Tony Meranda watched as a Mexican fishing guide’s dream scenario unfolded before him.
First, a huge school of baitfish glistened on the surface of the Sea of Cortez. Then, a flock of frigates and gulls arrived in a frenzy, diving on the water for an easy meal.
Any second now, Meranda said, that activity would attract another part of the food chain — a slashing saltwater fish.
“When you see the sardines up on the top like that, you know there are fish around,” he said as he trolled through the commotion. “Get ready.”
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Staring at the wake of the boat, Meranda got excited as he saw a shadow suddenly appear several feet under the water.
“Wahoo!” he shouted, indicating the type of fish he spotted.
Meranda quickly reeled the Rapala X-Rap crankbait he was trolling to where he had seen the fish, then handed the rod to his guide client, Larry Chambers of Parkville.
The fish flashed at the bait and boiled the surface when it struck. Chambers pulled back, and the fight was on.
As the boat rocked in the waves, fisherman and fish played tug of war for several minutes. Finally, Chambers worked the wahoo close enough to the boat for Meranda to gaff it and flop it into his panga boat.
Score another impressive victory for Cabo’s world-class fishing.
Located about 20 miles east of the tip of Mexico’s Baja California peninsula, the Gordo Banks area offers just about everything a saltwater fisherman could want. Many flock to the San José area to fish for some of the biggest marlin in the world. But the Sea of Cortez has much more to offer. Sailfish, yellowfin tuna, dorado, amberjack, wahoo, roosterfish, sierras, snappers … the list goes on and on.
Meranda, a guide for Gordo Banks Pangas, is well aware of the region’s reputation. Now 41, he has guided for half of his life. And he knows that days on the Sea of Cortez are seldom boring.
“One day I had three brothers on the boat, and a huge marlin hit,” Meranda said. “They took turns fighting it for nine hours.
“They had it up to the boat and we got a good look at it. It was the biggest marlin someone in my boat has had on. It had to be 800 to 900 pounds.
“But just as we had it up to where I was reaching for it, it made one last run and broke the line.”
There were no line-breakers on this trip. But there was some unexpectedly good wahoo fishing. As the birds swirled overhead and the baitfish dimpled the surface, we caught eight wahoos and lost at least that many.
“Those sardines have a tough life, huh?” Meranda said with a grin. “They get hit from beneath, then they get from the air.
“I’ve seen times when the fish are trying to hit the sardines on the surface and the birds pull them right away from them.”
Meranda was trolling in more than 100 feet of water, but the fish were down only a few feet beneath the surface, he said. That’s why the crankbaits worked so well.
Catching wahoos on the Sea of Cortez isn’t unusual. But catching them in March is, Meranda said.
“Usually, we don’t have many wahoos in this area this time of the year,” he said. “The best time is in October and November.
“We got lucky.”
But the wahoos were only the start. In three days of fishing with Meranda, Chambers and I caught hard-fighting roosterfish trolling with live bait in 20 to 30 feet of water, dozens of red snapper in 130 feet of water, and beautiful sierras trolling at medium depths.
Meranda started each day by boating to the mouth of the harbor, where we bought bait from the locals who had netted them. Then we headed out on a different adventure each day.
One day, Meranda pulled his panga (a skiff with a outboard motor) into a cluster of boats filled with commercial fishermen. The group chattered and laughed, all the while using rods and reels to pull red snapper in as fast as they could drop their bait into the water.
One Mexican, a cigarette dangling from his mouth, even tossed a chunk of bait to Meranda.
“Squid,” Meranda said. “These snapper love it.”
As Meranda pulled away, he said, “They are commercial fisherman. Red snapper is a delicacy. They sell their catch to restaurants in the area.”
Meranda paused and smiled.
“If you like to fish, this is a great place to live,” he said.
To reach outdoors editor Brent Frazee, call 816-234-4319 or send email to firstname.lastname@example.org.