"Live a good life, and in the end, it's not the years in the life, it's the life in the years."

Loreto on the Baja of Mexico was more than expected

Snorkeling in the clear waters was another way to experience the fish-rich Sea of Cortez around Coronado Island.

By Dave Graybill

As an angler, it would be no surprise that the Sea of Cortez would attract my interest.

The Sea of Cortez is known as the richest body of water on the planet with over 900 species of fish. An incredible number of game fish world records have been set by anglers visiting this sea.

Several species of whales migrate through the sea and the whale shark — the largest fish in the world — is commonly sighted here.

Previously I made a short visit to Loreto, a town of 14,000 on the east shore of the sea. I wanted to investigate its potential as a destination for one of the fishing trips my wife Eileen and I host.

We have taken groups to Belize on two different occasions, and it appeared that Loreto would be a good choice for such an adventure. I was right.

I had selected La Mision Hotel for lodging and Sea and Land Ecotours to provide the guide service.

La Mision is across from the water and a very short walk to the marina, where we met our guides each morning that we went fishing. The hotel was also just a short walk to the scenic Historic District of Loreto, where we found excellent restaurants, shopping and the office of our guide service.

Everything was in place and on May 5, five people joined my wife and me for eight nights and seven days in Loreto.

Three days of fishing was part of what I had arranged for the group, and I had scheduled three boats, with two anglers and their guide, to fish every other day.

Some days were better than others in terms of fish caught, but each day on the water provided the anglers catches of fish they had never caught and sights they had never seen before.

Every day we encountered schools of dolphins rolling through the sea. Often heard before spotted were huge schools of manta rays, leaping out of the water. As many as three or four of them would be in the air at one time, and the loud clap they made as they hit the water could be heard from a long distance away.

There was a colony of sea lions at a point on Coronado Island that we approached to photograph and one day my fishing partner and I followed a cruising grey whale on the way home.

On our free days we would take the short walk to the scenic Historic District, where the trees created a shaded tunnel to the entrance to the large town square.

Here we could tour the Mission Museum, dine at one of the many excellent restaurants or find shops that offered all manner of goods, from locally-made pottery, jewelry or the usual t-shirts or other items. There were no vendors following us around offering hammocks or artifacts like so many towns on the mainland.

Brown pelicans are abundant in Loreto. They are seen flying in single file formation low over the water and often gather at the stern of our fishing boats, looking for a hand out or to snatch up our bait before it gets too deep.

One day, when Eileen and I were fishing, we noticed a fishing line dangling from the bill of one of the pelicans near our boat.

The guide saw it, too, and without a word to us began tossing hooked bait to the pelican. It took a couple of tries, but the bird finally took the bait into its pouch and the guide hauled it to the boat.

While I held the struggling bird the guide first clipped away the loose line and then was able to take the hook from its bill. We released the bird that immediately went back to trying to steal our bait.

On another occasion, our group and a couple we just met from Everett were lounging around the pool when a pelican landed right in the middle of it.

The hotel staff immediately came out and tried to get the bird out of the pool. They didn’t want it pooping in the water or threatening anyone with its intimidating, long bill.

We all laughed when the bird easily evaded everyone. Dave Swezey, from Everett jumped in the pool and tried splashing at the bird to get it up on the poolside. We thought if we could get it out of the pool we could chase it out through the lobby and the front door. No dice.

Finally, I ran over and grabbed it by the body, holding its wings tight to its sides, and one of the hotel staff held onto the bill. We hustled the pelican outside, across the street and released it on the waterfront. Whew!

One of our party, Fred Lillian, of Kirkland, and I decided to take an extra day of fishing. We each caught a large yellowtail and he got a big roosterfish, too.

While we were fishing most of the group traveled to the next bay south of Loreto, rented kayaks and had a spectacular day paddling among the rocks and watching schools of fish pass beneath their boats

On the final day of fishing, two of our party caught five yellowtails, while the rest of us met up at one of the white sand beaches on Coronado Island. Here we were provided with snorkeling gear to explore a nearby reef.

The anglers arrived triumphantly with their catch and provided one of their fish to be grilled, along with trigger fish ceviche, and other treats prepared by our guide service. This was a wonderful grand finale to our fishing and time on the water.

I am not sure exactly when, but I know I will return to Loreto. Most likely I will be there when the grey whales are calving and bring their young to the boats for a close look at people. It happens.

Dave Graybill, of Leavenworth, is the owner of FishingMagician.COM LLC. He provides regular reports on the sport fishing in Eastern Washington through radio reports, newspaper articles, videos and his web site: www.FishingMagician.com. He also is currently serving as a Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife commissioner.

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