I loved the sight of my dad with a fishing rod bent over fighting a mighty yellowtail up from the deep. I’m talking about big demonic pacific yellowtail, not the little Florida snapper-like yellowtail but the big back breaking devils off Mexico and California. I loved the sight of him in his big brimmed straw hat, his sun glasses and his long sleeved shirts that he wore against the harsh ocean sun. He had big meaty hands and forearms that would get very brown from the exposure. He would say, “Get the gaff.” I would get it, gaff his fish and pull it into the boat. Sometimes every guy on the boat had a yellowtail on and gaffing and landing fish became a real rodeo. Once all the fish were landed, we would take off and chase the birds that were chasing the bait fish that were being chased by the yellowtail. Fishing with my dad in the ocean was one of the great joys of my life.
My dad’s brother, Joe, introduced him to traveling to Mexico to camp on the beach and to fish in the ocean alongside the Mexican commercial fisherman in the early 1970s. They would go to places called Tastiota and Little Ensenada on the western coast of Mexico between Guaymas and Kino Bay. They caught fish like madmen and had a ball
My dad geared up to take his own group of guys fishing and I started going with him when I was about eight years old. I fell in love with the ocean and I fell in love with being with my dad in that environment. He taught me how to speak enough Spanish to get by. He taught me how to get a bunch of equipment across the border without a hassle. He taught me how to be self-sufficient for any kind of breakdown along the way. He taught me how to launch boats in the ocean without a boat ramp. He taught me how to fix fiberglass holes in the boats on the spot. He taught me how to set up a deluxe camp with a great kitchen. He taught me how to make homemade lures. He taught me how to tie a lure onto a fishing line. He taught me how to filet a fish. He taught me how to fry fish and feed a whole hungry crew of guys.
I have taken groups of guys fishing many times since then. We don’t camp anymore and I can’t imagine doing all the work we used to do to make it happen. Now we fly in, stay in hotels and fish on charter boats where captains and mates do most of the dirty work. Instead of going after yellowtail, sea bass, grouper and red snapper we now target the pelagics: marlin, sailfish, tuna, wahoo and dorado. I have fished Kona, Hawaii, Cabo San Lucas, the Florida Keys and Kenya’s Indian Ocean. Every time I go I take my dad with me in spirit.
I think I love it for the same reasons my dad loved it. I get lost in the beautiful awesome world of the ocean and I forget every stress or problem I ever had. I love the anticipation, the hunt, the fight and the first sight of seeing what you caught. I love fishing in a place where you can hook something so big that it can rip off all your line and break it before you can even slow it down. Or you might catch it. I love fishing in a place where a record marlin taking your bait looks like a school bus coming out of the water. My dad would say he loved it because, “You never know what you are going to catch.”
As I write this I am three months out from my next trip to go saltwater fishing. My crew is set. We will fish the Gordo Banks and the East Cape out of San Jose del Cabo. We hope to catch some pelagics then to try for some roosterfish off the beaches.
My dad went to heaven on January 7, 2014, where the fishing is much better I am sure. Dad is gone to heaven and I am going to Cabo. And for that I thank him.