Mulege is a quiet fishing village on the Sea of Cortez. From San Ignatio, the Baja landscape changes from desert to tropical. I was now riding past lush forests of palm trees instead of arid cactus filled plains. The views of the bright turquoise bahias, visible as my bike twisted down the steep mountain highway towards the coast, were picture perfect. I totally enjoyed leaning into the nicely super-elevated curves, the dearth of traffic making it easier to be more brazen. It took a while to find the home of Bill, my next lucky host. Bill had given me explicit and lengthy directions but I’d assumed the size of Mulege to be that of a small fishing enclave and thus had just written down the name of the bodega next to his house. After riding around for a half hour and asking probably a dozen people if they could direct me to a bodega called Lukina, I finally had to admit defeat and asked a friendly shop owner to use his computer to go back and check the e-mail message. Armed with the comprehensive directions made the journey to Bill’s much easier. Bill is a 70 year old retired telecommunications engineer from the states. He has lived in Mulege for 24 years and considers himself a local which is why he resides in a very indigenous part of town on the landward side of the highway. Although his Spanish was barely passable and his greasy grey ponytail was only 2 inches long, he fiercely believes he is now a Mexican and is very content in his adopted lifestyle. Although belligerently drunk after 11 am everyday, Bill was extremely friendly and welcoming. He set me up in his back room on a mattress and warned that I close the back screen lest I be molested by neighborhood cats that sneak in during the middle of the night. We went on a tour in his pick-up truck of the exposed coastal areas where the ‘dumb gringos’ buy homes only to have them destroyed by hurricanes within three years. I mentioned that I would like to do some fishing in the Sea of Cortez and Bill readily arranged for his neighbours who are commercial fishermen to take me out. I’m actually going to consider this as a volunteer experience rather than a charter fishing trip, because after 8 hours of hauling up fish with hand lines, I was exhausted. Plus I donated almost all my catch to the fishermen. We left before dawn, the captian his young helper and myself in a 25 foot shallow wooden boat with a 40 hp outboard motor. I started out with the one fishing line on board but we were bottom fishing at an average depth of 70’ so switched to a hand line after my wrists started to throb. I was shocked at the number of fish we were catching. It was actually more likely that you would have a fish when you pulled up the line than not. We were all using 4 hooks and sometimes there would be 3 or even 4 fish on the line. Of course many were too small to keep but I had still never fished anywhere with such a productive strike rate. By the end of the day we had more than 100 fish. Mostly sea bass, but also some yellow fin, white fish and 1 red snapper. We also caught a terrifyingly long moray eel which invoked my familiar snake-a-phobia causing me to lurch to the back of the boat as the captain reacted quickly clutching it below the head and breaking its neck. I also had the dubious honour of catching a nice plump bird. I had just lowered my hook into the water and as it was descending, I watched as a brown seabird dove straight down through the surface to follow my bait. Unfortunately but logically it got completely tangled in the line, the 4 barbed hooks sinking into one wing and its neck. Considering how Mexicans treat animals, I was delighted that the fisherman took the time to fish the bird out and cut it loose. They could have very easily just snipped the line and tossed the tangled creature overboard where it very surely would have died. The single red snapper had been my catch and I’d offered it to the guys at the end of the day because they bring in the most money but my new fisher-friends insisted that I take it. I also picked a yellow fin and cooked up both fish for Bill and I to have for supper that night. I asked the guys how much money the catch would bring in. They said that they sold their catch to a man in the next town that took everything to be sold in the US. For our 8 hours work in the hot sun, they told me the catch would bring in $40. Considering the number of fish we had and knowing around how much a filet costs in the grocery store, I’d say that conservatively we have well over $1,000 market value worth of fish. When you factor in the cost of supplies, maintenance and petrol at $0.90 a liter, they sure weren’t pulling in very much for their labour. Plus they usually don’t have the advantage of an extra ace fisherman!

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