Cabo San Lucas 6/12/02 to 6/23/02
by John Vallon
Summary of 11-day trip:
Compared to last year at this time, the only difference was a lack of tourists, closed businesses, colder water, and more wind. Louis and I fished with Stephen Jansen, a sort of newcomer to the guided surf fishing business in Cabo. We fished a total of 7 days, with June 16th the best of all days where we all scored on 40-lb to 55-lb roosters at Punta Gorda.
We were scheduled to fly down on Alaska flight 288, a departure from Seattle at 7:30 AM, arriving in Los Cabos at 2:48 PM. Two days before the flight, we got a call from Alaska telling us the outbound flight had been cancelled due to equipment problems. They told Louis we would need to take the later flight that left at 10:26 AM arriving in Los Cabos at 5:20 PM. Louis convinced Alaska that those changes were so disruptive that we should be compensated with first class upgrades, so we rode down in row 1 again. Nice, no?
Anyway, we arrived on time, paid the $77 for a van and headed to the hotel to unpack, then on to the Latitude 22 for dinner. We spoke to Michael about the wind and he said it had been blowing steadily out of the west for about 2-weeks non-stop. It was also very cool outside from the 62-degree cold water that had surrounded the pacific side. Everyone was wearing jackets in the evening. I ordered the "Baja Burger" and it's fantastic. Also of note, the restaurant is moving out of town to the old power plant location out by the El Arco Trailer park - which by the way, has cancelled everyone's leases. The Blues Brothers, old license plates, and dollar bills have all been taken down. And a final surprise was to see Nancy back bartending with a new girl named Naomi.
The next morning we stopped at Minerva's Tackle to say hello to Minerva. It's always so nice to see Mini, she always greets us with hugs and kisses. We looked at the latest Terrafin image which showed it wasn't getting any better, in fact the cold water had moved right out in front of the marina. Since we were only interested in surf fishing this trip, we held out some hope because the water was still fishable northeast of San Jose and the wind wasn't a problem there either.
We told Mini we were only going to surf fish and then she told us about Stephen Jansen. She had a stack of brochures and handed one to Louis. She said "Stephen brings a lot of integrity and honesty to the industry". Louis met Stephen last December when he did a solo trip so he was already familiar with his business and I had met him a few years back while fishing with Lance Watkins at Sunset beach. We had made some tentative plans on surf fishing prior to leaving, but with the sudden cold water and tropical storm alert, we cancelled all those plans and were going to make a day-by-day decision on what to do.
We returned to the hotel and stopped in at Stephen Jansens Surf Fishing and Tackle store. Stephen told us he had an opening for 2 people on Friday morning, July 14th and he could pick us up at 5:00 AM if we were interested in going. Stephen said the fishing had dropped off from May when it was fantastic, but we agreed to try our luck anyway. We showed Stephen our new reels and Lamiglas surf rods. He liked our Daiwa "Emblem-Z 5500A reels that had 400 yards of spider wire with 50 to 75 yards of a mono top shot, both 20-lb class. Stephen doesn't like the top shot so he fishes with straight Dacron. Before leaving Seattle, Louis and I took are gear to a local college soccer field to see how far we could cast a 3-oz ranger. We were surprised to measure over 100 yards, each time removing all of the top shot. Upon telling Stephen this, he laughed and said, use my 3-oz "Cabo Killer" and you'll cast 30% farther.
The next morning, we were greeted by the same cold westerly winds. Stephen showed up at 5:05 AM, loaded our gear and promptly served hot coffee. After being introduced to his dog, "boile", which means carp bait in Holland, we were off to pick up the other two anglers.
The road to and from San Jose is being expanded into a 4-lane paved road in time for the APEC meetings being held in October. I guess they want to impress the luminaries that will be arriving. It's a mess right now, and Stephen can sure scare the hell out of you driving at 70 kph through all the construction zones. The paved road in San Jose turns into a washboard road for the duration of the trip out to Punta Gorda, our destination. It was about a 45-minute drive that was, well, very exciting, at 50 kph!
The air temperature at Punta Gorda was nearly 20 degrees warmer than in Cabo and there was no wind. It was a beautiful, cloudless morning. We arrived just before sunrise. Louis and I wasted no time getting into the surf and making our first casts while Stephen was seeing to his other two clients, which had little or no experience in surf fishing. It was only my third cast when I saw a rooster in the surf within casting distance. I cast the ranger right past him then started to reel when there was a giant splash and a tug on my line. The rangers are reeled just fast enough to keep them on the surface of the water. The fight only lasted 3 or 4 minutes before the hook pulled. Dang I hate that.
We fished until 9:30 AM without any other bites. 3 hours of tossing a 3-oz lure can sure take a lot out of you. Louis and I were both pretty sore, so it was a relief to head back to the hotel and get some breakfast.
Stephen returned around 1:00 PM to open his shop, so we stopped in to chat. He convinced me to buy one of his "Cabo Killers", and I picked up a spare "Ranger" in red and white. He told us he had a cancellation so if we wanted to fish with two other clients again tomorrow morning, we were welcome to book it. He said these two guys had fished earlier in the week and were more experienced, and they also had their own gear. Again, we agreed. We offered to pay for the morning trip we just got back from, but he said to wait and pay up after tomorrows trip.
Saturday morning, we were greeted again with the same weather conditions as yesterday morning. We also got off to a late start because the guards at one of the client's hotel wouldn't let us in, and the client was waiting at the designated pick-up, unable to contact us. We finally got that cleared up, but it took about 30-minutes of precious fishing time.
Again, you couldn't help notice the immediate increase in outside air temperature once you were a few miles out of Cabo. We headed to the same place as we fished yesterday, Punta Gorda.
Louis and I both hooked up almost immediately and both of our fish popped off after 3 or 4 minutes. These fish seemed smaller, possibly jacks we thought later. We fished again until 9:30 AM with no luck.
For breakfast we went to Mama's/Felix's. In the morning it's called Mama's and in the evening it's called Felix's. The wind was blowing so hard that the menus and napkins kept blowing off the table. I don't know what it was, but this restaurant is normally well regarded; yet we won't be coming back. High prices and poor service was the fare.
We stopped by the fruit cart on the corner near the hotel and picked up a huge bag of fresh cantaloupe doused with limejuice for $3/bag to fill the empty spot from Mama's.
Again, Stephen showed up at his business shortly after 1:00 PM and we discussed tomorrows fishing. Stephen said he didn't have anyone scheduled and it would just be the two of us, unless we agreed to have Dustin Meeker, the cook at the Cabo Wabo, join us. I've known Dustin for almost 5 years, mostly because we always take our fish to him and have him cook them up. We agreed to that and headed to the pool.
We seemed to have hit it twice in a row. Instead of another outstanding "Baja Burger" at the Latitude 22, we opted for Poncho's, to try some of the different tequila's on hand. We even sampled some stuff that was in a plain plastic drum that they poured through cheesecloth into your glass - I think it was called Mescal. After 3 or 4 shots we asked how much the shots were. $4.50 for the cheap stuff I asked? That was the end of the tequila testing! Prices in Cabo are now totally ridiculous. Considering all the trash, dust, and other drawbacks, this certainly is not Hawaii!
Louis and I both had the local fresh fish - Vera Cruz style. The fish was supposedly yellowtail. Seems these guys don't know what Vera Cruz style really is. They grilled the fish until it was dry and burned on the edges and then poured this watery fabrication of tomatoes, bell peppers, and who knows what else on top of it. At $18 per plate, it was a tough call to not eat it; the rice and beans were okay though. When questioned, we said nothing and left nothing for a tip - we considered the $18 for the dinner should be applied to our bar tab as a tip.
Sunday morning, the wind was still blowing relentlessly as it had the previous mornings. It was a short drive into town to reach Dustin's house. Stephen rang the doorbell and moments later Dustin came out with his gear and his dog.
Another spectacular sunrise greeted us when we arrived at Punta Gorda. The tide had changed somewhat from the first few days, but it was to our advantage I thought. Stephen doesn't follow the tides or moon phases - he thinks the fish feed in the morning and evening no matter what. The jury is still out on that concept.
As I got into my same position, I glanced out and saw a nice rooster in the same exact spot that I had seen on the first day. This time I had the "Cabo Killer" on the end of the top shot. The very first cast resulted in a hookup. I yelled to Stephen to grab the video and the fight was on. I could tell this was a smaller fish, maybe 20-lbs or so, and it didn't take long to get him to the leader, but only after some nice runs, and after tightening down the drag a bit. Normally on a good sized rooster, they can drag you up and down the beach as they try to head out to deeper water, but this one wasn't big enough, so it was easy to keep it from heading into the rocks where you can instantly get cutoff.
Things were fairly quite for the next hour and a half - lots of casts with no results. It was fun to watch the two dogs. They have a routine of sticking their noses in crab holes and sniffing to see if the resident crab is home.If so, they dig them up and bite off their legs and pinchers. Some of these crab subterranean homes goes down 3 or 4 feet, so the dogs really have there work cut out for them.
Suddenly, around 8:00 AM, things changed. We spotted this huge school of feeding ladyfish or mullet breaking the surface in the surf line right up to the beach. They were feeding on small baitfishes that were about 1 to 2 inches long. Obviously, with all the ladyfish, the roosters and jacks couldn't be too far behind. Almost simultaneously all four of us got hooked up. Louis had chased the school quite a ways down the beach, but Dustin, Stephen and myself remained close together. Dustin and I each had 3 hookups come unbuttoned on what we agreed were all fish in the 50-lb class. Dustin finally got one on that he later released and was estimated at the upper 40-lb range. Stephen and Louis however, were the last two to get firmly hooked up. Louis was too far to reach in time to get some video so I stuck with Stephen and got this great footage. I did get a few frames of Louis's fish off in the distance - nice 55-lb'r + fish will be on his game wall soon. For those of you without a decent Internet connection, here are some frame grabs from the video:
What a day, certainly this would be one to remember and one that would be hard to beat. Louis and I fished the next day, Monday, with Dustin. Now I have the list complete:
Worst drivers in Cabo (worst is at the top) and using Terrafins color scheme to denote temperatures:
Lance Watkins (drives 80 kph with a broken steering wheel column)
Stephen Jansen (drives 70 kph with two dogs in his lap, and he never stops talking)
Dustin Meeker (drives at a safe speed but likes to drive on the "edge of the road")
Riding out to Punta Gorda with Dustin was another trip not to be forgotten. He drives at a reasonable speed, but he thinks he can avoid the washboard section of the road by driving on the very edge of the roadway. Wrong - plenty of huge rocks behind those bushes that he drives over, not to mention the possibility of swerving completely off the road into the ditch or ravine. Cell phones don't work that far out, and it would be a long walk back to San Jose.
The water was noticeably colder than the previous mornings and it was also cooler, helped by the new southwest wind blowing. This was another skunk day, but it was great fishing with our friend Dustin and his dog.
Breakfast at Margaritaville, on the waterfront at the marina - still the best buy for $10. They forgot the smoothies we ordered and the service was a bit off this time, but still my favorite.
Later, we strolled over to Stephens shop when he opened to fill him in on the morning fishing. Looking at the most recent Terrafin Satellite Sea Surface Temperatures, it showed that the band of 60-degree water had now extended well past Punta Gorda, virtually shutting down surf fishing.
While chatting with Stephen and Oliver, an American, living at the Vagabundos Trailer Park, pulled up in his 1985 Suburban to pick up some lures. We introduced ourselves and compared notes on the recent cold water, winds, and the general fishing situation. We ended up going fishing that evening, but the water was really cold. Had a great time though.
I've got to wrap this up. We fished one more evening with Stephen on his dime. We went to Sunset Beach and it was almost flat calm for once. Too bad the water was so cold. Neither Louis or I got a single bite, but Stephen walked way out on the rocks at the west end of the beach and did well on a few nice grouper. Now I know why he uses long leaders. Barring any unforeseen events, Louis and I will be back in Cabo 7/18 to 7/29.
Stephens's dog, Bollie, says
Tight Lines, woof!
Last fooled with 03/26/05