Chasing wahoo and other species in Baja

I’m not sure why it’s called a wahoo. But my guess is that the person who named the fish must have been so excited when he reeled one in that he shouted “wahoo!”

I’m not sure why it’s called a wahoo. But my guess is that the person who named the fish must have been so excited when he reeled one in that he shouted “wahoo!” I would also guess that this guy didn’t heave his fish out of Mexican waters at the crack of dawn after a hard night of gluttony and overindulgence. If that was the case the guy would have yelled the same thing I did after the aforementioned self-abuse, “Uuuuugggghhhhhh.” I also groaned a few other things, none of which, however, would make a good name for a game fish or be suitable for print. That being said, I suppose it’s a good thing for science that I didn’t discover the species first.

My first encounter with the Uuuuugggghhhhhh fish, I mean wahoo, came this past spring at The Bay of Dreams. This fairly new resort sits on the Eastern Cape of Baja California, Mexico, just a short two hour drive north of the Cabo International Airport. What makes The Bay of Dreams so unique is its complete and total isolation, its relatively small number of home sites, and the fact that everything within the resort, from the roads to the homes to the golf course are laid out not to detract from nature. Rather, it as if they were meant to accentuate the natural desert environment. The result is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen.

I first visited the Bay of Dreams – and believe me it won’t be my last visit either, I’ve already booked two return trips – at the invitation of Big Bore Productions owner / operator Mark Buchanan. Although Mark and his Big Bore DVDs are mainly hunting and / or firearm centered, he is also an avid big game fishermen and he promised me that the Bay offered some of the best fishing he had ever experienced. With an affirmation like that who was I to turn down his invitation?

Our trip was arranged through Baja Luxury Fishing Villas. As the premier rental agency in the Bay, they handled everything from booking us a villa on the beach complete with private chef to chartering a boat and captain for three days of fishing. BLFV also informed us that they could arrange golfing on the resort’s Tom Doak designed course, Jet Skis, massages, SCUBA, spearfishing, horseback riding, and…well, just about anything else one can dream of doing but we assured them that fishing was our sole reason for the visit. This time. I was somewhat apprehensive of having a rental company handle all of our arrangements but the attention to detail and the quality of the services BLFV employs was apparent from our first night at the Bay when we were served a meal of freshly caught lobster and shrimp, pasta, and ice cold cerveza Sol. With a meal like that it was hard not to overindulge. I can’t blame the chef for all the beer I drank though.

I paid for my gluttony in spades the next day when the first rays of dawn brought with them the high- pitched scream of one of our reels. Immediately, our man-of-few-words captain, Hugo, rocketed the boat forward to set the hook and thrust the still howling rig into my chest.

“Go!”

At his screamed instruction, I pulled back on the rod and cranked the reel with an alcohol-sweating fervor. For what seemed like an eternity – or at least 15 minutes – I fought the thrashing Volkswagen weight at the end of the line. The battle proved harder with the rocking of the boat in the swells, the rising temperature of the morning heat, and the contents of my stomach audibly sloshing in my gut searching for a possible way out.

“Go!” Hugo screamed again, as he leaned over the side searching the cyan for signs of the leader. “Go! To pull!” Again, I pulled back until I was certain my spinal column was going to snap like a rubber band. Hugo lunged over the side and in a flash of stainless steel gaffed the wahoo and had him on deck. I dropped my rig and gasped. Hugo held aloft the fish and pronounced, “He small.”

“Small nothing! He almost killed me.”

Hugo laughed. “He small. Good maybe to eat.” 

Small or not - around 45 pounds – he was the first of the many Uuuuugggghhhhhh fish Mark and I would catch during our stay. Over the next three days we caught tuna, pargo (snapper), bonito, and mackerel. We also saw, but never got into, marlin, sailfish, and dorado. Closer to shore we trolled the rocky shallows for amberjack, Mexican sea bass, and rooster fish. The latter, although lacking the heft of wahoo, were definitely fighters.

The first rooster, or gallo, I hooked into came to me in a cyclone of water and quills. My lure had barely bounced across the trolling wake when it hit and Hugo started barking commands. “Go! To pull!” I pulled back just as Hugo killed the engine, lost my footing, and fell to the deck like a sack of dirty laundry. Mark and Hugo helped me to my feet and Hugo slapped my back, again commanding that I “Go! To pull!” I ripped into the reel, cranking feverishly to keep the line taunt. Where my line met the water, taunt quills churned the water to froth, spiraled and twisted with violent turmoil. I drew back on the rod once more and again Hugo heaved the fish on board and declared, “He small.”

“I’d say he’d go maybe thirty pounds,” Mark offered, holding the gallo aloft.

Hugo laughed. “He small. Good maybe to eat.” 

Man, what was it going to take to impress this guy?

Our last day on the water proved to be my best, which was odd because by that time I felt as if my body had been put through the ringer. I was sunburned, sore, and probably eight pounds heavier than when I had arrived. My body was telling me to take it easy on the excess but my brain simply failed to listen. The water that morning was almost too good to be true. It was deep blue in color with a shimmering of peach and vermilion reflected from the slowly rising sun. The trolling wake swelled and ebbed in a smooth, hypnotic rhythm that seemed to beg me to sleep. I was contemplating such a move when a piercing metallic scream just above a dog whistle cut the air. I turned to the out-rigged pole as it arced tighter than a wishbone between two kids. 

“Go! To pull!” Hugo screamed.

I grabbed the pole and slammed its butt into my standing harness and leaned back. The hook set and the line knifed through the water like a shark’s fin. Line flew off the reel and my cranking it back was nothing more than a man a on a treadmill.

“Go!” Hugo shouted again. I pulled and reeled, watching as the fore end of the rod bent to within kissing reach of the butt. “Pull! To pull!” Hugo screamed.

For more than fifteen minutes this was the pattern: I pulled and reeled and Hugo (and occasionally Mark) screamed at me to pull and reel. It was when I felt I had nothing left to give to the fight that I somehow managed to get the fighting weight to within gaffing range. Hugo swung deep and two handed pulled aboard a massive javelin of silver and blue tiger stripes. Mark helped Hugo hold the fish and announced that my last wahoo of the trip would go more than sixty pounds. 

Hugo smirked. “He small. Good maybe to eat.” 

Uuuuugggghhhhhh.


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