It’s been a while since I was last at the airport, so I can’t believe how much bigger and crowded it got! I get a text from Steve he was inside, and we started the process of checking in and waiting in one long ass line through security. Amazingly it moved pretty quickly and we got to our gate in plenty of time.
The flight was good and there was even plenty of leg room for Steve! We landed without a hitch and got off the plane to 95+ heat with 80% humidity… YIKES! We grabbed our gear and started making our way through customs. I brought 6 rods and reels instead of the 4 that are only allowed for international travel to Mexico. Thankfully I split up the reels between my suitcase and carry-on, as they pulled me over for a search. Steve got through just fine, but apparently the XXL rod tube gave some suspicions. Well, he went through everything except my carry-on and let me go since I only had 4 reels in my suitcase. Now I had to find where Squatch disappeared to.
I found him and we made our way to the Rancho Leonero van that was picking us up. We were slightly delayed because we had to wait for a second unscheduled party, but it wasn’t that bad at all and a couple of good guys. We stopped for travel cervezas and fresh tortillas from the town before hitting the highway.
It was beautiful scenery on the ride up and many of the arroyos had water in it from the day before. Tropical Storm Eugene had dumped a lot of water in the region and there was plenty of greenery.
We got to the Ranch and I truly haven’t felt this good in the last 3 years!
After a few arrival pictures we checked in and made our way to the room. It was just as beautiful as I hoped.
Everyone was still out fishing for the day, so we had the place to ourselves to explore.
The room was quite adequate with just the bare minimum essentials and the bar was on point overlooking the Sea of Cortez!
We realized we arrived just in time for lunch being served. Food here was served in 2 hour periods everyday when the cooks came in from town, so if you weren’t here, you didn’t get to eat until the next scheduled meal. Lol
For us, it was a lentil soup and fresh fish tacos. Steve doesn’t eat fish, but he gobbled down those tacos and was thankful for all of the flavorful toppings that masked the fish for him. I think he even liked it! This is only the second time I’ve seen Steve eat fish!
After some surveying the property and putting down some ice-cold drinks from the bar, the boats started to arrive back from their day of fishing and the quiet ranch was full and vibrant. We overheard some of the fishing stories from the day and met a few folks we would see all week.
After surveying the ranch, Steve and I made our way down to the surf to get a little casting in. I was switching up between a cast master and small plastics, but the KM kept getting slammed, but I could never get a hook in them. Steve started off using small plastics and at first we were getting bumped all the time but not hooking up. Finally Squatch was first to strike with a friggand Lookdown! Holy crap! That was one of my lifer fish that I never thought I would see caught!
Steve caught pretty much the same and ended the first day with a big beautiful Coronetfish!
Back to the room for a quick clean up and head out to dinner for another wonderful meal. After desert, we went back to the room to prep for the boat in the morning!
The boat dock was no longer there, so it was kind of sketchy doing the surf launches, but we got the little green panga. Apparently all the boats were reserved, so we got the back up/call boat to take us fishing..
All I can say is thankfully Squatch knows a hell of a lot of Spanish. I can catch a bunch of words and form a sentence from what I think they are saying, but Steve can also roughly speak it (Pretty friggin good I may add). The captains do a lot of shit talking on the radio and Steve waits just until they feel comfortable saying what they are saying then he rings back some Spanish to them making them whiter than we are. LOL, he has that talent!
The goal was Roosterfish, even though he just wanted to take us for tuna and dorado. We went to the fleet to make bait since there wasn’t anyone to buy bait from. The bait here was plenty of new species for us, but also monsters as bait goes. I should have taken pictures of all the separate baits, but the captain wanted them straight into the tank so we can fish and not take pics of bait. We got Spanish Jacks, Green Jacks, another type of mystery jack, a small Jack Crevalle (I took a video in the bait tank, and pretty sure I saw one in there), Sardinia, and my first Black Skipjacks!
We drifted and slow trolled all of the local Rooster spots in some of the most beautiful shorelines I’ve seen. Around the lighthouse was the apparent go-to spot and it was just fabulous.
After about 3 hours of nothing (no one on the radio looking for roosters were finding anything either), we decided to switch it up and go for dorado. The funny thing is we only moved about a ½ mile out before putting these small little feathers out for the troll. Immediately the center rod goes off and Squatch grabs the rod. Just then a BIG ASS sailfish starts tail-walking 50 feet behind the boat!!! WTF?!?!?!
Steve played him until the sailfish said “I had enough of this” and threw the feather. Now my blood was pumping!
We trolled feathers and I kept getting slammed by dodo, but they wouldn’t stick. Steve wound up getting the first onboard with a nice chicken! Then the Captain had me driving the boat. I kind of felt right at home. LOL
Our captain then did something really weird. He cut strips from the filets of the Jacks and put them on hooks like you were going to drop down for rockfish (minus the weights) and proceeded to slow troll these strips of meat literally 25’ behind the boat. Skeptical Tom was in full effect at this point…. Until he wasn’t.
It was pretty much dorado on every bait after that or a thrown hook. Such a weird way in my head to catch them, but I couldn’t argue the success!
I even had one that had a total black head on him. I took some pics and lifted him in the boat to get some pictures before releasing it and within 30 seconds, the head went green on me. So weird.
We continued the troll and I get a hug takedown on the outrigger. I looked to see what I thought was a small sailfish tail walking, but the captain eyeballed it better as a giant needlefish. These needlefish (Houndfish) out here are just monstrous!
It was getting close to calling it the day when Steve gets whalloped and we had a triple header going. After releasing them, I pinned on a big green jack as the captain requested so we could hope to find the 50# dorado. I was almost taken back when my rod doubled over and the line started screaming out! WTF!?!?
It went from feeling giant to just feeling big and the biggest dorado of the day came up. I can’t believe this fish ate that bait we chucked out there, but we were stoked. That was it, we were on our way in bummed we didn’t get a Rooster, but super stoked of all the action we had to end the day!
We got back to shower and clean up before hitting the bar and having another great dinner! I had one of the Mahi cooked up to go along with the Mexican meal they served up and felt like I was going to pop.
After we used some drinks to settle down the food, we looked down to see cows just strolling by the bar on the beach. Just randon cows walking the beach to nowhere… That’s where I found ut that Squatch is not a fan of cows.
We eventually set up our long rods and grabbed a few green jacks we kept for nighttime soaking. We already found a spot that had reef to the sides of us, but plenty of sand to cast into. The stars were out of this world and the beach was just what you hope for when you head out night fishing.
We kept getting hit, but assumed they were crabs, until we quickly found out we were swarmed by Yellow Moray Eels! New species, but it got old real quick and we called it the night so we didn’t have to deal with any more of them.
The next morning we hit another awesome prepared breakfast followed by renting the kayaks for the day. The guy at the front desk brought us paddle board paddles and didn’t understand me when I asked for kayak paddles. Oh well, Steve and I used them like we were rowing a canoe instead.
This was Squatch’s birthday, so he picked the better of the canoes and I chose poorly. Of the remaining three, I grabbed what should have been the nice Ocean Kayak, but should have stuck with the little play one. It didn’t matter, as we both caught a bunch of fish and went through a tone of plastics on Triggers, Cabrilla, needlefish, grunts and other assorted oobly-gooblies I need to find the names of.
After about 4-5 hours in the kayak, the wind started to HOWL! Before you know it there was 5-6 wind waves and white caps on top of white caps! We got off just at the right time!
We put the stuff away, and back to the bar for an awesome lunch once again!
About 4:30 I headed down for a surf session while Steve hung out for birthday drinks and was in the only little spot on the ranch that had WiFi so he could respond to all of the B-Day wishes from back home.
I had a stellar surf trip! Bigger model everything from Flag Cabrilla to Leopard Grouper to Triggers (a lot of them) to Pacific Graysbys, to some other fish I still have to identify… and then it happened… I got my Lifer Lookdown! I couldn’t have been more happy about this catch! I was stoked on the Leopard Grouper, but got 2x as stoked with this shiny silverside beauty!
I got back to the room satisfied and ready for dinner. Steve and I had many drinks that night for his birthday as well as quite a bit of tequila shots. What a great way to end the day!
Thursday Morning and it was our last boat day. We decided we DIDN”T want any dodo or yellowfin, but wanted Pargo and I wanted another bucketlist fish for me, the African Pompano! We got on our boat and it was immediately disappointing. Our captain didn’t want to go for Pargo, but instead wanted to go for tuna and dorado. He openly bitched about it and I was ready to just cancel the trip since he non-stop complained. He reluctantly took us to catch live bait, but all he wanted was to get frozen squid and drift for ahi… this was not turning out well.
I pinned on my sabiki I brought with a much smaller weight than what Squatch was using. He was great at getting the mackerel, while I was improving my species count! Red Snapper, Golden Eye Tilefish, Other mystery fish (which might be a different species of tilefish), Sea of Cortez lizardfish, and some other usual suspects.
The captain who really didn’t want to be here lazily grabbed a bunch of jacks on the line and a hook went right into his finger. He was bitching up a storm and I said I’d pull it out for him. He reluctantly agreed and I put some parachute cord around the hook to give a tug. It didn’t look nearly as deep as he was acting and he was ready for the pull when I pulled out my pliers and put it up to his hand. He got a little freaked on what the hell I was going to do with the pliers when I gave a little tug on the line and the hook popped right out. His response was perfect… “That was it? I must have been acting like a real pussy” LOL, disaster overted.
We moved to the Barred Pargo shell beds and the captain was still talking crap about us on the radio to his friends. At this point Steve heard enough and replied back to him in Spanish in which the usual happens when you get caught. It became only banter after that as Steve always had a ear on what was being said. LOL
Steve’s first drop and he gets a MONSTER bite! This thing is screaming out line and he puts up the battle to match it. I heard the Captain say “This is not the usual sized Pargo we catch here” as he hand grabs a 20 pounder over the rail for a picture! I couldn’t believe how fat this thing was!
The next hour and a half and we both continue to catch Pargo. Steve was using the cut bait and I was using live bait because I was targeting pompano (which I assume don’t eat cut bait). After catch and releasing 10+ pargo, we moved north to the lighthouse to look for Roosters and possibly sails or tuna. The problem is that the wind kicked up something fierce and we had to turn back. We wound up going back to where we started to hopefully catch a Pompano.
More Pargo about 7-10 pounds came over the rail and were released. I think we had to keep two since they wouldn’t swim down at all. I then get a monster hit and it was screaming line in the 5’ wind waves while the captain was back trolling. I started to think I had someone’s anchor and line when it went screaming out again. Then my mind went to Broomtail Grouper since he said they occasionally get them here. I finally started to get ground and we got him to color… ONE BIG ASS STINGRAY with a LONG ASS TAIL! Totally not a Diamond Stingray, bit think it’s actually a Longtail Stingray. In those nasty seas, it was hard to get a good shot of it, but I managed a few before we cut the line. Man, I was exhausted after that fight!
We then saw a sailfish storm the boat along with a bunch of mahi! I was dropping down for my Pompano when I get slammed by a dorado! Catching dodo next to the shore with sailfish circling the boat while looking for Pargo was a totally new experience for us. LOL
I released the dorado and knew the time was running out. All of a sudden, I get a different type of hit and it fought toally different than the Pargo. I bounce it over the rail and I lit up like a marlin in a skippy school! My African Pompano! Not a big one by any means , but the small ones have long threaded fins on them that they lose when they start to get really big. I was so stoked to scratch this one off the list and he was a perfect size for dinner back at the grill!
We (or should I say Steve) caught a couple more Pargo and we bounced our way back to the beach to get drug out of the water. While we were waiting for the front end loader, they had another boat drop a few guys off on our boats and threw some tuna, dorado and some bottom critters in our boat so they could get ashore with us. These little 8-15 pound yellowfin made us know we made the right call not to look for tuna! They did have a couple of really nice bigger deep water denizens, but I wouldn’t have traded their trip for ours.
I told the guy at the beach how I wanted the pompano prepared for dinner (That’s how they did it, all to order from the guy running the show). Unfortunately, when dinner arrived, my Pompano apparently went missing, so I never got to eat any, but I did have some fresh ceviche made to compliment another fine dinner served up from the ladies at the grill.
That night we tried the surf again, this time with no weights and only throwing chunks of Jack. Stars were stellar once again and I had fun trying to catch some of the ghost crabs until one of them bitches got a hold of my thumb and almost tore my thumbnail off! My fault, I know… but I couldn’t resist!
Then it happened the way it happened when we left off… Yellow Moray Eels, so we called it quits early and decided to get some shut eye before our last full day at the Ranch. Unfortunately, we turned around to see a herd of beach cows guarding the way out. Squatch was not happy about this…. hahaha
Morning came and we spent a little more time after breakfast rocking on the rocking chairs watching sailfish, dorado, tuna, jacks, and needlefish dance all over the ocean. Once we had enough, we had another great morning of surf fishing. The only issue is we went through almost EVERY SINGLE plastic along the way. I have no idea how many jigs and plastics we lost, but it was triple digits between the two of us. Bent out hooks and diced up plastics were the aftermath of another great surf trip where I finally got my Coronetfish of the trip as well as trigger city!
We repeated our daily routine of Eat-Drink-Fish for the rest of the day before heading back to the room and start to pack for our trip back to San Diego. The heat/Humidity was overwhelming and I was looking forward to cooler temps, but this place was a little bit of heaven on earth.
The next morning we had breakfast and a quick surf session before paying the bill and getting into the van for the trip home. I’m so bummed Rancho Leonero won’t be there and will only be replaced by boutique hotels, but super happy to have had the chance to experience this wonderful place before the world changes it into the wheels of progress.