The biggest fish in the world

15 Jun

from a old journal from baja

I’ve just gotten back from a eleven plus hour drive thru the scortching desert and stop and go traffic. As I scratch this clumbisly out my keyboard keeps making errors due to my lameless and lack of really caring but I sit here with a smile on my face.

It started about six days ago, as usual my alarm clock goes off like some incessant baby crying for its mother. I roll out of bed and gather my things, however this isnt for my normal spearfishing trip or my usual routine for work. I’m heading down to baja with two friends from work. We load up all our gear in my friends truck and stand doubtfully watching some of it teetering almost to the edge of falling off. We tie things off the best we can and head out towards baja.It’s a very long drive down dusty roads with potholes the size of manhole covers and open pits that can trap even the biggest four wheel drive trucks. We stop off for some of the best fish tacos in the world at my favorite haunt in San Quintin, fill up for gas one more time and then eleven or so hours later end up at one of my favorite vacation spots in the world. Bahia de Los Angeles, the Bay of L.A. Situated about midway in the sea of cortez, this is one of the neatest places you will ever go. You can’t fly a commercial plane there because there is no runway or air tower. It’s a town lost in time, no hot water, electricity only until ten pm and then the town generator goes off, they don’t even get regular mail because none of the houses have house numbers! We hastily unload our stuff and then jump into the ocean to wash out our dusty mouths with warm salt water.

There are a lot of colorful fish in the area. The water is warm, about eighty four on the surface but I dive below and see sting rays scatter about and lots of spotted bay bass turning to check us out. Bullseye pufferfish spin around in circles and follow us around like begging dogs. Tiny reef fish come right up to us and challenge us to pass their territory. Unlike the freezing ass cold water of winter when I’m hunting white seabass I’m surrounded by warm tropical water, so warm that I often dive down to twenty feet just to feel the cool water beneath it. So much to see, but hunger beckons us so we head back to the house. The house is just a simple place with one kitchen and a main room. The best part is that it’s a stone throw from the beach.

There are no big beds inside but it doesnt matter, we sleep outside on the patio surrounded by the most stars you will ever encounter. There is so much to do, one day we go clamming and get a half a bucketful of tasty clams that we later steam in white wine and garlic. We came across a bunch of fiddler crabs there, the males wave their large claw to attract females!

Another time we go check out the sea turtle farm where they do research on large sea turtles. But my favorite? Fishing of course.

Two times we rent pangas and head out to fish for yellowtail. The fish are smaller this time, about ten to twelve pounds, much smaller than the ones I’ve been spearing the last few weeks. I thought my shoulder was up to it after surgery but after burning the iron (metal lures reeled up SUPER FAST) my shoulder started to throb and an hour later and I could barely turn the handle. I hated to admit it but I’m not fully ready, which was evident by the three yellowtail that I lost during that time. Disgusted I hooked on a large makeral and immediately caught one fish, then another on the iron. My buddy smoked me, he got eight the first day and eleven the second, it was quite humbling to say the least.  Here’s a picture of a big one that I beat him out with a year later, this fish went well over 40 lbs.  If you’ve never had fresh yellowtail it’s fantastic.

We saw some fantastic things on the water, one day some blue and minke whales came right up to our boat, you could hear them blowing the air out and sucking the air in! Another day I tried freediving and saw a school of beautiful blue needlefish darting to and fro. But the best day was one I will never forget.

We had heard rumors that there were whale sharks in the bay. In case you don’t know, whale sharks are pretty harmless but they can get to lengths of 60 feet reportedly! I had a small fourteen footer slide up to my panga years ago when I was fishing but had not seen them since. They are an incredible dark blue coloration with yellow spots and a huge mouth. They feed on plankton and are considered the largest fish in the world. We stood up on the bow of the boat and I had my doubts, wind blew small whitecaps that covered the normally quiet bay. The water was a peasoup green and I figured with the wind we couldnt see anything. Fifteen minutes went by, then thirty. I started getting tired of looking and then Justin saw it first.

“What’s that?” he pointed out. Me and my friend looked, it appeared to be a large hammerhead shark sunning itself on the surface. But it moved very slowly and we headed towards it. We saw the tail and the dorsal fin first. And then the huge mouth. WHALE SHARK! we all shouted. The captain slid his panga quietly next to it and we reached out and rubbed its skin. It wasn’t course like I thought it would be, more of a leatherly feel like a big stingray almost but rougher. But who cares, we got to pet a whale shark!!! We watched it moving about and moving its gigantic mouth sucking in the small plankton. It didn’t even seem to mind so I asked the driver if I could swim with it. He nodded yes and I disappeared with a quick flip of my fins. I swam under it and watched the remora sucker fish moving about its body. I watched its gigantic gills opening and closing and its huge tail swinging side to side. It was a small one, barely seventeen feet long but I was so excited I didn’t even think of any dangerous sharks that might be swimming around it so thank god there were none. All I could think about was that I was swimming amoungst one of the biggest fish in the sea.

We hung out with that giant for about half an hour, never growing tired of seeing it move about. I shot pictures and video and then slowly it began to sink away and we bid it goodbye.

I’ve been going to the sea of cortez for many trips, about twelve times is my best guess. I always see different things and this was one of the most incredible I’ve ever experienced. There’s one thing you can lay money on. I’ll be back there again someday…

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