Old Man Of The Sea
By Sam Scott
Sometimes, if you’re persistent enough, you can make things happen that otherwise seemed impossible, but if you don’t have persistence, a bit of beginner’s luck could do the trick.
Beep, beep, beep, beep - 5:30 am wake up, eat a quick breakfast, build sandwiches, and pop a sick sea pill on the way out the door. These were the last-minute things my dad and I had to do before heading out on one of our greatest adventures.
We rolled up to Médano beach in the time to catch the sunrise, and a display of morning colors poking through the famous Cabo arches. This group of rock formations marks the South most point of the Baja Peninsula and the dividing line between the Sea of Cortez and the Pacific Ocean. It was our plan to pedal ourselves straight out past it into the open sea. We launch our two Hobie cat sea kayaks from the sandy beach, which is typically alive with tourists relaxing on lounge chairs, skimboarding, swimming, or tossing frisbees, as well as beach vendors offering their wares; for a "special price" or occasionally "almost free". This morning, however, was perfectly silent except for a pair of seagulls floating in the lightly rolling waves and the occasional early morning jogger.
We paddled our kayaks twenty meters offshore to get past the breaking waves before dropping our pedals through the opening in the bottom of the kayaks. Our first task was to pedal our way over to the marina to purchase live baitfish from local fishermen. We would have to do this alongside the large sportfishing boats that would be taking clients fishing at the same time.
The morning preparation had taken longer than expected, and by the time we arrived in the marina, many of the sportfishing boats had already departed, and the bait had been sold. It looked as though our fishing adventure might be over before it started. We pedalled right into the marina in search of a boat with some remaining mackerel. Luckily there was one remaining boat, and they were ecstatic to sell some bait to a couple of lunatics in kayaks. They were generous with the amount of mackerel, and before we knew it, we were headed out to the arches arms for a day of fishing.
The ocean was calm enough to allow us to go straight through the Cabo arches and out into the Pacific Ocean. We could hear sea lions barking from the rock formations behind us, so we waited a little bit longer before dropping our first live bait into the water to swim "freely" and tow behind us while we slowly paddle our way offshore.
Ten minutes later... Zzzzzzing! The line began peeling off my reel as my mackerel tried to escape being eaten by something bigger. The reel was set to free spool, and I had to coach myself to give the fish time to be fully eaten before tightening the drag. Then, slowly I applied pressure with my thumb until nothing. I waited a few more minutes, but still nothing, so I decided to reel my line in and check on my bait. It had been nibbled and killed but not bitten. I assumed a needlefish had killed it before losing interest. I rigged up a fresh mackerel and tossed it in the water; two seconds later, I saw a large shadow chasing my bait. I yanked it straight out of the water instantly In an attempt to save its life. I knew from experience that the shadow was too big to be a fish. It was a pesky sea lion! With my bait out of the water, I waited to see what the lion would do. Well trained in the art of stealing baitfish from fishermen, the sea lion knew it could wait underneath my boat and continue to clean baitfish off my line as I tossed them out. The water was crystal clear, and I could see that menacing shadow of the lion circling below my kayak, waiting. It was too early in the day to be feeding this scoundrel, so I was forced to pedal on without a fish in the water. If I had been in a sportfishing boat, I could have run away, but in my sea kayak, the sea lion had no trouble keeping up. I had to wait until he got bored and left. By the time I had caught up with my dad, he had given up, and I was able to resume fishing.
We were headed straight off the point into much deeper water and ended up in the midst of a whale pod with a whale watching boats all around. We could see whales breaching the water for air, doing aerial acrobatics, and beating their giant fins against the water. Magnificent splashes of water were being sent into the air in all directions. We could hear the oohs and awes of the whale watchers and even hear some of the whale facts being listed off by their guides. The highlight of the show was when a whale fully breached the water and performed a 180-corkscrew causing the biggest eruption of water imaginable. We had almost circumvented the scene when one boat decided to break off from the pack. Not realizing that we had fish being towed behind us, he ran over my line and got snagged. I switched my reel to strike mode and turned the drag to the max, but I couldn’t bust off the line. By the time I could finally break free, there was nearly nothing left of my reel. I had been spooled in the worst way possible.
With my head slung low, we got ourselves far away from the whale pod and decided to keep fishing with one rod. Dad generously gave it to me as I was headed home to Canada the next day, and this would be my only day of kayak fishing. We agreed to alternate at one-hour intervals. We also switch tactics from slow trolling to sitting still and allowing our bait to dive deeper into the water.
Shortly after, I saw a splash only fifty yards ahead of us. I called to dad, and he had seen it too. We fixated our eyes on the spot, and surely enough, there was another. And then four more! We were totally blown away that out in the open ocean, in two kayaks, we had found a spot where a marlin was free jumping right in front of us. This gave us confidence that we were in the right spot.
We floated around for a while longer, enjoying the peaceful feeling of drifting freely in the middle of nowhere and soaking up the warm sunshine. I was contemplating taking a nap when I heard it again Zzzzzzing! I grabbed my rod in a frenzy and put my thumb on the line to keep it from over spooling and causing a bird´s nest. Then, I counted to eight slowly in my head before gently moving the reel into strike mode. The rod tensed up a moment and then went slack. I lost it..... I switch back to free spool and immediately felt my line going out again. Same process, but this time I waited ten seconds. A splash could be seen ahead, and the bill of a marlin smacking the water. "ARE YOU SEEING THIS DAD? "HOLY, IT´S ACTUALLY A MARLIN. "Then the marlin realized it had been hooked and took off.
I pointed my kayak straight towards the marlin to avoid being pulled over sideways, learned how to steer by pointing my rod out the left or right side of the kayak, and began to towed straight out to sea. It could have taken me all the way to Mazatlan for all I care because I was actually hooked up on a marlin. Dad and I shared numerous hearts and hollers back and forth as we exclaimed our excitement and disbelief. Of course, all this time, I am catching a free ride from the marlin, dad is having to pedal to keep up. He was also attempting to raise someone on the phone so that they could share in on the excitement, but like in Canada, the Mexican phone companies don’t let you make calls unless you have paid for minutes.
I fought the fish for forty five minutes before getting it close to our kayaks, at which time I had been towed more than a mile and a half from where we first hooked up. It had also jumped multiple times and poked its head out of the water to give us a clear view of the beauty we had hooked upon. This of course always leads to more shouts and exclamations by the two of us.
By the time the marlin had tired, dad had caught up, and we were discussing how we were going to land and then release our 130lb beauty. We settled on bringing our two kayaks side by side, so I could bring the rod across them both, and Dad could grab and release it. Oddly enough, the final catch and release went perfectly without a hitch. Dad removed the hook and pulled the marlin onto his kayak for a couple of quick photos before putting him back in the water and watching him swim away.
By the time we regained our composure, our kayaks had drifted a couple of feet apart. We were both in search of a job well done high five, but we were just shy of being able to reach one another. We awkwardly clambered to get the kayaks close enough to seal the deal on our accomplishment. We had actually succeeded in accomplishing one of our greatest fishing goals.
Still floating in a stupor of joy, we got dad hooked up on the rod, and we were back to it, trying to get him his own trophy fish. We fished out the rest of the day, but couldn’t hook up on a double header. Although, the wildlife sightings did not slow down. The afternoon was filled with sounds of whales jumping a slap in the fins with a frequency of a drum. We also finished the day with a pod of manta rays swimming directly beneath our kayaks.
The five-mile pedal from where the marlin had dropped us back towards shore was a slog, but it was all more than worthwhile. Back onshore, we were surrounded with disbelief as we told the tale of our real life, the "Old Man of The Sea."