by Joel Barker
Fishing for another adventure in Mexico
I have lived in the Lake Chapala area of Mexico for nearly 13 years and would have never believed it if someone told me there was world-class bass fishing in Mexico even six months ago. But recently I took the chance to run down a rumor. I finally got the novel idea to Google bass fishing in Mexico. I didn’t expect much to come up but was surprised and excited about the results. Not more than three and a half hours from Ajijic is a reservoir called Aguamilpa. On one site I read “Stocked in 1992 with Florida strain largemouth bass, the lake was protected from fishing until the fall of '97; the lake is loaded with aggressive bass ranging in size from 2 1/2 to 10 pounds.”
I took the bait. I had to see for myself if what I was reading was true. I called up another avid fisherman and we made plans to leave early Saturday morning. We were on the road by 5 a.m., through Guadalajara by 6 and on the final road out of Tepic by 8ish. The road from Tepic is a decent paved road with a few potholes and a railroad track to cross over a few times. It is a beautiful wooded drive surrounded by a mountain range. Coming through in the early morning with the clouds settling over the peaks and the sun painting the sky with its colors was something to see.
When we reached the end of the road behind the dam, we found a parking place and started asking around about a boat to rent. We soon found one for hire, loaded up our fishing gear and shoved off. Having never been there and being adventurous, we decided to just look around and start fishing when the urge struck us. What a beautiful country. Driftwood and trees lining the shore, high watermark evidence of abundant rains in the past, clear blue skies with cotton candy clouds drifting by.
We came to a cove and headed in to have a look. We stopped near the end where a small stream came bounding out of a canyon and splashed into the lake. Casting out and testing the waters for 10 minutes caught us nothing so we decided to move on. Heading north following the shoreline we began testing different points for fish. One thing we began to notice is how much cleaner the water was the further away we got from the dam. We continued north and then east to a little island.
From some distance off we could see that there was a structure atop this island. As we drew closer we saw movement and realized that children were coming out of the stick and thatch hut. I felt like I was living a National Geographic moment. There were seven of them ranging in age from about ten to 2, the oldest having the most clothing on and the youngest with nothing. We waved and they all waved back. The fishing wasn’t any good there so we moved on.
A bit further we hit gold. We rounded a corner where the water was the cleanest we had seen yet. The first cast landed us a 2 ½ pound bass and the thrill that goes with it. I was having a bit of gear trouble at this time. Doesn’t it seem to always go that way? Just when you get to ‘the’ fishing hole, your gear breaks. I had cast out and began reeling in when the line got caught under the spindle. At the same time something grabbed my line. I gave it a twist, set the hook and the line broke. I watched the line fall out of the hoops and into the water. Panic stricken, I dropped the useless fishing pole and reached down and grabbed the line out of the water. I gave about two pulls on it when the fish on the end of it took off. It was all I could do to contain myself, but somehow I managed to haul him it. Biggest fish I have ever caught! It had to be just less than three pounds and nearly 15 inches long. Needless to say, I switched poles and started fishing again. We caught our limit in the next hour so decided to explore a bit more of the lake.
Heading south now we hugged our starboard shore looking at the surrounding mountains and the different huts that appeared around each bend. There were families living in these huts. They would tie their row boats to a tree and walk up the hill to their huts and makeshift corrals. Some had chickens and goats, but most seemed to have little to nothing.
It is a big lake, nearly 70,000 acres, but still not as big as Lake Chapala. Many times we passed a man rowing his wife and children in their little canoes. Can you imagine? “Hey honey, if you want to be at the store by noon, we will have to be out on the water by sunlight.”
By about 4:30 we were ready to head back. Now when you haven’t done something for a while and most things you’re seeing are new to you, we all have a tendency to overlook some things. In our case it was the gas tank. We had been scooting across this lake all day on 40 liters and a 50 horse-power outboard. It never occurred to us that we could run out until that outboard started sputtering. We were on our way back, we could see the dam and the landing from where we were, but having broken the makeshift paddle earlier pushing off the rocks, we were in a fix. Lucky for us a family of locals heading for home with supplies came heading our way. We flagged them down and cautiously they approached. After a bit of laughter in translation of our predicament, they were able to sell us 5 liters of gas and sent us on our way.
When we reached the shore and tied up, we saw the little hut and had a powerful thirst to quench. So we took our stuff and our fish and asked if there was a cook in the house. The little old lady promptly agreed and we sat down to enjoy the view of the lake and a few cold beers. I was getting ready to eat a couple of the big mouth bass I had caught that day in lake Aguamilpa, Mexico.
When the fish came out, they had been cleaned and fried in a skillet over a wood fire. The tortillas were fresh and tasty and the people were friendly and attentive. I have never before in my life tasted anything so good. The bass was hot and tender rolled up in the tortillas with a homemade red Mexican salsa.
I was sitting at the table, drinking a beer and winding down from one of the most amazing days of my life. There was so much fish left over that we gave it to the family serving us. When the children were given the fish and they looked at me with those big round eyes, it was then that I felt like a king.
Since this trip I have asked around and have been hearing some other amazing fish stories. One of these is that there are two or three other, smaller lakes within an hour of Ajijic that were also stocked and under-fished. I’ll be chasing down another rumor soon.
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