October 21, 2007
Jimmy and I drove from LA to LaPaz, in Baja, Mexico, last June. We dove 3 1/2 days around Cerralvo Island.
On the 3rd day, Saturday July 1st, I shot and landed a monster pargo (Pacific Cubera snapper, or dogtooth snapper), that’s a world record breaker. It beats the actual 21st century world record by almost 9 lb.
I shot it at around 70 ft depth, in a 1 knot + current, with my new Wong Ono gun.
The fish caved in right away, and the steel cable shooting line broke after about 20 minutes. By the time the boat showed up and anchored, I was exhausted from diving the 70ft deep crevice in 1 knot current and mediocre bottom viz. We couldn’t see the bottom from the surface as the water got really murky at the thermocline line, about 45 ft down, so each dive had to be below 50 ft, up current, to check out the exact spot every time.
With such repeated efforts, I started dehydrating and overheating in my 3mm suit (water temp was close to 87 F). Meanwhile, the boat finally showed up and the skipper wanted to try to salvage my spear at least, so he donned his scuba tank, jumped in and waited for me. I jumped in too to show him the spot, after taking my wetsuit off. BIIIIG mistake; as I swam towards the boat, an “aqua male” (Portuguese man-o-war specie of jelly fish) slammed me big time, landing on my back and spreading its tentacles from there, through my neck and groin, all the way to both my arms and legs. I was screaming from the burning and electro-shocking pain that felt as if invisible saws, heated to the maximum, were slowly severing my limbs.
By the time the pain started easing off 10 minutes and half a pint of vinegar later, I had had it and decided to forget about retrieving the fish and the spear and slip tip and called the search mission off.
Just before we started heading back, Jimmy told the skipper that he had forgotten to pull the red marker buoy. The reply came that this was done 2 minutes earlier. Jimmy then pointed out.
“Then what’s the red thing floating there?” “Someone else’s buoy? But no one else is here” “OK, let’s go get it”
And here it was … floating from exertion and still alive. The biggest pargo anyone on the boat has ever seen and Jimmy’s been diving the sea of Cortez for over 45 years. Even the Mexican Captain, Tavo, he said he had never seen one that size before. He estimated it at no less than 35 kilos, maybe 40 kilos. (Between 77lb and 88 lb).
The fish had broken off the spear and slip tip too. Air temp was over 100F and it could not be stored on ice, so by the time we made it back and got the scale to weigh it, it was stiff and dry. It still weighed 30.5 kilos (67 lb)
Another friend, Philippe Virgili, who flew all the way from New Brunswick, Canada, to dive with us, filmed part of the action.
You can view the video below by clicking on the image