My Trip to Zihua - Day 9 (long)

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Posted by Travis in Seattle from ( on domingo, marzo 16, 2003 at 20:06:24 :

Day 9 – Thursday, 2/20

Today is our big day. The four “Virgins del Mar” go fishing.

On the way, I wonder if we are a Panga Captain’s worst nightmare or a “virtual day off” for him. I mean, we won’t have any idea what we’re doing, but we’ll also be easily impressed. I decide it’s probably a combination of both.

A bit bleary-eyed but caffeinated, we arrive at the pier around 7:30. Sr. Morro spots us approaching and steers us to the table set up outside a tienda where we can get donuts, coffee, sandwiches for lunch etc. Chad and I both grab a chocolate donut. I take one bite and then, when nobody’s looking, toss it in the trash. It’s big and greasy and weighs about five pounds. Chad eats all of his.

Morro then guides us to our Panga which is captained by Jaime Vargas. We’re on the water in no time. Being entirely ignorant, we all assumed we’d be heading straight out to sea even though we’re only doing “small game” fishing, and are a bit surprised that we spend the first bit of time trolling around Zihua Bay. Vargas, who speaks decent English but is far from chatty, isn’t offering much in the way of explanation. Such as, “First we’ll do this, then we’ll head over to….bla…bla…bla.” We all just sort of look at each other, shrug and wait to see what happens. We notice though that the lines are out. I begin to speculate. Since Vargas knows we know nothing, is he just taking us “baby fishing”? Or maybe we’re fishing for bait. Chad’s curiosity reaches it’s limit. He asks Vargas if we are fishing for bait? “No, we’re fishing,” is his reply. First stupid question asked and answered.

For about 30 minutes, nothing happens. As we get out toward Las Gatas though, the fun begins. One line gets a strike. We decide Chad will go first and he reels in fish number one. Vargas says it’s a Spanish Mackerel. The fish is maybe 1 1/2 to 2 feet long, but kind of skinny and doesn’t look all that impressive. Immediately after that, we get a second hit. My turn. In the excitement, I miss placing the end of the rod in the “holder” between my legs and as I’m reeling, the rod end is digging into my groin. Delightful. I manage to get it into the holder and after reeling for a while, I feel slack and think the fish has gotten away. Then I feel a pretty strong tug—hey this is fun! I finally get it in--okay Vargas gets it in after I get it near the boat. The fish I reel in has distinctive yellow markings along its back and underside and is maybe 2 feet big or so. My fish beats Chad’s fish any day. I ask Vargas what type it is, but can’t quite tell what he’s saying. Sounds kind of like “jackarel”.

We get a third strike, but this time it turns out we’ve snagged a pelican. Vargas quickly reels it in and deftly removes the hook from its beak and sets it free. It happens so fast I don’t think to whip out my camera and get a pic. After sitting in the water for a few minutes, stunned no doubt, the bird flies away. We ask Vargas if that happens a lot and he says it does. I wonder if fishermen hate pelicans.

We turn out of Zihua Bay, slowly motoring toward Ixtapa. A lot of nothing happens. Though the water is really very calm, even outside the bay, Chad and Kim both say they’re starting to feel a bit queasy. Kim lays down for a while, and that seems to help. Still, Allen and I both notice that she and Chad are very quiet.

After trolling around for maybe another hour with nothing happening and nothing else to think about but his stomach, Chad asks Vargas very directly, “Jaime, what time is it?” He answers, “10:00 a.m.”

I immediately figure Chad’s question is code for “I want the hell off this boat.” I tell Chad there’s no point in being miserable, the money’s spent, we can cut our losses and head back. He’s reluctant to ruin everyone’s day, especially since Kim is feeling better at this point, so Chad offers up an excellent plan B. I ask Vargas if it’s possible to drop Chad off at Playa Linda or Play Quieta. From there he can cab back to Zihua and the three of us can continue fishing. Vargas says no problem, and we shortly arrive at Club Med/Playa Quieta where Chad disembarks. I don’t know that I’ve ever seen someone get off a boat so quickly. He wouldn’t even turn around for the funny-in-hindsight “I’m bailing” photo as he wades to shore. Poor sport.

We decide the donut did him in.

After dropping Chad off, we circle Isla Ixtapa and not much happens other than seeing a very large sea turtle go by. We wonder if the bang/bang start early this morning was a fluke. I watch Vargas who’s constantly scanning the ocean, I presume, looking for clues. There’s a bunch of birds off in the distance, feeding maybe? We head that way. Still….nothing happens.

Then it does. In a big way.

We get four hits on all four lines all at the exact same time. This is no “Who’s turn is it?” moment. Everybody up! We all start frantically reeling. Vargas immediately begins performing an elaborate ballet in an attempt to keep us from getting our lines crossed and screwing things up. He grabs this reel then that one, taking one and looping it over the other, then grabbing a different one and putting it under the first. He looks like some lunatic with really long batons conducting an orchestra. Only he’s on crack.

In the end, we land two and lose two. (Okay, I end up losing two. But all I was doing was cranking the reel. It wasn’t my fault. Really.) Allen and Kim each get to bring in a fish so now, with a laugh, we tell ourselves we’re real fishermen. The truth, of course, is that Vargas is doing all the fishing and we’re just cranking the reel when he hands it to us. We ask Vargas if it’s common to have all four lines hit at the same time and he says no. Later, I manage not to blow it one more time before the end of the day so all told, we bring in 5 fish, 3 Bonito, the yellow one and the Spanish Mackerel which, fortunately, Chad got to reel in before he bailed out.

Since we do not plan on having a restaurant cook our catch, I ask Vargas if he can use the fish and he assures us he can. Good. They won’t go to waste. Sure enough, as soon as we’re back at the pier he gives the 2 biggest Bonito to two guys at the dock, either helpers or family I presume. Unfortunately he does this before we can get our photos taken with them. Oh well no big deal. Sr. Morro is their to meet us at the dock. He helps take our catch photos with the remaining smaller fish and then helps himself to one of the beers in our bag. We get our photographic proof and it all looks impressive enough to us.

After beaching his panga, I find Vargas and give him a cerveza and his tip. Vargas then describes to Morro the moment all four lines hit at the same time. I mention to Morro that we got two in, but lost two. Kidding me, Vargas makes it clear that it was I who lost not just one, but both fish. I object, and launch into an elaborate and intentionally ridiculous pantomime impersonating Vargas trying to keep the lines from crossing, suggesting that, in fact, losing the two fish was entirely his fault.

Vargas laughs for the first time all day.

All in all, going fishing is great fun and well worth the money, even if, like us, you have no idea what you’re doing.

Just don’t eat the donut.

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