March 2010: The Case of the Mistaken Tuna
I Don't Know Jack

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Here in the new La Cruz marina, there's a "Mercado del Mar" near the fishing panga dock. The area is pretty far away from everything, and the market has limited selections. It isn't very busy.

If you go around the back, you'll find guys preparing and loading some beautiful Yellowfin Tuna. None of this tuna is available to passersby, though, and none of it ends up on local restaurant menus or in fish markets. It all gets packed in ice, then in heavy boxes, and flown out of the country.

It's a bummer. Here is all of this really fresh, tasty fish, and yet everybody around here is eating beef and chicken.

So we decided to go fishing. We hadn't been sailing in a week or so, anyway.

The La Cruz anchorage is huge, with a long flat sandy mud bottom that holds anchors really well. There seem to be two types of 'yatistas' here: Ones who prefer the marina, and ones who anchor out and take the dinghy in. I really prefer being at anchor.

We've been anchoring out at the edge of the anchorage crowd, so there's a lot of room between Stella Blue and other boats. I like to know that nobody is going to swing into me or drag an anchor over me. The added benefit is being able to crank the stereo without bothering anybody.

Anchoring farther out, Stella Blue attracted a few hundred thousand bait fish, who just live under the boat all the time. This doesn't seem to happen closer in. These little guys aren't in my fish book. They have yellow tails with a black spot just in front of the tail.

I think they're vegetarians or bug eaters or something. They won't take a hook and I couldn't trap them, but they *are* attracted to shiny things. I hung a Krocodile over the side, let them form a little ball around it, and jigged it up and down. After a few jigs I'd just gaff one in the side, and haul it in. In ten minutes I had ten fish, swimming around in the PlayMate cooler.



We went sailing, intending to anchor off one of the beaches on the south shore. I have come to love sailing Banderas Bay, You can have a nice, pleasant time, and in a couple of hours will be across the bay with a slightly different climate and new scenery.

Click on pictures to see them full size

















There's a sardine migration through the bay right now, which is bringing a lot of larger fish in.
We sailed into a number of patches of water so thick with fish the water was boiling, so we stopped the boat, baited up a couple of hand lines and the big reel with 60# test, and just bobbed around.

Nothing. Nada. Zip.
I could see them, and they sure looked like big Yellowfin tuna, with big yellow fins. But not a single bite, even with live bait swimming around in the middle of the mass of fish (and a couple of dead ones hanging on hand lines.)

Finally, it seemed like all the fish had passed on, and we decided to get back to sailing. I reeled in my bait, pulled the guy off the big hook, and tossed him over the side. He was still kicking a little bit.

Wouldn't you know it, a huge fish came right out from under my keel, and swallowed that six inch bait fish in one gulp. Four feet in front of my face. I frantically grabbed another bait, hooked him on, and tried again.

Nothing. Nada. Zip.

This is simply not right.
I have invested hundreds of dollars in fishing gear, fishing licenses, and fishing books,
and I deserve a damn fish.

We pulled into Quimixto (pronounced 'key-MEEKS-toh') for the night, and anchored at 20 30.391 N 105 22.075 W. This anchorage isn't that great. We were the only sailboat there, although a lot of pangas zipped through with fishing nets and loads of tourists from nearby resorts, wearing bright red life jackets and taking pictures of the pretty sailboat.

The anchorage is very steep, dropping from 20 feet to 120 feet at about a 45 degree angle. We set a stern anchor towards the beach, pointing the bow out into the swell, and had a comfortable evening.


We shared a big porterhouse steak for dinner, with potatoes and some veggies. And we cursed the fish.

In the morning, the swell moved around to the west, and it wasn't nearly so comfortable. Now the stern anchor held the boat sideways to the swell, and we rocked about 20 degrees side to side. After some hasty french toast, we tossed the dishes in the sink and hauled the anchors up.



It was, again, a beautiful day. The morning breeze was light -- about six knots from the west -- and we were making about three and a half knots over the water. Again I was pleased with the performance of the little 90 jib, and still don't understand why so many people told me I'd need a bigger headsail in Mexico. Stella Blue loves to sail, and despite the displacement will make easy way in light air.

And again, we were surrounded by fish. The pictures can't do it justice, because the static image makes the feeding fish look like little whitecaps. I suppose the larger, full size images will provide a better sense. For nearly a mile, for 360 degrees around the boat, the bay was boiling with feeding fish. In places they were so thick the sea was white with fish bellies.

I put the big Tuna Lure on the end of my 'big fish' hand line. The 'big fish' line is 100 feet of 1/16" dacron leech line (braided) spliced on to 20 feet of stainless steel wire leader. The lure is connected with a split stainless steel ring. I could probably catch a 200 pound fish with that and not break it.

A smaller lure, with smaller hooks (normally there's one on the tail of it) went on a smaller 80 foot hand line made of the same dacron, with 60# test nylon leader.

We sailed back and forth, moving between 2-1/2 and 4 knots, through fish so thick that sometimes they splashed water on deck. In over 500 fathoms of water, my depth sounder kept reporting depths between 15 and 30 feet, for hours.

Here's a picture of a few of them splashing around right off the side of the boat. Yellow fins and tails were everywhere.

I was frustrated. Finally, I took my beautiful anodized aluminum sling spear with the big game point, sat on the bow and tried to get one as it swam by.

That was really stupid. Now I have to get a new spear for diving.

I mean heck, what was I going to do if I actually got a three to five foot fish on the end of a spear on a moving sail boat. Jump in after it?

Then, the boat went from 4 knots to a dead stop.
Okay, not really.
Heck, it's a fish story. <G>

The big lure caught a big fish. Here it is, swimming next to the boat, as I hauled in the hand line.

I never use my sailing gloves for sailing, but they sure come in handy fishing. Hauling the wire leader in with bare hands, with a big fish on the end, while the boat's under way, would really hurt.


Yeah, in all the excitement we messed up the exposure setting on the camera. This is about as clean as I can get it.

It was tough to get it on board. Once it was gaffed, I was able to slip my big diving belt hook into it's mouth and snap it shut. After that, it was secure.

We went to pull in the second line, since there was no need to catch any more fish.

There was another one on the second line. Sheesh.


It wasn't until later that I realized these were not Tuna. They're Crevalle Jacks. The nose is blunter, they're a little fatter, they're missing a stripe down the side. The big clue is the one black spot on the edge of the gills.

Heck, until it was out of the water, I couldn't tell. In the water, all I could see was yellow fins.

We cut them up and made sashimi anyway. That was my first real clue that it wasn't a tuna. They were good, but not nearly as good as fresh tuna.

Unfortunately, I'd already called ahead on the radio and set some friends up for dinner. Now I owe them a real tuna dinner. These social obligations can get a bit overwhelming.






Here's proof that we caught two. They're dragging behind the boat to bleed them out before filleting.




This is a picture of my little fan deck after hauling them on board, gaffing them and setting them behind the boat to bleed.

What a mess. They were about 15-20 pounds each, and were too big to hold over the side while doing the bloody work. They needed two hands. You can imagine two big, bleeding fish flopping all over the cockpit, while the boat is sailing. It took about 1/2 hour to scrub the place down with Simple Green and bleach, hauling canvas buckets of water over the side.

We had to scrub again after filleting, although it wasn't as messy.


Ah, and one of my gloves went overboard.

Heck, it's not fishing if you don't spend more on lost and broken gear than the fist would have cost at the grocery store.

Hasta luego.