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Outdoor Life - November 2003

Cabo's Magic Marlin

THE ALLURE OF GIANT FIGHTING FISH DRAWS ANGLERS TO THE TIP OF THE BAJA PENINSULA
BY JOHN FOX

From your boat you watch the billfish rush in, its black dorsal fin and high scything tail cutting the surface sheen. Seizing the lure at speed, it turns. Your outrigger suddenly jerks aft, only to buggy whip back as the fishing line snaps free and its long curve of slack straightens into the sea. All hell breaks loose on the deck. The mate scrambles to set the hook and secure the other lines while the captain, yelling orders in Spanish, backs the throttle to position his stern for the fight to come. The paying customer is about to discover how “getting your money’s worth” is defined in the waters of Los Cabos, Mexico.

Operating just below the Tropic of Cancer off the south end of Baja California, where the Pacific swell becomes the blue-jade Sea of Cortez, the sportfishing fleet of Cabo San Lucas targets black sea bass, bonitos, dorados, roosterfish, wahoo, sailfish, and, at the top end, black, striped and blue marlin. With marlin, the striped version is a year round possibility; the big blues from June to mid-November. The good news is that the quarry is plentiful and you don’t have to bring any deep-sea experience to the boat. Forty thousand are caught and, for the most part, released here annually. The bad news is that everything in Cabo is on a buyer beware basis, so check the reputation of your boat and its crew before shoving off. Otherwise, just book in advance (online is preferable), especially when the blues are running.

ON THE WATER
Arriving at our dock at 6 a.m., my wife, Nancy, and I were welcomed aboard the Cabo Magic, a 35-foot Bertram Sportfisher operated by Tommy and Lori Garcia’s sportfishing company of the same name. Like the other high-tech fishing boats that call the Cabo San Lucas marina home, it was built with taming marlin in mind.

The boat’s flying bridge allows you to spot the fish. Its dual 30’ outriggers, from which the trailing lures dart and dive in the wake astern, draw them in. And its fighting chair gives your back, arms and thighs and oarsman’s leverage against the big fish. Charters through Cabo Magic Sportfishing start at $340.

Coming out of the harbor, Captain steered deliberately back and forth, scanning the dawn-brightened sea ahead. The lures, bullet-headed and colorfully skirted, were already popping in the wake, but this was sight fishing, I realized. Hunting actually.

“What’s that splashing over there?” Nancy asked him.

“Porpoises,” he said. And later, to a bigger, single, crashing splash, “Manta ray.” Then, three times, “Shark!’ Hammerheads, these were, and big ones, too, though their grayish fins seemed small enough in the breeze-freshened swell 50 yards off the bridge.

But the focus of this search appeared as a high broad dorsal fin and sickle-length half-section of the tail. Under them lay, in the lee of the chop, a long resting shadow.

Throttling to an idle we stood off as the mate cast a live mackerel just in front of the resting fish. The mackerel, hooked through the nose, darted and slashed like any game fish against the tug of the line, but the marlin did not react. “Fish no hungry,” the captain said after several minutes, and we started away.

GO TIME
Just then the outrigger popped. I turned to see the mate set the hook in three sweeping pulls. Was this unseen fish the same one, or even a marlin?

“Senor,” the mate said, gesturing me with his eyes to the fighting chair as I scurried off the flying bridge. The butt of the rod, now secured in the gimble socket on the fighting chair, was bigger around to my grip than the handle of a baseball bat. Overall, the sturdy fishing rod was as along as a broom. It had a pulley wheel where the eye would be on a regular stick. The fish put its weight into it and the rod strained forward, the line guide of the huge brassy Penn reel leaping back and forth. The line which had been slanting into the water as far from the boat as a pitcher’s mound is from home plate, was soon as far out as second base. Suddenly, the striped marlin came out of the water, deep in center field. It snaked back and forth in the Mexican sun, all 7 feet of it showing, bill to tail. “Marlino” Captain Hector yelled.”Arriba!”

It crashed down and came out again fluidly blue and gray, arching long and trailing water in the light. Then down and away, and the slave work of pumping and recovering began.

This nice striper would tip the scales at about 120 pounds. It was considered average for the species and, boated before it was released, seemed a dream fish in the size, proportions, coloration and power.

But this is a dream of multiple elements. There is the town itself, a tangle of discos, hotels and raucous merchants; the immaculate marina at day’s first light; the humid tropic air; the patois of the crew; the manifest fertility of the sea; and those torso-straining surge of a big fish on heavy tackle. All this lies easily at hand for those who would venture to bustling, beckoning Los Cabos.

Contact: Cabo Magic Sportfishing (888-475-5337, www.cabomagic.com).


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