Wednesday, January 30, 2013


You can always tell the grizzled veteran from the neophyte in this surf casting game. The guy that's wrangled his share of pelicanos always looks left, looks right and then casts. It seems like the pelicans fly south in the morning and north in the evening, they're close to the water as they  get a lift from the wind off the waves while they're hunting food. And if you've never seen them fish, these babies work for a living, they go in head first and come up gulping. So when they fly by, you look, if the cast is alright but they're headed for your retrieve you drop the tip, kinda 'bow' to them and hope for the best.

But sometimes the toro's get  the bait fish trapped against the shoreline and the bite is on, the pelicans are collecting little fish and we're collecting the fish that are after their fish. Pretty sporty, it takes a good judgement and a kind of side armed low trajectory cast when they're this thick....but you're still gonna have to wrangle a pelicano or two if you want your 6 dollar lure back and collect some toro.
So this is a pic of Ernie who  owns more Krocodile lures than anyone in Mazatlan....great guy, expert fisherman and Team X's designated pelican wrangler. He's been snapped at enough times to know they can't hurt him...well not to bad that is,and once he gets hold of one he has the delicate touch of a surgeon. And Erns a little on the frugal side so no matter how unpleasant the task he always recovers the goods.
I've often wanted to get pics of Ern wrangling the pelicano (or Christmas turkey as Slah would say) but I haven't had courage enough to get the camera out during the procedure. He might just take the pliers after me.  I'm supposed to help with all 'shamoozles'. So out of respect for my friend I've passed up the opportunity to show you a man and his trade...but yesterday I got the next best thing. Expert wranglers who didn't need, or for that matter even want my help and a perfect pelicano/lure retrieval, text book.
First thing ya gotta do is get him out of the water. This is best done by hand as the true veteran wrangler would never put so much stress on his 200 dollar reel or his 300 dollar rod. Although I did have John Shively who was Alaska's DNR Commissioner at the time tell me that fighting a seagull in mid-air was kinda fun....a real highlight of my guiding career....but that's another story. 
 Then ya gotta get hold of them. This guy is a wing man and Ern sometimes goes for the throat. I know it looks bad but trust me, like most things in nature these guys are durable...and there's lots of fact in Alaska they'd call it over escapement, ya just can't let nature run wild ya know.
These guys use the subdue method. If you cover his eyes he settles down for the surgery. Ern, he prefers the faster and less invasive freehand-bulldog procedure. In any case the ol pelicano is just fine, off on the hunt again and our fisherman friends haven't lost a dime.
So that's a primer on pelican wrangling.  Notice he's flying just fine.  The end result is no casualties (well except for the toro of course) and our fishing friends are headed home with some good protein for their families.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

There's hand holders and then there's hand holders..

I guess its my lot in life to be haunted by gill nets. I really do try to remember that everbody's got to live but this morning I was feeling the qwan at sun up when this guy laid his net out front. Yikes, it was so close that Ern lost a 6 dollar Kroc and experience has taught me this...don't fish behind a gill net, won't work. So we just watched him haul in some toro's and a couple nice Robalo. Ern went home and me and MP were off on a hand holder.
I actually think I invented that term 'hand holder' which is a... well you guys all know or should know. Its part of my mantra 'happy wife, happy life' but ya know, I think maybe I need them more than MP does. So we get a ride with our friends down to north beach to watch the fisherman come in. We've done it lots and you've seen it lots but there's always something new, life is like that. So, any of you that have known me for 40 years ought to know why I took this pic,  remind you of anything ? Ahhhh, maybe the  foundation of what became 'Jeff King's Budget Charters'.
Our plan is to go have breakfast at the mercado and I just love to walk Zaragosa Street, its an important retail area. But today we decide to short cut through a funky little neighborhood I spot, up a steep sidewalk with no roads. The couple of blocks had a cool common area where a street would be in any other part of the city. The houses were mostly well kept and as we wandered people said good morning. Then it closed up into a small walkway and we were back in the city...a town within a city, how cool. You'll get the flavor of it all by the 3 pics in a row.
We make a little side trip to the Saturday organic market at Zaragosa square. Its only 9 am when I took these pics buts its already warm and promises to get to the mid 80's today, unusually warm to match the unusual storm we had a week ago. MP's got something stuck in her shoe, a semi flat tire. Problem solved.
And of course here in Mazatlan we have music everywhere, all the time. Sometimes more than one source at time if you know what I mean. I like to play it, I like to hear it,I like to watch it and these guys were great, a little jazzy morning riff to stimulate the shopping public.
I spotted something I had never seen before. Beautiful flowers that aren't all delicate and light like the usual Fred Meyer bouquets. These guys were meaty, more like a vine and of course MP new exactly what they were (which impressed me)...Bird of Paradise.
We get to the market and we're only 4,000 steps into the day. We've eaten here many a time, its only the 1st time that makes you wonder, trust me, its great. All the restaurants are on the second floor, we always eat outside, ours is the one on the left hand corner of the building in this pic. As you can see the downstairs shops and stalls are just opening up. Its 10 am and Mazatlan is almost awake.
For me the attraction is authenticity and of course a good deal comes with that in Mexico. Here's a pic of the breakfast menu. In most of the Gold Zone places you can get breakfast for 50 to 70 peso's, MP and I both have Huevos Rancheros.
I learned something...again. Lately  we got to knowing that if you want to avoid getting an Orange Crush soda when you order 'naranga' you need to add the word 'jugo' or 'fresca'. When I ordered my milk I should have said 'leche freo' or even 'fresca' because what I got was a steaming hot cup of milk with instant coffee and sugar that you see everywhere. In the dias, Mazatlan runs on instant coffee, in the noches it runs on Pacifico . The coffee and milk was actually really good. But, between it and the semi spicy ranchero sauce, old Jethro was smoking pretty good by the end of the meal, my first sweat of the day. Excellent.
After breakfast a young couple was happy to take our pics and we reciprocated by taking theirs. MP's haircut still looks good doesn't it?
She's been on the hunt for just the right pair of flip flops. Around here you can get the 'tourist' kind that are usually rubber and say 'Abercrombie Fitch' on them or you can canvass the block after blocks of shoe stores. MP likes her shoes so even though she's got many, I find it kinda cute. I guess for her the shoes are like fishing rods to me, you can't have to many. So this trip we found the right ones at the Hermanos store. Its kinda weird. All the shoes are displayed in the windows, none are inside. So you tell the gal the number or numbers of the ones that interest you and she brings out the right side flip flop. She's courteous, professional and pretty darn easy on the eyes.
Then its down to the shrimp ladies. All the different vendors have basically the same product, just different prices. We've found the key to  it is to buy from the one who has the most ice, very important. So after walking and talking and I even sample a little raw shrimp for freshness we settle on a stall and buy a kilo of headed mediums for peel and eat then 1/2 kilo of super large with head on for the barbie. 200 pesos for it all, about 17 bucks.
Another few blocks away is an entire block of flower shops. You can smell it as you walk up and its a beehive of activity. I  watched the movie ' The Godfather' many a time so I know exactly what this thing is. If you were to leave the planet here in ol Mazatlan you could have a pretty darn cool farewell.
After looking at all the different shops we settle on one. Its not hard to spot a gringo so as often happens here the folks send the kid out who's been paying attention in school and we're waited on by the coolest guy with excellent language skills. I get his card, we'll come back when this bunch here is done cheering up the house at LaMarina.
We're only a few blocks now from the malecon and the bus back but I manage to find a street we've never been on before. Now I know what I'm doing on the next overcast day. Forget the casino, we're going to hustle some pool just like the old days. My friend Curt Syness would love this place, open air, plenty of tables and you can hear the surf crashing...
So now its 11 am and we're sitting next to Mazatlan's new water park waiting for the bus. We've had breakfast, we've walked our 10,000 steps, we've got more shoes and shrimp, I got to play Louie Louie on a guys guitar at the market and well....I'm just about as happy as this kid running through the sprinkler. We're the same, just a little older, same but different.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

The Love Boat

That's no Roosterfish that Tony caught but when it comes to putting up a knarly fight that fish there is about as close as you can get. Its a Jack Crevalle, Toro in Mazatlan and its actually a cousin to my favorite fish, the Guyo. This guy here is about as big a one as I've ever seen, I think they come bigger but I'd almost hate to hook one, its kinda like landing a 100 pound Halibut....ya only need to to that once a day at our age. Man, did that fish fight...

Here's a pic of our good friend Tony Mercuro in his boat. Tone is a marlin and tuna chaser but today we wanted to get our wives out, stay close to shore and don't fish so hard that we make anybody mad, civilised ya know. So on a bluebird day, waves at -2 inches me and MP and Tony and Connie head out. Connie has a nice fish on in the pic below. I wish I had gotten a picture of all of us together but I was, ah, well kinda busy...I'll get to that in a bit.

This was the 1st time in a few years I've gone out in a boat. Its not that I dislike it, its just that I've spent 1/2 of my entire life in a boat and when I found the surf casting I was hooked big time. And I have to admit that when I go with someone else who is in command of the boat it drives me nuts. Everybody does things differently, I know that, but I just can't let go of what and how I'd do it...but today, no worries, no stress....its just fun...its the love boat . Right off the bat I was glad I came. As we cruised out after sunrise I flashed to my childhood, being mesmerised by the boat wake, its that feeling again for me. Then the light bouncing of the buildings in the distance and the feeling of anticipation for what might happen, or even what might not happen. The joy of the pursuit, the unknowns of it all.
Our plan was to go to a place Tony knows and get live mullet with sabichi rigs and then go after roosterfish with them...Well, the first victim in every battle is always the battle plan. We couldn't make our bait so we decided to do some bottom fishing with shrimp, no worries. You know you're in the right place when you're fishing next to guys like this.
So MP catches a fairly nice Pompano and then the strangest looking trigger fish I've ever seen and I get a pompano as well. But, because we were going to troll we don't have an anchor and as we drift over the structure we're hanging up a lot, really a lot.
I'm about as busy as I can be retying double hook set ups and Tony's finding hooks and weights and we're trying to keep the gals fishing. At one time we lost all 3 at once, yikes. So when Connie said she was tired of bottom fishing nobody argued, we were off on plan 'C'.

Not so far off the port beam Tony spots birds feeding, that's fish for sure. As we get close we see fish splashing and chasing, sardines are jumping out of the water to escape them . At first the fish were so aggressive that I thought they might be roosters but I suspected they were toro's. We put down 2 deep diving rapala's and set the wasn't long and the rod went off hard and MP had a 10 minute tussle...gorgeous fish.
I've seen a few bait balls in my life, but this one was a doozy. As we got close there were so many toro's that their predominant yellow color had the entire surface shimmering, a golden moving mass of fish. Maybe you can click to enlarge this pic and see them better. Just incredible is the only way to describe that sight to a fisherman's eyes.
MP just described these fish as 'sturdy'. A few years back my friend Craig Kokeman called them 'noble'. They're certainly all of that, they really pull and I mean pull. I've heard the rooster called the 'minute a pound fish' as that's how long they take to land, likewise for cousin toro. Here's a pic of me doing the boat side wrangling. We caught enough for everybody to get some cardio in then headed in shore for one last troll hoping to get a corvina. We didn't. It was home at 2:00 with enough bottom fish for supper. A great day fishing with the people we love . MP summed it up pretty darn good " beats sitting around the terrace reading". So thanks Connie and MP, we'll do it again.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Big News

You know you're leading a simple life when the big news is shells on the beach. Up until today the beach has been vacant of them depriving the beach culture of one of its most important connections. So this morning I said 'yahtzee', being the 1st on the beach every morning I spot them and instead of fishing for 3 hours like usual I go in and let MP know...great guy huh?. So Team X's sea shell division is hard at work, but of course I kinda high grade through the biggest piles first and I guess I just missed this huge Cowrie MP found, her biggest ever.
There's just something about kicking around in the sand that makes you young. I'm convinced that when you get that feeling like I had this morning its not that you feel young, you are young, it works, its a time machine. So me and MP compare notes and as I head to an untouched shell pile she tells me ..."hey, aren't you supposed to be fishing?"
I hate to admit it but seeings as we've taken pounds of shells back to Alaska we've been kind of turned into sea shell snobs (say that 3 times real fast), MP just wants the good ones...and of course beach glass is still the gold standard of shell hunters. So here's a pic of some goodies. A huge Cowrie, a big ole something or other, a nataulis, the cutest little scallop I've ever seen, a bean and a Pacifico bottle top. And oh, the blue shell is something we've never seen, its a puzzle. MP pretty much poo poo'd my bottle top, she says its not done yet but the way my mind works it makes up for being a bit on the rare side by being intact, entero.
If any of you think I'm just laying around and not providing for my family in the way they're accustomed I printed the next pic. Yup, that's me with an eater. I've been stock piling some fish so we can have several couples over for a fish fry and tonight's the night, I'll betchya I even get a song or two in, captive audience don't ya know...who's going to tell ya to shut that guitar up in your own place eh?.
The storm has finally blown out so last night was the 1st time in 5 or 6 days it wasn't to windy for sunset. We were on our way to a new restaurant, Mr. Lobster (which was fantastic, great langosta) and I snapped a couple pics. MP just had a look to her, pretty girl, pretty sunset. Thank ya god.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

@ The Juarez Market

We're in the midst of a pretty good run of cruddy weather. Its been four days now of overcast and wind to 25 and 25 mph, no sun soaking, no surf fishing...So there's only one thing to do, road trip. Sunday morning found 5 of us friends at the Juarez Market, this is about genuine as it gets, an immersion course in Mexican culture...and I love it.
Colonia Juarez is on the  other side of town, 1/2 hour of waiting and riding on the bus. The market is only on Sundays and starts pretty early. We take a number two bus, ours didn't look like this but I figured I better throw in a pic of what I think is the coolest bus in Mazatlan, at least the coolest I've ever seen.
We've been to the market many times but we missed it last year, people said it was dangerous. Well, that's pure bunk, what could be dangerous about a few thousand of your neighbors doing their weekly shopping just like us? Here's a pic of our crew, Mike and Kathy from Alaska and Annette from Cranbrook B.C, all grizzled veterans of the Mazatlan life style.
I suppose like public markets all over the world at first it seems awful chaotic to you but there's a certain order to it. All the food is in one area and all the clothes in  another etc etc. If you have the time to look, there's no doubt in my mind that you could find anything, and I mean anything, that you might need. They also say that this is a good place to look for anything you might have lost or misplaced while in Mazatlan.... Here's a pic I took a few years back of MP buying the Jergens Olive Oil soap that she likes, it was 3 bars for 10 peso's, a smokin deal.
So we all break up and go our own ways, the place is so crowded its a given that you're going to lose anybody you're not holding hands with so we agree to meet at Benito Juarez's Statue in an hour and a half. MP and I just aimlessly wander, that's something I'm really good at. She's in need of some new Flip Flops and she finds just what she's looking for. But with only one jillion pairs on display the ones she likes aren't in the right size, bad luck. Me, I'm just on the look out for cool stuff like these babies.
 So its getting on to mid morning and walking through all the food vendors is making me real hungry. We have unlimited choices for tacos and the one that catches my eyes and nose is these guys deep fat frying fresh shrimp. Annette and I sit down and we have about the best shrimp tacos I've ever had, at least ever since the Restaurant El Mi Min was closed.  Two tacos and large very cold glass of Horachada which is a sweetened rice drink for 3 bucks or so.
Mike and Kathy loaded up pretty good, they're furnishing their condo with everything it needs to rent out to other people. Here's our break down, and don't get the notion that I'm a cheap skate but Mazatlan is known for being a good value and its one  of the reasons we love this place. MP likes to sleep in those stretchy polyester/cotton tank tops, 3 for 5 dollars, one watermelon- 80 cents, 6 oranges-80 cents, clothes pins-5 cents a piece, jelly donut-50 cents. Here's a couple pics of the food vendors, you can see prices displayed on the veggies boxes, spuds for 6 peso's a kilo which is 50 cents, that comes to about 25 cents a pound..
Our friend Rick Bucyk swears that those are the best clams he's ever eaten. They and the oysters are about the only thing in Mazatlan that I don't trust. I'm sure they're perfectly fine and fresh for sure but for some odd reason they're never refrigerated. On Isla Piedra you see oysters just stacked on the counter all day waiting to be eaten raw...but not by me. And this roasted pig must be a big seller. By the time we walked by at 11 a.m. it was all gone except the apple.
We got home in time to see the Sea Hawks crash. I don't know about you guys but the entire weekend didn't work out so good for the teams I like. The Bronc's gone, The Pack gone....If I see Tom Brady win another Super Bowl I might just barf, but if they're not there then  Baltimore is and...well....I got an idea, maybe I'll just go fishing and miss the game this year.

I hope you liked the  short tour to the Mercado. Its overcast again today so who knows where we'll end up. Maybe we'll just go aimlessly wander, I'll let you know, I'm good at that...