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NOCHE BUENA and a MIDNIGHT CLEARLY

Originally Published the Week of December 9, 2014 in Western Outdoor News

I was only going to be in Baja for a year. Has it been almost twenty?

 

The longer I am here the more Christmas seems to change a bit.   The early years were surely different.

 

I was living out in the “country” then. Well…10 miles down a dusty dirt road far off the pavement in the cactus and Baja scrub in a little remote Mexican bay. Far away from the city lights, I worked for a little off-the-grid hotel that only had 4 rooms.

 

And that’s all there was out there. Today, you still have to drive down a dirt road to get there and the hotel is closed and being re-claimed by the Baja sands. As so many Mexican dreams go.

 

I had very little then, but I often felt like I was king of the world at times. I was only half-a-step from living out’ve my old Dodge van at the time with fishing rods and an old one-room adobe. “Living the dream,” as many would later tell me!

 

I spent most nights sleeping outside in a hammock under a weathered palapa made of sticks.   Jimmy, my little dog and I lived much by candlelight and a propane stove. No phones. No electricity to speak of.

 

And I remember it was Christmas. In the Baja. In Mexico. So far from Christmases remembered.

 

I remember the brisk wind and the clear starry skies overhead where clusters of the galaxies were so thick as to appear as if a huge black canvas had been lightly airbrushed with white.   With no city lights, shooters streaked criss-crossing tracers from horizon to horizon.

 

I wore the same faded shorts and some awfully thin flipflops that had long since lost their tread. I’m sure I smelled like fish most days which is how I earned my living for the hotel taking their few clients fishing and diving.

 

No one ever complained about how I looked or smelled. I was part of the landscape in my ratty straw hat and cut-off t-shirts.

 

Mesquite was abundant so it was often just as easy to cook over a jumbled stone firepit I had made outside my little casita on the bare ground. It wasn’t much more than a rocky rise of hardscrabble Baja dirt. But…during the day, the little spot had a zillion dollar view of the beach and bay that would make a realtor drool.

 

But not tonite. A moonless crispy December night in Baja. I could hear the waves of the bay lightly crashing against the sands down the beach somewhere in the darkness below. With barely more than the stars above, the orange glow of my little fire fought a losing battle to penetrate the darkness.

 

But all is calm. My fire bright. Noche Buena. Christmas eve.

 

I pulled my thin flannel shirt a little tighter against the chill. Me and and Jimmy the dog. I tossed another branch of twisted mesquite into the flame.

 

I had come a long way from American cities and holidays past. Never in my wildest dreams would I have envisioned spending Christmas like this. Life takes funny turns. There’s a thin debateable line between an idiot and genius.

 

No tree. No carols. But, I had nature’s own magnificent light show overhead and the dancing flames of a mesmerizing campfire to hold gaze into.

 

Completely alone but not the least bit lonely. On Christmas. And it felt like it just couldn’t get any better.

 

And then, just outside the ring of flickering firelight, a shuffle of feet. A bit of laughter. Faces and smiles materializing on the other side of the orange haze of whispy smoke. The spectral ghosts of a Dicken’s Christmas?

 

“Que onda? Que tal, Jona! Feliz Navidad! Felices fiestas, Mano!”

 

It just got better.

 

Some of the commercial fishermen and their wives had trudged up the rise from the beach. Several packs of beer in hand and tattered beach chairs. Uninvitedly always welcome. Saw my fire. Come to join. Come to laugh.  Share the warmth of a chilly evening.

 

My Spanish was barely elementary back then. But, some things are universal. Bridges are easily crossed with smiles, high-fives, back slaps and shared fraternal cervezas. Especially on Christmas Eve.

 

They already had an obvious head start on me. No formalities needed. They plopped down around the fire and it was on. No need to break the ice. I toasted and laughed and did my best to sing.

 

In any language…”Noche Buena” is still “Silent Night.” I had no clue about some of the other rowdy rancho songs they sang.

 

We whooped at the top of our lungs and lifted Tecate cans to health and family, love, life and the star-filled night. Or nothing in particular.

 

You know that saying about “Dance like no one is watching and sing like no one can hear?” There’s a special child-like exhilaration attached to that.

 

Of all things, they started singing “Jingle Bells” in Spanish. I doubt my amigos even had a concept of a sleigh or reindeer or even snow. Ni modo…no matter! One more time with feeling from the top!

 

Then they asked me to teach them the song in English. Por favor!

 

Me leading! Oh my…ever fall over laughing? I don’t think there had ever been such a bawdy version…Christmas angels winced but couldn’t help smiling…

 

DOSHING TRUE DUH SNO

EN WUN WHORE’S O-PEN SLAY!

ODOR FEELS WEE-GO

LOFFING OLE DUH WAY

 

HO! HO! HO! (Everyone jumped in on that part with gusto!)

 

 

And we laughed and snorted and guffawed and stomped our dusty feet. I stared into that campfire and thought of perhaps another chilly night in the desert many eons ago. That brought others to a spot in the desert.

 

Some wise guys and sheep ranchers. Amigos of different languages and cultures. Pulled in by the flame and warmth of a beckoning light.

 

And here we were… A bit of light in the darkness on a windswept beach knoll in Mexico. Sometimes it’s as simple as that. As primal as that. Some friends. A few beers. Laughs and smiles. A song and and a welcoming campfire in the dark. Christmas Eve and all was right.

 

Noche Buena. Noche excelente.

 

EN WUN WHORE’S O-PEN SLAY ODOR FEELS WEE GO LOFFING OLE DUH WAY…indeed!

 

Only in Mexico! Andale and Feliz Navidad, mis amigos! God bless us everyone. Peace to you my fish brothers and sisters.

 

 

Somewhere even the angels were singing along. Once more with feeling.

 

That’s my story!

Jonathan signature

Jonathan

_______________

Jonathan Roldan has been writing the Baja Column in Western Outdoor News since 2004.  Along with his wife and fishing buddy, Jilly, they own and run the Tailhunter International Fishing Fleet in La Paz, Baja, Mexico  www.tailhunter-international.com.  They also run their Tailhunter Restaurant Bar on the famous La Paz malecon waterfront.  If you’d like to contact him directly, his e-mail is riplipboy@tailhunter-international.com  or drop by the restaurant to say hi!

______________

Jonathan Roldan’s

Tailhunter International

 

TAILHUNTER FISHING FLEET #1 Rated on Trip Advisor

TAILHUNTER RESTAURANT BAR #1 Rated in La Paz on Trip Advisor

 

Now follow us on FACEBOOK TOO

 

Website: www.tailhunter-international.com

U.S. Office: 8030 La Mesa, Suite #178, La Mesa CA  91942

Mexico Office: 755 Paseo Obregon, La Paz, Baja Sur, Mexico

Phones:

from USA : 626-638-3383

from Mexico: 044-612-14-17863

.

Tailhunter Weekly Fishing Report:

http://fishreport.jonathanroldan.com/

Tailhunter YouTube Videos:

http://www.youtube.com/user/pangapirate

“When your life finally flashes before your eyes, you will have only moments to regret all the things in life you never had the courage to try.”

GREAT TIME TO VISIT

This time of year is a good time to find your own little beach...and maybe something else too!

This time of year is a good time to find your own little beach…and maybe something else too!

A GOOD TIME TO VISIT

Originally Published the Week of Nov. 25, 2014 in Western Outdoor News

I have an usual method to measure the “ changing-of-the-seasons” here in La Paz.  My sure-fire way to know that the warm-weather tourist season has ended is goofy, but simple.

 

I walk outside our Tailhunter Restaurant and use the street as my measuring device.

 

For about 8 months of the year, getting across our main street from one side to the other is an exercise in agility, patience and frustration.  The long straight “malecon” that runs along the ocean-front of our city is like a mini-dragstrip.  Perfect for parades.  Perfect for marches.  Perfect to see how fast your car accelerates.

 

And that’s what it’s like getting across the street.  No one stops. Pedestrians beware.  Cars have the right-of-way.  That’s the unwritten law most of the year.   There’s two kinds of folks…the” quick” and the “quicker.”

 

Then, about now, it changes.

 

The shadows get longer as the sun rises and sets at a lower angle.  The bay gets breezier.  And, for some reason, people…and drivers slow down.  In fact, there’s just less people.  And using my “measuring stick” of a street, I can cross at leisure.  As many times as I want.  I can even stand in the middle of the street and take photos.   Ho-hum…

 

Where’d everyone go?

 

About this time, except for the influx of snow-birds, tourism just kinda slows down.  There will be a spike for the holidays like Christmas, but for many areas, from November to March, Baja changes from the “land of mañana” to “the land of maybe not even mañana…maybe the -day-after-manana.”

 

But, it’s a great time to come down.

 

Depending on your perspective, winter is Baja is either warmer or cooler!

 

It’s surely cooler than April to October when the legendary Baja heat sends visitors cranking on their hotel air-conditioning units or spending their waking hours at the poolside swim-up bar.  Humidity is nil.  Daytime air temps in the 60-80’s are more the norm.  You night even use a blanket at night.  It might actually be a good idea to pack a pair of jeans or slacks and a sweatshirt!  Some areas of Baja actually get “cold” by Baja standards and frost is not uncommon and you’ll see us locals in down jackets and watch caps.

 

Conversely, if you’re from say…the Pacific Northwest…Canada…the East Coast…you’ll find the winter months to be head-and-shoulders over shoveling snow or drying out from rain.

 

You’ll get a grin watching us residents “bundle up” while you saunter down the marina or beach in shorts and send Instagram selfies to your envious neighbors back home while holding icy margaritas.  Bargaining for silver jewelry for your wife beats crawling under your car to put on snow chains.

 

Further, as I alluded to above, crowds are down.

 

Be the only ones in a restaurant.  The hotel staff call you by name.  The bartender remembers your favorite drink.  No lines for attractions.

 

Actually find a beach where you’re not dodging beach balls or forced to listen to someone else’s obnoxious boom box.   Walk downtown and around town and sit and watch and listen, immerse and discover without a time-share or t-shirt sale dogging your every move.

 

If you plan to fish, winter-time fishing might put a whole different spin on Baja fishing for you. Cooler waters and perhaps windier conditions might predicate completely different types of fishing for you.   Winter or inshore species you hadn’t considered like yellowtail, pargo, cabrilla, amberjack and others will surprise you.  Shoreline fishing and beach fishing can produce sierra, rooster fish, jack crevalle and pompano and perch.

 

And there’s a good chance the waters won’t be crowded and the shorelines will be deserted!

 

And there’s that aspect again…just not many folks around.

 

And that’s good.  There’s opportunities for bargains and deals.  Taxi drivers need fares!  Negotiate to have a personal driver for all your days.   Or negotiate for a better deal with the rental car agents who all work on commissions.

 

Restaurants, eager for patrons have deals on drinks and food.  Many of the smaller hotels, and oftentimes the most charming, will often negotiate as well, especially if it’s off-line and person-to-person.  Ask for a deal on an extra night or two!  All they can say is “no.”

 

Same with tourist vendors.  Alway wanted to try snorkeling?  Want to do that glass-bottom boat thing?  Want some horseback riding or try that off-road ATV?  Ask for a deal.   Winter is the perfect time.

 

Bottom line is that often you’ll see a whole different side of Baja and Mexico during the winter months.  Even for frequent visitors who usually only show up during the peak warmer months, they find a completely different complexion to their favorite Baja locations this time of year.  For many it becomes a favorite.  And a hidden secret they sometimes aren’t eager to share lest the crowds come back!

That’s our story!

Jonathan signature

_______________

Jonathan Roldan has been writing the Baja Column in Western Outdoor News since 2004.  Along with his wife and fishing buddy, Jilly, they own and run the Tailhunter International Fishing Fleet in La Paz, Baja, Mexico  www.tailhunter-international.com.  They also run their Tailhunter Restaurant Bar on the famous La Paz malecon waterfront.  If you’d like to contact him directly, his e-mail is riplipboy@tailhunter-international.com  or drop by the restaurant to say hi!

______________

Jonathan Roldan’s

Tailhunter International

 

TAILHUNTER FISHING FLEET #1 Rated on Trip Advisor

TAILHUNTER RESTAURANT BAR #1 Rated in La Paz on Trip Advisor

 

Now follow us on FACEBOOK TOO

 

Website: www.tailhunter-international.com

U.S. Office: 8030 La Mesa, Suite #178, La Mesa CA  91942

Mexico Office: 755 Paseo Obregon, La Paz, Baja Sur, Mexico

Phones:

from USA : 626-638-3383

from Mexico: 044-612-14-17863

.

Tailhunter Weekly Fishing Report:

http://fishreport.jonathanroldan.com/

Tailhunter YouTube Videos:

http://www.youtube.com/user/pangapirate

“When your life finally flashes before your eyes, you will have only moments to regret all the things in life you never had the courage to try.”

El NINO NEENER NEENER

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“EL NINO NEENER NEENER”

Originally Published the Week of Nov. 10, 2014 in Western Outdoor News

It’s inescapable. There are just certain things that puzzle you so much and make you sit back and go “hmmmmm…”

Like, how come a pair of socks go into the dryer and only one side comes out?

Or how come birds overhead ALWAYS know when you’ve just washed your car?

Or two treble hooks left in a tackle box will ALWAYS hook into each other?

Anyway, I’m writing this while overlooking the marina here at Cabo San Lucas waiting for the start of the Western Outdoor News/ Yamaha Tuna Jackpot Tournament.

It’s a lively place and the excitement that’s going to kick off is pretty palpable. It’s quite the circus atmosphere as more than 130 teams from around the world get ready to fire it up.

But, for the rest of Cabo San Lucas, life goes on as “normal.” Whatever “normal is, in this fun place!

The cruise ships are downloading swarms of sandal-wearing sun-seekers looking for t-shirts and “authentic pottery”. The booze cruise has a deckload of bikini-wearing gals and tattoo’d boyfriends whooping and vibrating to some bass-laden song my kids would know; and the street vendors descend on tourists swaying down the sidewalk with red Solo cups in hand and “Cabo Wabo” t-shirts stretched across sunburned shoulders.

“Cuban cigars. Best price, amigo!”

“Silver jewelry. Almost free, pretty ladies!”

“Two for one tequila shots all day, right here, senores!”

But part of “normal” all of the folks fishing here who aren’t part of the tournament and this afternoon, I’m watching sportfishers unload their catches. Catch flags are flying and it’s always interesting to see what gets off-loaded.

There’s some dorado. There’s a few tuna. Hmmm…a marlin.   Wahoo on that boat, nice one. A few more dorado over there. Looks like a decent day on the water.

But one fish catches my eye and seems to be drawing a crowd. It’s about 15 pounds and in a plastic bucket and I hear someone say, “That’s the strangest yellowfin tuna. It’s a mutant.”

But, it’s not. It has the familiar football tuna shape, but the elongated pectoral fins…that’s no yellowfin tuna! It’s an albacore.

Yes, the “chicken of the sea.” Highly-sought commercially. Normally associated with 57-62 degree water. Caught in the dark-blue-purple oceans from California to Washington. But, caught here in Cabo? In 85 degree water?

I guess it’s just one more thing to chalk up to El Nino. Or is it?

After experiencing a season’s worth of signs indicative of El Nino conditions, the scientific forecasters have finally “decided” that we are surely in an El Nino year.

It has been highlighted to the delight/ dismay of many depending on where you live and what you do for a living!

  • Warmer waters than normal played havoc with fishing season. Dorado and marlin up the coast of the Pacific Northwest. Massive tuna schools in southern California. Wahoo on ½ day charter boats out of San Diego.
  • Those same unseasonably warm waters killed off the bait south of the border in many areas which meant the fish schools moved elsewhere or, there was little or no bait for the fishermen to use
  • The same conditions lead to more storms on the Pacific Coast of the U.S. and Mexico. Some 2 dozen big storms were charted as evidenced by the recent “Hurricane Vance” that just skimmed off Baja the week of Nov. 4th. But it numerically underscores the fact that the storm folks have almost gone through the whole alphabet naming all the storms.
  • Highly unusual to even see storms in November in Baja, but warm waters draw storms!
  • The highlight/ lowlight of the year was the devastating “Hurricane Odile” in September that ripped Baja and was the strongest storm in Baja history registering winds in excess of 150 mph.   Months of repairs and recovery continue almost 8 weeks after the blast.
  • Should “El Nino” continue as predicted, heavy rains might show up this winter and early next year for much of the drought stricken western U.S.

So, if this actually is an official El Nino season (they usually span parts of two successive years), then one would expect that warm water fishing would continue for Baja fishermen for species like marlin, sailfish, wahoo, tuna and dorodo. Conversely, fishermen on the West Coast of the U.S. should continue to enjoy their phenomenal year on unusual species as well.

But, hold on. Something doesn’t fit.

Colder winter winds are already starting to blow into Baja. Water temperatures are dropping in many areas.

The fishing is already changing too. I doubt we’ll see a full-blown “albacore” run in Cabo San Lucas, but the fact that an albacore was caught says something about a fish that has a messed-up directional radar or, has followed a cooler current of water. I tend to think it’s the later rather than the former.

Where we are in La Paz, we’re seeing fewer dorado and other warm water species and already getting sierra, amberjack, roosterfish, cabrilla and pargo. These are all fish associated with cooler conditions.

Our air is already many degrees cooler than normal and humidity has dropped considerably. Winds are blowing stronger from the north and there are areas that are already too rough to fish on some days.

Everyone asks me , “What do you think, Jonathan? What do you predict if we come fishing?”

I’m stumped. It’s one of those things that make me go, “Hmmmm….”

One of my captains just taught me the word, “Perplejo.” It means “perplexed.” And that’s me.   None of this year has made sense.

Roosterfish or dorado?

Bait or no bait ?

Full moon no moon ?

Rain or sunshine ?

I’ve been wrong more often than not this year. My crystal fishing ball is on the fritz. I stopped trying to over-think it and ultra-analyze it. I just tell people, “Come fishing.” Then I shrug.

It’s gonna be what it’s gonna be. Maybe we should be more concerned with fishing than what we’re gonna catch. It still beats work. And it’s still Baja!

That’s my story

Jonathan signature

Jonathan

Jonathan Roldan has been writing the Baja Column in Western Outdoor News since 2004.  Along with his wife and fishing buddy, Jilly, they own and run the Tailhunter International Fishing Fleet in La Paz, Baja, Mexico  www.tailhunter-international.com.  They also run their Tailhunter Restaurant Bar on the famous La Paz malecon waterfront.  If you’d like to contact him directly, his e-mail is riplipboy@tailhunter-international.com  or drop by the restaurant to say hi!

______________

Jonathan Roldan’s

Tailhunter International

 

TAILHUNTER FISHING FLEET #1 Rated on Trip Advisor

TAILHUNTER RESTAURANT BAR #1 Rated in La Paz on Trip Advisor

 

Now follow us on FACEBOOK TOO

 

Website: www.tailhunter-international.com

U.S. Office: 8030 La Mesa, Suite #178, La Mesa CA  91942

Mexico Office: 755 Paseo Obregon, La Paz, Baja Sur, Mexico

Phones:

from USA : 626-638-3383

from Mexico: 044-612-14-17863

.

Tailhunter Weekly Fishing Report:

http://fishreport.jonathanroldan.com/

Tailhunter YouTube Videos:

http://www.youtube.com/user/pangapirate

“When your life finally flashes before your eyes, you will have only moments to regret all the things in life you never had the courage to try.”

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

REDUCING YOUR “DQ” (DOOFUS QUOTIENT)

Originally published the Week of Oct. 29, 2014 in Western Outdoor News

This is that time of year when fishing tournaments run rampant in Baja and other parts of Mexico. Why not? In many respects, this part of the season is the best time for the “glamour” fish like marlin, sailfish, tuna, wahoo and dorado.   It’s a great time to be on the water.

 

In fact, by the time you’re reading this, we’ll just be about a week out from the start of the 16th Annual Western Outdoor News/ Yamaha Los Cabos Tuna Jackpot Tournament. Having been an editor and staff member for WON since 2006, we really look forward to the event all year and seeing so many familiar faces and having a great time.

 

Western Outdoor News Editor and master of ceremonies, Pat McDonell hosts an incredible show for everyone. More than 100 teams from all over the country pile into town for the fishing party.

 

How can you go wrong with a tournament that has a motto, “Fish Hard Party Harder!” Check out all the details here. It’s Nov. 5th-8th: http://www.loscabostunajackpot.com/2014_coverage/preview.php

 

Having worked this tournament as well as many others over the years and participated as a crew-member or angler in other events, I’ve got some observations about how to enhance your tournament experience and reduce your “doofus” factor a few notches.

 

  • It’s all about attitude. Yes, this is a competition. Everyone wants to get that big check, but it’s supposed to be fun. Remember, you left the office, traffic jams and meetings back home. The sun is out. The margaritas are cold. You’re among friends. Enjoy the time.
  • One overly-competitive high-strung-wound-up-underwear-twisted-person on the team can ruin it for everyone on the boat and on shore. Don’t be that person. Remember, you’re not alone and you’re not the only fisherman. And there’s a lot of GOOD fishermen out there.
  • Respect where respect is due. Your captain and crew have probably forgotten more than you will ever know about fishing these waters. They fish more in one year than you will your entire fishing career. Remember, they are part of your team. Work together. Listen to their advice. They want to win as badly as you do!
  • Work out bonus and tip money ahead of time. Will they get a percentage of winnings? Extra money is a nice motivation.
  • If the rod goes off, work out a fair rotation with your amigos about who gets to grab the rod. Rock…paper…scissor…
  • Be careful of what you say on the open radio! The whole world is listening…and probably in several different languages!
  • If you lose or break gear, offer to replace it or pay for it. It’s only fair.
  • No matter how much you plan, the unexpected happens. It might be bait, luggage, food, some other jerk…Hey, roll with it. “Spit” happens, right? Some things are just not controllable. How you deal with it is the difference between an “adventure/ inconvenience” or a “crisis. “
  • Share! I’ve seen fishing team members roll out to the boat carrying everything from bottles of expensive wine to gourmet meats and cheeses and everything in between. And then they don’t offer a thing to the captain or crew who may or may not have anything more than a rolled up tortilla and a thermos jug of water.
  • If your “team” has hats and shirts whether it’s “ Team Joe’s Auto Parts” or “The Reel Screamers” or “Fred’s Flatulent Fishing Fanatics”, get gear for everyone! Everyone loves swag and your captain and crew will wear them proudly.
  • While you’re at it, don’t forget your “land crew” either. I highly recommend family, spouses and significant others at these events. Heck, consider them for fishing, but even if not, remember them too! They’re your support team!
  • These events are a social event, in many cases. Even moreso than a sporting event. Fishing is just the vehicle that gets everyone down to party! Chances are this event has evening soirees and banquets. Everyone plays. No one sits on the beach. So make sure you bring in your support team as well as your captain and crew. Great fun. Great bonding!
  • Don’t make YOUR negligence, someone else’s emergency. The tournament director and staff have their hands full. He does not know where you left your iPhone. The staff does not know the name of the bar you were at last night where you left your official tournament t-shirt. Likewise, it’s not THEIR fault you accepted a “double-dog-dare” and removed your shorts in the hotel Jacuzzi and got asked to leave.
  • Basically, don’t be a knucklehead or the guy everyone points at. Be on time. Read your materials. KNOW THE RULES. Play fair. Be a good sport.

 

Hope to see you in Cabo at the Tournament! You’ll see me working the scales with Pat and Big Mike. Come say hi and introduce yourself.   Giant tuna are showing up so I hope to hoist one up for you in front of the Corona girls!

That’s our story!

Jonathan signature

Jonathan

_______________

Jonathan Roldan has been writing the Baja Column in Western Outdoor News since 2004.  Along with his wife and fishing buddy, Jilly, they own and run the Tailhunter International Fishing Fleet in La Paz, Baja, Mexico  www.tailhunter-international.com.  They also run their Tailhunter Restaurant Bar on the famous La Paz malecon waterfront.  If you’d like to contact him directly, his e-mail is riplipboy@tailhunter-international.com  or drop by the restaurant to say hi!

______________

Jonathan Roldan’s

Tailhunter International

 

TAILHUNTER FISHING FLEET #1 Rated on Trip Advisor

TAILHUNTER RESTAURANT BAR #1 Rated in La Paz on Trip Advisor

 

Now follow us on FACEBOOK TOO

 

Website: www.tailhunter-international.com

U.S. Office: 8030 La Mesa, Suite #178, La Mesa CA  91942

Mexico Office: 755 Paseo Obregon, La Paz, Baja Sur, Mexico

Phones:

from USA : 626-638-3383

from Mexico: 044-612-14-17863

.

Tailhunter Weekly Fishing Report:

http://fishreport.jonathanroldan.com/

Tailhunter YouTube Videos:

http://www.youtube.com/user/pangapirate

“When your life finally flashes before your eyes, you will have only moments to regret all the things in life you never had the courage to try.”

1410837924985_wps_24_Enrique_Cota_Cece_a_cries

He’s not lamenting a messed up fishing vacation. Many of those who had the least, lost the most. (Photo from British news) 

ODILE’s ORDEAL AND AFTERWRATH

Originally published the week of Sept. 30, 2015 in Western Outdoor News

When I wrote my last column two weeks ago about making the best out’ve your situation if your vacation gets slammed by a hurricane or other natural disaster, I had no idea. As I wrote that piece, it was your typical sunny Baja day on the beach. As I closed out, it was just starting to get a little cloudy. Rain drops were starting to fall.

 

I used that to underscore how quickly things can change. Especially in Baja. Especially in this el Nino year.

 

I was just trying to get my column out. Put some words together. I had no clue just how fast things would change. How fast life itself would change.

 

The “bit of rain” was part of a weather cell we had been watching half-heartedly watching for several days.  It was just another ho-hum rainfall that started our way with a roar, but like a dozen others this season, we expected it would eventually bend out to the Pacific Ocean. We might get a “little afternoon precipitation.”

 

It was an understatement of historic proportions.

 

In the span of less than 12 hours the storm did the unexpected and put Baja right in it’s crosshairs.   By midnight, Sunday the 14th, Hurricane Odile had turned into the largest and most powerful hurricane ever to hit Baja.

 

It slammed into Baja with Category 3 and 4 strength winds including gusts up to 140-150 miles and hour. By comparison, Hurricane Sandy that devastated the East Coast in 2012, had winds of “only” 115 miles and hour.

 

Those, like us with a fishing operation in La Paz, or have businesses that are affected by weather or happen to watch weather, had at least a bit of time to get ready. Get the batteries and water. Tape the windows. Get the rain gear. Tie and chain things down. Pull our boats onto dry ground.

 

Most of Baja was not ready.   It was the weekend. It was the start of the 4-day Independence Day weekend festivities, the largest biggest holiday in the country.   Folks were in a big-time party mode.   Most government officials and civil workers were long gone. Thousands of tourists had no idea either.

It was pretty bad. You’ve probably seen the photos or watched the news. It’s hard to describe if you’ve never been in one. It’s like being inside a vacuum cleaner. It’s THAT loud. But add the glass breaking. Trees snapping. Our ceiling collapsed. Things shattering. It’s difficult to talk. To think.

 

This was my 10th big one and they are never the same. Like some perverse amusement park ride you know will end, it’s fascination, panic, awe, self-preservation and terror roller-coastering with each blast of wind.

 

And then it passes. It whimpers; runs outta steam; and moves on.  And you sigh. And you exhale and like little Hobbits you gingerly creep out with everyone else into the light.

 

But, it’s not over.

 

In reality, it’s just starting.

 

The destruction is devastating. It looks like Godzilla danced on the town. Phone poles snapped in half. Giant old trees uprooted. Entire walls of buildings simply missing. Boats and yachts sunk or blown to dry land. Not a single window unbroken. Cars upended. Power lines draped limply across roads. Entire neighborhoods destroyed.   Roads and bridges submerged.   Hotels collapsed.

 

More than 30,000 tourists stranded with no immediate resources to handle them. An equal number of residents homeless.

 

And no water. No power. No electricity. No phones. Gasoline runs out. The brand new airport looks like it took an artillery barrage. It no longer exists.

 

Like being no a deserted island. No way out. No way in. No way to call home…or anyone else. No supplies.

 

One day post storm, it was shock and disbelief. Day two, it’s assessment.

 

By day 3, it was starting to get ugly. Tensions rising. Tourists are now ramping up the panic. Tourists and residents alike hit realization. And it’s nasty and ugly and scary.

 

The vacation has been trashed. The novelty has worn off. The margarita bar has been blown to Mazatlan. The fishing boats are sunk. And there’s no water, showers, food.   Everyone is sleeping on the floor.

 

And worse…there’s no communications. Off the grid. That is especially terrifying . In a world where everyone has their nose stuck in a smart-phone, it’s the stone age. No way to notify family and relatives. No access to news. Still no way off the island. No airport. No planes.

In the cities, the afterwrath is worse.

 

Wholescale looting erupts. And it’s not just the dad trying to get some milk and tortillas for the family. Mobs break down windows, doors and metal barriers. Some gleefully. Large scale jubilant Christmas looting.

 

The big chain stores are attacked and emptied by the hordes. TV’s…clothes…exercise equipment…alcohol. If it’s not nailed down, it’s gone. Fighting breaks out. Police and law enforcement, already strained with the disaster are powerless. Rioters barricade streets so police cannot interfere. They don’t. They can’t.

 

In the neighborhoods, more looting. Assaults. Rape. Gangs roam the streets with machetes and arms. Neighbors set up their own security to protect their neighborhoods with guns, rocks and re-bar. Carjackings take palce. Fires are set to illuminate the dark. Neighbors dress in white to set themselves off from the bad guys.

 

Families fight off looters from the roof with bricks and chunks of concrete. One group beats back several assaults from gangs attempting to breach their walls by using sticks, rocks and baseball bats against knives and clubs.

 

Gunfire can be heard in the darkened streets at night. As one escaped resident told me, “It was medieval and primal. Complete lawlessness.”

 

The army finally rolls in and things quiet down.

 

Two weeks post-storm, the recovery is remarkable. The government, the phone and power companies; constructions companies and many others are still working around-the-clock to get going. The phoenix rises.

 

They said the airport in Cabo would be out for the rest of the year. By the time you are reading this, some limited flights might already be working. The La Paz Airport is already open.

 

La Paz is 95% back on the grid. Most of the city is cleaning up and back to normal but dealing with the huge influx of refugees. Cabo is 15% on the grid. Some hotels are actually back in business if somewhat limited.

 

Cell phones were not supposed to work for a month. They were back online in about a week.

But, it’s not over yet. Far from it. Odile’s “ordeal” continues on so many levels.

Many of those who had the least, lost the most. Or everything. The poorer areas, if not destroyed, have not been high on the list to restore services.  It’s alot more than “my vacation got screwed” or “I never got to catch a fish”  or  “I went two days without a hot shower.”

Much more…

 

Many still have no water. Electricity is a flashlight at best. Or a candle. Food is scarce and many are in residences missing a roof…doors…windows…a wall. As one told me, “My family of 3 shares two buckets of water in the dark to wash, drink and cook.”

 

From others, “I have had no hot food in two weeks.  Several days there was no food.”

 

“We sleep in the doorway because there is no light.  By the doorway there is light from outside because we lost our doors.  It is also cooler. But now the mosquitos come.”

“Our barrio (neighborhood) has yet to see a repair truck or anyone.  They fix the tourist areas, but in two weeks we still have no electricity or water.  We are forgotten. “

Many businesses will never recover. If it was tourist related, there’s no tourists. If the building got blown away, there’s no insurance. It doesn’t matter if your family ran it for 2 generations.   And there’s no “bailout” programs here in Mexico.

 

Odile shattered more than just some hotels and vacations. The most powerful storm ever to hit Baja indeed.

 

That’s my story

Jonathan signature

 

Jonathan

_______________

Jonathan Roldan has been writing the Baja Column in Western Outdoor News since 2004.  Along with his wife and fishing buddy, Jilly, they own and run the Tailhunter International Fishing Fleet in La Paz, Baja, Mexico  www.tailhunter-international.com.  They also run their Tailhunter Restaurant Bar on the famous La Paz malecon waterfront.  If you’d like to contact him directly, his e-mail is riplipboy@tailhunter-international.com  or drop by the restaurant to say hi!

______________

Jonathan Roldan’s

Tailhunter International

 

TAILHUNTER FISHING FLEET #1 Rated on Trip Advisor

TAILHUNTER RESTAURANT BAR #1 Rated in La Paz on Trip Advisor

 

Now follow us on FACEBOOK TOO

 

Website: www.tailhunter-international.com

U.S. Office: 8030 La Mesa, Suite #178, La Mesa CA  91942

Mexico Office: 755 Paseo Obregon, La Paz, Baja Sur, Mexico

Phones:

from USA : 626-638-3383

from Mexico: 044-612-14-17863

.

Tailhunter Weekly Fishing Report:

http://fishreport.jonathanroldan.com/

Tailhunter YouTube Videos:

http://www.youtube.com/user/pangapirate

“When your life finally flashes before your eyes, you will have only moments to regret all the things in life you never had the courage to try.”

Making Lemonade Safely

storm coming 2

In a matter of minutes…here it comes! Out’ve a blue sky.

HURRICANE PARTY!

One way to handle it…

 

MAKING LEMONADE SAFELY

Originally Published the Week of Sept. 17, 2014 in Western Outdoor News

As I sit here writing on the 2nd story terrace of our Tailhunter Restaurant here in La Paz, it looks like a postcard.   The waters of the bay shimmer in the sunshine while I can see birds diving on a school of jacks near one of the buoys.

 

Sailboats and motoryachts drift on their moorings while a larger cruiser heads out. Palm fronds from the waterfront trees give a hint of the salty breeze blowing through siesta hour.   If I weren’t writing, I’d be like a few guys I see on the beach with their feet up under a shady palapa with cold ones in hand just watching the world go by.

 

Hard to believe that just a few days ago, Hurricane Norbert blew through here. Life returns quickly to normal once the sun comes back out. Conversely, everyone is now watching and talking about Tropical Storm / Hurricane Odile which has Baja in it’s crosshairs and might be hitting us as you’re reading this.

 

Actually, there’s two other storms (Tropical Depression 16-E and Invest 96E) which are yet un-named, but accompany Odile into our area. Sigh…can’t get a break! So, a trifecta might be in the making.

 

But that’s life in a tropical zone during an El Nino year! We expected them. By one count, these are the 14th or 15th storms of the year.   Most have fortunately glanced off and gone spinning into the Pacific with apologies to my family in Hawaii. (But Hawaii knows how to deal with rain! Baja is still working on it.)

 

Until Norbert last week the storms did some tremendous damage along Baja’s Pacific Coast. However, they really haven’t done much to Baja except rattle our collective tranquility.

 

Along with some heavy occasional downpours, street flooding and thundershowers , they remind us that Mother Nature still has a roar.   But, mostly, all we’ve had is roar.

 

And roaring is fine. To a point.

 

As long as it doesn’t screw with our vacations, right?

 

But, it happens sometimes. Baja is the “frontera” (frontier). It’s not some hermetically-sealed-Disneyland where everything is somehow controlled by someone behind a screen like the Wizard of Oz.

 

It’s beautiful and rustic and rugged. And in it’s own way, still dirty and dusty and raw. And when it rains or gets weather, it can get dirtier and muddier and wetter and uglier and yes, even dangerous.

 

So, what do you do if Mother Nature hangs one on you?   It’s not likely, but it CAN happen and co-incidentally, “hurricane season” just happens to be when the best fishing takes place.

 

You can watch the weather reports and, if you see something looming, take pre-cautions. Check with your outfitter and reservation people. Take out vacation insurance if it looks like you might not get refunded.

 

Don’t outright cancel your trip without first checking if the area you will be in will even be affected.   Baja is a big place. Mexico is a big place.   Weather patterns change rapidly. A storm affecting one area, might not even drop rain a few hundred miles away.

 

If you’re already on vacation, sometimes there’s absolutely nothing to be done. Storms can orginate from clear blue sunny skies in a matter of hours during certain times of the year.   No amount of foresight or weather scouting on your part could have predicated the onset.

 

If that happens, use some common sense.  Vacations are important, but nothing is more important than personal safety.

 

If your outfitter has to cancel a trip, so be it. See if there’s a refund or you can re-schedule.

 

Even if the outfitter or operator is NOT canceling the trip, ask if it’s going to be rough or even worth going out. Remember, it’s supposed to be safe and second, it’s supposed to be fun. This shouldn’t be an exercise in stamina and miserableness. Ask to re-schedule.

 

Some shady operators will send you out knowing full well it’s gonna be a boatride just to pocket the money. But, most aren’t like that. Especially, if you have the ability to re-schedule. They don’t want to be out there bouncing around either and happy satisfied clients are a priority.

 

If the hotel recommends you stay close or even indoors…by gosh…have a clue and don’t be running around outside when all heck is breaking loose.

 

I’m reminded of tourists I saw in the middle of a hurricane cavorting in the pool while bits of roof were spinning around like shrapnel in 80 mph winds. They were still laughing as 20-pound coconuts started dropping from coco trees like cannonballs around them. WHOOSH! WHOOSH! BOINK!

 

Another time, with thunderous bolts of electricity blasting La Paz Bay, I saw frustrated anglers still casting rods in horrendous wind and rai. They were trying to make-a-point to their amigos that they were “hardcore” fishermen. With every jag of lightning I expected nature to take aim at one of those “rods” and teach them something about “hardcore.” More like “burned-to-the-core!”

 

It’s pretty funny now, but back in the day, some other clients grabbed kayaks in the middle of the maelstrom and attempted to row around playing “kayak water polo” in a flooded parking lot where cars were submerged up to their windows.

 

Like the saying, “It’s all fun and games until someone gets hurt.”

 

The point is, stay safe. Don’t tempt the powers, curse the devil or spit into the wind. So to speak.

 

From a secure vantage point, try to enjoy the adventure, as it were. Nature can be pretty amazing.  Put your feet up. Crack a cold one with your other stranded travelers.   There’s not much more you can do outdoors.

 

I’ve seen folks organize poker parties for others. One hotel set up a DVD and casino night in the lobby.   Another hotel sent out for pizza for everyone and kept the bar open 24 hours.

 

Another put giant trash bags and scissors out so people could make their own “rain panchos.” Snip three appropriate holes and you’re ready to go.

 

Bottom line. Make the best of a crazy situation that can’t be helped. Don’t blame your travel agent, outfitter or the weatherman. It is what it is.

 

People get hurt during these things but MOST of the time it’s because they were doing idiotic things like trying to swim in raging surf or crossing swollen arroyos with cars. Or getting hit by flying debris.

 

No one ever got hurt watching a storm while eating a taco and drinking a margarita indoors.

 

I’m shutting my laptop right now. Three hours ago when I started typing, it was sunny and hot!   Honest…the winds suddenly came up with dark clowds and it’s staring to rain…again! Where’s my trash bag pancho? I’m out!

 

(Within hours of this, Category 4 Hurricane Odile hit…)

That’s our story!

Jonathan signature

Jonathan

_______________

Jonathan Roldan has been writing the Baja Column in Western Outdoor News since 2004.  Along with his wife and fishing buddy, Jilly, they own and run the Tailhunter International Fishing Fleet in La Paz, Baja, Mexico  www.tailhunter-international.com.  They also run their Tailhunter Restaurant Bar on the famous La Paz malecon waterfront.  If you’d like to contact him directly, his e-mail is riplipboy@tailhunter-international.com  or drop by the restaurant to say hi!

______________

Jonathan Roldan’s

Tailhunter International

 

TAILHUNTER FISHING FLEET #1 Rated on Trip Advisor

TAILHUNTER RESTAURANT BAR #1 Rated in La Paz on Trip Advisor

 

Now follow us on FACEBOOK TOO

 

Website: www.tailhunter-international.com

U.S. Office: 8030 La Mesa, Suite #178, La Mesa CA  91942

Mexico Office: 755 Paseo Obregon, La Paz, Baja Sur, Mexico

Phones:

from USA : 626-638-3383

from Mexico: 044-612-14-17863

.

Tailhunter Weekly Fishing Report:

http://fishreport.jonathanroldan.com/

Tailhunter YouTube Videos:

http://www.youtube.com/user/pangapirate

“When your life finally flashes before your eyes, you will have only moments to regret all the things in life you never had the courage to try.”

BILLFISH 101

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BILLFISH 101

Originally Published the Week of Sept. 2, 2014 in Western Outdoor News

There are probably few places in the world where you have a better chance of hooking that billfish you’ve always wanted than the waters in the lower Sea of Cortez and the southern Baja Peninsula.

 

These “glamour” fish include both sailfish and marlin which are drawn to these waters by a number of variables. The landmass itself drops off quickly into deep water trenches that bring cool upwellings and nutrients from the abyss. These, in turn are the food source for the baitfish which attract all manners of gamefish to these waters.

 

Sitting at the apex of the foodchain the big billfish can attain sizes up to half-a-ton. At the lower end are the smaller sailfish. In ascending order (and size) come the striped marlin, black marlin and then blue marlin as the largest of the hunters.

 

Not only do they feed on the small baitfish like sardines, caballitos, jacks, mackerel and others. But, they feed in the middle of the food column as well regularly dining on the other predators such as tuna, bonito, dorado and other bluewater species. Basically, if it can fit in it’s mouth, it’s a possible meal.

 

So, if marlin are on your bucket list, like anything else, it’s all about “WWH” (WHEN? WHERE? HOW?).

 

Generally speaking, warmer months are better. But even then, that is not always the case. Every place is different.

 

Around Cabo, striped marlin have been known to “ball-up” in abundance just off the Pacific Coast between Bahia Magdalena and Cabo San Lucas. This takes place from November to January.

 

It’s a bit of a run from Cabo and it can be rough because it’s winter, but you can also catch a boat from several spots around Bahia Magdalena, but not many. Most anglers run up from Cabo.

 

It’s a long run, but the fishing can be incredible. It is not unheard of to hook and release dozens of marlin PER DAY! Again, food is the key. The marlin are there feeding on the huge schools of mackerel.

 

As the year ends, the stripers start to migrate south and around the tip of Baja and with each proceeding month start to move further and further north up into the Sea of Cortez.

 

So, while Cabo can see marlin year-round, the East Cape, La Paz, and to a lesser degree Loreto and cities north will see the billfish from spring to fall. But, not much in the cooler months.

 

So, pick your times carefully. Summer and fall are predominately the best opportunities to get into billfish in all areas.   Also waters are warm and seas tend to be calmer.

 

As for location…

 

To that end, generally speaking, the further south you go, the better. Although billfish can be caught in a multitude of spots in Southern Baja, you have a better shot at them in Cabo San Lucas, San Jose del Cabo and East Cape (Los Barriles and that area) than say Mulege or Santa Rosalia, although billfish are not out’ve the question in those great areas.

 

(No disrespect for northern areas which have their own spectacular fishing and their own particular claims to angling fame and shots at species not usually seen in some of the southern cities, e.g. yellowtail!)

 

Regarding fishing methods, there are a number of ways.

 

Be prepared to cover some water. So, a larger, faster boat might be preferred since these are rangy fish always looking for sources of food and capable of moving great distances very quickly.

 

Since you want to cover some water, trolling lures has been effective world-wide, especially, if you’re trying to locate fish.   If you’re in an area such as the East Cape or Cabo where the fish can be quite far, then a cruiser would surely be more comfortable, especially in Cabo which faces the open ocean.

 

However, that doesn’t mean you ALWAYS need a cruiser. Areas such as Loreto and La Paz do very well catching billfish using pangas insofar as fish are much closer to shore and the areas are less subject to big waves and rough seas.

 

Another method is to slow troll larger live or dead baits such as smaller bonito, larger mackerel and even small tuna properly rigged and dragged behind the boats.   There’s an old rule about “big fis-big baits” and you’ll be surprised how a huge bait that seems impossible to eat suddenly entices a big billfish to bite it!

 

One of my favorite methods is to simply troll a lure or dead bait behind the boat that has no hooks. This is a “teaser” method and requires that someone always keep an eye on the troll lines.

 

When a big billfish comes slashing at the teaser, another lighter rig with a live bait is then cast to the billfish. The live bait has a hook in it and the billfish will break off from the teaser and jump on the live bait.   Battling a big marlin or sail on this lighter live bait tackle can be incredible sport!

 

This same casting method can be used on a “sight-fish.” Basically, keeping a sharp eye on the water until a billfish is seen on the surface. Using some bit of stealth and a steady hand on the wheel, the boat is maneuvered so that a live bait can be properly cast directly in front of the fish…hopefully resulting in a big hookup!

 

Whatever you do, consider “CPR…Catch Photo Release” before you go fishing. Decide that you are going to release your billfish BEFORE you’re in the heat of battle. No matter what your captain tells you. Let him know that you plan to release your billfish and that his tips are NOT dependent on him killing the fish.

 

Try to keep the fish in the water to release it. Bringing the fish aboard not only damages the slime protection on it’s skin, but without the negative buoyancy of the water, internal organs can also be damaged by hauling it into the boat no matter how well intended.

 

Get as good a photos as possible then release it. All the best taxidermists now do fiberglass mounts that are incredible. All they need are a good photo or, in many case, not even that. All they need is an estimation of size to make that perfect keepsake trophy for your den!

That’s our story!

Jonathan signature

 

Jonathan

_______________

Jonathan Roldan has been writing the Baja Column in Western Outdoor News since 2004.  Along with his wife and fishing buddy, Jilly, they own and run the Tailhunter International Fishing Fleet in La Paz, Baja, Mexico  www.tailhunter-international.com.  They also run their Tailhunter Restaurant Bar on the famous La Paz malecon waterfront.  If you’d like to contact him directly, his e-mail is riplipboy@tailhunter-international.com  or drop by the restaurant to say hi!

______________

Jonathan Roldan’s

Tailhunter International

 

TAILHUNTER FISHING FLEET #1 Rated on Trip Advisor

TAILHUNTER RESTAURANT BAR #1 Rated in La Paz on Trip Advisor

 

Now follow us on FACEBOOK TOO

 

Website: www.tailhunter-international.com

U.S. Office: 8030 La Mesa, Suite #178, La Mesa CA  91942

Mexico Office: 755 Paseo Obregon, La Paz, Baja Sur, Mexico

Phones:

from USA : 626-638-3383

from Mexico: 044-612-14-17863

.

Tailhunter Weekly Fishing Report:

http://fishreport.jonathanroldan.com/

Tailhunter YouTube Videos:

http://www.youtube.com/user/pangapirate

“When your life finally flashes before your eyes, you will have only moments to regret all the things in life you never had the courage to try.”

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