The first Marina Puerto Escondido Tournament in May of 2019 underscored the significance between inshore and offshore sportfishing opportunities, which were first described in 1966 by Ray Cannon in his best-selling book on Baja, The Sea 0f Cortez.
That inaugural event attracted 28 local and visiting Teams eager to participate from across the Sea of Cortez on mainland Mexico and ports around the tip of Baja. The inshore results for yellowtail and dorado were predictable. However, an astonishing revelation for the visitors and most locals was that they found striped marlin and sailfish farther offshore.
In the Third Annual Marina Puerto Escondido Tournament, held from May 13th to May 15th of this year, the field of participants had grown to 51 teams vying for $577,800, the largest amount ever awarded for a fishing tournament in the Loreto area. According to Stenson Hamann, Tournament Marketing Manager of the event, “The attendance has grown 85% over its short three-event history.”
Registration took place on Friday afternoon in front of the Marina Market on May 13th from noon until 6-pm. Boats ranging in size from 18-foot pangas to 110-foot tricked-out sport fishers were side by side along the pier (nicknamed “Fifth Avenue”), where Captains and Teams, both old and new to the Tournament, exchanged greetings and introductions. They discussed conditions, weather, sea temps, and what they had spotted while pre-fishing up the Baja coast. From that first night, there was a feeling of genuine camaraderie.
Enrique Salcedo, Tournament Director, opened the Captains’ Meeting by introducing staff, Tournament judges, and Weighmasters Clicerio Mercado and Gonzalo Alamea Camacho. Salcedo highlighted several issues. One, he explained, is a unique aspect of this event. Radio and cell reception are poor, so hookups and catches cannot be reported throughout the day. As a result, no winners will be announced until the Teams report their catches and releases after 6PM.
Salcedo announced that a circle hook is required for all billfish caught on bait. In addition, he reminded everyone that they must wear a Marine Park Bracelet at all times!
Saturday morning, the 51-boat fleet crowded the start line with unbridled anticipation as the final minutes, then seconds were counted down.
The first yellowtail of the day weighed in shortly after 3-pm by Team Salvay Pacific at a respectable 29.4-pounds. Would that be enough to retain its early spot at the top of the leaderboard?
Nope! Team Tijuana Si delivered their 30.7-pound yellow in before the clock struck 4-pm!
Yet yellowtail dominated until closing time with 22 for the day – the largest caught by Jon Nickerson, Yuma, Ariz., on boat “Foot N Half” owned by Dave Claborne, earning them $80,150 for their 29-pound and 37.2-pound yellowtail!
There were only two dorado weighed in for the day in the Dorado Category. However, first Place Dorado Division “Team Pink Bullet” received $232,150 for their 42.3-pound Dorado caught by Kent Harrington from San Diego, Calif. $232,150 is believed to be the largest sum awarded for a dorado in a fishing tournament in Baja, or perhaps the world!
Several teams could only discuss woulda,’ coulda,’ shoulda,’ for dorado lost.
Aboard Martha McNab’s “Retriever,” guest Rebecca Ehrenberg shared their report. “It was hard to find fish, no bites all Saturday morning – fishing ballyhoo, mackerel, caballito, or lures.
Then Captain Tony Araiza switched things up. He headed another eight miles out and looked for a temperature break in the water. The water was a bit better, about 75.8 F., and Captain Tony was confident we’d find them there! At this point, we were about 35 miles out. At 1:30-pm, we got the first bite and had about four marlin – releasing two. Rebecca Ehrenberg Pisces Sportfishing Fleet
The conclusion drawn by most was that the weather had been marginal in the mornings, progressively deteriorating throughout the day. There was little encouragement it would improve the following day. However, most Teams voiced their opinion that they would probably expand their search for more action from the areas they had fished the first day. They headed for the banks with fingers crossed, hoping the weather and fishing would improve.
As the fleet gathered for the final day, their outlook was optimistic as the glowing Baja sun appeared on the eastern horizon over the Sea of Cortez, reflecting on the Baja foothills.
The billfish release fleet headed east, out into the Sea of Cortez toward the Mexico Mainland, searching for warmer water.
Most of the yellowtail fleet headed back to the same areas that produced for them the preceding day. They were sure that they needed a little bit of luck to catch a larger fish.
“Team Double Shot” arrived just a few minutes after the Weigh Station was opened a 3:02-pm with two yellowtail, the heaviest weighing in a 30.8-pounds.
There was a steady stream of yellowtail and a half-dozen more dorado to be weighed until the weigh station closed at 6-pm.
Rebecca Ehrenberg shared the highlights of the Retriever’s second day. “We knew our game plan and the area we would fish. So we headed out to the same spot, and we were bit by 8:15-am! Two marlin came up behind the boat. One was on the teaser, the other on the dredge – Martha and I hooked both of them.”
“Captain Tony saw two more fish on the sonar and had the boys pitch two live bait behind the boat as we were still fighting our first two. Mate Alan Araiza hooked another, and we were on a triple. Mate “Chiquis” insisted on the 4th fish! The marlin chased the bait a few times but didn’t take it. At this same time, both Alan and I lost our fish!
“My five-year-old son, “Mischa,” had given me his lucky toy iguana to take on the boat and told me, “You Will Win with It!” (I had forgotten to take it on the boat the first day).
“It was time to pull out the iguana. I told Tony to kiss the toy iguana, and within literally two seconds of Tony kissing the iguana, his rod on the flybridge right behind him screamed. He had hooked the fish, and we had our second release. After this one, we had action all afternoon.
“We worked a small school of sailfish tailing off the bow, four or five, but they were picky eaters. Then a few more marlin cruised on the surface, some that took and others that didn’t! So next, we had another double up on the bow on dead and live bait.
“We had 12 released out of about 20 or so fish that we spotted or raised.”
First Place Overall went to Martha MacNab’s Team “Retriever” with 14 Striped Marlin Released, plus the Day Two Jackpots with 12 Marlin Released that day. “Retriever’s” total winnings were $106,800.
Second Place Marlin Release went to Team “Sea Angel” with 11 Marlin Released plus Day One Jackpots with 4 Marlin Released. They won a total of $95,100.
The Teams delivered their various catches to the scales while a local band entertained the spectators. Everyone enjoyed the show, both the music and the weighing in of the fish! Some were even dancing to the music as they celebrated.
Both Days’ Final Payouts
SATURDAY ALL JACKPOTS/SUNDAY 5K JACKPOT
1st Place Overall Yellowtail
Foot N Half $55,000 $15,000 $10,150
37.2-pounds 29-pounds 37.2-pounds
Total Check Amount $80,150
Dorado $500 2nd Place Overall Dorado Team Salados 24.5-pounds 27.5-pounds $14,500 $4,050
Check Amount $18,550
SATURDAY ALL CATCH RELEASE JACKPOTS
2nd Place Overall Catch and Release
Day 1-4 Day 2 -11 Releases
Total Check Amount $95,100
Total Check Amount $14,000
Yellowtail $500 JACKPOT 2nd Place Overall Yellowtail
Team: The Chum Bucket 35.7-pounds
Check Amount $16,050
SUNDAY Yellowtail $3000 JACKPOT
Check Amount $15,000
SUNDAY CATCH and RELEASE JACKPOT
Overall Catch and Release 1st Place
Team Retriever 12-releases 14-releases
Check Amount $106,800
Dorado SUNDAY JACKPOT
1st Place Dorado Overall
Team Pink Bullet 42.3-pounds $22,2000 $10,150
Check Amount $232,150
Clicerio Mercado, Tournament Judge, observed, “The Hamman Family has assembled an excellent Tournament Team. In just three years, the MPE Tournament has reached the half-million-dollar mark! I believe that in two more, it will also have become the fourth-million-dollar tourney in Baja California Sur!”
A big thank you to all the sponsors that made this event happen.