This is the second installment of Sean Jansen’s series Paddling with a Porpoise.  In part two, Jansen logs his solo SUP journey where aims to complete his paddle  through the Baja Peninsula. His goal is to raise awareness for plastic pollution and ocean conservation, specifically around the critically endangered porpoise, the Vaquita

LEFT: Map of Sean’s paddling route. RIGHT: Sean’s vessel.

I was putting my rod away after I had been casting all afternoon without so much as a single peek at my fly. In fact, it had been this way since I restarted my paddle trip a month ago, and I was losing all hope and patience. I’m not a saltwater angler – I have no experience in this world or any prior knowledge on what to do beyond the studies of YouTube videos. I was starting to wonder why I even brought a rod in the first place.

I was paddling the Baja Peninsula to raise awareness for a porpoise, camping and writing about it as I went. I thought I’d bring my rod and pray I could get into a roosterfish or dorado. But at that point, I would have taken anything willing to grab my fly. Gone were the days of the cabrilla on every cast from part one of this story – part two is where it gets real: More people, more stress, and more patience was required to get a hook set. All of which, I didn’t care for.

The sun was setting and I was tired. I just wanted to retire to my tent,  call it a night, and allow my frustration to fade like the sun below the horizon. I broke down my fly rod and stowed it for tomorrow’s paddle to the next beach. I grabbed my camera to shoot the sunset like I do each evening, and as the shutter clicked, so too did baitfish on the shore. 

Like a mirror being shattered by a rock thrown at it, the small sized mullet, at least a thousand strong, rushed the shore, erupting on the surface, being chased by a school of thirty or so Jacks. It was an explosion of water and flashes of silver bursting into frame. The Jacks were nearly beaching themselves at the rush of baitfish, and before I knew it, the action was gone – and, as luck would have it, I had put my fly rod away thirty seconds prior. 

I was ready to scream. Even if I had reacted as soon as the bait ball erupted, it would have been over. On this entire trip, logging over 800 miles down the coast, I had not seen anything like it. To put my rod away less than a minute before it happened, was an omen of some kind. 

I didn’t sleep much that night as I had lucid dreams of countless fish since the trip started, all giving me the middle finger, while I paddled down the coast. I had seen a roosterfish ambush a mullet larger than any trout I had caught this year directly under my board while I was paddling, looking at me with a smugness that only a cocky schoolboy would carry. A dorado swam within five feet of me and even circled back and followed the wake of my board. Needlefish launched out of the water and even arched over my board at times. These moments  haunted me in my attempt at sleep, and I didn’t know what to do, or what I was doing wrong.

The trip was never really about fishing anyways. It was about raising awareness for an endangered porpoise, the Vaquita, but I also wasn’t going to not bring a fly rod with me in case a bait ball eruption like that happened. After lamenting, I put my head down and kept paddling down the coast to my goal, Cabo San Lucas. 

Along my journey, more fish jumped and chased bait fish with each stroke down the coast. It was frustrating, but I knew I was about to enter an area I’ve looked forward to since I first put my board in the water. Just south of the city of La Paz were gigantic points and long stretches of coast with nothing but sand. Finally, what I had dubbed the rooster capital of Baja, was in sight: Los Barriles. Once again, I arrived and was greeted with a forecast so awful that I had no choice but to lay low and hangout in the community, which suited me just fine. I ended up staying for ten days searching for fish and waiting for the wind to calm. Some days, the wind was so bad and the seas so rough,  the only real thing I could do was sit on the beach, drink coffee, and watch  the little Olive Ridley sea turtle hatchlings enter the water to start their life. 

Waking up early was one way to beat the strong winds, and I ran up and down the beaches of Los Barriles looking for that dark shadow of fish. I wasn’t ready to give up, and kept searching until the day my persistence was finally rewarded. 

I sat and watched as the baitfish porpoised through the water, knowing something was chasing them. Naturally, they were just offshore enough to be out of casting range. My luck finally turned when a bait ball erupted right on the beach like it did that evening up the coast. I quickly pulled the my Airflo line out of the reel and had my fly in one hand and rod in the other, ready to snipe a cast to the best of my ability. At this point in the bait ball eruption, I didn’t think the cast mattered much. I threw out my mullet pattern, gave it two strips, and the line was tight. Line screamed out of the reel, and I was finally hooked into something that wasn’t a sea bass. I still didn’t know what it was, but the silver flashes were something that ripped a smile across my face. 

The fight was solid despite how small the fish was in comparison to the splashes at the bait ball. However, the little Jack came to hand and I quickly thanked it for its interest in my fly before releasing it with water still washing over its gills. I smiled, since it took forever to get into a fish that was different than anything I’d hooked prior. Before I could retreat back to the shade of the one palm tree on the beach, fifty yards away, another bait ball erupted on the shore. I sprinted  up and down the beach for another hour hooking into Jack after Jack until the wind came up. I was grateful and relieved, since  I was unsure how the story about  my fishing from this trip was going to go. I wanted a Roosterfish so bad, but unfortunately, that never happened, nor did I ever see one for the remainder of the trip. 

The last section of the trip was all about reflection, as I had gone through some incredibly remote and demanding sections of the area. These places  on the coast begged the question of why I ever decided to even try to fish on this trip. But, as I rounded the infamous east cape of the peninsula where the roosterfish film, ‘Running Down the Man’ was filmed,  the homes and surf breaks demanded my attention: The waves threatened my beach landings and the homes offered little space for me to set up my tent. 

It all began in slow motion yet flew by at the same time. I was suddenly not going south anymore, but west, as I rounded the cape towards the cities of San Jose Del Cabo and Cabo San Lucas. I had to get creative with my campsites and nestled between mega mansions and five star resorts with gringos walking along the beaches in front of me. However,  the fish abundance continued, and that also brought the fishermen. Boats zipped by each day with trolling rigs and gringos with smiles ripped across their faces while their boat wakes sent me into a fury of balance and concentration, trying not to capsize.   

For the next thirty miles, this was the trend each day, all day. There were moments of baitfish breaching the surface of the water and the usual frigates, sea gulls, and pelicans swooping in to scoop up what was left. Contrasted to the vastness of the Pacific Ocean, whales breaching and boats on my left, to my right were millions of dollars of development and people partying on the beach to the latest dance hit that was released while I was paddling for the last 123 days. 

The famous arch of Cabo eventually presented itself and I had to dodge countless panga boats zipping in and out of each other, as well as mega yachts, cruise ships, and drunk tourists blasting around on jet skis. The stir of the wakes created a washing machine effect, like if ten of your friends all jumped in a pool at the same time while you were standing on a board, trying to balance. Despite this challenge, I put my head down and made it to Lands End, the Arch. I threw my hands to the sky and knew the trip was over, but over all, it was very anti-climatic. 

 I don’t know if it was because of the chaos entering the bay, the countless other people and boats I had to share the view with, or if the overall effect of the trip and the slaughter of the critically endangered Vaquita was (and is) still ongoing, but the satisfaction of the trip hadn’t yet hit. 

I put a ton of pressure on myself to hook into a roosterfish. I told myself I couldn’t go home until I had one in hand – that was going to be my reward of the trip and to not even get an opportunity, despite seeing them and being in the prime areas of where they inhabit, churned my stomach more than any of the questionable food I ate. 

Did I need to catch a roosterfish for it to be successful? I struggled for a while with that question, and ultimately found reprieve in the most unlikely way: A few days after the trip, I went snorkeling and was able to witness a handful of roosters swimming in unison under the water, and was stunned by their beauty.       

They weren’t taunting me, or swimming around as if bragging about how I couldn’t catch one. Instead, they were curiously checking me out and doing what they do each and every day, whether a fly is presented to them or not. At that moment, I reflected on the natural sightings I was fortunate enough to witness while on the trip, and decided it made enough of a story to satisfy my ego, instead of having tangible proof of my memories to show off to the world.


The Baja Peninsula is the most rugged, remote, beautiful, and abundant place I have ever been. There are creatures along the coast that have never seen a human, and beaches that have never seen a footprint. Although it is threatened each and everyday to over exploitation, overfishing, and development, there will be areas of this coast that will forever remain untouched – and let’s hope it will remain that way. I felt lucky to be able to see what it had to offer, and grateful for my gear and my body for holding up for so long.

Let’s hope the Vaquita can also show the same reliance as well, because its journey to success and health is far greater than anything I was able to accomplish from this trip, and the only ego problem it has is the mere desire to stay alive, not one about feeling defeated for not hooking into a fish.

Trip Statistics:

I burned 255,901 calories and paddled exactly 1,004.50 miles. The trip took 123 days, I camped under the stars for 79 nights, I paddled for 70 days, fished for 16 of those days, caught 21 fish, stayed for 29 nights in houses, pumped 18 liters of fresh water from my sea water pump, got offered 17 beers, took 15 showers, paddled an average of 14.35 miles a day, dealt with 14 separate El Norte wind events, paid for 11 campsites, stayed 7 nights in hotels, got rained on 4 times, had 4 shark encounters, had 3 campfires, paddled through 2 time zones, 2 states, experienced 1 hurricane, and had 1 helluva trip.

Angler Story from Sean Jansen, be sure to follow him on Instagram @jansen_journals.

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