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By James on September 3, 2020

Baja COVID Story

In 35 years of fishing Baja I have experienced incredible natural wonders and the best saltwater fishing in the world. In all of the years I have spent in Baja, I have never missed a fishing season. The Baja is a truly a special place, but even this paradise has challenges to overcome. In that time, I have faced the trials of El Nino, hurricanes, Avian Bird Flu, H1N1, SARS, Dengue Fever, and now Covid-19. All of these have had their own unique challenges, wrought with uncertainty and trepidation.

Covid-19 may be the most difficult situation we have faced. It seems the world has taken a paradigm shift. Until a vaccine or resolution to the virus is found, the uncertainty of dealing with it could be a way of life. How we deal with Covid-19 is what will make the difference.
As the world shut down in March and April, so did international travel. I was forced to watch my bookings dwindle away. Fortunately, the Fly Fishing community came together and did the right thing to help each other. I am proud to be part of a special community where people are willing to consider the bigger picture and the well-being of not only themselves but others. Most of my guests were willing to roll over their payments to 2021. I may have lost the better part of a season but, thankfully I know I will be able to fish another day.

In Baja, on the Sea of Cortez, sport fishing heats up in the beginning of May. This year Covid-19 dictated everything, except the fishing, was going to be different. As the US began to open up, I was determined to make it to Baja and not break my chain of 35 seasons. Even more importantly, I had a handful of hopeful clients who were holding onto their early June dates. Every day I studied the restrictions and policies for travel in the US and Mexico, and directed my efforts at keeping my guests fully informed about the ever changing conditions. The policy released by the US Embassy in Mexico noted land border closures, but also stated that this closure did not apply to air travel and air travel workers. I frequently contacted the airlines serving Baja and learned they planned to continue having daily flights to and from southern Baja (SJD airport). In late May, the State and Municipal Governments of Baja Sur and La Paz released a plan for reopening on June 1. At last, I was beginning to see light at the end of the tunnel, and booked my flight to rooster fishing Paradise.

Even on the day of the flight I was still conflicted. Riots in Portland made the world feel even more unstable. I was worried whether I was doing the right thing? I wanted to answer all the questions my clients and I had about being able to travel and upon arrival, would we be able to catch fish? As I sat in my seat waiting for takeoff, a friend texted me to say “I’m so psyched you are going down, good luck!” I texted back, “I am not sure what I am doing.” I watched and as the text bubble indicated a response was coming. It took awhile, so I figured he was writing a long response to reassure me. Finally, the text popped in just before takeoff. It simply said, “Jump and the net will appear”. I jumped!

The danger of air travel was, of course, a consideration. With some benefit /cost analysis, I decided if I followed suggested protocols, I could travel safely. As it turned out, the flights were fairly empty and passengers were seated to meet social distancing guidelines. Customs was a breeze with only a short few Covid-19 questions, followed by a temperature scan as we walked through security.

As I arrived in Baja, the Mexican Government unexpectedly extended the closure without giving a definite reopening date. Once again, I waited and searched articles and probed contacts who work for the Municipal Government of La Paz. Finally, on Friday June 12, I got the answer I was hoping for: hotels, sport fishing and the beaches would be REOPENING on June 15. Little did my guests clients know that they would be soon experiencing some of the most spectacular rooster fishing on the planet.

Many clients caught and released personal bests, with some fish approaching record class

The lodge felt safe. It is open air with plenty of sun filled space and was sparsely occupied. Safety protocols were being followed and the anglers felt like they had made the right decision to come down and fish. My opinion is that everyone has to make their own decision based on their definition of safety. Staying well informed was essential to being able to make the right decision. The fact is, you can legally travel to and from Mexico and hotels, beaches and sport fishing are currently open. Daily flights are available and airline management is making every effort to protect their passengers.
There are times in life where you have to jump, and believe, “the net will appear”.

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