By Gary Graham
My first venture into Baja was Easter week 1969, when I traveled with my very excited nine year-old son Greg to Loreto. What an adventure it was for the two of us. With many moving parts, I had planned the trip with attention to detail.
Although we were scheduled to depart from Tijuana on a DC-3 that Ed Tabor, founder of Loreto’s “Flying Sportsmen Lodge” piloted, I soon learned those early days traveling in Baja more often than not demanded patience and last-minute adjustments.
This trip began with a cranky motor that refused to start.
Greg and I, with our luggage in tow, found another airline and were able to catch a flight later in the day to La Paz, and by adjusting our schedule, we spent the night in the La Perla Hotel on the malecón overlooking La Paz Bay. Then, hiring a cab the following morning, we agonized through a five-hour, steaming hot ride (with all the windows open) in the early afternoon pulling into Ed Tabor’s Lodge poised on Loreto’s beachfront overlooking the sparking Sea of Cortez.
Exiting the taxi, we looked around and both became Baja aficionados for life.
Our expectations of the local fishing resulted from WON’s Ray Cannon columns as well as his “Sea of Cortez” book. Greg and I had poured over the photos and I had read him portions of Cannon’s work often enough that he eagerly began reading everything about Baja that I had on hand.
However, the real fishing trip exceeded our expectations. Loreto’s dorado dazzled both of us and we frequently returned during the summers. It wasn’t long before Greg’s younger brother Geoff was enjoying these summer expeditions.
Soon after Mex 1 opened in 1973, towing a 19-foot Bayliner and driving a van filled with friends and family, I began exploring Baja from border to Lands End. A remote beach, Nopolo Cove, a few miles south of Loreto, became the perfect set up for us and the sleepy village of Loreto became a frequent destination.
By the mid-1970s, Yvonne and her family, Teri, Julie, and Michael and mine merged, and suddenly there were seven of us enjoying Baja’s bounties.
Magic Baja moments continued: We went from a van to a self-contained RV, from a small boat that we towed to a Blackman that, once there, we could leave for extended periods of time. Instead of camping, Rancho Deluxe, our home on an East Cape beach lasted 18-years.
We rode for miles on the empty beaches on our ATVs, Yvonne and I, and shared our large home with many of our friends and family. Our neighbors were a few gringos who had retired in a small trailer park near us, but most of our friends were locals—captains, crews, and residents.
Slowly, very slowly, the beaches began filling with rental ATVs. Anglers began arriving who wanted to fish from the shore – not from the boats – and more and more houses were built along the water, with more and more retirees moving in from other countries.
For the past several years, I’ve had reason to return to Loreto more frequently. I have been honored to sit in on a bold experiment to improve communications between the Sportfishing Association of California, the sportfishing industry and various Baja and Mexican Riviera Ports on the West Coast of Mexico, with Loreto added in 2017.
Anchored around the sportfishing show “Let’s Talk Hook Up,” a two-hour broadcast, it has allowed representatives of local sport fishing and tourism interests, along with government officials to promote their respective areas, as well as exchange ideas with their counterparts from Southern California and to develop stronger, long-term International relationships between local businesses and government representatives from both countries.
The more often I return, the more Loreto continues to dazzle me. It has changed and grown, but more slowly than its sister cities, and it has remained picturesque as well as extremely fishable.
In early January 2018, three giant yellowfin tuna weighing 424.6, 319, and 212.5-pounds were caught over a three-day period off Loreto, and the local fishing came of age, underscoring the impact that the new Marina Puerto Escondido is having on local sportfishing drawing larger sport fishers capable of traveling farther offshore, and not being as dependent on only the traditional dorado and yellowtail fishery.
According to his website, Jay Yadon, owner of Outpost Charters in Loreto, offers a 40-foot Luhrs Express model boat, powered by two 430 HP Caterpillar engines. I’m pretty sure that it won’t be long before others join that one in the newly-completed Marina facility in Puerto Escondido.
Loreto already attracts a procession of anglers from around the world who come beginning in June and continuing until September, or later, in search of the astonishing inshore and offshore fishing. The surrounding islands offer exceptional sportfishing for an abundance of yellowtail, sailfish, dorado, marlin, tuna, and roosterfish.
And here we go again…