By Ryan Saul
I love hunting, I love killing fish and I love eating meat. What I love more, and am fortunate enough to be doing full time, is pastoring a small church in Tampa called Calvary Chapel West Tampa.
We are in the process of teaming up with a ministry based out of California called Uturn for Christ and bringing it here to Florida. Uturn for Christ is a ministry dedicated to bringing men and women to a place of freedom from drug and alcohol addiction through a relationship with Jesus Christ. This ministry is very close to my heart and I am thankful for the chance to be a part of it. This ministry is also the reason why I was in California and Mexico last week.
Every year Uturn hosts a pig roast in Perris, California followed by a leadership retreat in Ensenada, Mexico. This was my first time going to either. Pastor Gerry Brown, the founder of Uturn and an avid fisherman, encouraged me to bring along my spearfishing gear as he’d be trailering his boat down to Ensenada. After church on Sunday the convoy headed down.
We arrived in Ensenada around 4 p.m. and went straight to the water. Brother Cory, our good buddy and legendary pig man Mike Knox, and I found a place where we could get in a quick shore dive and got lucky with a few lobsters and some smaller fish right away.
However, I had my heart set on shooting some California sheepshead and a yellowtail on this trip, both new to me. On Monday we had difficultly time finding clean water, but I managed a few nice sheepshead out of the kelp paddies around Todos Santos.
Diving in kelp was wild, I felt like I was diving in an aquarium, it was a completely foreign environment and I definitely felt out of place. The weirdest parts for me were the seals that liked to peak out at you from behind the kelp and the sheer drop-offs with the peaks and valleys below.
With one species checked off the list and feeling good about the second, we headed for blue water on Tuesday.
The plan was to run out about 20 miles and look for floating kelp paddies from the tuna tower. As we were motoring up to the first kelp paddy we saw something huge in the water. It turned out to be a sunfish. I’ve never seen one in person before so I threw my gear on and jumped in the water to swim with it. Immediately as my head went under I realized that I was in a school of small yellowtails. Forgetting all about the sunfish, I quickly loaded one band on my gun and shot one. I was in the water for less than 10 seconds and had shot my first yellowtail.
The day got better from there. Every paddy we got in on we were greeted by a large school of very bold yellowtails. It was quick shooting for the most part and after one or two fish got shot the school would leave which had us hopping around a bit. On one paddy I was schooled by some pretty decent dolphin and was able to pick one off. Dolphin aren’t uncommon for us here out of Tampa but these were a little bigger than the ones we typically get.
I love yellowtail sushi, so I was excited to get a chance to do one of my favorite things which is making sushi on the boat. After sitting on ice for a couple hours I cut up one of the yellowtails and poured over some soy sauce and we ate it with sriracha and Doritos. It didn’t last very long and was as good as you would expect, definitely a treat.
We kept spotting for kelp and kept shooting fish until the box was full. We made a run in to find some lingcod but dirty 67 degree water at the end of the day isn’t very inviting so we called it.
We got the boat on the trailer and headed back to the house, but before we got back we met up with some of the guys from the Uturn for Christ ranch in Ensenada to offload fish. We donated all of the fish and lobsters that we got on Monday and Tuesday to the guys at the ranch. They only get meat every other day so when there’s a chance for some extra protein they’re thankful. Besides, I know that the fish tacos the guys at the ranch made were better and more appreciated than anything I would have made.
All in all it was a killer trip. Checked some new fish off the list, made some new life-long friendships, strengthened old friendships and renewed my focus on what’s important.