Tall tales of fishing the East Cape

Marlin on the run 

LOS BARRILES, Mexico — When anglers return stateside from trips to Baja California Sur, the tales they bring home often take on — well, a certain mythical quality.

Perhaps it's the tendency of fishermen to embellish the truth, or the romantic flair of having just come from such a foreign domain. Or a combination of both.

Or perhaps it's just the honest-to-goodness truth; after all, this region of Mexico is a saltwater-fishing mecca.

Their authenticity is often in the ear of the beholder.

A sampling:


Having fished the tip of Baja for half his 60 years, Mike Flick of Oceanside, Calif., had just about seen it all … until one trip to the East Cape.

That's when he witnessed a 500-plus-pound black marlin — a rarity in this region — do something even more rarely seen.

After the skipper of the boat Flick was aboard hooked the black on a bonito with a 6-ounce sinker, "that marlin took that bonito and flew across the water in at least eight to 10 leaps of a minimum of 60 feet at a time before it spooled his 50-pound line on a 4/0 reel," he said.

Locals say most blacks jump straight up and down, or quickly dive — sound — and aren't seen again until reeled back to the boat. It's the blue marlin that is better known for those classic series of leaps — maneuvers dubbed "greyhounding" or "porpoising."

"That was brute force," Flick said. "If there would have been a panga or even a cruiser (crafts employed in the area's sport-fishing fleet) in front of him, I think he would have gone through it.

"It was one humongous black that's still heading east."

Bumper spool

Later that day, Flick got another shock.

Shortly after the captain hooked a striped marlin off the bow and passed the pole off to a client, Flick noticed half the line on the spool of another angler's reel was gone to sea.

He pointed it out to the unwitting fisherman, who promptly gave one tug. With that a sailfish breached in the midst of the faraway fleet. A double hookup, with a twist.

The skipper wanted the marlin, badly.

So he took the rod that was bent with the sailfish and tied on a boat fender — one of those white bumpers used to prevent vessel hulls from hitting docks — by way of a clove hitch in front of and behind the reel. The captain then tossed the entire assembly overboard.

Flick was aghast — partly because he'd never observed such a trick, partly because it was his outfit that was now in the brine.

After the striper was successfully boated and released, the skipper sped off to locate the overboard rod.

"We found the fender, the deckhand went down with the gaff, got the line, got the reel, gave it to angler, and he landed his first ever sailfish."

'How embarrassing!'

Most anglers go a lifetime without seeing a blue marlin on the end of their line. Woodland Hills, Calif., bass fisherman John Ed Wilder III had two blues bite 30 minutes apart.

The tragedy is, both times he set the hook forgetting the reel was in free-spool. Each time he finally got the reel in gear for a proper set, the marlin was long gone.

"I did it with women on board who I was trying to impress, too," Wilder said. "How embarrassing!"


Swordfish are a scarcity anywhere. So when a broadbill was spotted during an East Cape trip being filmed for a segment of "Inside Sportfishing," a bait was naturally tossed on it.

Yet the anglers never had a chance, said Michael Fowlkes of Laguna Beach, executive producer of the television show.

"Just as the swordie turned on the bait, a striped marlin jetted up from the depths to swipe it."

We'd like to have that kind of bad luck.

When one's better than two

Fishing a two-day team tournament solo seems like a handicap, but not for Tom Ball of Santa Barbara, Calif. He reeled in five yellowfin tuna, from 40 to 88 pounds, in just 90 minutes on the first day of a 1997 tourney.

All the other "teams" had two anglers; Ball's partner failed to make the trip.

As often is the case when game is found, the skipper of the panga he was on called in the fleet to share the wealth. A half-hour after Ball's fifth yellowfin was aboard, 27boats were on the school of tuna.

"Nobody got any," Ball said with a grin.

The next day he landed two dorado and released a sailfish to win the contest.

Just lending a hand

Speaking of dorado, three anglers from British Columbia fishing single-action reels got into a school of the mahi mahi. One fisherman got impossibly backlashed after hooking one; he was resigned to handlining the fish in using gloves.

Turns out all he was doing was helping his buddy, who had hooked the same fish.

A voracious feeder, the dorado often isn't content until swallowing all available bait, so double hookups on one specimen are not all that uncommon.

A rare double

Testifying to the dearth of swordfish is Mario Lucero Verduzco, who had caught just five of the denizens in the 15 years he had skippered out of his hometown of Los Barriles. However, he caught two of them on the same day.

"The old fishermen have never heard of that," Verduzco stated. "It happened to be a young couple from Florida who had never caught a billfish. It was a very good day for them — for me, too."

This article originally appeared in the Los Angeles Daily News.