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Sign of the Zodiac
Peter Kohlsaat
Wednesday, March 19, 1997

Bahia Los Frailes, Mexico --

Merle caught a 65 pound amberjack. Fought it for an hour. She said her arms were sore for the whole
"The line begins to disappear from my reel. And then all is tranquil once again. My leader, lure, gone. Silence. The gentle bobbing of the boat. The barking of the seals. It was the Wahoo. Down there with three lures hanging from its greedy wahoo lips. I coulda had it"
next week. She also has a tale about hooking a manta ray. She tells how it would come to the surface and it would "fly" back down to the bottom. Come to the surface. Fly to the bottom. She will tell you the best part of a dorado is the piece of meat that is found on top of the head.

Last night Merle celebrated her 75th birthday. She and her husband, Roy, have been camping all over the Baja for the last decade and claim Bahia Los Frailes has no comparisons. It is the best. A small inlet in the Sea of Cortez offering protection from the prevailing north winds. The ancient granite outcropping, Cabo Los Frailes lies to the north and is the home to a colony of a couple dozen barking, basking, frolicking sea lions. An unbroken line of beach stretching for 20 plus miles lies to the south.

The underwater Los Frailes Canyon comes right into the bay and at five miles out is reported to be over 5000 feet deep. All this and
excellent fishing. Merle and Roy take on the great sea in a tiny 14-foot aluminum boat and a 7.5 horse Evinrude. About five miles out, where Cabo Los Frailes intersects the line created by a blue mountain appearing between two other mountains, they tell me there is a sea mount. Merle talks about the huge cabrilla to be found there, placing her hand at mid-chest level indicating how big.

Yesterday they caught six sierra and two small cabrilla. I caught nada. Of course, by now, my fishing lure arsenal is greatly reduced. I’m sure if I had the proper lure, I too would be filling my boat up with fish.

My boat? That’s right. I have a boat. And is there a more cherished relationship than that of a man and his boat? (A boy and his dog come to mind.) I have available to me for the month of April a 13-foot inflatable Zodiac with a vintage mid-60’s 18-horse Evinrude. The Baja has just gotten bigger. I now no longer have to content myself with scampering over treacherous, mossy, barnacle-encrusted, crab-infested rocks to fish for my fish. Dive spots that I could only salivate over are now a quick 20 minute skip across the water. I now have access to dorado, tuna, roosterfish, big groupers, wahoo, and marlin. I have visions of 10 pound lobsters. Life just keeps getting better.

Over a late-night cup of coffee around the fire Roy told me of the two fish that they hooked earlier that morning. Big. Strong. Had the rod bent over double for about 10 seconds, the line effortlessly screaming off the reel. Took the metal leader, the lure, everything, leaving nothing but empty line. Talked about maybe a rogue wahoo in the area. Told me about the guy who two weeks ago brought in a 90 pound wahoo from right out here in the bay. "That’s getting world-class on 20 pound-test line," he tells me. Huh.

Next morning, up early, the only light being that coming from Merle and Roy’s campfire. The comet is blazing in the northeast, hovering a few degrees over the cape. Merle and Roy launch their boat, rolling it methodically over the sand on what appears to be soft, cylindrical boat bumpers, into the gentle swells, into the bay. I roll my boat onto the beach using drop-down wheels attached to the stern. Motor coughs to life, begins to purr, and I follow Merle and Roy. Our boats are criss-crossing, zooming around the rocky cape. We pass close together. Roy holds up four fingers. I make the OK sign with my thumb and fore finger. (It’s a zero, but it’s ambiguous.)

Directly out from the center of the cape, in front of the lazy, tourist-friendly seals, my line goes tight. The nine-foot shore-casting rod bends until I am sure it is going to snap. The line begins to disappear from my reel. And then all is tranquil once again. My leader, lure, gone. Silence. The gentle bobbing of the boat. The barking of the seals. It was the Wahoo. Down there with three lures hanging from its greedy wahoo lips. I coulda had it. I coulda brought in the fish that Merle and Roy couldn’ta. My fish coulda been one of Merle’s tales. The sun was high in the sky now, the prime fishing over for the day. I restarted the motor, made a couple more loops and headed back. Still, I couldn’t wait to tell Merle and Roy about it.

The website of cartoonist Peter Kohlsaat
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