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 News Releases  South Coast Sportfishing Magazine, April issue 2000

 

Jesus is a Fisherman

 

Like his biblical namesake, Capt. Jesus


Araiza also is a fisher of men...and


Lower Baja’s oldest active skipper



By Chuck Garrison

 

    Maybe while driving around a few years ago you saw those bumper stickers
-- most often advertised by commercial fishermen in response to a then-very
controversial fishery issue -- that read, “Jesus was a Gill Netter.”


    Well true enough, Jesus Christ, for those who believe, was described
biblically as a net fisherman.  Today, however, a few thousand years later,
“Jesus”Araiza, 62, of Los Barriles, Baja California Sur, is also a fisher of
men.  Capt. Araiza, as the oldest active charterboat skipper in Baja’s
picturesque East Cape region, began working on Baja boats in 1955, when he
was only 16 years old, and when Baja craft of the era were a far cry from the
fiberglass-built, radio-equipped, live-bait-tank outfitted, tower-topped
flybridge cruisers of the recent turn of the century.



    He’s spent more than 46 years taking anglers to the East Cape fishing
grounds, and he’s still at the wheel, although now in a semi-retired status.
He is now the senior skipper of the popular and experienced charter fleet out
of Hotel Buenavista Beach Resort -- practically a long cast north from where
his fishing career began in the mid ‘50s. 

    “Jesus” (pronounced in Spanish as HEY-SEUSS) first worked for three
years as a young mate for the owner of the original four-room Rancho Buena
Vista resort, Herb Cansy, and then stayed on at “the ranch” for another three
years after Cansy died in a plane crash and the resort was purchased by Col.
Chuck Walters, a retired U.S. Military man.


    “Our boats then (in the 1950s) were all just 23-footers, made of plywood
and we had little, twin 25hp outboard motors,” Araiza recalls.  “We skippered
by dead-reckoning and local knowledge.  There were no electronics – no
radios, no gauges, a compass wasn’t always aboard.  And we used to catch our
fish by trolling feather-jigs or frozen flying fish, or by using whole or
chopped-up dead bait.”

    In those embryonic days of lower Baja’s slow-growing charter fishing and
resort development, Jesus seldom ventured more than a few miles from the
beach to find good angling action.

    “We’d fish maybe 2 to 5 miles out or along the beach back then,” he
says.  “Sometimes, we’d make a long run (for us) south to Punta Colorada. 
For tackle, we had 50- and 80-pound test Dacron lines, those very heavy,
big-diameter solid-glass rods and the old, slow, Penn, black reels.” 
    During an interview and aided by the use of an interpreter last fall,
South Coast Sportfishing asked Capt. Jesus Araiza to reflect on his
experiences as the East Cape’s -- if not the entire East Cape/Los Cabos
region’s -- oldest active skipper.

    South Coast Sportfishing: Looking back on your early years of billfishing, what was fishing like then?



    Araiza:  It was very good and it was very bad.  It was good that we had marlin all over; they were abundant.  There was no limit and it was  nothing, many days, to catch 5, 6, 7 marlin a day.  Some days, we used to 

have trouble finding a place to put them on the boat.  We didn’t have a [swim platform] with the outboards, so we stacked as many [marlin] as we could up on the bow.  My best day was 12 marlin, and I was with anglers who wanted to
release them all.     The bad thing was that for years we killed most of our catch.  We didn’t understand then how much more valuable a billfish was to us [tourism] if we released it, rather than keeping it.  It took a long time for things to change and for more American sportsmen to urge tag-and-release, and for  
tournaments down here to start promoting releases.  Then tag-and-release
awards started for the skippers and I was fortunate enough to tag and release the most billfish for 19 years.



    SCS:  In all your years of skippering, what’s the largest fish
you’ve ever caught on one of your boats?


    Araiza:  In 1987, we were about 1-1/2 miles off shore from Hotel
Buenavista Beach Resort and got a big blind strike from a muy, muy grande blue marlin.  It took the fisherman more than 2-1/2 hours to finally get the 
fish to the boat.  Back at the resort, the marlin weighed 875 pounds.

    That wasn’t the biggest I’ve ever had hooked; there were two bigger ones.  That same year, 1987, we were 3 miles off Punta Arena when we lost a huge blue marlin after a 1-1/2 hour fight.  That fish was well over a 
thousand pounds; maybe 1100.



    SCS:  What’s the longest battle you’ve even been in?


    Araiza: I think it was about 1985.  We had only two anglers on the
boat and I didn’t have a mate that day.  It was also a big blue that hit a pluma [jig] about 5 miles out, about 9 in the morning, and we finally broke 
it off at 3 a.m. the next morning.  I think that was 18 hours.  We had the
fish on 80-pound line and a big trolling outfit  but it almost spooled us twice.  We followed that fish about 20 miles with the boat, before the line 
broke as we neared Cabo Pulmo.



    SCS: Besides the big marlin you’ve caught, what are some of the
other big Baja game fish you’ve landed?


    Araiza:  I’ve seen them bigger, but not on my boat, and that’s
dorado; our biggest one was a 67-pounder.  One time, we caught a rooster [roosterfish] that weighed almost a hundred [92] pounds, and another trip, 
after five hours on the rod and a lot of passes close to the boat, a
325-pound swordfish was caught. 


    SCS:  What are some of the most unusual experiences you’ve had
running a Baja charter boat?

    Araiza: One cloudy day, in a thunderstorm, we got hit by lightning. It hit the radio antenna and ran out both the outriggers.  That was
frightening.  And another time we had two marlin hooked on the same lure.  They were both about 110 pounds.  The first one hit the lure and got hooked and then the second marlin went after the lure and got wrapped in the line.   We felt both strikes separately.  Then the line angled done so I had to move the boat forward to plane-up the fish and we got lucky and got them both.

 


    SCS: Over the years, you fished a lot with the late Ray Cannon, who
did a lot to pioneer Baja through Cannon’s publicity and writings.  What was his (Cannon’s) favorite kind of fishing?


    Araiza:  It was the billfishing and glamour fish like the
roosterfish that brought a lot of tourists to Baja, but Ray [Cannon] actually liked fishing more for grouper, yellowtail, cabrilla.  He liked panga fishing a lot.  He’d be thrilled if he could catch a 40- to 45-pound grouper.  And he often took along the same photographer [Harry Merrick] to photo the catches. He [Merrick] could make a 6-pound fish look like it weighed 20, with his wide  
lenses.



    SCS: When you first started running a boat, how much were captain’s paid a day?


    Araiza:  We got one dollar a day, but we had some good tips.  The
best tip I ever got was $200 a day, when three anglers caught three marlin on my boat in 1970.

 


    SCS: You must have seen about everything happen between people in
all the years you’ve been skippering.  Give us at least one story. 

    Araiza:  Well, I’ll never forget a really windy day and I had a man
and wife aboard and the wife was very seasick.  They’d already caught two marlin and she wanted to head back to land.  The husband said, “No, we paid for this trip and we’re fishing.”  She told me quietly that when we got ashore that was it -- she was going to divorce him.  She came back down to the resort the next year with a different man and she wasn’t wearing a
wedding ring.”


 


Author’s note: Today, Jesus Araiza owns a 150-acre local ranch with about
350 head of cattle on a property in the nearby hills called La Canada de la
Huerta.  Explaining that financially, he “really doesn’t need to work,”
Araiza is still frequently requested [and obtained] as a charter boat skipper
out of Hotel Buenavista Beach Resort, where he has captained for the past
dozen years.  He has a son, 30, who skippers a boat out of Palmas de Cortez
resort in Los Barriles and a daughter, 34, who is a teacher and lawyer

married and living in La Paz