As the final days of 2018 were winding down, my various social media accounts were filled with reports of cold, windy, and in some cases, wet weather, along with small craft warnings and high surf from the border all the way down the Pacific coast of Baja to Abreojos.
Close to the U.S. border, the Bull Ring and Coronado Islands were blown out completely; however, hard-core anglers down at Ensenada braved the elements and were rewarded with a few hefty halibut and a cooler full of bottomfish.
At Asunción Bay, local anglers found some better grade of yellowtail — a good sign that the winter yellowtail bite that everyone has been waiting for may be finally kicking in. They are catching a few halibut there as well.
The Magdalena Bay focus is now mainly on whale watching and will be for several months as nearly all the locals are involved in one way or another. For what its worth, there is decent fishing in the mangroves even in the winter months for grouper, pargo and even a few snook, though they are unusual this time of year.
There are few places in the world that can match the volume of billfish being seen on the Finger Bank now, about 50 miles above Lands’ End. The striped marlin fishing is still double-digit releases, along with a sprinkling of dorado and yellowfin tuna, for those willing to take the long boat ride from Cabo San Lucas. If you have a hankering to pull on a bunch of big fish in a single day this is your chance! A late addition to the mix from this area was an estimated 500-pound blue marlin released and a 229-pound yellowfin tuna that was a personal best for a novice lady angler from Canada.
Closer to Cabo, whether it’s late or early season surface action, literally the waters in front of hotels overlooking the Pacific off Lands End have been delivering sierra, an essential ingredient for many recipes for Mexican ceviche.
Another frequent catch recently is the mystical roosterfish that is often on the bucket list of many Baja anglers.
Up into the Sea of Cortez at Puerto Los Cabos, the seasonal north winds have begun and will continue sporadically for the next few months. However, on most days the Sea remains calm until the visible wind line reaches the shore mid- to late-morning.
So far, many of the usual prime season species are still around. Dorado, smaller yellowfin tuna and even an occasional wahoo can still be found lurking a few miles offshore near the inner and outer Gordo Banks.
Closer to shore, the rocky pinnacles are a possibility for yellowtail and a few deeper-water grouper. Plus, the ever present, triggerfish continue to dominate all bottom fishing closer to shore, with a few snapper, amberjack and pargo in the mix.
Farther up at East Cape, the few boats going out are still returning with late season yellowfin and dorado, plus sierra, jack crevalle and even a few smaller roosterfish which are feeding on small baitfish close enough to see from the beach.
At Muertos Bay, the weather has contributed to good fishing conditions and even if the wind has been breezy, the pangas haven’t had to go out more than a hundred yards or so to get into some nicer-grade of tuna, schoolie dorado, and even a few wahoo biters. The tuna were surprising 20 to 30 pounds — fun-sized yellowfin. Dorado were smallish with most hovering around 10 pounds but nice fish for the fishermen just looking for some action, especially if they were first timers. Plus, a good number of tough bonito to bend a few rods.
Up at La Paz, the inshore held the usual species of snapper, jack crevalle, and sierra, plus an occasional big cabrilla that filled the coolers for the few anglers interested in going out on the calm days.
The Loreto panga fleet enjoyed the late fall weather over the holidays which allowed some of the Captains to do some exploring of the usual yellowtail haunts with moderate success for the much-anticipated yellowtail. They landed some medium-sized fish along with the usual cabrilla and a few small dorado.
Above Loreto, the reports were sketchy and more about north winds than fishing. However, reports from Bahia de Los Angeles were that they did have a few visitors who caught a handful of yellowtail in the 20-pound class.
There have been rumors of the Annual Mexican Fishing License being discontinued and only daily ones being issued in the future on various forums. Upon doing some research and checking with Rebecca Ehrenberg of Pisces Sportfishing, Cabo San Lucas, she confirmed that the system is down briefly due to the change in Government Administration and new licenses are in the process of being printed. So, my suggestion is that you check before going out to see if new Mexican Fishing Licenses are in print yet. It’s always best to be prepared! [editor’s note: Discover Baja has annual, monthly, weekly, and daily fishing licenses available!]
Overall, except for the north coast of Baja, January fishing prospects are promising. Hope to see you on the water or prowling a Baja beach.
Happy New Year and good fishing in 2019!
Gary Graham, That Baja Guy
Questions and comments are always welcome.
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.