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Old 05-13-2018, 01:02 AM   #1
sfbaysailing
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Mexico Season Part 1!

Hey all

Long time reader, but infrequent poster. Nevertheless, I owe a lot to this and other boards as I’ve connected with some awesome diving partners in Mexico through them.

Warning, this will be a long post covering the last year of diving throughout Mexico! I have lots of pics up on my instagram at #svdogfish

I left Oakland, CA 1.5 years ago on what was supposed to be a two year trip sailing around the Pacific with my girlfriend on our 44’ sailboat, “Dogfish.” I had dove for a few years before leaving, all in Northern CA, but had been bitten hard with the diving bug and was excited to spend the next two years diving all over the Pacific.

We left Oakland on the cusp of another big storm sweeping through Norcal, and flew down the coast with a solid breeze at our back. We made an impromptu stop at San Miguel Island, because , well, we could. On the second day there I shot my first fish of the trip – a big old Sheepshead. Drinking a beer, filleting the fish on the aft deck as the sun went down over the anchorage made the 3 years of hard work that we had put into the trip all seem worthwhile.

Until I dropped my awl over the side.

I tried to grab it before it fell into the water, and my hand got caught up in the fillet knives hanging on the fillet table, and I immediately knew it was bad.

I grabbed my hand. Squeezed hard. Went below and told Marga, my girlfriend, I had cut my hand. It was bleeding hard.

Some time later we thought we had it all under control. I went to the aft cabin to put on a fleece, and as I pulled it over my head, saw a few big dark pools on the floor. The cut was bleeding through the bandages and dripping onto the floor. We pulled the bandages off to change them, and blood spurted across the galley with every heartbeat.

Long story short, I had cut the tendon, artery, and nerve. I ended up having surgery, and needing months of physical therapy. Our cruising kitty was quickly drained by astronomical southern CA mooring fees and insurance deductibles. Luckily, we were able to find some work in LA and Newport Beach, and about 6 months later we were able to once again sail south.

We spent the summer of 2017 in La Paz, where I met and dove with my buddy German. A couple of times a week we would head out to Espiritu Santo in his RIB, and dive hard. Learning new terrain and new fish, it was invaluable to be diving with a really solid local like German. All summer long we brought in lots of Cabrilla and Pargo, but it wasn’t until we left La Paz for points further north in the Sea of Cortez that I found my real monster Pargo, which is still my personal best.

We were anchored off a small island in the northern Sea of Cortez. I got up early to dinghy to the north point of the island, off of which I had seen a few rocks poking out of the water that looked promising. After a 5 mile dinghy, I anchored, slipped into the water with my 120cm reel gun, and starting kicking around the rock scoping the drop-off and looking for some promising terrain. After about ten minutes I did my first warm up dive, swimming down to about 20’, and which point I leveled out and raised my eyes to scan around me.

Immediately I saw him, swimming from behind me on my left. He looked similar to the Pargos I had seen before, but his size, so much bigger than any fish I had ever seen, made him seem like a different species. I was diving alone, off a small dinghy, about 5 miles from my boat, with no support and no-one that really knew where I was. The water around the rock I was diving plunged to unknown depths, I had my small reef gun with reel in hand, and the fish of my lifetime was swimming right in front of me. In an instant I did the math, and decided it would not be a good idea to take a shot.

Then I squeezed the trigger.

The fish immediately disappeared into the blue and my reel stayed quiet. As I swam up to the surface, I actually felt grateful that I had missed the fish – no fish holing up super deep; no wrestling a huge, hot fish with tons of line in the water waiting to tangle me up; no chance of losing my gear. It was probably for the best, given the circumstances and my gear.

And then my reel started to sing.

Line was flying off my reel, which was quickly getting smaller and smaller. Fearful of the fish getting into a cave super deep, I decided that my only chance was to try and horse him up. I put my hand on the reel to try and slow it down and started kicking as hard as I could, headed towards the dinghy. I figured the safest thing to do if possible was to get back to the dinghy and play him from there. After a hard, fast run, the fish started putting even consistent pressure against me as I kicked as hard as I could for the next ten minutes towards the dinghy. As I got closer and closer, apprehension started to be replaced by excitement. If I could just make it to the boat I knew I’d land the fish, and it was now only 20 feet away….10 feet away…I climbed in.

I started pulling in yards of reel line. It was heavy, but didn’t feel like it was fighting. I got to the shooting line and still couldn't see anything, and then suddenly a huge red fish emerged from the blue. The shot had entered from behind the right gill, and the slip tip had toggled inside the fish. It’s often seemed to me that if I pull a fish up backwards, it drowns. I think the shot had actually been well placed, and after a hard initial run the fish had no more fight in him, and combined with pulling him in gills backwards, by the time I got him to the boat he was done.

And somehow, on my first dive of the session, with my reef gun, I had landed my PB fish of 55 lbs. He barely fit in the dinghy. I hollered to no-one. I was alone, the fear was subsiding, and I had just landed my best fish ever. Holy Shit.

I brought the fish back to the boat and while filleting him on the foredeck, a couple of local pangueros stopped by to check it out and take pictures holding him up. They saif they don't see fish of that size in that area.

I vacuum packed about half the fillets, and smoked the other half with alderwood chips. We ate Pargo for a month as we headed towards Guaymas on the East side of the Sea of Cortez to meet my buddy Damon. From there we were gonna sail South again and then head to mainland Mexico. Little did I know that I wouldn’t find really good fishing until we once again retuned to Baja, in May. But that’s for Part 2…
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Old 05-13-2018, 03:15 AM   #2
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Re: Mexico Season Part 1!

Nice write up. Sounds like an epic trip!
Curious why you didn't sail to Ventura or Oxnard for your hand surgery?
Mooring fees are way cheaper due those harbors are much closer to Miguel.
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Old 05-13-2018, 09:48 AM   #3
Rosstnfound
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Re: Mexico Season Part 1!

Congrats on the Pargo and overcoming the hand injury to make the trip happen. Very well written!

"In an instant I did the math, and decided it would not be a good idea to take a shot.

Then I squeezed the trigger." LOL
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Old 05-13-2018, 10:12 AM   #4
Marcus
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Re: Mexico Season Part 1!

Quote:
Originally Posted by sfbaysailing View Post
Hey all

Long time reader, but infrequent poster. Nevertheless, I owe a lot to this and other boards as I’ve connected with some awesome diving partners in Mexico through them.

Warning, this will be a long post covering the last year of diving throughout Mexico! I have lots of pics up on my instagram at #svdogfish

I left Oakland, CA 1.5 years ago on what was supposed to be a two year trip sailing around the Pacific with my girlfriend on our 44’ sailboat, “Dogfish.” I had dove for a few years before leaving, all in Northern CA, but had been bitten hard with the diving bug and was excited to spend the next two years diving all over the Pacific.

We left Oakland on the cusp of another big storm sweeping through Norcal, and flew down the coast with a solid breeze at our back. We made an impromptu stop at San Miguel Island, because , well, we could. On the second day there I shot my first fish of the trip – a big old Sheepshead. Drinking a beer, filleting the fish on the aft deck as the sun went down over the anchorage made the 3 years of hard work that we had put into the trip all seem worthwhile.

Until I dropped my awl over the side.

I tried to grab it before it fell into the water, and my hand got caught up in the fillet knives hanging on the fillet table, and I immediately knew it was bad.

I grabbed my hand. Squeezed hard. Went below and told Marga, my girlfriend, I had cut my hand. It was bleeding hard.

Some time later we thought we had it all under control. I went to the aft cabin to put on a fleece, and as I pulled it over my head, saw a few big dark pools on the floor. The cut was bleeding through the bandages and dripping onto the floor. We pulled the bandages off to change them, and blood spurted across the galley with every heartbeat.

Long story short, I had cut the tendon, artery, and nerve. I ended up having surgery, and needing months of physical therapy. Our cruising kitty was quickly drained by astronomical southern CA mooring fees and insurance deductibles. Luckily, we were able to find some work in LA and Newport Beach, and about 6 months later we were able to once again sail south.

We spent the summer of 2017 in La Paz, where I met and dove with my buddy German. A couple of times a week we would head out to Espiritu Santo in his RIB, and dive hard. Learning new terrain and new fish, it was invaluable to be diving with a really solid local like German. All summer long we brought in lots of Cabrilla and Pargo, but it wasn’t until we left La Paz for points further north in the Sea of Cortez that I found my real monster Pargo, which is still my personal best.

We were anchored off a small island in the northern Sea of Cortez. I got up early to dinghy to the north point of the island, off of which I had seen a few rocks poking out of the water that looked promising. After a 5 mile dinghy, I anchored, slipped into the water with my 120cm reel gun, and starting kicking around the rock scoping the drop-off and looking for some promising terrain. After about ten minutes I did my first warm up dive, swimming down to about 20’, and which point I leveled out and raised my eyes to scan around me.

Immediately I saw him, swimming from behind me on my left. He looked similar to the Pargos I had seen before, but his size, so much bigger than any fish I had ever seen, made him seem like a different species. I was diving alone, off a small dinghy, about 5 miles from my boat, with no support and no-one that really knew where I was. The water around the rock I was diving plunged to unknown depths, I had my small reef gun with reel in hand, and the fish of my lifetime was swimming right in front of me. In an instant I did the math, and decided it would not be a good idea to take a shot.

Then I squeezed the trigger.

The fish immediately disappeared into the blue and my reel stayed quiet. As I swam up to the surface, I actually felt grateful that I had missed the fish – no fish holing up super deep; no wrestling a huge, hot fish with tons of line in the water waiting to tangle me up; no chance of losing my gear. It was probably for the best, given the circumstances and my gear.

And then my reel started to sing.

Line was flying off my reel, which was quickly getting smaller and smaller. Fearful of the fish getting into a cave super deep, I decided that my only chance was to try and horse him up. I put my hand on the reel to try and slow it down and started kicking as hard as I could, headed towards the dinghy. I figured the safest thing to do if possible was to get back to the dinghy and play him from there. After a hard, fast run, the fish started putting even consistent pressure against me as I kicked as hard as I could for the next ten minutes towards the dinghy. As I got closer and closer, apprehension started to be replaced by excitement. If I could just make it to the boat I knew I’d land the fish, and it was now only 20 feet away….10 feet away…I climbed in.

I started pulling in yards of reel line. It was heavy, but didn’t feel like it was fighting. I got to the shooting line and still couldn't see anything, and then suddenly a huge red fish emerged from the blue. The shot had entered from behind the right gill, and the slip tip had toggled inside the fish. It’s often seemed to me that if I pull a fish up backwards, it drowns. I think the shot had actually been well placed, and after a hard initial run the fish had no more fight in him, and combined with pulling him in gills backwards, by the time I got him to the boat he was done.

And somehow, on my first dive of the session, with my reef gun, I had landed my PB fish of 55 lbs. He barely fit in the dinghy. I hollered to no-one. I was alone, the fear was subsiding, and I had just landed my best fish ever. Holy Shit.

I brought the fish back to the boat and while filleting him on the foredeck, a couple of local pangueros stopped by to check it out and take pictures holding him up. They saif they don't see fish of that size in that area.

I vacuum packed about half the fillets, and smoked the other half with alderwood chips. We ate Pargo for a month as we headed towards Guaymas on the East side of the Sea of Cortez to meet my buddy Damon. From there we were gonna sail South again and then head to mainland Mexico. Little did I know that I wouldn’t find really good fishing until we once again retuned to Baja, in May. But that’s for Part 2…

Cool story, bro. Thanks. You really captured feelings I've had going out diving alone.
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Old 05-13-2018, 11:17 AM   #5
kon
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Re: Mexico Season Part 1!

Nice write up and good work landing the fish! German's a great guy and spearo, very knowledgable and helpful. Looking forward to part 2!
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Old 05-15-2018, 01:27 AM   #6
sfbaysailing
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Re: Mexico Season Part 1!

Westbury-
We ended up in Redondo beach on a mooring for 30 bucks a night. I had surgery in Torrance, and that's where my physical therapy was as well, so being in Redondo helped keep the uber charges low. From San Miguel we went to Santa Barbara, where I went to a clinic to get the hand looked at. The doctor misdiagnosed me, and said I had not cut the tendon....he sewed me up, and said take the stitches out in 10 days and I'll be all good. Ten days later, in San Pedro on Xmas eve, I unwrapped my finger and pulled out the stitches, planning to leave for Mexico the next day. Except that, for some reason, I couldn't bend my finger. That seemed odd given that the doctor had said I didn't cut the tendon. The finger was also floppy, like limp spaghetti. That was a really weird sensation, and most definitely not right. We spent the next few days just trying to find a specialist to see me, given that it was Christmas. Finally found someone in Torrance, and she immediately scheduled me for surgery, because the longer you wait on these tendon repairs, the worse the prognosis.
So that's why we herein Redondo!
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Old 05-16-2018, 10:45 AM   #7
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Re: Mexico Season Part 1!

Great post, can't wait to hear the rest of the story! You should post up some photos here as well!

I just bought myself a Islander Freeport 36, hope to do some cruising in the coming years..
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Old 05-17-2018, 12:18 AM   #8
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Re: Mexico Season Part 1!

Quote:
Originally Posted by sfbaysailing View Post
Westbury-
We ended up in Redondo beach on a mooring for 30 bucks a night. I had surgery in Torrance, and that's where my physical therapy was as well, so being in Redondo helped keep the uber charges low. From San Miguel we went to Santa Barbara, where I went to a clinic to get the hand looked at. The doctor misdiagnosed me, and said I had not cut the tendon....he sewed me up, and said take the stitches out in 10 days and I'll be all good. Ten days later, in San Pedro on Xmas eve, I unwrapped my finger and pulled out the stitches, planning to leave for Mexico the next day. Except that, for some reason, I couldn't bend my finger. That seemed odd given that the doctor had said I didn't cut the tendon. The finger was also floppy, like limp spaghetti. That was a really weird sensation, and most definitely not right. We spent the next few days just trying to find a specialist to see me, given that it was Christmas. Finally found someone in Torrance, and she immediately scheduled me for surgery, because the longer you wait on these tendon repairs, the worse the prognosis.
So that's why we herein Redondo!
Gotcha!
Glad to hear you got fixed up!
Can't wait to hear more about the trip
Safe travels!
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Old 05-17-2018, 06:44 PM   #9
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Re: Mexico Season Part 1!

Nice tell. Some pick please.
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