A Manzanillo Fish Story

2017 Kirby Vickery Living in Mexico

By Kirby Vickery from the July 2017 Edition

Oh Hear Ye, Hear Ye! I have finally had the most successful fishing thing happen in Mexico since 1991 when I went down along the Baja California coast (just south of Tijuana) and  pulled in a 25 pound snapper that the US Border Patrol wanted to take from me but didn’t because I invited the agent to a grilled fish supper that night.

To me, fishing is something I enjoy and, if I get to catch some fish, then that’s all the better. The only times I ever go out and really want to come home with fish, I take a San Diego Party Boat for a half day and come home with anything up to 40 pounds of filleted fish. But then they have fish finders on  board. No, surf casting, to me, is my favorite fishing. Not be- cause of the fish I catch, but what is always going on around me. One time, several years ago, on a very foggy and quiet beach in southern California, I was able to meet and talk with President Richard Nixon. I found him to be fascinating.

My first two attempts of fishing on this beach here were thwarted, first by an old pole falling apart, and then some old line which had gone brittle and kept breaking. But, finally, even though the surf was rather high, I put my new pole together with some new fishing line and stuff. I grabbed my five semi- frozen shrimp bait and hit the beach (or what was left of it) just after 8 AM. The morning breeze hadn’t picked up yet, but the wave pattern really sucked.

I remember hearing somewhere that everything in the oceans run in cycles of seven. That may be true in Hawaii or minimally on the coast of Florida (Greece didn’t have any). But, here in Manzanillo someone lost count. Then they forgot that they lost count and lost it again and again and again. I hit the beach with my 22 foot pole, my 40 year old, aluminum and plastic sand spike (I put that in here because I love to hear Ewa pronounce the name of that metal), my beach slippers and freshly cleaned glasses. Julio opened the gate to the beach for me and I stumbled down a two-foot drop from the final step onto the beach and was immediately hit by about six inches of rapidly moving water first one way and then another. Finally it drained back down the beach, leaving me holding on to the gate I had just gone through, trying not to drop anything.

I am plagued with Diabetic Neuropathy and have little or no feeling from about my mid-calf down and into both feet. I rely mostly on sight for my balance as my feet feel like I’m walking around in heavy foam all the time. On Whidbey Island, when   I first moved up there, my family used to play a game of catching Granddad crossing the barn yard at night, switching off the lights and hearing him fall over. Anyway, I found myself in swirling water, just a few inches deep, but running very fast with foam all over it and I couldn’t see the bottom. I quickly learned just to stand there and not move as the water flowed by for a few moments. Then I could take few steps. And, after it receded, I found myself buried past my ankles in that sand.

After a bit, I found myself on a small, sandy promontory which  I could plant my sand spike in and walk out on a fairly slight gradient of sandy beach so I could cast out. Now, in California,  I would look at the surf and start counting because I want to walk out as far as I can, cast out over the breakers and get  back before the next set of big ones start rolling in. Here, in  the middle of this beach, the great god of the ocean saw me setting up and knew I was there and laughed. All of a sudden I was faced with one big breaker after another. And they were without rhythm too. I went from an ankle-deep run back to water slapping at the top of my waist. This is while I was staring  at the drop-off I hadn’t gotten to.

You do what you have to do. I dug in and shifted my feet a little, as the water tore by my feet, trying to bury me. I casted  and was pleased to see my new pole worked just fine. My weight, hook and bait sailed far out over the break line. It was too bad that there was a faulty swivel involved and the line which was attached to the reel didn’t go with that set-up. Oh well, I’ll have to dig down into my right pocket and pull out my spare set-up. It’s the one with the new swivel and I attached shrimp number four which had thawed, along with its buddies, in my left pocket.

I casted out again and noted that my bait still cleared the surf line and this one was still attached to the line. I forced my way back up the narrow beach through all that running water and noted something I hadn’t paid any attention to before.

On the sidewalk side of our building, you will see a really good amount of foot traffic most all the time, but thickening just af- ter the sun sets. There is a street bum covered with dirt and tattoos that saunters by occasionally while he sneers at my little dog. Young to middle-aged couples, usually interested in only themselves, and sometimes you will see entire families out for a walk by. Other people drive up to park only to walk across the street headed to one of the two taco stands or the Kiosko  there. The traffic on the street doesn’t die off until well after 1 AM.

I see mostly joggers on the beach, and most of them are   with dogs. I can understand all that, having been a runner before and knowing that there isn’t a dog park anywhere in this city. One lady without a dog came up to me when I was out before. She had a cell phone glued to one ear and told me to talk to her mother while shoving that phone in my face. She got really mad when I told her I didn’t speak Spanish. I suppose I shouldn’t have done that in Spanish. But . . . there are better beaches for bathing and surfing farther up the coast. Everyone has at least a friendly smile and a nod as they go by. And those that don’t have dogs have cell phones and iPads stuck to them somewhere.

I fished until I was down to one shrimp while I noticed the evidence of man in the water. There was a plastic cup and a small chunk of foam that just sailed up the beach. I saw a chunk of wood trying to make it to dry land. At first, it was coming through the surf on my right. Then I lost sight of it for awhile only to see it later way off to my left.

My attention was diverted to a number of little coconuts all floating around in the fast-moving soup.

One guy came by with his large dog on a leash and was pulling on it to keep the dog from digging something out of the sand. It turned out to be an eel like fish roughly fifteen inches long. I grabbed it to take it up just to have something to talk about. It was a Pacific snake eel (Ophichthus triserialis). I was going to tell Ewa to cook it up but came clean when she de- cided to take a picture of it.

Manzanillo is the Sailfish capital of all Mexico and I understand that the boats are reasonable. I like to surf fish and no one needs a license down here to fish off the beach. So when I go out, I have a good time without any expectations.

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