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Cabo Sportfishing Pioneers – The Ehrenbergs

A modest beginning by today’s standards, the Ehrenberg’s saga began four decades ago when Marco Ehrenberg‘s father Peter, Sr., and his brother Peter, Jr. began Pisces Sportfishing in La Paz.

It started with Karina, a 28-foot Uniflite-knockoff cruiser built in La Paz by Baja pioneer boat-builder, Mac Shroyer. The new business venture flourished and soon they added two more 28-foot cruisers to the fleet.

Those became the gold-standard for sportfishing cruisers in Baja Sur’s fledgling sportfishing industry for several decades. As remarkable as it seems, two of those original boats, the Adriana and the Andrea, remain in service in the fleet.

The elder Ehrenberg’s, both now deceased, decided to have them chartered during season from May through October at the popular Palmas de Cortez in East Cape, owned by the legendary Bobby and Cha-Cha Van Wormer.

Younger brother Marco frequently fished out of La Paz and assisted in booking charters during the season. However, choosing to travel over college, he departed to the Canary Islands on an adventure with a friend from California.

There he met Tracy, born on the southeast coast of England, in the seaside town of Brighton who at nineteen had landed a job in Tenerife, Canary Islands (Spain). After a whirlwind romance of only five days, she accepted his marriage proposal.

Later, when asked about Marco’s education, his father answered with a smile and a voice full of pride,

“The trip to the Canaries paid off more than school ever could as my son not only found his love, but he also found his life’s partner — Tracy.

Peter lost interest in the business and moved to Durango on mainland Mexico, calling Marco to “come back and take over the boats.” Hearing there was more opportunity in Cabo, he sent a manager with the boats to Cabo San Lucas until Marco could take over in early 1978 … and the rest is history.

Several years later Marco and Tracy moved to Cabo to take advantage of the year round fishing and emerging tourism market there. Marco’s ingenuity served him well. He was the first to come up with the idea of using a dockside booth to market his charters. Despite his Mexican heritage, his blonde hair convinced many that he was a Gringo [a person, especially an American who is not Hispanic or Latino]. His competitors complained to the immigration authorities that being a Gringo, he couldn’t have proper work papers.

Always striving to give superb customer service, he reached out to Tracy to assist him with the organization, management, follow-up and bookkeeping, as the business grew.

Tracy became fluent in Spanish and quickly learned about boats, fishing and how to run a fleet. Her dedication to service quickly allowed the fleet to grow not only in size but in range, to what it is today — a fleet of fishing boats and cruising yachts.

Their daughter, Rebecca (Becca), with twinkling eyes observed recently, “Another trait that my mom brought to the new company is the way she cares about people — the employees and their well-being. She has always considered them to be part of the family.”

“She and my dad became quite a team.” She continued, “When they left the family home in La Paz to assume the management of Pisces Sportfishing in Cabo, they brought with them a vision for the future; they built their company on loyalty, honesty, perseverance, a willingness to work hard … all valuable characteristics that have served them well over the years.”

The praise of the pillars of sportfishing industry for their efforts in that arena has followed them:

“Marco and Tracy were leaders in the Cabo San Lucas area for having their Pisces Fleet release their billfish catches. They also were great supporters of the International Game Fish Association when the IGFA OFFSHORE WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP brought international anglers from around the world demonstrating how a release tournament with no money prizes could be successful.” – Michael Leech, IGFA past president.

Along with many other accolades the power couple were given, Tracy received the IGFA Lifetime Achievement award for conservation efforts in 1995 and the Billfish Foundation award for the most striped marlin released worldwide in a single year – nine different years between 1989 and 2010 it was presented to Pisces Sportfishing.

And Bill Dobbelaer, Gray Fish Tag Research, Inc., noted: “Pisces Sportfishing, Marco and Tracy Ehrenberg, are pioneers of sportfishing, leading the way in fisheries preservation: no one couple has done more for the amazing fishing in Cabo than the two of them as they continue to lead the conservation efforts throughout Mexico.”

The Ehrenberg family’s community spirit cloaked in generosity is reflected in their willingness to continue to give back to their community.

Reeling from the effects of Hurricane Odile that struck Sept. 15, 2014, the most devastating storm ever to hit Baja, Cabo San Lucas and surrounding areas were suffering. Homes were destroyed, the airport was damaged; all electricity, water and communications were shut down. Numerous humanitarian organizations from around the world gathered to help, but one of the first to step up after the tragedy was the Ehrenberg family, with daughter Becca in the lead.

By then, the business had grown into the Pisces Group Cabo, which included Pisces Sportfishing, Pisces Real Estate, and Captain Tony’s Restaurant among others. Eight of their employees had been left without homes. Becca gathered employees, friends and family to help clean homes of debris and serve meals to those who needed them at Captain Tony’s Restaurant.

Once the immediate needs of Cabo were met, Becca and her team focused on Phase II: Replacing destroyed homes with homes that were built out of block and cement that would survive another hurricane.

Becca explained, “We wanted the fishing community to help each other; we have seen this happen in our fleet many times with captains and mates pitching in to rebuild and clean each others’ homes. And once again, they came together to help each other and those less fortunate.”

Flash forward four years to Pisces Sportfishing’s recent 40th Anniversary. The Ehrenberg family was searching for a way to honor their entire team – captains, mates, office staff, reservation agents, dock masters – and the many others who had helped create the Pisces operation over the past four decades.

Their answer?

A unique, internal one-day 40th Anniversary Tournament among the Pisces Sportfishing captains and crews on Sept. 9, headed by Becca with Tracy’s guidance.

The concept was to allow each of the captains and crew members to share their passion and skills for sportfishing, not only with their guests, but also to use that passion and skill in the fun of competing for the honor of being named The Best in the Fleet!

A full day of competitive fishing on Sunday, complete with a “flare-gun start” and a weigh-in, would conclude with a huge dock party at Cabo’s Marina Del Rey Dock where the first Pisces trips had begun years before.

The Pisces Fleet had grown to 25 sportfishers ranging from 28- to 120-feet, the largest as well as one of the most respected sportfishing operations in Cabo San Lucas. Each of the crew members were encouraged to invite their families, friends or even their owners as guests to participate in this event sponsored by the boats’ owners and Pisces.

The Captain’s Meeting was held on the second floor of the Pisces Building in the recently opened Galati Yacht sales office on the Saturday night preceding the event.

Captains and crews of 23 of the 25 sport fishers in the Pisces Fleet attended. While mischievous teasing and laughter echoed among the crews, Becca and Tracy called the meeting to order, explaining that only dorado, yellowfin tuna, and wahoo, along with billfish, (release only), would be counted and outlining the schedule and simple rules for the first-ever Crew Tournament (probably the first of its kind, worldwide).

Sunday morning, long before dawn, teams, soaked from an unexpected squall, slowly idled out to the start line as they excitedly lined up behind the 85-foot Contessa, loaded with office staff, former employees and other guests.

Marco and Tracy huddled together on the bow in the pouring rain firing the brilliant red flare as it signaled the start, lighting up the sky above Baja’s Lands’ End. The Pisces Fleet roared past — some boats headed into the Sea of Cortez and others went around the tip up into the Pacific.

When the Weigh-Station opened at 3 p.m., the scale was at one end of the dock and the other had a make-shift kitchen where a grand, fresh-fish dinner was being prepared by Captain Tony’s staff with seating to accommodate the more than 200 attendees.

Music played as the meal was served to the crowd and the procession of boats with flags fluttering from the outriggers arrived into the inner harbor and in front of the Weigh-Station. Many Pisces employees, families and friends filled the Marina Del Rey Dock, cheering and shouting to the crews and guests aboard the boats as they busily unloaded their catches which included several notable dorado; unfortunately, wahoo and tuna were not in the mix.

Throughout the afternoon, many greeted one another with hugs, laughter and even tears as they recalled how their life’s paths had been influenced by sportfishing, as well as by Pisces and the Ehrenberg family.

The three of them, Rebecca, Marco and Tracy, shared the microphones as the trophies and cash prizes were presented to the teams. More than a few memories and anecdotes were shared.

“We are here today because we wanted to say thank you… I cannot remember my life without Pisces Fleet, without each and every one of you, many of whom have known me since I was born.

We are so grateful for your hard work and dedication over the years, and I can honestly say that without you all, I wouldn’t be where I am today.”  Of course then I mentioned, how amazing it was that all of this in total stemmed from two people: my parents,” Becca confided, before preceding with the awards.

1st Place Dorado, Captain Rosendo Gomez, 30-foot Bertram Moppie Rapala for Team Tiburon 45.10-pounds. Captain Rosendo Gomez, 25-year Pisces veteran, had invited his wife and children to join him for the tournament. This was the first time in his career that his family had the opportunity to fish with their father. As luck would have it, they landed the largest dorado of the tournament!

2nd Place Dorado, Captain Alberto “Beto” Lira, 31-foot Bertram Ruthless 25.45-pounds.  Beto was rewarded the position of Captain after apprenticing as deckhand for seven years. For Captain Leon Camacho, who passed away last year.  Leon was the first Captain in the Pisces Fleet, who took part in bringing the fleet down from La Paz

3rd Place Dorado, Captain Jamie Gonzalez, 42-foot Cabo Caliente 14.35-pounds. Victor “Chanito” Zumaya, on the Caliente, recalled how his family had learned to fish from the Winkler family, who were some of the first employees with Pisces in 1978 — from the Winkler’s, Nicolas and Rey’s dad and family members, also included, Nayao, Enrique “Yiqui” Winkler, captain on the Tag Team III. Marco Ehrenberg added, “This was so many years ago, I can’t tell you how old he is!” He said it with a grin.

cabo sportfishing1st Place Billfish Release, Captain Eriberto Orozco Hot Rod; 42-foot Cabo 16 striped marlin released. Owner, John Peelman commented that they had run out of bait and caught a huge skipjack that they cut up in chunks and caught their final 4 billfish. Unfortunately that “big skipjack” would have swept the tuna category if weighed in.

2nd Place Billfish, Captain Enrique “Yiqui” Winkler,Tag Team III; 37-foot Viking Billfish 1 striped marlin, 2 sailfish released. When Tracy would go to the docks in the mornings, David would say “Do you know who I am?” And he would show her the scar

…”I’m the one who helped put out the Rebecca”  Tracy has always been very grateful for his actions. She always said to him, I know you will be a great fisherman, I hope one day you will fish with us — Now he does fish with us! He is the deckhand on the TAG TEAM III, and we are happy to have him onboard,“ Tracy Ehrenberg added as she presented the Tag Team lll’s team it’s 2nd Place Billfish Award.

3rd Place Billfish, Captain Oscar Ivan Gomez Centeno, Listo; 48-foot Viking 1 blue marlin released.
“I met Tracy and Marco in the early ’90’s and have the highest respect for both. Wonderful people with a good sense of humor, and they are very sharp business people. I have my boat Listo managed by Tracy. They handle all the salaries, Mexican paperwork and they keep me out of trouble. I heartily recommend them to those who are planning to leave a boat in Cabo San Lucas. They want to see to it that everything is done correctly.” – Jack Duvall, Billfish Foundation Board member.

cabo sportfishing
Hard Luck Award #1

Hard Luck Award #1 “Captain Julio Castro 31-foot Bertram Tracy Ann released 17 striped marlin and could have been the winner but was late returning.” remarked Marco Ehrenberg. “Captain Julio Castro is a legendary captain who has been with Pisces since 1983 and released most marlin consecutively year after year,” he continued, “Julio Castro, added “Deckhand Cheto, who has been fishing in our fleet since he was 15 years old, is one of the best deckhands in Cabo if not in all of Mexico.”

Hard Luck Award #2

Hard Luck Award #2 Captain Ricardo Escamilla, 42-foot Bertram Yahoo who also came in late with 6 striped marlin released. Captain Ricardo had invited two guests, Alberto Nava from Savannah, Georgia, and Edgar Pedroza, of Colima, Mexico, visiting Cabo San Lucas for the first time and caught their first ever billfish. “It was great to have my ‘primo’ and my friend of many years come all the way to fish with me here in this tournament,” Ricardo confided.

cabo sportfishingThe passion that had led the Ehrenberg’s to begin their career as a sport fishing charter company was contagious; you could see it in the smiling faces of their employees as they joined in the fun and excitement of preparing for the tournament. It wasn’t hard for me to see who won the title of The Best in the Fleet long before the event – it was the Ehrenberg’s, of course!

Get more great history and news in Gary Graham’s Baja Bytes on BD.

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Gary Graham, the BD Outdoors Baja Editor, has more than five decades fishing experience off of Southern California and the Baja Peninsula. From light tackle and fly up to offshore marlin fishing, Gary has experienced all facets of this fishery. He's set several fly-fishing world records and in his first year as a member of the Tuna Club of Avalon, he received more angling awards than any other first-year member in the club's 109-year history. He's been involved with many California angling clubs and is the Baja California Representative for the International Game Fish Association. 
Gary's a conservationist as well as a writer and photographer. In addition to two books on saltwater fly-fishing, hundreds of his articles and photographs have appeared in publications around the world. Graham has devoted his life to finding new fisheries and developing new techniques — all of which he shares through his guiding, speaking, photography and writing.