Big Lake man finds fishing paradise rewarding – Mat

BIG LAKE — Trapped in the dead of winter, the average Alaska angler spends much of the colder months counting down the days until open water.

Greg Busch found a way to break up that monotony and experience a different type of fishing. The Big Lake man and member of the Mat-Su Anglers fishing club has traveled to Los Barriles, Mexico, three times to compete in the Fall Marlin Classic. Earlier this winter, Busch came back to Alaska a two-time winner.

“For me, I’m all about the fishing part,” said Busch, who traveled with his wife, Julie, and about a dozen other Alaskans to Los Barriles to vacation in the fishing village and compete in the tournament.

Busch learned of the tournament, which pits teams of three against each other during a three-day fishing derby, through an old Air Force buddy.

“He kept telling me about it, and finally I went there to check it out,” Busch said.

Eager anglers work to reel in impressive species such as blue, black and striped marlin and Pacific sailfish. There are also tuna and dorado, also known as mahi-mahi or dolphin fish, to catch. Each species is given a point value. Marlin are worth the most, 500 points each. A sailfish nets 200 points. Tuna and dorado earn 25 points for the first eight counted.

The marlin and sailfish, also called billfish thanks to their long, sword-like bills, are catch-and-release only. The tuna and dorado can be kept.

Busch’s team broke tournament records en route to the title in 2010. The team finished with more than 6,000 points. They caught 37 billfish and 15 dorado.

“It’s one of those years everything came together,” Busch said.

Busch said he fished with a pair of people he had not met before. He entered the tournament alone and picked a pair of teammates out of a crowd.

It worked.

“We got 15 the first day. Their arms were breaking; one of those pleasurable pains,” Busch said. “Twice that day everybody had a fish on.”

The fishing in the 2011 tournament was slower, Busch said. The team brought 17 billfish to the boat and about seven dorado. The total didn’t come close to the numbers in 2010, but it was enough to outscore the competition.

Busch said the experience is a nice for those used to fishing the deep Alaska ocean water.

“Generally, the weather is really nice, the water is relatively flat,” Busch said.

The resort is located on the east side of the Baja Peninsula in Mexico, north of Cabo San Lucas. The fishing is in the Sea of Cortez, between Mexico’s mainland and the Baja.

The fishing itself is different as well, far different than reeling in a bottom fish like a halibut.

“You can see them come up to the water, see the bill come slashing out of the water,” Busch said. “It’s very exciting. The fish pull hard and they’re tail-walking out there behind.”

Busch said his biggest haul was a 250-pound blue marlin. Most were striped marlin or sailfish, ranging from 90 to 150 pounds, at 6 to 7 feet in length.

Busch said he’s certainly heading back for the 2012 tournament. And the best part for Busch — he’s fishing for free.

“It’s part of winning the tournament,” Busch said.

Contact Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman sports editor Jeremiah Bartz at sports@frontiersman.com and follow him at twitter.com/matsu_sports.

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