Giver Receives Surprise Bounty From the Sea


Jim Dillon is one of the good guys, an avid fisherman who never sought recognition but perhaps is deserving of some.

The retired San Diego businessman, whose humanitarian efforts in Southern California and Mexico are admirable if not widely recognized, might soon be recognized by the fishing community as the man who caught the largest dorado ever on rod and reel.

Dillon’s dorado (they’re also called dolphinfish and mahi-mahi), which struck with fury and dashed off “like a tornado,” came in after a 30-minute fight and tipped the Cabo San Lucas scale at a whopping 90 pounds.


If approved by the International Game Fish Assn., it will become both the all-tackle world record, breaking the existing record by two pounds, and the men’s 80-pound line-class record.

“I’m sure people have hooked bigger dorado, but for whatever reasons no one has been able to land one,” Dillon said, giving much of the credit to Capt. Salvador Nunez Ocampo for his handling of the vessel, and to deckhand Jesus Zavala Soto.

Dillon, 55, who spends one week each month in Cabo San Lucas, is co-owner, with Nunez, of the 29-foot charter boat El Budster.

The boat is named after Buddy, Dillon’s collie mix, who is part of a canine interaction program run by Dillon’s girlfriend, Lesley Sargent. Buddy has spent “thousands of hours” with elderly hospital patients and sick children, Dillon said, “to brighten their lives, put a smile on their faces and a song in their hearts.”

The program is only one facet of the Dillon Foundation, which was created in 1992 and has since opened a food bank in Cabo San Lucas and delivered schoolbooks, computers and medical supplies to the poorer areas of the resort city at the tip of the Baja California peninsula.

While Dillon likes to “make the quality of life better for other people,” he also likes to fish.


He was targeting marlin on the morning of July 31, getting no action and about to reel in and switch to larger lures when the bull dorado struck. Despite the heavy tackle and the reel’s tight drag, line spun off so rapidly that Dillon was sure he had hooked a marlin.

“When we first saw the fish come out of the water it was about 150 yards away,” Dillon said. “It was so far off, but we could still tell that it was a pretty big fish. I thought it was a marlin because the line was singing off the reel so fast, like a tornado, creating this big wind.”

When the wind settled, the iridescent green and golden dorado was brought alongside the boat, stuck with a gaff and hauled over the rail, giving its captor a chance to make angling history.

While Dillon wasn’t after a record, he said he’s as deserving of one as anyone. Perhaps more so.

“I think it’s a payback from the people of Mexico,” he said. “Maybe it’s their way of saying thanks.”

One That Got Away

Big dorado seem to be making a splash throughout southern Baja waters. Gary Graham, owner of Baja on the Fly at the East Cape, said in a recent report: “Spent yesterday teasing up blue marlin and the action was fair. We raised several fish and the client had shots, but didn’t connect.


“However, we hooked the mother of all dorado. This fish cleared the water by at least 15 feet and did it twice. I believe the fish would have gone over 60 pounds, but we will never know because he just kept leaping off into the sunset.”

The Southland Bite

The albacore season seems to be winding down, as sea surface temperatures are nearing or topping 70 degrees at many offshore locales. While that’s too warm for albacore, it is luring yellowfin tuna and even a few dorado into Southland waters, so while there’s no wide-open bite to speak of, there is an interesting mix of fish swimming around the offshore banks.

Perhaps most interesting is the recent influx of striped marlin, being targeted almost exclusively by private boaters. John Doughty of J.D.’s Big Game Tackle on Balboa Island, which monitors radio reports from private boaters, said marlin have been seen or caught this week at high spots from the east end of Catalina to and beyond San Diego.

Anglers aboard San Diego’s 1 1/2- to three-day boats, meanwhile, are getting fair to moderate cooperation from big bluefin tuna--and even some sizable albacore--about 110 miles southwest of the landings.

Not So Classic

Southland bass pro Aaron Martens, hoping to improve on an impressive seventh-place finish in the previous year’s Bassmasters Classic, instead finished tied for 43rd in a field of 45.

Martens, a Castaic resident and the lone Southern Californian in the Classic held last weekend on the Louisiana Delta, caught only four fish totaling 4 pounds 8 ounces in bass fishing’s most prestigious event.


In his defense, conditions were made tough by Tropical Storm Barry. But turbulent waters didn’t affect Kevin VanDam of Kalamazoo, Mich., whose three-day total of 15 bass weighing 32 pounds 5 ounces earned him top prize of $100,000.

At a post-tournament news conference, VanDam told reporters, “Except for when my kids were born, this is probably the happiest moment of my life.”

Field Notes

* With hunting season fast approaching, and the dove opener scheduled Sept. 1, mandatory safety courses are being offered at several Southland locations this month. A listing can be obtained by calling the Department of Fish and Game at (562) 590-5670, or by visiting and clicking on hunter education.

While it’s too early to gauge conditions for the dove opener, thunderstorms, which tend to scatter the birds, swept through the popular Imperial Valley this week, downing trees and power lines, causing one El Centro resident to say the area resembled “ a war zone.”

* A total of 79,799 big-game applications were submitted to the DFG for the June 13 drawings, the highest number in eight years, program coordinator Karen Madrigal announced last week.

Of those, 46,061 were for “premium” deer hunts such as those in the popular X zone; 11,081 were for 194 pronghorn antelope tags; 16,895 for 273 tule, Rocky Mountain and Roosevelt elk tags, and 5,762 for 12 bighorn sheep tags.


Wild File

* Recent high-profile shark attacks in Florida and the Bahamas, both resulting in loss of limb, have critics of the controversial practice of shark feeding speaking out as never before.

“When you teach [sharks] to associate humans with food, you are greatly increasing the risk of attacks on humans,” said Bob Dimond, founder of the Florida-based Marine Safety Group and an outspoken critic of the practice.

While hand feeding sharks for the benefit of scuba divers had nothing directly to do with the attacks, both occurred near where shark-feeding operations exist.

The scuba-diving industry continues to support the outfitters that practice shark feeding, claiming there is no conclusive evidence to show that feeding sharks makes them more dangerous to swimmers and divers.

But their critics have begun to make bigger waves and in Florida, where an 8-year-old boy’s arm was bitten off (it was reattached) during an attack off Pensacola on July 6, state lawmakers are preparing legislation they hope will strictly regulate or ban shark feeding.

* In South Australia, the practice of shark patting is coming under fire after sightseers were seen two weeks ago on the nightly news climbing atop a floating whale carcass and patting great whites on their snouts as the predators tore hunks of flesh from the whale. One of the tourists had climbed atop the whale’s back carrying a small child.


Authorities are considering banning vessels carrying tourists from approaching dead whales.

* In South Africa, a stranded humpback whale was put to death with explosives this week after attempts to drag it back to sea failed. Reuters news service reports that local television showed the front half of the 33-foot whale blowing up, “showering a crimson spray of blood and blubber over the beach on the country’s southeastern shore.”

Experts said the means of “putting the whale down” was the most humane they could think of, saying shooting the mammal or giving it a fatal injection was ruled out because of its size.

Winding Up

A memorial for Fred Hoctor, a Western Outdoor News columnist who died July 23 of heart failure, will be held Sunday at 1 p.m. at the La Jolla Camp boat ramp near his home in Punta Banda overlooking Todos Santos Bay and Ensenada in Baja California.

Hoctor’s ashes will be scattered and a potluck will follow. Hoctor’s wife, Sylvia, asked that in lieu of flowers, donations be made to the Billfish Foundation, Attention: Fred Hoctor Memorial Fund, 177 Riverside Ave., Suite F, No. 1034, Newport Beach, 92663.

Fish Report: D10