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Early Days of San Felipe Charter Fishing


Fish Photo 1

SAN FELIPE BIGGIE--A huge sea bass caught by Chuck McReynolds during his early San Felipe charter boat days, this one on a Charlie Rucker trip with guide Tony (standing), Al Rentz and Bob Kessler. McReynolds himself also got into this photo, but just barely. "I'm in the middle of the picture, sitting down, with the top of my hat just visible," he says. Photo courtesy Chuck McReynolds.


March 1, 2005, Chuck McReynolds, An Early (Very Early) San Felipe, Mexico Fishing Report:

A story in today's paper about all the squid being caught locally brought a flood of memories of my first squid.

For many of us, our first experience in fishing Baja's Midriff Islands was on an open party trip on fishing boats out of San Felipe operated by "Ensign" Charlie Rucker.

These San Felipe fishing tours were marketed under the name "Ensign" Rucker. Look through back issues of Western Outdoor News, maybe from 1960 to 1965 for his ads.

Tony Reyes' first San Felipe fishing boats were old shrimpers and were rather primitive by today's standards. I do not remember the names of them and there were several different ones that I was on between 1967 and 1976.

Typically these boats had one bathroom with one shower. Nobody slept "downstairs" in the bunks; we all brought cots, sleeping bags and pillows and slept up on top, under a big canvas cover that usually blew away in the middle of the night when the wind came up.

I went with Rucker twice....probably 1964 and 1966. My first trip with Tony was 1967, I think, and then again in 1969, 1972, 1975, 1980 and the last one in 1989.

Rucker's mode of fishing was to troll Rapala lures, all day long. Up and back, up and back in a pattern aptly called mowing the lawn. This method produced fish, but was boring.

By the mid 1960's our gang had switched from Rucker's open trips to "private" trips with San Felipe's Tony Reyes. We met Tony, I think, by being introduced to him by Dal Salas. Over the years Dal introduced hundreds of people to the pleasures of fishing in Baja. What a good guy!

Our first San Felipe fishing trips with Tony were organized by Bud Whitehead and later by my old hi-school pal, Doug Biedebach. Doug's son Michael took over running these trips following Doug's sad and untimely death.

In those faraway times, we didn't fish live bait. Rather, we used Salas lures. Each of us brought aboard a hundred pounds of Salas' finest, and we spent all day casting them for cabrilla or letting them sink to the bottom to yo-yo for anything that might be hungry.

After a day of this ferocious exercise in the hot sun, and after all the tequila before, cerveza during, and brandy after the incredibly good dinner, we'd all sit up late, until maybe 8 pee em or so, before crashing into our bunks. We didn't look like we were asleep, we looked like we were dead.

In the middle of one night (around 10 pee em) for some unknown reason, a deckhand set up a big light which he shined into the water around our anchored boat. He saw them immediately and he yelled "Squeed" at the top of his lungs and that got us out of our bunks, still drunk, drowsy and disoriented.

As usual, Doug was the first guy into the water and instantly he's hooked up with a 10 pound squid. For you readers who have never caught one, a squid puts up a pretty good fight!

Doug's fishing his cabrilla rig, a Penn 3/0 with a Powerhouse transmission 30-pound line and a Salas lure painted to look like a mackerel.

The squid puts up a terrific struggle, finally tires, and Doug, seeing it's only 10 pounds, decides to lift the squid out of the water, and flop him onto the deck.

To get the fast return, the Powerhouse transmission loses all of it's reel strength. The squid is hanging a couple of feet out of the water, and Doug jams his thumb against the spool lest it unwind and begins to lift it up over the rail and into the boat. Immediately, the squid squirts this incredible stream of squid-fluid. You'd never guess a little fish could hold so much!

With amazing accuracy, the stream of gooey ink hits the light, and the cold ink immediately fries it and we are plunged into darkness.

Now there's 20 mostly still stumbling fishermen, all hooked up on squid in the dark, all running around trying to follow their fish, getting tangled and in each other's way and in a short time slipping on the squid slime and ink all over the deck.

Squid ink is NOT like water. It's the same texture as cod liver oil. It's as slippery as spotted-owl sh_t. And squid ink stinks.

And stains. About half of the squid lifted into Tony's boat spray us and there's no doubt they were doing it on purpose. Squid ink NEVER comes out of one's clothes either.

In the middle of this melee, my panga pal Al Rentz hooks a big one. It immediately peels off 100 yards of line and Al's fishing 40 pound test. He fights it back. It takes off again. He fights it back. It starts circling the boat, tangling everybody's line. Then peels off another couple hundred feet that it has taken Al 15 minutes to recover.

Soon, the speculation begins that Al's giant squid is in fact a seal. Al will not even consider the possibility. Al is busy mentally composing the headline for Western Outdoor News (W.O.N.)..something to the effect of "Orange County Man Catches World Record Squid."

After over an hour, Al is beginning to have doubts about it being a squid also. All question is erased when the seal sticks his head out of the water to see what's going on. With regret, Al cuts it loose.

By then all of us have caught 10 or more squid with the average weight being maybe 12 pounds. The biggest was a little over 20.

Just another Midriff adventure.

One year, about 1975, I caught a big sea bass while using a Salas yo-yo 4. In the panga with me were Al Rentz, Bob Kessler and our guide Tony.

(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.")