Posted by: 1000fish | February 1, 2022

La Playa de la Mucus


It was getting dark and rainy in Northern California, and I wanted to go fishing, preferably someplace that wasn’t dark and rainy, and preferably someplace without Jamie Hamamoto or Braden “The Mucus” Moore. (As you recall, The Mucus is a friend’s teenager who is a lot like I was at that age, in other words, insufferable.) Still, if I had to choose, I would take the fishing. Thus, I ended up in Puerto Penasco, Mexico with the Moore family.

Aaaaaaaand there he is. God I love Culver’s.

Speaking of which, here’s a group shot at Culver’s. See if you can figure out which one is The Mucus. 

The Sea of Cortez, as we all learned from Steinbeck, is a magical place. And Puerto Penasco, or “Rocky Point” to us gringos, is a great spot in the Northern Sea of Cortez that is easily accessible by car from Phoenix. It was still a haul for me, flying to Arizona, then driving four hours, much of it at 12 miles an hour to avoid Mexican jail, but there are lots of species there. I had been there one other time, memorialized in the fabled “Marching Band From Hell” episode, and I was ready to return, even if it meant listening to The Mucus. The kid talks more than I do. I didn’t think this was possible.

Air travel in the Age of Covid is more complex than it was in the Age of All Other Diseases Ever. There are masks to be considered, and on each flight, we have to deal with both Mask Rebels and Mask Monitors. The Mask Rebel feels they are being a hero and a patriot by not wearing one. The Mask Monitor feels it is their purpose in life to make sure that your mask is properly fitted. Despite their intensive research on fringy websites and a B+ in high school biology, neither has any idea what they are talking about. People hate masks, but they just want to get on the plane and get wherever they are going so they can take the mask off. 

I got to Phoenix, had dinner with some friends, and got some sleep. Chris and team were there early the next morning, and we set out for Mexico. Without traffic, this is about a three and a half hour drive, but because there is only one route and it is a two-lane state highway, and it involves a border crossing, anything can happen. 

We got to pass this sign very, very slowly. Both ways. 

It’s a road trip with four guys, all of whom are at about the same level of maturity, so the conversation in the truck is always good fun. Except for the part about basketball. (Note that Chris is objective about all of this unless the Phoenix Suns are criticized.)

Whereas The Mucus will just engage in pointless debate, Carson will make his opinions known in a much more organized fashion. But no, Lebron James is not the best basketball player ever. Michael Jordan is.

That’s Michael Jordan on the far right. In a scene repeated throughout his career, he is losing the basketball to the Pistons, who in no way committed a foul.

And yet, because every generation wants to have the best player of all time, Carson will doggedly regurgitate arguments that show up on China-sponsored YouTube channels about why LeCramp is the best. No he isn’t. If nothing else, he never had to play the second greatest player of all time, Bill Laimbeer, who would have broken his soul. 

You heard me. I am, of course, perfectly objective on the Pistons.

My last trip here was mainly focused on big game fish, so I was excited about the harbor possibilities this time. We checked in to our hotel first, then headed for the port.

Our first stop. The Mucus is Googling the word “Literal.” Carson is smiling because he came up with some new argument proving LeBron doesn’t travel. Chris is a high school teacher, so nothing, and I mean nothing, bothers him.

Before I could really get settled, I was on the board. As a matter of fact, the first two fish I caught were new species – the gulf opaleye and the Pacific flagfin mojarra, species 1970 and 1971. 

That’s my third opaleye species.

I don’t even want to count the mojarras. But I lived in New Jersey in 1970 and 1971.

At this rate, I would reach 2000 later that afternoon, but we all know that normal math doesn’t apply to fishing. The spotted bay bass came out and we caught nothing but spotted bay bass, because the place is jammed with them. I ambitiously set out a few larger baits, but these were quickly eaten by ambitious bay bass. 

After faking a lunch with Pepsi and variety pack chips, we headed over to “Bad Band Beach.” The entrance to this beach has a tourist bar that always has a band, and the band, as enthusiastic as they might be, make Nickelback look like the Rolling Stones. As we walked down to the water, they were struggling through “Brown Eyed Girl.”

Bad Band Beach. Every one of those tidepools held fish.

It is a lovely beach with an endless warren of tidepools that open up as the water ebbs. Much like the menu at the Cheesecake Factory, there were simply too many choices, and it was hard to know where to start, but farther from the band seemed like a good idea, especially when they massacred “Sweet Caroline.” I thought sadly of Neil Diamond. Fun fact – he wrote “Coming to America” while he was on the Mayflower.

I spent a couple of hours trying to fish for something decent sized in the deeper water. The tides here are enormous – 15-18 feet –  so I kept having to move further down every few minutes. I got a few bay bass and croakers on jigs.

No one photobombs like The Mucus.

Somewhere in there, with no ill intentions, I landed a barred pargo. 

It was a small barred pargo.

As it turns out, Chris had never caught one of these. With a sense of purpose, he fished hard in the same area and caught, say it with me, bay bass. I am writing this blog 14 months after the fact, with two more Rocky Point trips yet to report, and he still hasn’t caught one. Both of his kids have caught one by now. In the background, the band played Aerosmith’s little-known “You’ve Never Caught a Pargo, Chris.”

My first barred pargo, in Costa Rica. Sorry Chris. 

Marta will insist hers was bigger than mine, but it wasn’t.

Chris did get some kind of solid croaker later in the evening. These are very difficult IDs. Get photos of all the fins.

This was the big fish of the trip. So far. In all truthfulness, Chris was more interested in making sure his kids caught fish – I always admire a Dad who gives their kids the one thing they really want – time. Chris won’t ever get Carson a meet and greet with LeBron, or a Gucci muzzle for The Mucus, but he plans his time around his family, not himself, and that’s a “Dad of The Year” candidate in my eyes.

Somewhere in there, as the band massacred “La Bamba,” I switched to the tidepools and got two more species.

The Sonora goby, #1972. That was the year the Oakland A’s ruined my childhood by defeating my beloved Tigers in the ALCS.

The Panamic frillfin goby. #1973. Nothing interesting happened in 1973.

As hard as this is going to be to admit, I owe the frillfin entirely to The Mucus. His fish ID mojo is strong, and he apparently spends hours researching these, when he isn’t Googling “Ridiculous ways to keep an argument going.” Seriously – if an adult says “Global warming is destroying the planet.” he will say “Global warming doesn’t exist.” If you say “Global warming is a hoax,” he will insist “Global warming is destroying the planet.” When you respond with scientific data, he will claim the data is wrong. You will then tell him that “data” is a plural noun and it should be “the data ARE wrong.” He will then say “I literally didn’t know that.” I say we send him to Summer Grammar Camp for two weeks.

This was a short trip – only three total days – so we had booked an inshore boat trip to mix things up on Sunday. We discussed strategies over a magnificent dinner at Al Capone’s Restaurant, and I caught up with the owner, Dave, who had organized my trip back in 2014.

Yoga Three

That’s Dave in the center. The guy on the right is Jeff, who took us fishing on his boat. One of my better bottom fishing trips ever.

The pizza is also very solid.

Both kids got online during dinner and found loads of local species we needed. The internet is a good thing, except when Carson starts googling “Help me claim Lebron is better than MJ and keep a straight face.”

The Mucus stayed relatively quiet during the sports debates, occasionally offering pithy observations like “I literally don’t know who Bill Laimbeer is.” He would then fall asleep while I was responding.

The kid can sleep ANYWHERE.

We found ourselves in the harbor at 7am the next day. The King Catch was a solid boat, and owner Steve Thrush is an American who made it easy for me to get things booked. We met him in the morning, and then he turned us over to the crew – Gabi and Miko.

Gabi and Miko. They were solid crew and worked their tails off to make sure we got fish.

We spent the first hour fishing for bait, which can be the most interesting part of the trip. We dropped medium sabikis in about 80 feet of water, and the Moore family loaded up on species. (I think they got three each.) I got dozens of fish, but no new species, except for, and this again hurts me to admit, a round herring that was identified months later by … The Mucus.

Oh, how this pains me. But it was species 1974. I was in 5th grade in 1974. My teacher was Mrs. Ewles, and she was our hero because she drove an orange Corvette.

I also caught jawfish – a very cool local bottom species. Jamie Hamamoto has not gotten one of these.

Once we loaded the livewell, we headed out 15 more miles and set some big live baits on the bottom. The boat rigs were no-nonsense – Penn 115-ish size reels loaded with 100#+ mono, with 300# leaders. The baits were all at least a pound – even smaller grouper can swallow amazingly large things, and there are some very big fish in this region. 

To pass the time while we waited for a takedown, we all dropped smaller cut baits to the bottom. The triggerfish kept us busy – these are a great fight but they can get a bit repetitive for the species hunter.

The first 10 of these are a lot of fun. Luckily, it was nice and flat outside – Chris tells me he gets seasick quite easily. (Spoiler alert -conditions were not so favorable on our April 2021 trip, coming soon to 1000Fish.)

Chris quietly wonders how things went so wrong.

The Moores picked up a few new ones, which was fun to watch, but I wanted something new and was getting bitter and spiteful. 

Two Red Bulls later, I changed tactics and started casting a “Bumpa Bar,” an Australian lure that Scotty Lyons introduced me to many years ago. Moments later, I got hammered and hooked up. (Which sounds like cousin Chuck’s teenage social life.) On a relatively light Okuma travel rod, it took me a few minutes to get the fish off the bottom, but once it was out of the rocks, I started gaining a lot of line, which is fairly typical grouper behavior. 

The crew stood by with nets and gaffs, and moments later, my fish came to the surface. It was a solid spotted cabrilla, maybe six pounds, so it was not only the big fish of the trip, it was also a new species. 

#1975. That’s the year I met Sean Biggs. This proves that I am very old.

I kept jigging, and a few casts later, got a softer hit and another fish on – this time a flounder. Flounder IDs are a mess, and often require detailed ray counts and complete disassembly of the fish to count gill rakers. This one turned out to be a new one for me – the speckled flounder – too small to be a record on the species but #1976 nonetheless. 

1976 – We celebrated the bicentennial at Lake Tahoe. My father and I went trout fishing in the Truckee River that morning, and I caught nothing.

We spent the evening at Bad Band Beach, where Chris didn’t catch a barred pargo while the band played a barely recognizable version of Bon Jovi’s “Livin’ on a Pargo.” We ate at Capone’s again – they prepared our grouper perfectly, and as much food as we ordered, there were no leftovers.

Chris and the main dish size each other up.

Even a stout buffet would have no chance against this group – Carson runs cross-country, so he eats like a professional, I am well-known for my eating prowess, Chris is like a slightly-younger, better-looking version of me, and The Mucus is … well, just look at him.

Seven species in three days was more than I could have expected, but me being me, I was more concerned about the next 24. The season was pretty much over, and I would have a few weeks of unchecked eating, Christmas specials, and hopefully seeing a few friends, but then I would be back to the grind and try to make 2021 the year I finally got to 2000, pandemic be damned. 


Bill Laimbeer says “Go catch a pargo, Chris!”





  1. Where’s my dolphin?!?! 🤣

  2. Dis blog suks just like Bill LAMEbeer hoo i dont car enough aboUt to Spellll his NAMe corektly.

  3. The pistons will never be good again.

  4. […] My previous trips to Puerto Penasco had both been in the month of November. The water temperature in April was going to be a lot warmer, and we expected to see some different species. We would also be fishing the estuary, which was alleged to be full of unusual stuff.  […]

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