By Earl (Chief) Smith

This is a story about the last hours of the last day of an amazing fishing trip to Cabo san Lucas.

I had organized a bunch of friends and headed to Cabo for seven days of fishing. There was Sam ‘The Hammer’, Art ‘of the Possible, Charles ‘Queasy’, Doc Walker, my brother Tom and me. My friends at Pisces Fishing Fleet had provided us with their best boats and guides and we were staying at the marina Fiesta – right on the harbor. We were having a wonderful time.

After three days of fishing there wasn’t a virgin in the crowd! Pisces had delivered as – they always seem to. Everybody had boated at least one marlin and most of us had three to four to our credit. All were catch and clean release. At one point on one glorious afternoon we had two on and another swimming about looking for something to eat!

We had also really gotten into the tuna. They were large shoals of yellow-fin – thousands of them stacked below the boats. The faster and farther you could get your bait down the bigger the tuna. If you’ve never had fresh sashimi – straight out of the water – washed down with an ice cold Mexican beer – you don’t know what you’re missing.

Our last day of fishing had been a great one – we were out in a 25 foot Bertram and had boated and released half a dozen marlins. We also saw several pods of whales and a ‘barn door’ sized manta that breached a couple of hundred yards from the boat. It had been a perfect. As the day came to an end it was my turn to sit in the chair. We headed back to the dock – happy and contented.

The captain had decided to leave the lines out until we got close to the harbor. We had a full pattern with the center rod in the chair holder. It had a big Penn International reel on it. The day was over – or so I thought – and I settled down with a cold beer and lit up a good cigar.

My celebration was interrupted when the big Penn started to scream. The rod bent over and line started to strip off the spool. The cigar went overboard and I handed my beer to the mate – I picked up the rod and set the hook. As soon as I felt the fish I knew that it wasn’t the typical marlin we’d been catching.

I stood up to keep the line clear while the crew cleared the pattern. Just as I was sitting back down this VW bus came out of the water about 300 yards out. Well, it looked like a VW bus at the time anyway! I knew I was in for a serious fight with a big fish.

The crew also knew what we had on. They worked quickly to get a harness on me and settled me back into the chair. And then the fight began in earnest. The first run took another 200 yards of line. I remember being very glad that it had hit the rod with the big reel on it. Finally I managed to turn the marlin back towards the boat. The captain had been backing down and did a great job of keeping the stern to the fish. I checked the drag and had Tom pour a bucket of water on the reel.

Forty-five minutes later I had the fish at the boat. We got our first close-up look at this magnificent marlin. The mate actually got the leader in hand – but the fish wasn’t finished by any measure. He turned away from the boat and started another run – another 300 yards of line went before I could turn him again.

Then the acrobatics started again. The marlin jumped half a dozen times before I got him under control. An hour later I had him at the boat again and this time the crew was able to make the capture. As they got the fish in hand it was clear that the hook was set deep and there was bleeding from the gills. The captain decided that we should take the fish – to turn him loose would mean that he probably would die. I don’t like taking marlin but in this case it seemed like the right thing to do.

When we had finally subdued the fish and pulled it onto the swim platform on the transom, it stuck out both sides. As I finally felt the line go slack I knew that I could relax. We all looked in wonder at the size of the marlin.

As we were entering the harbor; some of the tenders were taking the tourists back to their cruise ships. I remember the looks of wonder – the finger pointing – and the shouts of ‘well done’.

We went to the weigh-in dock and off-loaded the fish. It took four men to drag it up to the scales – and five to hoist it up by the tail. When it was finally weighted the fish went 585 pounds and measured 14 ½ feet long. I had boated a nickel fish!

Now, as I look at the photo on my wall, I remember that trip and that day – the last fishing trip I was ever to take with my brother before he died. The memories of Cabo, Tom and the big fish are ever with me.

A final note to this story – the Bisbee Fishing Tournament is an annual even at Cabo with a first prize of well over a million dollars. It seems I was just a week early because the fish would have taken first! Oh well, the memories are priceless!


About Fishing Cures: Fishing Cures is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization that raises money to support important medical research. (