Newport Beach - Having won a four-day, three night trip to Ranch Leonero after taking the top spot in the annual Newport Bay bass tournament, Walter Ludwig and I made the trip in late September.
On Sunday, Sept. 27 we took the 9:30 a.m. flight from LAX aboard Alaska Airlines and arrived in San Jose Del Cabo just before I p.m. After a one hour van ride around the many bridges which had washed out, we arrived at the Ranch. After unpacking, we hung around the pool to watch the boats arrive from their day of fishing. It was very windy and we couldn't help but hope it would lay down for us.
We saw many tuna being unloaded from the pangas after they came through the surf. We learned that the dock had been destroyed by the recent Hurricane Isis. These tuna were much bigger than we had heard about before coming in - many in the 40 to 65 pound class. There were also a few dorado and even a striped marlin.
Since the heaviest gear we brought were Penn 4/Os and 40-pound P Line, we thought we might be overmatched.
On Monday morning, we got our 6 a.m. wake-up call, had breakfast and headed for the beach to load our gear on a super panga. This was a nice 24 footer with a T top and a Volvo I/O - very fast. Most of the other super pangas had Bimini tops and were outboard powered.
Our pangero Jesus explained that there were big tuna down the coast at Bahia Los Frailes some 20 miles south so we went there. After dropping down some baits and iron, we got one strike, but no fish.
From there we went offshore looking for porpoise and tuna. We encountered the jumping tuna, some of them 60 and 70 pounds coming clean out of the water, but we couldn't get them to bite. This happened in school after school. Using cedar plugs, Marauders, Rapalas, daisy chains and feathers didn't seem to matter.
Finally we tried dropping some bait and all of a sudden we are surrounded by sailfish. We caught two sails and pulled away from 20 or more to look for more tuna. We saw more jumpers, but none wanted to bite.
We headed back to the Ranch around I p.m. after being about 40 miles out. We spent the rest of the day laying around the pool, noting that only a few tuna and sailfish were taken by the other pangas and cruisers.
Tuesday morning we got bait and headed for the tuna area about 15 miles offshore. After about an hour and a half of trolling, we saw nothing and headed for the shark buoys about four miles from the Pulmo lighthouse. We figured we might catch some pargo or grouper, but about 15 minutes after we arrived, I spotted some dorado swimming around the boat. We immediately fly-lined some squid and live bait and caught several. up to 18 pounds.
Walter was fishing with his Fenwick 15/40-pound stick and Shimano TSM 1V, filled with 30-pound P Line. It was rigged with 24 inches of double line to deal with the dorado's teeth. When he got bit, he said it didn't feel like a dorado-and it wasn't. After setting the hook, a 300-pound blue marlin jumped out of the water about 200 feet from the boat!
After roughly an hour and 15 minutes, we saw color but the fish took more line. At two hours, he handed the rod to me and I pulled for another hour. At three hours, Jesus told us "30 more minutes" and then he was heading for the Ranch. I handed the rod back to Walter. He tightened down the worn out drags and pulled as hard as he could with the light outfit.
After another 15 minutes, the fish came to color again and started to jump right next to the panga. It made four jumps - the last one so close that I got splashed as the fish hit the water. That last jump put so much slack in the line that the line whipped around the clicker button on the reel and broke.
What a thrill this battle was for all three of us. Jesus did a great job of handling the boat, but I think he might have been a little afraid of landing this size fish, given the types of gaffs he had onboard. Even after this long of battle, the fish was still lit up and certainly would have been a handful and more if had it been gaffed.
It deserved to live and fight again.
Walter had sore shoulders and blisters on his fingers from the battle. We headed in to the Ranch, still excited from the experience and anxious to tell our story. The rest of the day we sat around licking our wounds and telling our story to anyone who would listen.
It was a great experience - and our memories of that blue marlin will stay with us always.