Saturday, December 24, 2011

Noche Buena at Punta Chivato

by Scott

If there's one dish that Baja is famous for, it's fish tacos. Our first day south of the border, we stopped for roadside fish tacos in San Quintin. Since then, we've been rolling our own, and I've gotten a little bit cocky about it. Unlike New Zealand, my fishing here has been very successful. I tell Heather to just let me know when she wants fish tacos for dinner. I've never failed to deliver. Usually in less than 30 minutes. I'm like the  Dominos of fish tacos. One time, it took one cast. Last night, the fish tacos would have been free.

We were at Punta Chivato on the Sea or Cortez. I spent several hours snorkeling with a spear -- not a spear gun -- that George from Abreojos gave me. I managed to get a scorpion fish. That was my intended target, but I was disappointed when I got it out of the water. It was much smaller than I thought. I hadn't accounted for the magnification under water. Everything looks bigger! Lesson learned. Sorry fish. He did swim away, so I hope he lived. I gave up spear fishing, deciding to wait until evening to get the rod and reel out.

Heading out for a snorkel at Punta Chivato
Later that afternoon, as we were returning from a run, we started collecting firewood near the lighthouse. As we were doing so, a massive feeding frenzy started just off shore. There were fish flying all over the place. We watched until the boil got close enough that we could see the large fish creating the frenzy. I sprinted the quarter mile back to the truck with an armful of firewood. Then, I sprinted the quarter mile back to the point with my fishing pole. My lungs were burning as I made my first cast. The lure had barely hit the water when it was savagely attacked. Seeing the long slender body, I was hoping it was sierra. Unfortunately, it was a 2-foot-long barracuda. We've eaten barracuda once, and I don't have fond memories, so I threw it back. Another cast. Another barracuda. After catching and releasing half a dozen of them, I realized that the sun was getting low. If I was going to catch anything other than barracuda, I needed to go down to my snorkeling spot.

This time, I am walking. I see Heather coming towards me. Every few steps, she stops, bends down, picks something up, and throws it in the water. What is she doing? Skipping stones? No. She tells me I just missed a crazy event. Thousands of mullet have beached themselves. She calls them mullet. Neither of us know what they really are. Sardines? Shad? Who knows. They do have an upturned nose, so for this story, we're going to call them mullet. Some are wounded, some are not, but they're all exhausted. Heather is picking up the those that show a will to live and throws them back. Some swim away, others return to the beach, preferring a slow death in the sand versus being eaten alive.

While Heather is feeding the barracuda, I walk down to the snorkeling spot, passing thousands of soon-to-be-dead mullet. When I reach the reef, it takes only two casts before I hook a fish. I can tell it's not a barracuda. It fights hard and dives deep. Then, everything stops. He's rocked me. This is a term I've just learned. Some fish will lodge themselves in the rocks rather than fight in the open water. That's how I lost my first lure in Abreojos. I tried a few tricks that George had suggested: plucking the line like a guitar string, letting the line go slack. Neither worked. A couple times, the fish took off with the slack line, but quickly rocked himself again. Now, my line is wrapped up at multiple points on the reef.

The sun has already set, and light is fading. I'm willing to lose the fish, but I don't want to lose my lure. I wedge my pole in the rocks, loosen the drag, and start running for the truck. On the way, I see a big tumbleweed. That'll be great for getting the fire started. I pick it up and keep running. Heather sees me coming. That's not a fish. Where's his fishing pole? What is he carrying? Breathing hard, I tell her to go make sure I don't lose the rod and reel. She doesn't ask questions, not even why I'm carrying a tumbleweed.

As Heather runs down the beach in her flip-flops, I get out the inflatable paddleboard and start pumping furiously. The wind is too strong to paddle directly to the reef, so I run down the beach carrying the 10-foot, 30-pound paddleboard. When I finally paddle out to the reef, Heather is standing there with the pole. And a beer. Where did that come from? When I grab the line and try to track it back to the fish, the line ends up wrapped around me. Eventually, I free the line from the rocks, though not from my neck. The fish is still on the line. It's a spotted bass, and he's even more tired than I am.

A more relaxing time before we took the boards in the water
Dangling the fish from the lure in one hand, while paddling with the other hand, I tell Heather she's not going to believe this. In addition to the silver spoon, there's also a mullet in it's mouth! The mullet is still alive, so I throw it back. Heather takes the paddleboard, while I walk back with the fish. And the beer. Halfway down the beach, I look down at my catch. Heather's not going to believe this. He's coughed up a second mullet -- tail first!

It is dark. I have to fillet the fish by headlamp while Heather prepares the fixin's. We eat fresh fish tacos with a cold beer, Tecate's limited edition winter bock, Noche Buena (good night). We laugh as we tell each other our versions of this fish story. Both of us agree -- that was a lot of work for one meal. Was it worth it? Yeah, it was worth it. Noche Buena indeed.

1 comment:

Cesar said...

Hi guys! Cesar here, overlanding with my wife Danni and in Baja. I think we are not too far away from yall...we might have been in San Ignacio at the same time. We are in Puerto escondido now... working slowly to La Paz. Anyway, just wanted to say hi and see where yell were. We are SUPers to, have our C4 iSUPS with us, so maybe we can link up to paddle.
Cheers and happy travel,