Over the past decades of writing Baja sportfishing reports, I don’t think one of my reports began with bluefin tuna catches and ended with them as well.
In the northern sector when weather permitted, locals and visitors alike targeted the schools of bluefin gathered offshore from Ensenada, Colonet, and San Quintín. Many exceeded the “magic” 100-pound mark underscoring the volume of tuna; the below-the-border commercial net fleet filled their quota in the first 16 days of January 2021.
As expected, the weather along the Pacific coast of Northern Baja both was and is a factor this time of year. Any fishing trips in February should begin with that consideration in mind.
The bottom fishing around Coronado Islands, Ensenada, and San Quintín has been great and should continue, weather permitting. For a nice mixture of reds, lingcod, and other miscellaneous bottom fish beginning with the three B’s (bass, barracuda, and bonito) as well as perhaps a few yellowtail added to the mix some days.
The Vizcaíno area, from Turtle Bay to Punta Abreojos, is just finishing up what locals describe as the best months of their fall/winter season. That produced some trophy-sized yellowtail and white seabass, along with calico bass plus corvina from shore.
At Magdalena Bay, the billfish action offshore continued longer than usual, overlapping the gray whales and their babies’ arrival which is now into its second month. Inside the bay, anglers are still catching a mixed bag of grouper and pargo as well as an occasional snook for the diligent angler.
Over on the Sea of Cortez side, the “North Wind” season is in full force, along with a cooler winter than usual. Up to the north, Bahía de Los Ángeles and Gonzaga have been quiet, which is not unusual this time of year. By late February, guides from other areas are beginning to arrive.
Working our way down the gulf, Punta Chivato resident, Rick Forstall, fishing the north end of San Marcos Island, found a school of larger variety yellowtail in 61-degree water on a day when the wind backed off and they limited out; while down the coast at Loreto, local anglers found similar yellowtail action. All the while, other visitors arrived in search of the huge blue whales common this time of year.
Down La Paz way, most of the action has been inshore because of the rough seas caused by more – you guessed it! – North Winds. These are in addition to being uncomfortable, making it difficult for the bait guys to catch live bait. So, cabrilla, snapper, common and white bonito, pargo, as well as some nice-sized sierra, have made up most of the catch.
At Los Barriles and the rest of East Cape, the infamous North Wind has a dual personality! It is despised by the anglers, yet it is welcomed by the kiteboarders… Recently, Rick Moran achieved the unthinkable! He was able to draw nods of approval from both sides by hooking and landing a wahoo while “kiteboarding.” That feat was labeled “remarkable” by both groups. When asked how he accomplished his feat, Moran replied with a shrug, “I was dragging a lure and I just got lucky!”
Back to reality, locals are enjoying summertime-like weather, calm seas, warm temperature, and a day of gentle rain that has been a welcome change for the East Cape. With very little wind, the few kiteboarders in town have taken to the hills on their mountain bikes. From the beach, the first pod of humpback whales has been spotted off Rancho Leonero. Sealife is abundant with manta rays jumping and schools of bait puddling up along shorelines.
With only a handful of visitors, there have not been many fishing departures, but there have been action-packed adventures for those venturing out. Bait has been plentiful and most of the action has been on skipjack, white bonito, and sierra mackerel. One cruiser did return flying two marlin flags, and there have been whispers about a score on mossback yellowtail.
Action around the Gordo Banks has slowed from how it had been for the past month as the cold, green water contributed to shutting down the bite. Though as currents shift and north winds backed off, things have changed. Recently, there was one quality yellowfin tuna weighing 85 pounds hauled in off a super panga, and a few of the smaller-sized wahoo were landed along with a couple of other tuna that were either caught or hooked and lost. There were also fewer numbers of dorado, and as soon as the water conditions turned over they scattered.
Offshore, the main action has been for striped marlin, along with a few dorado that are being found in the same area. Still, there are no large concentrations of marlin, although lots of schooling mackerel and sardineta are being seen off the San Jose del Cabo hotel zone several miles offshore.
At Cabo San Lucas, cool mornings and breezy afternoons have not slowed the striped marlin bite on the Pacific side of Cabo. It is not uncommon for the striped marlin to be found off Cabo Falso or even farther up on the Golden Gate. Some boats had double-digit scores while the rest of the fleet settled for a handful of releases for their visiting anglers.
Despite the off-color, cooler water, there have been sprinklings of yellowfin tuna along with smaller dorado. Boats working their way back toward the marina in the afternoon also manage to score a wahoo in the 20-pound category on Rapalas.
Meanwhile, the inshore fishing has been a crowd-pleaser for the half-day anglers who located enough small dorado, sierra, skipjack, and red snapper around a few of the pinnacles dotting the ocean floor a few miles off Land’s End; there were also grouper taken on cut bait from the Lighthouse to Rancho Migriño.
And finally, this photo of a bluefin, from Wesley Brough, a local guide that goes by the moniker of Cabocaster. I was shocked to learn that it was caught on the Iman Bank outside of Cabo San Lucas. A real oddity for me, as I had not seen one in that area. I contacted Steve Crooke, a 38-year veteran of the California Department of Fish and Game and currently, Scientific Advisor for SAC. Crooke confirmed that none had ever been reported this far south of Magdalena Bay.
Gary Graham -That Baja Guy
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.