Annual Yellowtail Tournament
February 25, 2016
Mexico was once known as the Mecca of the fishing world
— that was in the 1950s before the Chinese long trawlers
were allowed up into the Sea of Cortez.
Even John Wayne was known to have come here to catch the
Yellowtail, considered one of the strongest fighting fish
in the world.
Then the Mexican government realized what damage they were
allowing to their sport fishing and tourism sectors, and
stopped allowing the Chinese to come into their territorial
The fish have been coming back little by little every year.
This year was shaping up to be one of the best fishing years.
Even John Adams from Hilmar flew down to enter the tournament,
along with our next door neighbor, John Lawson, who is a
part-time fishing guide in the summer, catching salmon off
The two fishermen from our park were intense, and had hired
one of the best fishing guides in the area for the Yellowtail
Tournament, Alajandro, who had fished the Mulege area since
he was a young man.
He knew the waters, he knew where to catch the bait, and
he knew how to catch the big Yellowtail.
The tournament was a two-day event, and there was a prize
for the biggest Yellowtail, the biggest fish of any kind,
and a prize for the boat which brought in the two largest
Yellowtails over the two-day period. This was called the
Calcutta, and anyone could bet on the boat they thought
would be the winner.
There was a lot of money on Alajandro, but he was not the
only good fisherman. There were many serious fishermen who
lived down here every winter, and they also knew the waters,
and had the most modern fishing electronics.
The prize for winning the Calcutta was about $4,000, and
that went to the owner of the boat.
There is no catching the Yellowtail without the right bait,
and the mackerel or Big Eye is considered the best bait
around. Once our bay had tons of anchovies but they were
devastated about six years ago.
Twenty two Mexican trawlers came into Conception Bay and
raped the bay of its feeder fish, the anchovies. This was
directly against the Mexican fishing laws, but the only
penalty was a $200 fine per boat, and the boats took tons
of the precious bait fish.
There is still overfishing for shrimp in the area and the
trawlers come all the way from Guymas, on mainland Mexico,
to the shores of Baja. Even with overfishing, the yearly
migration of the Yellowtail continues its comeback, and
the morning of Feb. 18 was set for the first day of the
fishing tournament. The entry fee was $500 pesos, or about
$35 dollars, and that included a fish dinner following the
The fishermen from Posada and their guide set out early.
They left our park at 4 a.m. and were out on the water at
5 a.m., catching bait. By sun up they were in one of Mulege’s
famous fishing holes which had been mapped over the years
and had GPS coordinates.
Alejandro knew all the fishing holes by heart and he directed
his 23-foot Panga to the first spot. The fish were ready
and waiting. The rules were clear, the guide could not assist
in catching or landing the fish so all Alajandro could do
is go where the fish were supposed to be and he knew exactly
where that was.
This first day Alajandro’s boat did well with John
Adams landing a 22-pound Yellowtail, and some nice Gabillo,
but this would not be winning size.
Originally the tournament called for one day of fishing
and one day off, with the final day on a Saturday, however,
since the fishing was good and the weather looked like it
was turning bad, the organizers changed the schedule to
have two fishing days right in a row.
By the second day, the fishermen from Posada looked haggard.
There was not a lot of talking that first night as they
came in late, dog tired and went to bed after a bite to
eat. There was also not much bragging because the battle
had just begun.
Day 2 came up early and the fishermen were stiff from their
first day. Now the work had to be done. Out on the water
again by 5 a.m., with the sun up at 6 a.m.
This would be a test between man, the sea and the fish.
And the sea and fish would take its toll.
By the end of the day, John Larson had caught the largest
Yellowtail weighing in at over 31 pounds. John Adams had
caught the largest white sea bass at over 30 pounds, and
he also caught the largest grouper, but in the midst of
doing so, his strength gave out and he had to hand the pole
to Alejandro to complete the catch.
So he still won the largest fish prize.
The Calcutta went to another boat which just beat out Alejandro’s
boat by ounces, and when the fishermen looked into the fish
tank, there were two bait fish which the winning Yellowtail
had spit up after it was caught, and that would have pushed
them into the winner of the Calcutta.
At the awards dinner there was one story which got the biggest
attention. One fisherman in the tournament had gone out
the first day and hooked into a very large Yellowtail, but
just as he was lifting it into the boat, a seal jumped up
and snatched it off the hook. And if that wasn’t bad
enough, the seal took the fish about 25 feet from the boat,
rolled over on its back, and made a dinner of it.