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
true enough, Jesus Christ, for those who believe, was
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
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,
flybridge cruisers of the recent turn of the century.
spent more than 46 years taking anglers to the East Cape
grounds, and he’s still at the wheel, although now in a
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.
(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.
boats then (in the 1950s) were all just 23-footers, made of
and we had little, twin 25hp outboard motors,” Araiza
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.”
those embryonic days of lower Baja’s slow-growing charter
resort development, Jesus seldom ventured more than a few
miles from the
beach to find good angling action.
fish maybe 2 to 5 miles out or along the beach back then,”
we’d make a long run (for us) south to Punta Colorada.
For tackle, we had 50- and 80-pound test Dacron lines, those
big-diameter solid-glass rods and the old, slow, Penn, black
an interview and aided by the use of an interpreter last
South Coast Sportfishing asked Capt. Jesus Araiza to
reflect on his
experiences as the East Cape’s -- if not the entire East
region’s -- oldest active skipper.
Coast Sportfishing: Looking back on your early years
of billfishing, what was fishing like then?
very good and it was very bad.
It was good that we had marlin all over; they were
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
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
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
ever caught on one of your boats?
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
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
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.
the longest battle you’ve even been in?
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
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.
Besides the big marlin you’ve caught, what are some of the
big Baja game fish you’ve landed?
I’ve seen them bigger, but not on my boat, and
our biggest one was a 67-pounder.
One time, we caught a rooster [roosterfish]
that weighed almost a hundred  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?
One cloudy day, in a thunderstorm, we got hit by
lightning. It hit the radio antenna and ran out both the
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
Over the years, you fished a lot with the late Ray Cannon,
a lot to pioneer Baja through Cannon’s publicity and
(Cannon’s) favorite kind of fishing?
It was the billfishing and glamour fish like
that brought a lot of tourists to Baja, but Ray [Cannon]
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
When you first started running a boat, how much were
captain’s paid a day?
We got one dollar a day, but we had some good tips.
tip I ever got was $200 a day, when three anglers caught
three marlin on my
boat in 1970.
You must have seen about everything happen between people in
the years you’ve been skippering.
Give us at least one story.
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
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
that financially, he “really doesn’t need to work,”
Araiza is still frequently requested [and obtained] as a charter boat
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
married and living in La Paz