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September 09, 2011

Mexico's Revillas Treasure

Unlimited angling action for tuna and more in Mexico's limited-access islands

Otherworldly Islands
The Gladiator sat at anchor for all this action just off Roca Partida, the smallest island in Mexico’s Revillagigedo ­archipelago, about 300 miles southwest of Cabo.

In fact, Roca Partida looks every bit its Spanish name, which translates to “divided rock.” It’s certainly much more an austere rock than an island, lacking vegetation or any real mass. Geologic forces thrust Partida almost straight up out of the Pacific’s depths. It’s definitely not a place you’d want to be shipwrecked — though its rocky, guano-covered sides are so steep, one would be hard-pressed to find a foothold anywhere.

Six anglers had joined the crew (the two mates plus a cook and skipper Danny Alvarez, who has fished the Revillagigedo islands for 15 years) three days earlier to make the long run to the closest island, San Benedicto, running mostly down-sea in the four- to five-foot, white-capped seas over low groundswells of similar size.

We hadn’t lingered long at Benedicto, but long enough to marvel at its otherworldly countenance, with volcanic peaks covered in ancient lava flows, now long eroded in fascinating patterns. Though far larger than Partida, Benedicto appeared just as uninviting.

We also stayed around long enough to drop some jigs in the minimal protection afforded near the island, hooking several leather grouper, which are among the handsomest of eastern Pacific groupers — and among the tastiest.

Exploratory Fishing
During several days in the islands, we shared the waters with only one other boat, a private yacht that had apparently come for the diving. In fact, we were there by virtue of Temple’s securing rare permits to enter what the Mexican government declared in 2002 a protected biosphere. That law prohibits fishing the most productive waters, those within six miles of any island.

For the past three seasons, Temple has enjoyed nearly exclusive access to fish the Revillas. It’s paid off with indisputable success, his anglers bringing to the boat nine (at press time) super-cow yellowfin of 300 pounds or more. They’ve also enjoyed some of the fastest fishing in the world for wahoo, with access to fish the seasonal hordes of the prized mackerel that concentrate near structure — in this case, along the steep drop-offs just around the islands.

Acquiring the coveted permits became a mission for Temple and took literally years of perseverance to accomplish. In 2009, armed with all necessary paperwork, Temple took his first group into the islands.

“Just after we pulled away from that first check-in at the Mexican Navy base on Socorro, we put lines in and immediately started hooking fish,” he says. “For six days on that first trip, we had the kind of action you have to experience to believe.”

Temple says his trips around Clarion, Socorro, San Benedicto and Roca Partida islands are still exploratory. “As far as I’m concerned, we’ve only just begun to scratch the surface when it comes to fishing the Revs.”

That said, Temple points out, “We’ve managed to bring to the boat at least one tuna over 300 pounds during our past five trips” — with the largest at 367.

Patience Pays for Monsters
Without a doubt, super cows are the primary targets on Revillas trips, and Temple likes to drift or anchor, and feed the tuna a combination of chunks and live baits (goggle eyes, green-back mackerel or the larger salami mackerel). “If skipjack or bonito are schooling and available, we love to fish them as live baits,” Temple says, since those certainly tend to weed out the smaller yellowfin. “The average-size yellowfin in these waters that gobbles down a skipjack will be well over 200 pounds.”

Temple targets the big gals specifically. He says that if you simply put a bait out, the odds are high that smaller tuna or wahoo will find it first. Instead, Temple says, “I concentrate on fishing larger baits in proven big-fish locations.” He anchors on a favored spot and chums continuously until el grande yellowfin start showing behind the boat.

“While it’s certainly tempting to pitch baits or chunks to the numerous tuna less than 200 pounds you’ll see prowling the chunk line, I try to be adamant about telling anglers to remain patient until that 300-pounder shows up. That’s the time to put hook baits in.”

And that, Temple says, requires a lot of restraint. “Most guys automatically want to feed a 200-pounder when it cruises by, five feet off the transom, so I have to coach them to be patient. The last thing you want is to have anglers hooked up to smaller yellowfin then, while everyone’s tied up, a school of 300-pounders shows up.”

Interestingly, Temple says he’s found little need for the fluorocarbon leaders so important where tuna are hit hard by anglers. These yellowfin aren’t terribly shy. (In fact, more than once, Temple’s anglers have just about hand-fed chunks to cows swimming by the transom in a chunk line.)

If the world record for yellowfin is to be broken again, odds are good it will be a Revillagigedo fish.