As my 52nd year on this planet comes to a close, I have come to know and appreciate the value of sharing the art of fishing with those you are closest to. Such was a recent fly down trip to Cedros Island in Baja California, Mexico over the 4th of July week. To say that it was a trip to remember doesn’t begin to tell the whole story.
In July of 2018, Rosie Flowers of Cedros Sportfishing (formerly Cedros Adventures) and I got together and decided that we would promote a 6-day trip to their lodge on Cedros Island the following year. The dates were selected (July 3 – July 8, 2019) and preparations began. For the better part of a year we worked to fill the 12 available spots. Prime fishing dates, a trip limited to 12 passengers, on a storied island where big yellowtail (Jurel) and trophy sized calico bass are the primary targets…it could only lead to great stories and memories to last a lifetime. As part of this unique trip, I provided everyone with a 310Rodworks custom built United Composites USA swimbait rod. This rod was a token of appreciation to each angler for participating.
Over the course of the following year, the guest list ebbed and flowed. People were added. People were dropped. In the end, Rosie settled on a list of 12 passengers, including myself. That list was made up of three father/son duos, and three pairs of friends who have been fishing along-side one another for years. It was this combination of families and friends that created an environment for some of the very best and most meaningful experiences.
Rosie Flowers leads an amazing operation known as Cedros Sportfishing. The system that she has developed over the last few years has streamlined the process of not only getting to the island but also back home. She has mastered the art of getting through the Cross Border Express (CBX) in Otay Mesa, California to the Tijuana Airport and back, at the end of the trip. What this means to someone travelling to Cedros is that the travel time has been literally cut in half. Now, anglers are routinely arriving on the island around noon. With the second half of the day to burn, the option exists to take the pangas out the first afternoon for a few hours of fishing. In the several trips I personally have taken down to the island, we have never come close to having the option to fish the first day. This was indeed a welcomed change.
So the first afternoon was spent throwing surface iron at massive schools of giant bonito! We’re talking an honest 8 to 12lb average. Not only are they voracious eaters, but they are not shy about grabbing on to a surface jig and peeling line off your reel! We caught so many I couldn’t even tell you an exact number. It was tons of fun for our first afternoon. A few of us even got to sample the yellowtail and bass populations in that short first run. In all, that initial time on the water gave all of us a chance to shake off some of the rust that built up on our fishing skills and prepared us for what was to come the following morning.
My travel/fishing partner Kevin Inouye of Torrance joined me on this trip. This was his first experience at Cedros and he was excited to join the ranks of the thousands if not millions of jig slingers of Southern California. You see, prior to this trip, he had never thrown the surface iron (light jigs) at anything let alone world class yellows and bass. You may recall an article written up about a trip to Puerto Vallarta in 2018 where Kevin, again as a first time-er, put on a show of his angling skill and keenly hooked and landed 4 giant yellowfin tuna on that trip. Kevin will be the first to tell you that he is not a widely experienced angler, but he always seems to have the talent or ability to get the right bites at the right time. My hats off to Kevin for his humble nature and his willingness to try new things. He again showed the fish who the boss was. He took a blue and white Killer Jig EX-7 and promptly hooked and landed a number of yellowtail from the high teens to the low 30’s. Not only did he make the right adjustments to this retrieve, he changed his reel as well as rod until he found a combination that he was able to make the right distance casts as well as retrieve the jig at the proper tempo to entice the fish to bite. He had a fantastic trip.
Javier Mata with his super panga is the largest panga on the island. It has easily enough space to fish 4 anglers. On his boat were two father/son duos the Kinshofers and the Ghareebs. Pat and his son George Kinshofer were joined by their lifelong friends, Mike Ghareeb and his son Alec Ghareeb. Both Pat and Mike are well seasoned anglers in their own right. Why wouldn’t they be…they grew up with Rosie Flowers from all the way back in their high school days. Of course they had the skills to catch a few nice fish. But talent was not only with the dads but with their sons as well. Over the course of the trip, in spite of there being slightly adverse weather conditions, Alec could be seen up on the bow deck throwing jigs at the boils. He is a complete waterman and has incredible balance and dexterity. He caught a lot of fish over the course of the 4 ½ days we were on the water! And now…we have to discuss a very special young man George. He is all of 19 years old. He is an incredible athlete. He plays numerous ball sports, he is amazingly fast on his feet, and he has unmatched hand eye coordination. George found himself tied into, what would end up being the big fish of the trip, a 38lb yellowtail, that was hooked on a jig,
fishing on the United Composites USA swimbait rod. He played the fish, made rounds a
round the boat, patiently waiting his opportunity to put pressure on the fish and finally coax it to within range of Javier’s gaff. He did all of this in spite of the fact that he was born with just one hand. He is no stranger to making things work. He did it throughout his baseball career. He has always made adjustments. But he has never asked to be treated any differently nor has he asked for accommodations. He simply and completely just loves to fish…and he does it well.
Another father and son duo, Ken Frisbee and his son Alex were paired with pangero Mario. Ken and Alex did damage on the yellowtail population. They caught them using nearly every technique available. Slow trolled mackerel, flylined mackerel, surface jigs, and yoyo jigs. Although he didn’t score a yellowtail on it, Alex even deployed the fly rod. You’ll be happy to know that his efforts with the fly rod were rewarded with a number of bass and smaller fish before the trip was done. Ken, a long-time resident of San Diego was of course equipped with the fundamental skills to catch what we were fishing for. He was never shy about pulling on fish. Like many of us he had to sort through the many bonito hooked to finally find a yellowtail. And find them he did. Just as so many of us have our back stories to every adventure, Ken and Alex had theirs. Just a few days before our adventure began, Alex, who lives in Colorado, was in a horrific accident that sent his truck tumbling across the highway. Even in spite of the injuries he sustained, and a very sore back, he was determined to make the trip and join us for some world class fishing. Not only did he have a good time, but he definitely showed us a thing or two about courage and tenacity. Alex…we hope you’re feeling better.
Our seasoned Cedros veterans filled out the last two pangas of our trip.
First there was the pairing of David Bandy and Tim Boal. The two of them have fished at Cedros three previous times. They have consistently faced challenging conditions. Truth be told, they may not have even joined us for this trip but they wanted to give it another try. What convinced them was the change to flying in and out of Tijuana Airport, and the new operation that has been headed up by Rosie and her team. With both David and Tim having experienced the fishery numerous times in the past, they knew what to expect. They had their tackle prepped in advance and everything was in place for them to knock it out of the park. Not only did their catches include some impressive yellowtail but they also found the time and with the help of their pangero Martin, they found some of the resident island flat fish. The trip continued to add to their memories of this island. It is easy to understand that once you have a taste of the fishery of Cedros, you’ll want to go back over and over.
Finally, Keith Shibata and Ryan June returned to the Island with our group after not having been back in nearly 10 years. Keith and Ryan are seasoned anglers with a tremendous amount of long range experience. They have spent the better part of their time away from Cedros riding on boats like the Shogun, the Intrepid, and the Royal Polaris. Keith and Ryan fished with legendary pangero Eulalio (Lalo) Mata. He is probably one of the most experienced captains on the island. He consistently put Keith and Ryan on the fish. Although the weather didn’t permit Ryan to get into much action on his fly rod, all other methods employed were producing results.
Our fishing adventure was topped off by the amazing crew at the lodge. Richard is THE MAN in-charge of everything from morning until night. He takes care of the needs of the people. He is backed up by the ladies in the kitchen who prepped not only our on-land meals but the lunches that are packed fresh daily for our trip out on the water. We were met by appetizers every afternoon that you just couldn’t pass up, and our sit down dinners were better than some restaurants that you might frequent here in the U.S. The house crew took care of laundering our clothes on a daily basis, keeping everything spotless, and keeping our accommodations clean and pleasant. The fish cleaning crew made quick work of our daily catch that was brought back to be packed to send home. Finally, the team that gets all the gear to and from the boats. Each morning and every afternoon the gear is hauled down to the pangas. A team of 4 to 6 men handle loading and unloading of the gear. Once it returns to the lodge, it is then rinsed of the salt residue and wiped clean to be made ready for the following day. The care and consideration for the tackle that each angler brings with them is unbelievable. We have to thank Richard and his crew for making the trip amazing.
Upon return to the Tijuana airport, we were greeted by porters who took responsibility for getting our belongings including our gear, luggage, and fish back to the CBX. It was such a simple process. It took nearly no time at all. In fact, through the customs and border crossing clearance, we completed the process in less than 20 minutes total. It was absolutely astounding how simple and fast we got back to the U.S. side and on our way home. If you’ve had any concerns or reservations about joining Rosie and her crew for a trip to Cedros, I am here to tell you that it has never been better. In fact, I consider myself lucky to have taken another trip down there with the crew of Cedros Sportfishing. They’ve shown me how easy it can be to travel to an amazing destination, catch fish with reckless abandon, and make memories that will last not only a lifetime but for generations. Fathers, Sons, and Friends can all participate in these trips and learn to connect over something we all love…FISHING.