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Do You Wahoo? Now's the Time

June 20, 2003|PETE THOMAS

Despite a white seabass frenzy at Catalina, this week's spotlight is focused on the East Cape region of Baja California, in large part because an unusual run of unusually large wahoo is in progress.

But also because we've been issued a photograph showing those unfamiliar with these incredibly swift predators -- they reach speeds up to 60 mph -- what they look like and how big they get.

"The wahoo bite has been as good as I can remember," said John Ireland, owner of Rancho Leonero, a secluded resort between the sleepy towns of Buena Vista and La Ribera. "They're not the school-sized fish caught on the [San Diego] long-range boats. We're getting a lot of 70-pounders and some even bigger, which is very unusual."

Dave Clark Sr. of St. Louis, while fishing with Dave Clark Jr., brought ashore one of the biggest ever landed in the area, a 115-pounder aboard the panga El Guapo. (A 125-pound wahoo was caught recently aboard a boat out of Buena Vista Beach Resort.)

It made two or three long, fast runs, as wahoo typically do, before tiring and coming in fairly easily after about 15 minutes. It was nearly six feet long, with a girth of 32 inches. It went to St. Louis in the form of fresh-frozen steaks and fillets.

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The problem with so many big wahoo -- and all those jagged teeth -- is that they're giving fits to those trolling for marlin.

"They're hitting the marlin lures and cutting right through the monofilament," Ireland said. "The marlin fishermen are landing only about one in three wahoo that strike those lures."

Clark was among those specifically targeting wahoo, with a yellow, orange and black Marauder lure attached to a wire leader. This week, Ireland added, the wahoo are spread out over an area four to six miles offshore, as far south as Los Frailes.

As for the marlin, most of the stripers are in the same area as the wahoo, and the bigger blues have begun to arrive farther offshore, drawn by large schools of tuna and dorado, upon which they feed.

So, all in all, things are going swimmingly in the southern Sea of Cortez, where the water temperature has warmed to between 77 and 81 degrees.

"Once the water hits 80 the blue marlin start to roll in," Ireland said.

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Clark's catch may not be the most impressive in the area. Also from the Rancho Leonero report: "Fisherman of the week: Two local 12-year-old boys from La Ribera, while hand-lining from a beer can off our pier, hooked and released a sailfish."

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East Cape fly fishermen have reason to boast as well. Gary Graham, owner of Baja on the Fly, said in his weekly report: "Football-sized tuna and a nine-weight fly rod add up to fun, fun, fun. Factor in some sashimi and margaritas in the evening before a walk on the beach to sight-cast to boiling [inshore species of fish].

"That was the story for Richard Naimark of Plainsboro, N.J., along with his friend, Allen Schlift, who are enjoying their respite from the East Coast rainy weather."

As for the inshore action, Graham said roosterfish were "strung out from Los Barriles to Punta Arena close to the shore. Typically finicky, as usual, but plenty of shots and every once in a while one grabs your fly and tries to take it to Mazatlan."

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Meanwhile, south of the East Cape at Cabo San Lucas, fishermen are still waiting for the blue marlin invasion, biding their time with smaller stripers.

"The striped marlin bite is really taking off, now that the moon is getting smaller," reported Tracy Ehrenberg, owner of Pisces Sportfishing. "Boats are sighting up to 10 in a day, but seldom getting more than three in one day."

The weather remains unseasonably cool and the fish much closer to shore than normal.

"I sent a guy out on a sunset cruise for two hours the other day and he released a marlin," Ehrenberg said. "They weren't even trying to fish, but they saw one jumping and they had bait left over from a fishing trip earlier in the day. They caught a striped marlin and a 130-pound tuna."

Michael Cowell of Manchester, England, on Tuesday boated perhaps the week's largest tuna, a 180-pounder aboard Ruthless.

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Back on this side of the border, the normally serene backside of Catalina has become the focus of attention for Southland anglers. Chaos reigns night and day, thanks to an invasion of squid and the subsequent coming to life of thousands of voracious white seabass.

It's an amazing phenomenon. Commercial squid-fishing boats have become a fixture beyond the island's shores, waiting for nightfall before lighting the black ocean to lure the slippery mollusks up from the depths. The overnight sportfishing boats arrive between midnight and 2 a.m. and fill their tanks with squid, which are used by passengers to hook a species of croaker prized for its flesh as well as its fight.

Those aboard private boats arrive each morning for the mop-up operation, taking what they can get during daylight hours. And this week, they've been getting plenty.

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