Tuesday, August 6, 2013
A foot for Jesus
|Greg had accomplished his dream of not only catching his first striped marlin, but catching the largest fish he had ever caught as well.|
Around Christmas two years ago, I wrote an article about a very special Christmas gift, the fulfilling of an impossible dream of my friend and retired Los Barriles sportfishing Captain, Jesus Araiza, who had lost his right foot below the knee through his battle with diabetes, "Baja's Feliz Navidad spirit sparkles." To refresh your memory here is the link to that column: http://www.wonews.com/Blog.aspx?id=1565
Through the kindness and efforts of many good Samaritans, Jesus was fitted for a special prosthesis and began adjusting to the new apparatus. One of those involved in a major way was Greg Birkholz, Arroyo Grande, California, who arranged to have not one, but two "Renegade" feet manufactured by Freedom Innovations, (http://www.freedom-innovations.com/) and donated to Araiza.In early 2001 Greg, himself, was riding his new, big Harley Davidson when it traveled across a center line and collided with an oncoming truck.
“I lost the below-the-knee portion of my left leg requiring me to be fitted with a prosthesis with a "Renegade" foot that I've worn ever since. Also, every limb in my body has some metal in it," he sighed sheepishly.
Birkholz is an avid sportfisherman in central California and upon hearing of Araiza’s reputation as one of the finest Captains at East Cape, Birkholz expressed an interest in he and Jesus fishing together in Baja.
I immediately began organizing the trip and contacted Axel Valdez, Sales and Marketing Director, Buena Vista Beach Resort, who without hesitation, agreed to provide Birkholz and his wife, Lindy, with a week’s stay plus a day’s fishing aboard one of the hotel's cruisers.
Always following up on details, I visited Jesus at his home two weeks prior to the planned trip.
Everything was on schedule.
The Birkholz's arrived earlier this month on their very first trip to Baja and I flew down the same day. However, after arriving, I called to confirm the fishing trip the following day and the tone of Jesus’ voice told me all I needed to know.
“Oh, my friend,” he began, "I have a problem with the prosthesis and think I better be 'a lotta be careful' and stay home."
Of course I was disappointed at the news and knew that Birkholz would be. It was impossible for me to visit him that night but I was anxious to find out what the problem was.
I met the Birkholz’s and left them enjoying their dinner on the porch under a star-filled sky on a pleasant Baja night…a perfect beginning.
Although we were all disappointed that Araiza was absent, Felipe Valdez, Manager of HBVBR had reserved "Tres Hermanos" for the following morning and we headed out toward the rising Baja sun. The weather was perfect. Trolling, we spotted a few striped marlin but none took the bait. Greg's excitement heightened with each spotting. Then suddenly we were in the midst of a large school of cavorting porpoise and among them we could see yellowfin tuna chasing flying fish. But as more and more boats arrived at the melee, the tuna fled, frightened by the crowd. And still no bites for Greg.
Then suddenly the deckhand, Theodoro -- ironically a grandson of Araiza's -- spotted the unmistakable sickle-shaped tail of a striped marlin pursuing the bubbling bright-colored lure in our wake. As fast as you could say ballyhoo, one was slipped back alongside the lure. The marlin snatched the bait and turned away from the boat as Greg placed the rod butt in his butt-plate and plopped down in the fighting chair.
The tug-of-war went on for more than an hour as Greg slowly gained line, only to lose it back to the fish. Finally at one hour and seven minutes, Greg had his fish at the side of the boat and after taking a few photos, the fish was released. Greg had accomplished his dream of not only catching his first striped marlin, but catching the largest fish he had ever caught as well.
During the rest of his stay he caught dorado, explored East Cape on an ATV with Lindy, and visited Jesus. He discovered that Jesus's prosthesis was too large and a new smaller one would have to be designed.
So more good Samaritans were recruited and old ones revisited. Larry Cooper, http://www.bajaenterprises.com/, a longtime Los Barriles’ resident who is in a wheelchair loaned a spare to Jesus. Charlene Wenger, RN, owner of the newly opened East Cape Health Center,
http://eastcapemedical.com/how_we_got_started volunteered her staff including Dr. Enrique Toledo Rodriquez and his assistant, Viggo Ross, to create a mold for the new device. Paul Boe, who has been involved from the beginning, will travel to La Paz in late August to meet with Jesus and correct the problem.
So what began as a special Christmas gift given by countless friends and strangers to a fishing captain who has spent 63 of his 77 years fishing in a small Baja village, has continued ‘paying it forward’, and a trip for one of the givers, Greg Birkholz, evolved into a continuing good Samaritan adventure for both old and new volunteers who graciously continue to donate their time and talents to help others. This is the best of the best!
Wednesday, September 26, 2012
Minerva’s response was immediate. "No problem, honey, I'll be there," she replied in her usual cheerful fashion.
Some International Game Fish Association (IGFA) World Records are kinda’ by accident and even taken for granted, especially the first one. But, there are those who catch record fever after accidently catching that first one…and for others, it simply becomes a lifelong pursuit. And for many others, they become World Record “chasers” the moment they become IGFA members.
The process itself seems to be very straight forward. Catch a contender, weigh it, measure it, photograph it, fill out the required forms and submit them to IGFA…with many individuals involved in the procedure.
For the past twenty years, I have had the honor of serving as an IGFA Representative-at-Large in Baja, one of approximately 300 men and women in 90 countries who act as ambassadors of IGFA - a liaison between the angling interests in their areas across the globe and IGFA Headquarters in the United States.
Guy Yocom's impressive catch aboard his boat El Suertudo last week was an example of what occurs after the catch, both behind the scenes and surrounding the event.
On Tuesday at 2:04 p.m., Captain Billy Miagawa, Jr. notified me that Greg Di Stefano, Captain of the El Suertudo, had reported that he was headed for Cabo San Lucas to weigh in a large yellowfin tuna caught on IGFA regulation tackle with an ETA some time Wednesday morning.
Coincidently, I had been on-hand for the last yellowfin all-tackle IGFA world record weigh-in when Mike Livingston's 405.2 was weighed in at San Diego, Calif., ultimately defeating a record that had stood for 33 years. I briefly considered flying down for the weigh-in, but airline schedules eliminated that option.
Instead, I alerted Michael Farrior, IGFA Trustee here in the U.S. and contacted Minerva Saenz, a long-time IGFA Representative and owner and operator of Minerva's Baja Tackle and Sportfishing Charters in Cabo San Lucas informing both of the impending arrival of the potential world record aboard El Suertudo.
Minerva’s response was immediate. "No problem, honey, I'll be there," she replied in her usual cheerful fashion. "I will not only arrange for a local photographer and make sure he takes all the photos needed, but I will also assist them with the application form and measurements."
Since the yellowfin tuna had been caught with a Mustad hook there was a possibility that the catch might be eligible for the $1,000,000 prize offered by Mustad. Our next step was to notify Jeff Pierce, Mustad's sales manager.
By Wednesday morning, when the behemoth fish was brought to the scale, the rumors flying around the Marina became a reality. Clearly the word was out and a large crowd gathered with Minerva and photographer, Mario Bañaga, Jr. Minerva supervised the weigh-in and assisted with paperwork while Mario took the photos.
With the IGFA world record on the line, Captain Greg Di Stefano confirmed that prior to the trip they had been in contact with Jack Vitek, IGFA World Records’ Coordinator, sending him samples of line that would be used during the trip for testing. For that same reason it was decided to weigh the fish with two different scales and then deliver them to Giesela Muccillo at International Weighing Systems in San Diego for testing. Giesela indicated that the testing would be complete sometime during the week of the 24th when the weight would be confirmed.
Meanwhile photos of the fish taken with cell phone cameras began appearing across the Internet. One of the first places one appeared with a brief description was Brandon Hayward's blog on WON.com, followed immediately by others on Facebook…all with a slightly different versions.
Boat Captain, angler and crew were barraged by individuals on the dock, as well as by telephone, with questions seeking information that could be reported. By nightfall a Google search yielded 67 listings about the catch.
Once the paperwork is completed it will then be delivered to IGFA for review by Jack Vitek, who states: "For record approval, we have to wait a minimum of 90 days from the catch date for international claims. That being said, by the time the application is in our hands…it takes approximately 2 to 3 months, depending on the travel schedule of the President and Conservation Director as they also review the applications.”
According to Vitek there are approximately 750 IGFA World Record applications processed a year, requiring a remarkable amount of effort of what could be considered a village of IGFA staff, volunteers and many others who become involved for one reason or another ensuring that each and every World Record application is evaluated and judged fairly.
Thursday, September 13, 2012
However, when they occur, one expected bonus is all of the debris that has been washed out of the arroyos into the Sea of Cortez.
Although they created some unwanted flooding, the recent torrential rains were a welcome relief to locals from the drought-like conditions that have persisted in Baja Sur for several years. Some of the negative effects of the downpours, however, were a few lost fishing days for both resident and visiting anglers and some unhappy tourists. What went unnoticed by many were the possibilities created by the racing runoff that flowed out to sea along the beaches, creating deep cuts that became shelter for bait of every description and very fishable after a few days.
In addition to sheltering the bait, another bonus is the debris built up over years in the arroyos that is washed out into the Sea of Cortez. This trash and flotsam provide excellent cover for plankton, bringing a variety of bait fish that attracts everything from “schoolie” dorado to billfish. It's not unusual to see boats racing from pile to pile, similar to their Southern California neighbors doing the “kelp patty scramble” . . . a popular and exciting way to find fish.
In the 1970s, within a few weeks after a big rain, my friend Tom Miller, Western Outdoor News' Baja Editor, described a wild scene of pargo, pompano, roosterfish, jacks, sierra and even dorado piled up in a feeding frenzy around one arroyo.
Being in the right place at the right time, anglers may witness epic feeding frenzies not unlike those experienced at a potluck dinner or a tailgate party. Big fish, little fish – all hardly selective – slash and snap at anything that moves, suckers for anything offered . . . dead or live bait, spoons, topwater poppers or even flies.
This phenomenon attracts a cast of characters including locals and visiting anglers alike – garbed in everything from barefoot and shorts to official name-brand fly clothing, full dress wading gear right down to the boots.
One of the most fascinating elements of the beach action is the mix of tackle and techniques used by anglers all fishing in the same stretch of beach: catching fish with handlines wrapped around a beer can; conventional bait casting gear; spinning gear with rods twice the height of the angler flinging spoons and poppers easily the length of a football field into the Sea and frantically retrieving them, while their fly-flinging counterparts wade out in chest high water to reach the zone.
This exhibition allows anyone interested to compare the various tackle and techniques and how they perform under similar conditions . . . the different live and dead bait along with the various types of spoons and surface poppers that produce the best results. It’s all here: The advantages of spinning or conventional tackle; and for fly-fishers, the rod and reel choices, as well as choices of lines including floating, intermediate and sinking.
It’s sort of what might be considered an impromptu clinic on how to fish Baja Beaches with a variety of different tackle by those who do it often! It’s all available by simply showing up and paying attention.
This year's rainy season has already produced plenty of success stories including jacks, roosters and pargo on spinning tackle near the tip; snook on bait at San Jose; pompano on surface poppers at Punta Arena; and small bonefish on flies at Las Arenas. It all Indicates that in addition to the improving offshore fishing, the feeding frenzy fraternity is on the way to a great late summer and fall.