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December 29, 2008

Mexican Mixed Bag

The twin cities of Zihuatanejo and Ixtapa deliver year-round variety

Before we could pull in the baits, both outrigger lines zinged. Double-header! I grabbed one outfit while Espinosa hooked the other fish and put the rod in a holder. As soon as he released my sailfish, he told me to pick up the second rod. After a good fight, I released an even larger sail. The flurry of activity seemed a fitting way to end a day of fishing in Zihuatanejo's busy waters.

Rooster Rematch
Although I hadn't visited Zihuatanejo during peak season, the fact that roosterfish had eluded me gnawed in my craw. Months later I received an Ixtapa Sportfishing e-blast reporting that Capt. Adolpho Espinosa tallied nine roosterfish on one early October day. The roosters had returned in force, so I made airline reservations, called my husband and said, "Let's go!"

For the first time in 30 years of fishing, I boarded a boat in the right place at the right time, on the very best of days. Predawn thunder and lightning, however, gave no indication of the fantastic fishing to come. We called Espinosa's home and learned he had already left for the dock. Scrambling out of bed, we jumped in a taxi and slalomed through flooded streets to meet our skipper and his mate, Jesus "Gorilla" Juarez, at Paseo del Pescador.

Espinosa decided to make a one-hour run south to Casa Blanca, a remote beach with pounding surf. We covered all the angles by trolling live corineros, which we had purchased from a harbor bait boat for 100 pesos (about $9.50), and casting Yo-Zuri poppers into the surf.

Trolling with an open bail, Espinosa suggested waiting five  seconds after a strike to give fish time to take live baits. Then a quick snap of the bail usually resulted in a hookup. Poppers required a very quick retrieve, and watching zigzagging dorsal fins chase the lures got our hearts pumping. Roosters that veered away from slowed poppers often switched over to take live baits. In four hours of  fishing, we released 13 roosterfish ranging from 12 to 90 pounds.

A release for my memory book featured the 90-pounder, which spooled me in a flash. Espinosa refused to accept the loss of such an outstanding fish, not to mention his pink-and-blue popper and all that line. He somehow spotted the fishing line floating in the water, quickly grabbed it, rethreaded the rod from the tip and tied it to the reel. Once again I was fighting the big guy and brought it boat-side after a long battle.

Admiring the gorgeous seascape while rubbing our aching arms during the run back to port, David and I wondered why Dos Hermano I was the only boat around. "Roosters ride the waves. If you are too far away, you can't cast to them," Espinosa said. Flipping his hand upside down, he added, "If you get too close to a breaking wave, the boat is a goner. Terminado." Not many captains   have the boat-handling skills to take roosters in the surf.

We never expected two banner days in a row. In fact, a chubasco - a violent squall with thunder and lightning - prevented fishermen from catching live bait that night.

"Today you'll have to work hard just casting poppers," Espinosa said the next morning. While the roosters weren't as big as the previous day, we quit after bringing 20 to the boat. Exhausted and drenched with sweat, we had topped our captain's personal single-day record of 14 roosters, a mark that had stood for 18 years!

As we approached the Paseo that afternoon, Espinosa proudly said, "The guys at the dock will be all over me like seagulls."

Mary L. Peachin specializes in writing about adventure/outdoor travel. In 2003, she published her first book, The Complete Idiot's Guide to Sharks (Alpha/Penguin), and is currently writing a book titled Fishing The Caribbean. Check out her website at