Sorry to be late with Part 2 of the Lake Palmito story but a trip to Mexico came up and I just got back. If you missed Part 1, click here to read what you missed.
After I got back to Lake Guerrero and talked to my partner Jose Martinez, we planned a trip to Palmito to see if a fishing operation was feasible on that very remote desert lake. We arrived to Palmito the very next week and went to the Corp of Engineers about renting some of their houses overlooking the lake down below.
We went then to visit Javier Bocanegra to set up credit for our groceries, sodas, etc. There was no ice in the village so Javier agreed to transport 1000lb of block ice from Torreon once a week. We wrapped the ice in tarp after we covered it with hay and stored it in one of the concrete houses.
Jose & I got everything set up in 4 days and left to return to Lake Guerrero. On our way back we stopped in Gomez Palacio to visit an old school pal of Jose who was the son of the owner of Viejo Verjell, the largest wine distributor in Mexico. We spent 4 or 5 hours with him touring his great vineyard and talking about our new business on lake Palmito. Jose’s school friend was Ramon Aviles and he decided to become one of our partners.
Ramon’s $20,000 investment allowed us to get everything up and running very quickly. We bought motors and transported boats from Guerrero and were set up and ready for our first group 3 weeks later. I got my Father (John Speed) to go to Palmito and serve as manager. He really liked setting up new operations.
I called Walter Teague with Rio Airways, our principal charter service out of Killeen, Texas and got a price on the round trip. The only problem was they couldn’t land on the short gravel strip at the lake so I had to find another place for them to land. Local natives said there was an old abandoned paved strip about 1 hour away.
I hired a crew of villagers to go and cut the weeds and clean up the old concrete strip which was over 6000 feet long. The local people had been piling Jalapeno peppers on it each year for drying. Remember this little tidbit as it will come into play later.
I brought the very first group of 12 from Dallas which were long time friends and clients. Some of the guys were Pete Peterson, Scrapiron Peterson, Kenny Peterson, Mac Duckett, and 8 more guys whose names I can’t remember.
The first day we fished was May 16, 1978 and it started off pretty slow and I was worried. When we all came in for lunch 2 boats had hit home runs. They had gone to the North river and found a honey hole and had caught over 100 bass that morning with over 50% weighing over 4lbs.
They invited all boats to join them that afternoon as they said there was enough bass for everyone. When my partner and I arrived to the spot we saw all the fishermen out on the bank casting into this large deep hole in the river. Well we just parked the boat and joined them and the slaughter was on. Everyone was catching bass and good sized bass on strawberry color plastic worms named fliptail.
We continued to catch fish after fish until we all just got tired of catching fish. At supper that night we all agreed not to bring any fish back to camp under 7lbs. Remember this was long before catch & release and every client wanted to take home filets. Rio Airways had a special tray built just to haul fish filets.
We ended this remarkable trip with over 2000 bass caught mostly in 3 to 5 feet of water. Bagley Bs and fliptail worms were the best. Everyone was very happy and definitely wanted to come back even though the houses were considered primitive by today’s standards.
The houses were up on this high hill with the lake down below maybe 200 yards. It simply was too steep to walk up and down to the boats and back up to the houses. So I bought 5 burros and saddles for our clients to ride. We built drags out of tree limbs that we attached to the burros and we put all our gear & fish on the drags and let the burros drag them up the hill. The trail we made was what I called a switchback as the hill was too steep to go up in a straight line so we went right and then left then right and so on until we reached the top.
Several clients really didn’t want to get on the burros but unfortunately they had no choice. Then later they said they enjoyed the ride and all the photos of everyone riding the burros.
Next week we will talk about group #2 plus peppers on the airport runway.
GOOD LUCK WITH YOUR FISHING & WEAR THAT LIFEJACKET