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An Amateur Goes Fishing for Dorado in Baja

All images by Mateja Lane

Fishing for dorado, mahi-mahi, or dolphin-fish, doesn’t get much better than in Baja California, Mexico.

The little town of La Ventana, Mexico, about halfway down the Baja  California peninsula, has recently erupted due to an increase in tourism. One of Baja’s most lucrative tourist activities is, or course, sport fishing. While on a recent trip, I had little choice but to try it.

I’ll admit it, I am an amateur angler. I essentially grew up vacationing in this sleepy Mexican town, spending my winters there, and this incredible growth has lured me into seeing why sport fishing is so popular, especially in Mexico.

The inhabitants of La Ventana are entrepreneurs, to say the least. You can go out to get tacos at the new local grill, casually ask about fishing and find out the person grilling your carne asada can also take you on fishing trips, horseback rides, excursions to swim with whale sharks, sea lions, you name it.

We decide to go fishing the next morning, and call a local captain with Capitanes Tours. We make a lunch and are ready to go by 7:00 a.m. The whole process was extremely easy.

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Luis, the manager of Capitanes Tours, our Captain Javier Tiki, my family and I take off into the sunrise to, as they say, get some fish on our lines.

I have found that the saying, “Hurry up and wait” really describes fishing perfectly. We bait our Ugly Stik Tiger rod and Penn Power Stick with dead mackerel on 3.0 hooks and begin to troll. And wait with baited breath.

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The morning was perfect, without a breath of wind. We trolled to a point that is known by the local fishermen as an ideal dorado feeding ground. The captain pointed a few dorado out to us, spotting them merely from the way the water moved. Now that’s what I call professional. They could tell whether a needlefish or a dorado had disturbed the water. If it was a dorado, we would troll over it, pulling our rods to bait them.

As we waited, and slowly trolled, we experimented with keeping the bait whole or slicing it into pieces and putting it on the hook. I was fishing with a whole mackerel when I finally got a nibble.

My rod bent nearly in half and I let it go slack, then reeled in. I’m not a complete amateur, mind you, I know how to reel a fish. As I reeled it closer the line got heavier and the fish leaped magnificently, as dorado are famous for. The sunlight glinted off its back; it really is a dazzling fish.

As I reeled it close to the boat, the captain used the gaff to bring it in. Blood was splattering everywhere as Captain Tiki bashed it on the head with a baseball bat. I’m pretty sure my sister was screaming.

But man, I get it now. It really is an adrenaline rush to bring a fish like that. I was so proud!

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And then, 10 minutes later, my sister got a bigger one. Now I understand an angler’s envy.

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We spent the rest of the day out on the water, drinking cervezas, intermittently taking naps, and swimming in hidden lagoons we found along the way. We headed back to shore, our captain kindly filleted our fish on the beach and we took it home to make chile rellenos. It was a fantastic day.

Sure it can be argued that we didn’t truly “fish” and instead paid for Captain Tiki to do the hard parts of fishing for us; finding it, killing it, filleting it, cleaning the boat. You could say that tourists just pay to have their picture taken with a fish they reeled in.

But my family and I had a really memorable day, and it got us all that much more hooked on the sport. We will now look to fish whenever we can and have made some incredible memories.

Isn’t getting amateurs into the sport all that matters?

An Amateur Goes Fishing for Dorado in Baja