Fishing in Los Cabos




You see the line disappearing off your reel at an alarming rate and feel the incredible strength of the fish pulling it. You are excited and a little apprehensive, wondering what you have got yourself into, knowing there’s always the chance of a “grander,” a fish of 1,000 pounds or more, showing up in the waters here. They say a body in motion tends to stay in motion, and when a marlin, is on its first run it can burn most of the line off your reel, and for the next20 or 40 or 90 minutes you struggle to turn his head and reclaim your line, which is so taut and under so much pressure that droplets of water spray off it and vaporize in the air, and, in spite of the advantage of the expensive heavy gear, the outcome is never certain.


For those who love the pursuit of the game fish in Southern Baja the excitement may be result of going into an unpredictable environment and being hooked to a wild animal, an apex predator with great heart and fighting spirit, being connected to something much stronger than you are, feeling the speed and power and seeing the way the fish light up when they are excited, a colour that you could never capture in the finest photograph, and something you would never see if you weren’t able to finally tame them and bring them to the boat where, most likely, the extraordinary animal is admired and then released.


When people ask me why I fish I simply tell them that it’s something that can’t be explained, offering only that I have been drawn to it since I was a young boy. It’s too complicated for a short answer and it’s too early here at the Baja Cantina at the Marina to try and explain. I might just as well try to explain why people enjoy watching baseball. But if they really wanted to know I would mention the sights that you can experience as you start out in the morning, and the muted pinks and orange of the sun coming up on the horizon and the birds, sea lions and whales that you sometimes see, but most of all the game fish in their full iridescent glory, the Dorado that flash a brilliant bluish-green and gold in the sun and the large rays that shoot into the air in a somersault, coming out of the water and then splashing down with a loud slap. And if you let your eyes go out of focus you can think back in time and realize that you are out on the same waters that Spanish galleons may have sailed on, before there was anything here, save for a few hardy souls who survived by harvesting the waters surrounding the cape.


In Cabo a single fish can change your life. Ask the people over at Picante Sport fishing. In 1994 a group of friends calling themselves the Picante team entered the Bisbee Black & Blue Marlin Tournament, their first competitive fishing contest, and a 950-pound marlin spotted their lure and took it. That fish resulted in a tournament purse in the hundreds of thousands of dollars and a Cabo sport fishing boat valued at about $250,000. That financial payoff led to the founding of Picante Sport fishing at the Marina, now one of Cabo’s most recognizable fishing charters and a Cabo Yachts dealer. All because a fish got hungry one morning during tournament season.


The tournament family themselves, the Bisbees, has been responsible for creating a lot of Cabo’s reputation as “The Marlin Capital of the World” with their Bisbee Black & Blue Marlin Tournament held every October. Back in 2006 the Black & Blue had its biggest overall cash payout of $4,165,960. That was, and remains, the largest payout in sport fishing history. “The guys who are fishing down here like to have fun but they are also real competitive,” says Wayne Bisbee, whose father Bob founded the tournament in 1981. “In the early days they used to fish hard and play hard, and they would often go through every bar in town. Now the clientele has become more serious. They know the tournament is a sport, but if they hook up with a quality fish, it could also be a million- dollar day.”


“It just got bigger and bigger, and Cabo grew along with it,” tournament founder Bob Bisbee says. “People who won the tournament started buying houses and businesses here rather than take it back to the US, and that turned out to be a big shot in the arm for old Cabo San Lucas.”


Southern Baja is a place that attracts serious anglers, including early adventurers like Bing Crosby and John Wayne. If you are lucky you can be part of that heritage. John Pentz is a local developer and a serious angler. He’s created some of the iconic places on the landscape here, like The Shoppes at Palmilla, and is now working on Thompson Los Cabos, a new 115-room luxury boutique hotel to open in February of next year overlooking Monuments Beach. John had the kind of upbringing that leads to becoming a serious angler, as a young boy hiking and horseback riding with his father deep into California’s High Sierras in search of wild trout. Those kinds of boyhood memories can create a fascination with water, and when John came down to Cabo in 1980 it was a life changing event, staying at the Hotel Cabo San Lucas where he hooked his first marlin. That fish led to repeat visits and now John lives in the area, overlooking what he considers the finest fishing grounds in the world. “There is a lot to love about this place,” John says. “I love the climate and the people, and I have to say that, after fishing other places in the world, there is no better place to fish for marlin than the waters off Los Cabos.”


Local angler/chef Drew Deckman was looking for a place to combine his highly- evolved culinary skills with his passion for big game fishing when he came to Cabo. “Eight years ago I began looking for a place where I could cook at the level I was accustomed to, as well as have a shot at a bill fish 365 days a year. The fishing in Cabo, when it’s on, is as good as it gets. We get all the species I want to catch most times of the year.” And when he catches them, the most desirable eating fish, he knows exactly what to do with them, creating plates so inventive, so precisely composed, that you look at the ingredients in a whole new light. “My life has been hook- to-fork for a long time and my kitchens only serve seafood from the Baja peninsula,” Drew says. ‘I’m not sure there is another place like this on the planet that is so varied and complete in terms of the resource.”


What would an article about fishing be without a fish story? Michael Aviani, owner/ broker of Los Cabos Vacation Rentals first fished the waters off San José del Cabo in August of 1985. Captivated by the area, he drove back down later in October of that year and went out with two friends and caught 7 wahoo, 10 Dorado and 3 tuna in a panga rented through Victor’s Sport fishing for about $90, splitting it 3 ways. That was when you could get a hotel room on the beach in San José for $18 a night. Michael became such an enthusiast that he was out fishing with a honeymooning couple and made a comment that the fishing was so good in Baja that the fish almost jump into the boat. Not long after that, as if on cue, a 25-pound Dorado actually jumped into their boat.


If you have any knowledge about fishing in Baja, then you’re probably familiar with the name Gary Graham. As a writer and photographer, Gary is an icon of all things piscatorial from southern California to the tip of Baja California Sur. He was one of the early explorers who took the road less travelled and discovered the wealth of resources in the area. He has documented his Baja experiences for decades, and is especially fond of beaches. “When I first ventured into Baja in 1969, I saw the miles and miles of beaches as an opportunity for fishing, and fishing from the beach was my thing,” Gary says. “Back then, most of the hotels along the Sea of Cortez treated the beaches as a pathway for guests to their fleet of boats. Beach fishing has drawn me back to Baja year after year. You can fish alone or share the fun with a companion, which by the way, was often my friend Coci, my ATV-riding, fish-loving dog who spent many hours on the beach by my side, spotting fish for me … or racing to the rod at the sound of the clicker. With trophy-sized fish lurking as close as your next cast, it is easily accessible, do-it-yourself, and inexpensive. Always there, day or night, with no commitment, you can fish for one hour or all day. Not only avid anglers, but kids, seasick family members and even your pet can enjoy this unique gateway to Baja fishing.”


It’s been said a good fisherman will never really starve, but if you truly feel the excitement that comes from pursuing marlin and their companions off the coast in southern Baja, then you are likely to contribute a good part of your hard earned wages to the fishing industry here. But the experience is never really about that, as the profits of sport fishing can’t be measured in currency. You are on your way back to the Marina and a friend, who has also had a good day and who is one of the finest anglers you have ever known, lights up a cigar, reaches into the cooler, pulls out a chilled cerveza and hands it to you. There is spray coming off the sides of the boat, refracting the sunlight into a rainbow, and as you hold the can, feeling the coldness and weight, it somehow feels like real money.


What would an article about fishing be without a fish story? Michael Aviani, owner/ broker of Los Cabos Vacation Rentals first fished the waters off San José del Cabo in August of 1985. Captivated by the area, he drove back down later in October of that year and went out with two friends and caught 7 wahoo, 10 Dorado and 3 tuna in a panga rented through Victor’s Sport fishing for about $90, splitting it 3 ways. That was when you could get a hotel room on the beach in San José for $18 a night. Michael became such an enthusiast that he was out fishing with a honeymooning couple and made a comment that the fishing was so good in Baja that the fish almost jump into the boat. Not long after that, as if on cue, a 25-pound Dorado actually jumped into their boat.


If you have any knowledge about fishing in Baja, then you’re probably familiar with the name Gary Graham. As a writer and photographer, Gary is an icon of all things piscatorial from southern California to the tip of Baja California Sur. He was one of the early explorers who took the road less travelled and discovered the wealth of resources in the area. He has documented his Baja experiences for decades, and is especially fond of beaches. “When I first ventured into Baja in 1969, I saw the miles and miles of beaches as an opportunity for fishing, and fishing from the beach was my thing,” Gary says. “Back then, most of the hotels along the Sea of Cortez treated the beaches as a pathway for guests to their fleet of boats. Beach fishing has drawn me back to Baja year after year. You can fish alone or share the fun with a companion, which by the way, was often my friend Coci, my ATV-riding, fish-loving dog who spent many hours on the beach by my side, spotting fish for me … or racing to the rod at the sound of the clicker. With trophy-sized fish lurking as close as your next cast, it is easily accessible, do-it-yourself, and inexpensive. Always there, day or night, with no commitment, you can fish for one hour or all day. Not only avid anglers, but kids, seasick family members and even your pet can enjoy this unique gateway to Baja fishing.”


It’s been said a good fisherman will never really starve, but if you truly feel the excitement that comes from pursuing marlin and their companions off the coast in southern Baja, then you are likely to contribute a good part of your hard earned wages to the fishing industry here. But the experience is never really about that, as the profits of sport fishing can’t be measured in currency. You are on your way back to the Marina and a friend, who has also had a good day and who is one of the finest anglers you have ever known, lights up a cigar, reaches into the cooler, pulls out a chilled cerveza and hands it to you. There is spray coming off the sides of the boat, refracting the sunlight into a rainbow, and as you hold the can, feeling the coldness and weight, it somehow feels like real money.







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