Destination Villa del Palmar at Loreto, Mexico

Villa del Palmar resort is a family friendly world class resort on the Baja Peninsula-Jason Brooks

Villa del Palmar resort is a family friendly world class resort on the Baja Peninsula-Jason Brooks

The Baja Peninsula of Mexico is home to Blue Marlin, Striped Marlin, Swordfish, Roosterfish, Grouper, Cabrera and many other species that anglers often include on their ultimate fishing “bucket list” but the Dorado with its deep blue and bright green colors, unique rounded head and long dorsal fin is what drew me to Loreto, a small town of the Baja region. I was invited with a few other writers to attend the very first Villa del Palmar Resort’s Dorado tournament held on July 1st and 2nd.

Joe Sarmiento of SoCalSalty.com with a Rooster fish-Gary C Graham photo

Joe Sarmiento of SoCalSalty.com with a Rooster fish-Gary C Graham photo

My first impression of Loreto was the very small airport only an hour and a half flight from Los Angeles, California. Stepping off of the Boeing 737 and onto the tarmac there is no breezeway but instead a short stroll into the one gateway airport. This area of Mexico welcomes Americans and I noticed that a lot of the other passengers were families mostly comprised of grandparents, mom’s and dad’s and kids.

Sunset over the Sea of Cortez-Jason Brooks

Sunset over the Sea of Cortez-Jason Brooks

A thirty-minute shuttle ride through the hot desert along the bays and coves of the Sea of Cortez in the shadows of steep volcanic mountains led us to Villa del Palmar resort on Danzante bay. Waters that are turquois blue with red and orange rock outcroppings and of course tall green cactus. The resort owns thousands of acres of the surrounding area and includes a world class golf course.

Manta Ray's jumping in Dazante Bay right in front of the resort-Jason Brooks

Manta Ray’s jumping in Dazante Bay right in front of the resort-Jason Brooks

Upon arrival I met with Alejandro Watson and Ignacio Gomez, who I later ended up talking with about our families and learning we have a lot in common. We were also introduced to Zayra our hostess and hospitality guide. A quick tour of the grounds, with its multiple swimming pools, hot tub, three world class restaurants, and a large white sandy beach. The resort also offers a full service spa, two tennis courts, a mini-market for those forgotten items and an arcade for the teenagers. I again noticed that this resort was not a party atmosphere like those resorts in Cabo San Lucas or other Baja destinations. Alejandro and Ignacio make sure Villa del Palmar is a family place, where you can bring the kids and let them play on the beach or check out one of the mountain bikes while you go fishing.

Villa del Palmar resort at sunset over Danzante Bay-Jason Brooks

Villa del Palmar resort at sunset over Danzante Bay-Jason Brooks

The following morning, I was again on the shuttle to the Port of Escondido where I met the crew of the 34 foot “Mad Dash” a cruiser that we would be fishing from once the Dorado tournament began. Sure I was hoping to catch a Dorado myself, but my “job” was to cover the tournament and experience everything Villa del Palmar at Loreto has to offer.

The fireworks start to the Villa del Palmar Dorado Tournament-Jason Brooks

The fireworks start to the Villa del Palmar Dorado Tournament-Jason Brooks

The first thing I noticed was how calm the waters were around the local Islands in the Sea of Cortez. It wasn’t until we hit the open ocean that we encountered some rollers and minor winds waves.

Calm waters surround the Islands of Loreto in the Sea of Cortez-Jason Brooks

Calm waters surround the Islands of Loreto in the Sea of Cortez-Jason Brooks

Our Captain informed us that the water temperatures were still a little cold for the Dorado and they were just starting to show up, so after we trolled for a bit we headed for a waypoint on his GPS plotter for some bottom fishing. Soon we were into Grouper and Cabrera, both of which are excellent eating fish and the resort will cook for your dinner if you want to bring the catch back with you. Before we knew it we had to head to port to cover the action on the returning boats of the tournament.

A Cabrera is a very unique fish that is extremely well eating and easy to catch-Jason Brooks

A Cabrera is a very unique fish that is extremely well eating and easy to catch-Jason Brooks

When we got back to port I met up with Joe Sarmiento of SoCalSalty.com and he had an adventure to tell. A day of Roosterfish, Striped Marlin and a Hammerhead Shark! He was fishing in one of the “Panga’s” a small boat that resembles a Salty. A few other boats showed up and a couple of Dorado were caught, a good start to the tournament.

Dolphins often race alongside the boat on the way to the fishing grounds-Jason Brooks

Dolphins often race alongside the boat on the way to the fishing grounds-Jason Brooks

Day two found me hanging around the Villa del Palmar resort. After a round of golf and a late breakfast at the club house I headed for Danzante Bay in a kayak. I met up with Joe Andrews who was visiting the resort with his family. He said that he has been coming here for a few years and always packs a rod. Using a simple slip weight system and some shrimp he talked one of the cooks out of at the mornings breakfast he said he has landed over 100 Trigger fish in the past two days right in front of the resort. Later that night I met Rene Olinger who moved to Loreto and started Baja Peninsula Adventures  (http://www.bajapeninsulatours.com) which rents Hobie fishing kayaks in town and offers tours as well as fishing.

Joe Andrews with one of the over 100 Trigger fish he caught in two days-Jason Brooks

Joe Andrews with one of the over 100 Trigger fish he caught in two days-Jason Brooks

Loreto, Mexico on the Baja Peninsula is a destination for the angler, or for a family with an angler that wants it all. Villa del Palmar resort ( http://www.villadelpalmarloreto.com ) offers hiking trails, mountain biking, golf, snorkeling, wine and tequila tasting, fishing packages, and most of all relaxing on the beach or by the pool with world class food and very big and clean rooms and a few condo units with a kitchen. If you have ever thought of a Baja adventure but were a little hesitant I highly recommend looking at Villa del Palmar and also take a shuttle into town and allow Rene to show you around and take a kayak out into the calm waters.

For the time off the water Villa del Palmar offers world class golf-Jason Brooks

For the time off the water Villa del Palmar offers world class golf-Jason Brooks

Chelan Falls Summer Kings

Shane Magnuson of Upper Columbia Guide Service on the net-Jason Brooks

Shane Magnuson of Upper Columbia Guide Service on the net-Jason Brooks

Chelan Falls Summer Kings-by Jason Brooks

Summer is heating up and as July keeps rolling along the Chinook keep climbing the fish ladders at the dams along the Columbia River. That is until they hit the cold water being spilled from Lake Chelan. A fairly new fishery for Upper Columbia summer Chinook are fish returning to the net pens located at the base of the outfall from the power plant where water is flushed from a large pipe and a trickle from the Chelan gorge into the warm waters of the Columbia. This area is known as the Chelan Falls fishery.

Summer sunrise at Chelan Falls on the Columbia River-Jason Brooks

Summer sunrise at Chelan Falls on the Columbia River-Jason Brooks

Early morning is without doubt prime time. The summer sun shines very bright here and it seems to turn the bite off along with the heat that goes along with it causing anglers to want to head to the local swimming hole instead of the fishing hole.

Early morning trolling at Chelan Falls-Jason Brooks

Early morning trolling at Chelan Falls-Jason Brooks

Most fish are caught in pre-dawn hours until the sun hits the water around 7:00 in the morning. This is a shallow water fishery with the bottom being around 25 to 30 feet and covered in milfoil. This means the downriggers are set at 15 feet and some elect to use a drop weight system with 4 ounce cannonballs.

Flat-lining plugs such as Brad's Killer Fish 14's in Rotten Banana entice bites-Jason Brooks

Flat-lining plugs such as Brad’s Killer Fish 14’s in Rotten Banana entice bites-Jason Brooks

A standard trolling set up at Chelan Falls is a Mack’s Double D Dodger in silver and green, a 36” to 48” leader of Izorline 30 pound XXX trailing a Brad’s Superbait or Super Cut Plug. Popular colors are Hot Tamale or Lava, but another “new” color that is producing this summer is Rotten Banana in the mini-cut plug. Stuff the baits with canned tuna or herring and soak them heavily with Pro-Cure Super Gel in Anise Bloody Tuna. Since this is a shallow water troll and you are allowed to fish two poles with the endorsement it is beneficial to throw an extra rod out flatling a Brad’s Killer Fish size 14 in the Rotten Banana color.

Brad Wagner of Bobber Down Guide Service with a typical Chelan Falls Upriver Chinook-Brad Wagner photo

Brad Wagner of Bobber Down Guide Service with a typical Chelan Falls Upriver Chinook-Brad Wagner photo

Launch at the County PUD park located just past the Chelan Falls Bridge and then motor back over to the mouth of the Chelan River, trolling the western shoreline all the way back up to the bridge. Make sure to stay a bit out in the channel otherwise you will foul your gear in the milfoil along the shoreline. If you want to learn this fishery there are two premier guides that fish it, Shane Magnuson (509-264-7684 or www.uppercolumbiaguide.com) of Upper Columbia Guide Service who lives in Leavenworth and Brad Wagner (509-670-3095 or www.fishwenatchee.com) of Bobber Down Guide Service out of Wenatchee. Since they live in the area they know this fishery well. In fact I was out trying my best this past weekend and witnessed Shane land 5 fish before 7:00 AM on Saturday. Then I got a message from Brad who let me know that his boat caught 6 Chinook before 6:00 AM today. The key to both guides in that they are on the water early. There is plenty of room to fish and it doesn’t get too crowded.

Englefield Again: Provin’ it!

After our unbelievable first trip to WestCoast Resorts Englefield Bay last year, my son Matt and I could not wait to get back up there. In fact, we were so fired up about our amazing experience that we put a 710 ESPN Listener trip together so we could share the Englefield experience with listeners and friends.

In fact, we’re announcing a second chance trip in late August

Did the trip live up to expectations? Without a doubt it did! Most anglers on the trip had their best chinook days ever in both numbers and size! Bottomfish? How about two ling cod per day with no size restrictions and six in possession! Couple that with two halibut and a pile of rockfish and you are talking new home freezer time!

The WestCoast Resorts Englefield equation for success is solid. Place a floating lodge alone in a remote location accessible only by boat and helicopter.

Oh, the helicopters…C’mon now, aren’t you the least bit intrigued by a fishing trip that begins and ends with a heliopter ride?

Or, more correctly a Helijet which we boarded in Sandspit after our chartered 737 flight from Vancouver, BC.IMG_0880

 

As the lodge comes into view we’re just stunned by the remoteness and beauty of the luxurious, floating lodge at Englefield Bay.IMG_0521 (Medium)

 

Once we’re on the docks the level of organization and experience of the WestCoast Resorts operation is readily apparent. Every boat  is clean, identically rigged and READY!IMG_0536 (Medium)

 

 

The info board is updated daily and hooks you up with weather, tides and hot spots. No secrets here! Since the only boats in the area are from the lodge and fish are plentiful, info is shared freely.IMG_0889

 

After the brief lodge orientation, we jump into our gear and we’re off fishing before noon on our first day!IMG_9100 (Medium)

 

And just how good is the midday chinook bite at Englefield Bay? Well, we only kept three that first day so wouldn’t burn through our four chinook per angler possession limit but we had a double-digit king bite the first afternoon! Simply stated the most smokin’ hot chinook bite I had seen all season which included a three-week stint running my boat in Sitka, Alaska.IMG_0325 (Medium)

 

The next morning, I went out with Chef Patrick Fagan of Bait2Plate.com and my summer on air pard John Martinis. We absolutely STUFFED the fishbox with ling cod, yelloweye, black rockfish and chinook!John&Patrick 

 

The next day? Well, halibut was on the itinerary and we were again very successful but here is the thing that you need to know: Once you’re back at the lodge, the dock staff label, weigh, process and vacuum pack your fish while you relax in the lounge!

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Our final morning, we had our possession limits of bottomfish in the lodge freezer so we got to concentrate on chinook and again, the bite was simply epic! Matt Nelson and John Martinis are working a double which started out as a triple but someone had to take the picture…IMG_0471 (Medium)

 

After the fishing was done, I couldn’t help but take a few pics on the way in to the lodge. The beauty of Haida Gwaii, the Queen Charlotte Islands is well known but this untouched tide pool with a small stream entering it would be an even more fascinating sight in the fall with a few salmon sneaking in when the bears came to feed!IMG_0496 (Medium)

 

The anglers that came along on our Listener trip were very successful and while the fish you take home is not the only way to measure an adventure such as this, it’s interesting to note that the 44 anglers boxed catch weighed over 4500 pounds!IMG_0895

 

The helicopter flight out of the lodge was accompanied with a stitch of sadness but also a feeling of satisfaction for a trip that was thoroughly enjoyed by all.IMG_0553 (Medium)

 

Back at Sandspit Airport, we literally walked off the Helijet and walked right on to the jet to Vancouver where we landed before noon and headed back home over the border.IMG_0623 (Medium)

 

We all played “Horse” on the basketball court when we were kids and after that last shot that hung that “E” on you, the ball was flipped back to your opponent with a defiant “prove it”,

That’s what this trip to Englefield Bay meant to me. After an unbelievable first trip last year highlighted by a tyee for my son and a memorable Father’s Day for all.

WestCoast Resorts has repeated that feat, essentially “proving it” and now Englefield Bay is permanently carved in stone in my annual angling itinerary and I hope you’ll consider making it part of yours.

Tom Nelson
The Outdoor Line
710 ESPN Seattle
www.theoutdoorline.com