The crystal ball seems a bit murky after the last few seasons, and predictions of the upcoming fishing year can be anyone’s guess. January is usually a slow month, but if it was any kind of an indicator, February should be special! One caveat to bear in mind on the West Coast and upper Sea of Cortez — keep an eye on the weather!
Off the Tijuana Bullring, flat rascals (halibut) rule. Mostly shorts, there are enough up to 15-pounds to keep it interesting. Plus, the sand bass and sculpin are biting plastics.
The rockfish bite at Coronado has been both steady and good off Pukey Point at North Island in 300- to 375-feet of water, with big quality reds, some nice chucks, bank perch, bocaccio, plus a few big lingcod. Best bet to get one is to use a dropper loop rig with a single 4-feet long leader, a 6/0-size hook using a live mackerel.
Offshore down the coast are reports of scattered kelp with small yellowtail underneath … not worth running for yet.
However, I received a text from a spotter plane buddy: “Two schools of bluefin, 3- ton each. 70-pound fish. Scattered area of fish, no other sightings.” Stand-by… this could be a rerun of last year’s early tuna bite!
The fleet at Ensenada has found bottom action similar to the Coronado Islands in shallow water with a bonus of a few yellowtail and bonito around Todos Santos. Boats are offering whale watching trips.
The high spots outside of Colonet are producing some larger yellowtail for the San Diego Sport Boats. A few boats have already scheduled overnight trips there and farther offshore in search of the bluefin tuna.
San Quintín continues to kick out a laundry list of bottom fish, weather permitting, along with a few nice-grade of yellowtail to 15-pounds. There are quite a few whales not too far offshore.
Anglers discovered a full-speed, VERY aggressive, baby broomtail grouper bite from shore… great fun on light tackle using plastics fishing from the rocks in the bay.
Vizcaíno Peninsula from Bahía Asunción all the way down to Abreojos is enjoying some spotty yellowtail fishing.
The lagoons and Magdalena Bay are still in the middle of whale watching season, so fishing information is pretty sketchy. However, rumor is, the sierra bite at the entrada at Magdalena has been spectacular.
The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society has been playing cat and mouse with poachers who vow not to give up on the vaquita in upper northern Sea of Cortez.
A few anglers made a trip down towing their own boat, crossing at Mexicali and driving two hours below San Felipe taking advantage of a weather window when the north winds backed off. They found fair-to-good fishing for cabrilla and grouper on the bottom as well as a few yellowtail.
Loreto where fishing languished through the holidays, briefly caught on fire early in January; the yellowtail, grouper and cabrilla finally made a decent showing for the few boats fishing.
An eyebrow-raising fish story: Robert Ross, an American off-road racer and resident of nearby Playa San Cosme, aboard his 37 Boston Whaler Rampage along with sons-in-law, Jorge Lazo, Tijuana, Jay Yadon, owner of Outpost Charters in Loreto, and joined by deckhand Tony Winkler were fishing in the often-fertile waters where they had previously landed a 400-plus pounder, not far from the Marina Puerto Escondido, setting the stage for their three-day, tuna-chasing marathon that included six hookups with four landed.
The two largest were caught by Lazo on an Accurate Valiant BV2-800 reel loaded with 50# P-Line, 100# Hi-Seas fluorocarbon leader with a Mustad 6/0 hook on a Seeker rod. The largest tuna weighed 424.6-pounds, topping the current IGFA record of 385-pounds 12 ounces by a click less than 40-pounds. Lazo’s second tuna weighed 319-pounds — a two-day fish total for both the angler and his Accurate Valiant BV2-800 of 743.6-pounds. In addition, two other yellowfin were landed – one 242-pounder taken by Ross and another by Yadon, rounding out the three-day catch at 212.5 pounds.
The ultimate “small reel/ big fish” story for sure. Not one, but two fish of a lifetime, back-to-back.
Grumpy weather and few anglers at La Paz so the best fishing bet was Muertos Bay\Los Arenas. Some nice-sized sierra up to about 5 pounds were eating over the drop-offs and reefs. Additionally, some good-sized pargo, cabrilla and snapper were taken there, along with some smaller, school-sized firecracker yellowtail running about 10 pounds. Still close to shore, but in more open water, schools of bonito and jack plus some free-swimming dorado were found.
Mostly East Cape is quiet unless you are kite boarding. When the wind calms, the few boats fishing are finding dorado, striped marlin and sierra mackerel, plus a few yellowtail, grouper and snapper in front of la Ribera.
Recently San Jose Cabo kicked out some trophy-sized wahoo and yellowfin tuna.
Dorado action is tapering off, which is normal this time of year; some fish were found on the same grounds as the tuna with others found close to shore. Various bait worked best. Sizes ranged up to 15 -pounds.
Outside of Cabo San Lucas, on the Pacific side from the Golden Gate to the Finger Bank has been a bright spot for striped marlin, wahoo and dorado, with billfish frequently in the double-digit releases.
Closer to Baja’s tip, sierra, roosterfish and jack crevalle are feeding on bait schools only a few miles offshore, under the majestic high-circling frigates.
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With more than five decades of fishing experience – from light tackle and fly to offshore billfish – Gary Graham has experienced all aspects of fishing in the Southern California and Baja waters. His observations of species behavior, tackle and techniques are always from his unique perspective, earning him the respect of his peers as well as anglers who eagerly follow his Baja reports and features.
Gary maintained a home at East Cape in Baja Sur for more than 18 years and still spends nearly half of each year exploring the entire peninsula in his self-contained Roadtrek van. He observes everything Baja, from the mysteries of a tide pool on a deserted Baja beach filled with tiny sea creatures to the largest billfish in the sea.