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East Cape Get-Away: An Angler’s Dream

East Cape Get-Away:  An Angler’s Dream

by Tom Gatch

 

An East Cape Get-Away

For most of the visitors who fly into Baja Sur’s Los Cabos Airport, their ultimate destinations in places like San Jose Del Cabo, Cabo San Lucas or Todos Santos lie relatively close at hand.  But for those who head north along Baja’s Cortez coast, the narrow highway passes through miles and miles of primitive, sparsely inhabited terrain eventually crossing the Tropic of Cancer and passing through the small poblado of Los Barriles, which is 40 miles north of the airport and in the middle of the legendary East Cape, a place where countless anglers have caught the fish of their dreams.

Well over half a century ago, the renowned writer, angler and Baja aficionado Ray Cannonfell in love with this area and professed the waters of the Cortez to be a “giant fish trap.”  Since then, literally millions of anglers have visited the East Cape and returned home to enthusiastically confirm Cannon’s portrayal of the region.

For fishermen, a catch of a lifetime is possible on an East Cape get-away.

Although the numbers and varieties of fish may not be nearly as prolific as they once were back in the middle of the 1950’s, the angling opportunities and conditions here are still considered exceptional when compared to just about any other fishing venue on the planet.  And for fly anglers, Hotel Buena Vista provides outstanding accommodations along with relatively easy access to several nearby beaches that offer world class action on the fly.

A majority of the hotels here either have their own sportfishing fleets or can easily arrange fishing trips for their guest’s through a reliable local charter service.  One of the oldest of these is the Hotel Buena Vista Beach Resort, which began as a lavish beachfront hacienda that was originally built as the vacation retreat by Mexican General Agustín Olachea, a two-time governor of Baja California Sur.

 

Hotel Buena Vista Beach Resort makes for a great East Cape get-away.

In 1981, a young entrepreneur named Jesus “Chuy” Valdez ended up leasing the property during an era when the East Cape was virtually undiscovered.  He eventually purchased it in 1981, and then began expanding the hotel to include 60 rooms, a fleet of 20 fishing boats, swimming pool, lushly landscaped grounds and world-class restaurant. In 1992 the resort’s name was changed from Spa Buena Vista to the Hotel Buena Vista Beach Resort.

Over the years, Valdez, along with his sons Axel, Felipe and the rest of the family, have worked diligently to turn the property into what it is today; a first rate fishing resort that can hold its own when compared to its counterparts anywhere else in the world.

Palmas de Cortez

Of course, there are several other equally notable venues in the immediate area, which include the Van Wormer resorts of Palmas de Cortez, Playa Del Sol and Punta Colorada, the latter of which is sometimes referred to as ‘the roosterfish capitol of the world’.

As time progresses, however, the fishing oriented resorts located on Baja’s East Cape are beginning to realize what a valuable, finite resource their regional waters truly are.  Along with the recent frenzy of residential and business development comes the reality that a gradual erosion of this area’s unique, isolated innocence is also taking place. There is now a greatly increased emphasis on conservation with widespread support for the Worldwide Billfish Foundation’s catch-and-release program.

But, in addition to the plethora of great fishing opportunities to be had in the region, the more aesthetic therapeutic qualities of an oasis of this nature should not be forgotten either.  Because, as many will agree, sitting aimlessly under a palm tree with a cold beverage in hand while staring out at the seemingly endless turquoise waters just beyond the sandy beach can be a tonic all unto itself.

An East Cape get-away can be a tonic to the soul...

 

Hooked on Baja’ author & columnist, Tom Gatch, is one of Baja’s foremost writers with a focus upon outdoor and recreational topics in Baja and Southern California.

Want to find out where to stay in the East Cape?  Find out more at Baja.com!

Baja.com is a comprehensive online source of first-hand travel information for the Baja California Peninsula, supported by a full-service tour operator staffed by Baja locals (our “Baja Travel Savants”). We offer Baja travelers expert advice about local restaurantshotels and vacation rentals, as well as guides, maps and articles about events, sports and activities. We provide bilingual customer support, information and sales seven days a week, 365 days a year.  For more information, please call toll-free (US/CAN) 855-BAJA-411 

 

 

Cabo Pulmo: The Jewel of Mexico

By Dawn Pier

Cabo Pulmo National Park in the East Cape is the most successful marine reserve in Mexico, possibly worldwide. It contains the northernmost coral reef in the eastern Pacific, and, at around 20,000 years old, is considered the most important reef in the American Pacific. Only a handful of uninhabited, un-fished reefs found in the Pacific Ocean exhibit the abundance of fish you will see in the waters of the bay on which the picturesque community of Cabo Pulmo sits.

Image courtesy of Nikki Goth Itoi

However, it has not always been the teeming underwater garden it is today.

By the 1990s, decades of overfishing and anchoring damage left the coral reefs here almost void of life. The coral was bleached and broken, appearing grey or white in most places. Fish were present, but mainly in small sizes and numbers. The large groupers, whale sharks and reef sharks were gone. Sea turtles were a rare sight. In 1995, In hopes of reversing the damage they saw, the local community, along with scientists from the university in La Paz, convinced the Mexican federal government to establish a marine protected area of 7111 hectares that includes the bays at Las Barracas, Cabo Pulmo, and Los Frailes.

Fishing was banned inside park boundaries and local residents’ vigilance to stop anchoring, aquarium fish collecting and other harmful activities helped to bring the reef back from complete destruction. As a result of their efforts, between 1999 and 2009 the abundance of fish increased an unprecedented 463 percent. This is particularly amazing because since its declaration the park has received few resources from the Mexican government. According to Enric Sala, Scripps Institute researcher involved in conducting the study, “In 2009 …we jumped in the water, expecting fishes to be more abundant after 10 years of protection. But we could not believe what we saw–thousands upon thousands of large fishes such as snappers, groupers, trevally, and manta rays. They were so abundant that we could not see each other if we were 15 meters apart. We saw more sharks in one dive at Cabo Pulmo than in 10 years of diving throughout the Gulf of California!”

In 2005, CPNP was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site as one of the “Islands and Protected Areas of the Gulf of California.” In 2008, Cabo Pulmo became a Ramsar International Wetlands Site. In 2011, renowned ocean conservationist Sylvia Earle described Cabo Pulmo as a “Hope Spot,” a place she deems to be critical to the health of the world’s oceans.

Diving in Cabo Pulmo is an incredible experience not to be missed. If you don’t already have your dive certification, all three of the local dive shops offer “Discover SCUBA” packages that include an on-land detailed lesson followed by a shallow dive. If breathing underwater is not your thing, then rent some snorkel gear and hire a panga to take you out to the reef. The great thing about Cabo Pulmo is that most of the reefs are located in relatively shallow waters, so anyone can see the incredible results of this little community’s gargantuan conservation efforts.

Take a look under the sea:

We’d love to hear from readers who have dived the reef and perhaps have even witnessed changes in fish abundance over the years. What was the most incredible creature you’ve ever seen in CPNP? For me it was a Goliath Grouper – so IMMENSE and yet with such tiny little eyes. They are truly prehistoric looking.

Fish Magic on the East Cape of Baja

By Dawn Pier

Unlike the gear-laden visitors who come here to the East Cape from all over the world to fish from expensive cruisers, most local Mexicans use hand lines to fish. It’s just fishing line, a weight and a hook, with or without bait. In my caretaker Felipe’s case, he keeps the line organized and under control by wrapping it around a 4”x3” piece of plywood. The weight is often makeshift, a stainless steel nut or other piece of heavy metal. Casting is a technique that takes some skill. He swings the line in a circle over his head as if it were a lariat and then throws it into the surf. The casting is critically timed with the surf action, so that the out-flowing water takes the line into deeper water rather than pushing it back to shore.

Catch of the day

Yesterday Felipe caught several fish that he calls pescado blanco (white fish). They are white mullet or what the locals call “lisa.” I asked him if there were any Huachinango (red snapper) that I might share with my father who is visiting. He looked at me confidently and said, “I saw some in the waves today. I will catch one for you tomorrow.”  I was taken back by his confident proclamation and didn’t put much faith in it.

The next morning there was a knock at the door. It was Felipe holding out a Huachinango, the perfect size for three people to share. And we just happened to be going to a friend’s for dinner that night.

If you know anything about fishing – in Baja or anywhere – you know that this was a virtual miracle. My friend that night said it speaks to my ability to dictate my desires to the Universe, but I think it says more about Felipe’s ability as a fisherman. The local ranchers have often commented to me, “Felipe is a good fisherman. He catches fish even when others come home empty-handed.”

I never put much stock in what they said and figured it had more to do with how often he fished than the results. I guessed they were making assumptions about his abilities. How could they know how good a fisher he was? Felipe is not one given to boasting. What I didn’t realize was that their knowledge came firsthand.

Yesterday, Felipe came to the house and told me he was going to walk the three miles to his friend Trino’s ranch. When I asked “What for?” he said he was taking the extra fish he caught that day to the rancher and his family. When I offered to drive him, in characteristic humility he suggested I deliver the fish myself.

Lunch is served

At the ranch, when I asked her, Trino’s wife Luisa confirmed that Felipe often gives them his catch. I asked around and discovered that Felipe gives away a great deal of the fish he catches. To families who live in ramshackle houses with dirt floors, no electricity, no plumbing and often not much in the way of food—families who define “dirt poor.”

They are right. He does have a gift.

It has been my experience that generosity runs deep in Mexico despite its status as a country where so many people have so very little. Do you have a first-hand Baja experience illustrating people’s generosity? I’d love to hear your story. Post them in the comments section below.

Read Dawn’s personal blog at Dawn Revealed.