The Sportfishing Association of California’s (SAC) visits to different regions along with “Let’s Talk HookUp” radio show have been the catalyst for building bridges between Southern California sport fishing and local business owners, government officials and agencies throughout the various Baja and Mexican Riviera Ports on the West Coast of Mexico. It began three years ago as an effort to improve communications between the sport fishing industry in the two countries.
Once again, the representatives recently met in late April in Mazatlan to continue the efforts they had begun in 2015. The SAC advance team arrived a day early to arrange the weekend meeting and were delighted to see a cruise ship, the Norwegian Jewel, pulling into port, highlighting the success of SAC’s first visit in 2015 when cruise liners were bypassing the port because of negative publicity.
By mid-day Friday, the early arrivals: Ken Franke, SAC President, his wife Karen; Kenia Zamarripa, SAC Director of Marketing and International Affairs and guest Raul Delgadillo; and Tim Ekstrom, Captain of the Royal Star, were joined by the remainder of the team from San Diego which consisted of “Let’s Talk HookUp” radio show host Rick Maxa and sound engineer Rick Cutler; Dallas Shackleton, BDoutdoors.com and Gary Graham, journalist.
Later, a planning session/luncheon was held next door at the Pueblo Bonito Emerald Bay’s, “The Bistro”, where they were joined by Juan Acereto, President of Sinaloa’s Sportfishing Association, the Consulate General of Mexico (El Paso) and where the topics that would be discussed on the Saturday morning radio show were determined.
The luncheon included a surprise birthday cake for Graham, with the group serenading him in a rousing English version of “Happy Birthday”, followed by a solo rendition in Spanish by Acereto.
Throughout the rest of the afternoon and early evening, members of the visiting team met informally with local sportfishing and tourism officials as well as with government representatives to exchange ideas and discuss local issues.
The following morning everyone began the day early in preparation for the center piece of the trip, the “Let’s Talk HookUp Show.” Sound engineer Rick Cutler established the remote connection with the studio in San Diego, while hosts Rick Maxa and Pete Gray (remote from San Diego) provided a platform for representatives of both local sportfishing and tourism, along with government officials from Mazatlán and the Mexican Riviera could promote and exchange ideas with their counterparts from Southern California, as they developed stronger, long-term relationships between the two countries.
The participants were Marco Antonio Garcia Castro, Secretary of Tourism for Sinaloa; Juan Acereto: Geronimo Cevallos, Manager, El Cid Marina and Aries Fleet; Captain Tim Ekstrom, Royal Star; plus Franke and Zamarripa.
Saturday morning, the trademark sound of a reel clicker in distress “ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ” signaled the beginning of the show. Maxa greeted his co-host Pete Gray back in San Diego, boasting of his fantastic view across the El Cid Marina Bay. The phone lines began to light up with callers before Rick could finish introducing the show’s panel to the listeners.
Franke began by recalling SAC’s first visit to Mazatlán at the request of local officials to determine “why cruise ships were no longer stopping in Mazatlán.” Answer: It was determined that concerns about passenger safety had resulted in a significant decline in local tourism.
Along on that first trip was Dan Malcolm, Chairman of the Port of San Diego Board of Port Commissioners, among others; that visit included a tour of the city, its cruise ship terminal, and the public safety facilities of the Mazatlán Police Department.
“It was a delight to see how well the leadership of Mazatlán has renewed and revitalized this lovely city,” said Chairman Malcolm. “The beaches, restaurants and hotels were immaculate, and the Malecón had a lively atmosphere with artwork, fountains and palm trees. The Port of Mazatlán has all the facilities needed to serve cruise ships and visiting yachts. Most importantly, the people were friendly and welcoming.”
During the show, Franke declared, “This Port was poised to restore its status as a marine recreation and cruise ship destination. It’s clean, safe and customer friendly. We were especially impressed with the measures taken to enhance public safety and ensure that visitors to Mazatlán have a safe experience to remember.”
Looking back, SAC’s visit, along with the revitalization and other factors, marked the beginning of the increase in the number of cruise ships visiting the Mexican Riviera which continues today . . . a remarkable success story for SAC that has a direct impact on the economy here in San Diego.
A listener observed that since the giant yellowfin tuna fishery near Tres Marias Islands was about the same distance from Mazatlán as Puerto Vallarta, were any long-range boats offering multi-day trips from Mazatlán?
Captain Tim Ekstrom acknowledged that currently no, adding that he was considering the possibility; listeners should — “Stay tuned; more to come.”
Cevallos fielded a question about what kind of fishing was offered in and around Mazatlán. His reply, “Here at El Cid Marina Beach Hotel your fishing boat is just steps from your room. Where else is it possible to literally catch a billfish (or a few) offshore one day and go to a local lake a few hours away the following day and catch largemouth bass?”
Taking more calls from listeners Gray added that a trip aboard the “Liberty”, a SAC member boat, would be raffled off at the end of the show; this induced Acereto to offer a unique trip to Altata Sinaloa:
Four days at Altata Bay Club Nautico Hotel with two days of inshore and mangroves for snook, pargo, snappers, corvina and huachinango sponsored by Altata and Sinaloa Sportfishing Association.
Before going to break, Maxa encouraged the audience to visit SAC’s website http://www.californiasportfishing.org/commenting that it offered a selection of endorsed destinations, as well as a user-friendly list of the necessary Mexican permits needed by members, private boaters and anglers.
During the break, panel members and guests, along with spectators gathered in small clusters to passionately discuss some of the topics covered in the first hour.
Maxa began the second hour of the show by introducing Marco Antonio Garcia Castro, Secretary of Tourism for Sinaloa who had arrived after a long drive to join the discussion.
Garcia welcomed the entire team on behalf of Enrique Peña Nieto, Mexico’s President expressing both their appreciation for SAC’s efforts aimed at promoting the sport fishing of Sinaloa in California and the United States, adding that the city was looking forward to hosting Tianguis Turistico, Mexico’s Largest Tourism Conference next year in 2018, which will showcase Mazatlán’s vibrant nightlife and tourist attractions to the many attendees.
Then not to be outdone by Acereto and the trip his organization had donated to the raffle, Garcia offered one of his own for the Department of Sinaloa Tourism . . . a special trip for California listeners which would include a room at El Cid Marina Hotel, airfare and one day of fishing with the Aries Fleet to be raffled off at the end of the show.
Zamarripa provided a brief overview of SAC’s recent meetings with Conap officials and the Senate in Mexico City. She discussed the impact the newly-established “Pacific Islands Biosphere” had on U.S. sport fishing and private fishing boats, adding that SAC was waiting for written confirmation of the items discussed which they would share with the public.
Franke closed by promising that SAC members would continue to work with Mexican Government officials on behalf of private boat owners and anglers to facilitate the easiest permit process possible for the maximum number of people to have access over the next few months.
Signing off remotely, Pete Gray praised the amicability and the spirit of cooperation of both countries and their continuing efforts on behalf of all boaters traveling in Mexico.
Maxa is an old hand at chasing striped marlin which had been removed from his bucket list many times over and who’s personal best was a 206-pound whopper; Shackleton, however thought the trip would be on a panga (think center console) for snapper or smaller fish.
During the next hour, they sped toward the grounds. Part of the BDOUTDOOR team, she had learned plenty about billfish, editing Fly Navarro videos. When the first mate pulled out the bait, a mullet, she quickly began reeling off her “rigging mullet dredge teaser facts.” Maxa could barely control his laughter.
When the pattern was set . . . three mullet and three lures . . . the trolling began. After only 30 minutes, the first marlin appeared, whacking the lure lethargically before disappearing.
Back to trolling, trolling. Suddenly the line popped out of the port rigger as the reel howled like the familiar trademark sound heard at the beginning of the show.
From the second Shackleton started to reel, she decided that was the most active fish she had ever hooked. Looking back on the video that Maxa took, it was astonishing how high it leaped without throwing the hook. At the end of the 25-minute battle, she was out of breath and exhausted as well. Unfortunately, the 180-pound fish had swallowed the bait and was hooked in the stomach and was on its side; it couldn’t be revived. She decided to give it to the crew. In return, the captain and deckhand were gracious enough to award her the hook to commemorate her first billfish ever.
Later she summed up her day: “It was spectacular to experience the day that Rick and Ken had just described on the radio show.”
From the boat, the two headed to El Cid Spa where they received a massage, followed by dinner — the food was amazing, the company was amazing and being toured around the city of Mazatlán and experiencing the nightlife with Acereto was just the greatest way to end the weekend.
The radio show provides a marvelous opportunity to inform an enthusiastic audience on updated information about conditions, services offered, along with other developments, all invaluable tools to listeners considering a trip to the respective areas; the panels on the show with their chosen topics concerning the area, anglers and sport fishing that provides stimulus for influencing conversations which often lead to the exchange of ideas among local attendees, visitors and listeners that might ultimately lead to solutions.
Loreto is the next stop to be visited by the SAC team. To listen to the show and receive updated information on the interchange of ideas and developments between those who care about sport fishing in Baja and Southern California, dial in to Let’s Talk HookUp, Radio 1090 at 7:00 a.m. PST on Saturday June 3. Be sure to call in with your questions and opinions.