Nothing can shatter the calm of the Sea of Cortez, which Americans call the Gulf of California, quite like a hooked dorado. This one must have hit the trolled lure at full speed—40 mph, according to some authorities—and had 50 yards of line off the fly reel before I could react. When I cut the motor and turned to look, I saw a V-shaped wake streaking away from the boat, the fish no more than an inch or two beneath the surface. After another 50 yards it jumped, throwing spray and shining bright gold in the morning sunlight. The writhing fish was a good 10 feet out of water when it shook the hook loose. I saw the lure drop back to the water ahead of the fish just as the fly rod went dead in my hands. A second later the dorado (a dolphin fish) hit flat on its broadside with a splat that sounded like a gunshot, and then the sea was glassy calm again.
"We won't get many more chances like that," I said to my wife, Hilde. "Maybe none. Damn!"
It was November—not a good dorado month in the area of Loreto, on the Baja Peninsula—and in more than two weeks of fishing, that was the first good-size one we had hooked. Other fish were plentiful—bonito, ladyfish, skipjack, roosterfish, Sierra grande, cabrilla, dog snapper—and on some days we caught them until our arms were too tired to reel. But dorado was the fish that we wanted most. Two good 15-pounders, one apiece, would make our trip complete, although there was little reason to expect another hookup that same November morning.
Ahead was a small island, about 150 yards long and half as wide. It consisted of two rocky hills of unequal size, thick with cactus and connected by a narrow arm of land that now, at high tide, was nearly under water. The smaller of the two hills was no more than 300 yards from the mainland. The water around it was 20 to 40 feet deep, and the bottom was mostly white sand, but with several large boulders showing. It was definitely a fishy place.
Just off the island's lower tip, another dorado struck. It, too, hit my lure on the run and kept on going, straight toward shore. This time I could actually see the fish, its back and tail out of water, the leader cutting the surface cleanly. Like the first one, it jumped high and threw the hook. The rod went dead in my hands again.
"Two in a row. That was even bigger," I said.
Hilde smiled and, as usual, took the optimistic view. "Maybe there'll be some more," she said.
She was right. I hooked several dorado as we trolled around the island, and they were all good ones, hitting the lure as hard as any fish in my experience. But the luck was all mine—the dorado ignored Hilde's lure. I landed only two fish, but the second one was 20 pounds—much more than I'd hoped for.
By the time I had landed and released it, the midday wind was rising, so we headed back to Puerto Escondido. "Tomorrow it's your turn," I told Hilde.
"Maybe," she answered as she reeled in her line.