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Luke Ovgard recounts fishing for striped mullets on Rocky Point in Mexico with his friends.

PUERTO PEÑASCO, Mexico — Full from some roadside adobada sopes I'd purchased in a tiny town and eaten outdoors in the 115-degree heat, the meat sweats hit me. Soon after, I was pounding cold drinks left and right as I headed east into the desert.

I had been warned about police corruption in Sonora. As I slowed for the turn that would put me onto the final leg of a remote desert highway between Guadalupe Victoria and my destination, Puerto Peñasco, the flashing lights in the distance made me a bit apprehensive.

Isolated hardly felt adequate to describe the barely-maintained desert roads that were mostly paved but rarely signed and never painted between the Calexico/Mexicali border crossing and my destination atop the Sea of Cortez.

The stopped vehicle looked sketchy enough in the flickering wash of the spasming red and blue lights from the police cruiser. Seeing my cautious approach, the officer moved slowly into the intersection and motioned for me to stop. A bit apprehensive, I rolled down my passenger window and attempted to discuss my plans en roto Español.

"¿A dónde vas?" he said.

"Perdóname," I bleated, "mi Español es no bueno."

He nodded.

I had carefully rehearsed the phrase over and over as I moved toward the flashing lights, and now I delivered my line as if on cue: "Voy a pescar con mis amigos en Puerto Peñasco por tres días."

Crap. Should've been para, not por.

Regardless, he got it and shined a light through my open window into the cab. I had a stack of fishing rods, a cooler and enough corroborating evidence that he nodded. He asked for my insurance. I'd purchased Mexican auto insurance to cover my days-long venture into the country, and I handed it to the officer. He nodded again and let me go. No tickets, no bribes. I was pleasantly surprised.


My headlights peeled away the consummate blackness of the worn pavement as I made my way to the Airbnb I'd booked in Puerto Peñasco with my friends, the Moores.

Chris and his boys, Carson and Braeden, were frequent visitors to this little town dubbed "Arizona's Beach," and I was venturing into Mexico for the first time to fish with them for a long weekend, hoping they'd share some of the secrets to their pioneered success in the area.

It was too late to wet a line that night, but we were up first thing the next morning for a boat we'd rented, and I could scarcely contain my excitement. Our guide spoke very little English, which was perfect because we spoke very little Spanish. Regardless, we managed to get out and face the high winds to catch some fish. Chris and Braeden took seasick early, and after fighting through it for hours, Chris decided to head back to shore — a few pounds lighter. The boys and I managed to add dozens of fish, representing several new species, which made the queasiness that much more acceptable to me, but Braeden continued to chum the waters in between catches.

Our trip ended, and we were pleased to find solid footing again. We continued fishing in the harbor, and it was late afternoon when I had another run-in with the policia. .

Harboring criminals

There is a large commercial loading dock in the harbor there, and while I was grabbing some lunch, the Moores noticed a boat dumping fish waste and carcasses into the water. This, in turn, brought swarms of scavengers along with a roving horde of mullet.

Mullet can be finicky eaters in natural environments, where they typically operate as filter feeders, but in human-influenced environments, the opportunistic omnivores will eat anything — including fish scraps.

Dozens of mullet swarmed the surface, chomping at the bounty as I returned from my lunch. I noticed the boys trying to entice the mullet and quickly followed suit, tying on a fluorocarbon leader, a light hook and baiting it with a piece of shrimp about the size of a blueberry. Casting proved tough, but so long as I kept it at or near the surface, I got bit.

Braeden, Carson and I all landed striped mullet (a fish found all over the world that I'd caught plenty of times before), and while Chris tried to catch his own, I ran back to the car and grabbed my fly rod. The next 20 minutes were spent flailing with a light white streamer and hoping to hook a mullet on the fly. As the food scraps thinned out, so did the mullet, which meant me long-casting further and further out from the loading dock to the fish feeding some 15 feet below me. My backcast hooked a loading crane and several cables which I felt justified a fish, but it never happened.

A police officer came and told us to leave, pointing to the "Prohibido Pescar" signs all around us. The dock workers said they were done for the day and didn't mind, so we'd swooped at the opportunity, and now it was coming back to bite us.

Though Carson and I hadn't puked like Braeden or Chris, I'm sure we'd all looked a little green on the boat. Thankfully, putting the green in gringo helped us out, and he let us off with a warning. Are rumors of police corruption in Mexico exaggerated? Perhaps, but there's no way one weekend was enough time to decide, so I guess I'll have to go back.

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