THE REAL ANGLERS ELDORADO
I often get asked which the best place in the world is for all round sportfishing. After travelling fairly extensively in search of new fishing spots I can honestly say that Mexico seems to offer the best of everything. When I ran fishing groups to the country we had a billfish fun comp called the “Marlin Classic” every November. The all-British contingent were heavily armed with the latest in stand-up tackle, Calstar rods, G2 rods, Protekta and Prolever harnesses ands thigh pad systems (still got one).30lb Ande line was loaded on to Shimano Tld 20’s and 25’s.Target species were marlin and shark, so while some may consider this gear light, let me assure you that such outfits, used correctly afford great enjoyment and get some very big fish to boot.
Access to Cabo San Lucas is via flight from London, generally through a hub city like Dallas, connecting across to San Jose on the Baja peninsula. The resort of Cabo San Lucas has expanded hugely since I first went there in 1980.New hotels, plenty of restaurants and a bustling marina has turned this place from a quiet Mexican fishing town to a mini Los Angeles. But if you are ever contemplating a trip somewhere to get your first marlin, this is still the best spot. As a preview of how good it can get, the last three trips I organised with the Marlin Classic saw every single angler get a marlin, for many it was their first. The hotels can be expensive or cheap. As most of the British anglers are “fish-hungry” they want time on the water and not luxury resorts that you don’t get time to use. The Mar De Cortez is only basic, but its location right in the centre of town gives you boats, supermarkets and restaurants close by. There are loads of boutiques and markets where you can buy gifts, and tackle shops. Fishing times start at around 6am, and there is generally a bustle of activity, so if you intend buying some livebait you need to be on the dock before 7am.
The livebaits consist of two different species, Mackerel and Caballito, the latter being much like a Scad. The Mackerel in my opinion is the better bait for marlin, but for durability the Scad is hard to beat. Expect to pay about $3 a bait. Should you need it, the local tackle shop can sell you some shrimp rigs, but be aware that most of the bait is caught during the night and it can be tough getting them in the day. You can also buy leads, but sometimes you need up to twelve ounces if you want to keep your livebait deep, in up to 500 feet of water. That way you can top up your livebait supply with fresh fish, but remember the first couple of hours of first light are best for this. Later in the day it becomes almost impossible to catch mackerel.
There are two forms of chartering a boat. The Pisces Fleet run one of the most professional operations, with both 28 and 31 footers available. When our group was there, participants had a 260lbs Blue Marlin aboard “Tracy Ann”, plus they fought a 400 pounder before the hooks pulled right at the boat. The 28 footers are ideal as although they fish four to a boat, two anglers have a more bearable price, splitting the cost and tip between them. The alternative is to charter a panga, which is no more than an open boat with an outboard. They have live wells, no crew, so you actually get to do everything yourself, which in my opinion sorts out the real anglers. They are even cheaper and extremely competitive for two anglers to share. I have even taken a Hammerhead shark from one of these pangas, solitaired on a stand-up rod with no harness. That weighed 220lbs.Another guy sharing with me had a Thresher on the same trip that took just under two hours to beat on standup,before we released it.
If the Striped marlin are not running true to form you will find more exciting surface action here than anywhere. The marlin push balls of baitfish up to the surface, then race in, batting back and forth with that lethal bill to stun their prey. You can often see them do this, and the skipper will run the boat over at full throttle, and you make your cast into the middle of a bait patch of live mackerel. It is a method that certainly sets the adrenalin flowing. Then you have the season when the warm “El Nino’ current moves further north than usual, and that can put paid to the surface action. The marlin are still there but all you do is clip on a lead of about eight ounces and slowly spool your bait down to about 80/100 feet. The striped marlin is the most acrobatic of the billfish species and can tail walk for fifty yards, greyhound, or leap twenty feet in a head-over-heels somersault. They can also dump half a spool of 30lb line in half a minute. I have always had a feeling that there are more shark there than meet the eye, and the same goes for blue marlin. My own personal best here was 460lbs on 509lb standup,but each year 6/800’s and even 1000lb plus blue marlin are caught. These are unlikely to take a small mackerel, but since some of the 31-footers have been running big lures, then more blues are hooked up. August is the prime time for this species, but there can still be there at the end of November.
While the marlin take top spot in most anglers checklists it should be mentioned that superb light tackle sport is also available. You don’t need the large boats as pangas are sufficient, and they can troll in behind the big Pacific swells that crash onto the uninhabited beaches. In behind this turbulence feed the Roosterfish, one of the hardest scrappers I have hooked and one of the most unusual. They grow to 70lbs and are rated by the IGFA as a gamefish.Slow trolling with a 4-inch mackerel is best, but they will hit bigger 1lb livebaits, providing you can keep your baits away from species like Jack Crevalle, Needlefish and Sierra Mackerel. I have heard of an angler who had a Rapala completely cut in two by one unseen toothy critter. Dawn is the best time, but you can still troll a few hundred yards further out for Wahoo,Sailfish,or even Marlin, all on the same day. I remember one morning on a panga when we had Roosterfish in the morning then ran out to deeper water to land Dorado, lose a Sailfish and land two Striped marlin. Not bad fishing for $35 an hour.
The final style of fishing that can be done from a panga is light tackle tuna. It involves using tiny Pilchard livebaits about one inch long. You have to get out at dawn to buy the Pilchards which are netted near the bays and beaches. Then you just run a couple of hundred yards out from the end of the harbour rocks and toss them over in two’s and three’s. They swim on the surface so when the tuna and Dorado find them there is an enormous boil as they engulf one. Light spinning gear is the order of the day, say 12lb line and a 30lb mono leader and a tiny, short shank Eagle claw livebait hook, nicking the Pilchard through the back. You need to let the bait drift away from the boat naturally, and the take will probably rip the line from your fingers. You simply flick the bale arm of the reel closed, jab with the rod to set the hook and you are on. You can see 80 yards disappear through the rod rings, but don’t panic as its deep here, and a 20lb Yellowfin will take you close to half an hour to beat.
Should you get a Dorado hooked up don’t be in a hurry to get it in the boat as the rest of the shoal will be close by, and a few extra lose feed Pilchards will drive them crazy. Expect them into double figures. As for how good the marlin fishing can get? My personal best trip there was when the marlin were balling bait on the surface. I hooked 27 marlin, landing or releasing 17 to 460lbs. plus several Mako sharks up to 110lbs.And that’s not bad when you remember all I am using is pretty much standard gear for British wreck and shark fishing. Small wonder that Cabo San Lucas is known as the “Angler’s Eldorado”.
COPYRIGHT: Graeme Pullen. All rights reserved.