning strikes on the hills between Punta Final and Calamajue. We will have some wind tonight, maybe rain, and tomorrow we'll be at Bahia de los Angeles.

Oh yes, I do love these trips down the Sea of Cortez, the release, the ghosts, the infinite beauty everywhere. I love it all.

(Related San Felipe articles and reports may be found at'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.")