Not a minute too soon! The sun is shining, the temps are rising, the winds are diminishing, and the sea is flattening – all underscore that winter is in the rearview mirror.
As we look forward, most Baja anglers consider spring as the prelude to prime fishing time, stretching from now to October. It is at last on the horizon and sounds promising.
Just across the border at the Coronado Islands, the sports boats with light loads are reporting many meter marks, yellowtail, and nice-sized bonito. Neither fish species are settled in by any means, but enough for a few fresh fish dinners back on the “barbie.”
Offshore, “Old Glory” on an exploratory one-and-a-half-day trip produced the first trophy-sized bluefin and some yellowtail, followed by sporadic reports of good signs offshore on both sides of the U.S. Border by the San Diego fleet.
The bottom fish have been the mainstay throughout the winter months. However, the spring-like weather has caused the species list to grow – bonito, yellowtail, barracuda, calico bass, and farther offshore, bluefin tuna for the adventurous aboard long-range and local boats.
San Quintín has already been producing some nice-sized yellows for the few anglers venturing down that far. Locals have been going out frequently to stay on the bite. Add in some still good bottom fishing, plus as the sea temps climb a bit, the calico bass should also come alive.
Farther down on the Pacific side, what has been described as an unusual and exciting whale watching season has just wrapped up with the final petting, and with the ooh’s and aah’s of opportunities for visitors from around the world ending as the giant mammals and their young begin their journey northward to Alaska.
Magdalena Bay fishing inside from Puerto San Carlos and Lopez Mateos continues to deliver spectacular action for snook, corvina, grouper, and golden trevally.
Up in the northern portion of the Sea of Cortez, the north winds are diminishing as the season changes. So far, the reports from Bahía de los Ángeles have been sketchy but mostly encouraging from locals able to take advantage of the occasional calm days.
Farther down the highway at Gonzaga Bay, Captain Juan Cook and his family have entertained visiting anglers with a nice variety of yellowtail, grouper, cabrilla, and other bottom fish.
Diana Johnson announced that Mulegé’s Hotel Serenidad would reinstate the traditional Saturday Pig Roasts in late March, much to the delight of the local and visiting anglers.
In Loreto, the 20-pound class yellowtail is schooling at various rocky high spots, resulting in an average catch ratio of one out of four fish.
Live mackerel, 12-ounce sinkers, and long leaders are musts in most areas.
Almost all fishing pangas have been working in the general area of “Lobo.” Although this will continue, it may become a problem for yellowtail tournaments in the coming weeks, cabrilla in April, and soon to follow, dorado! But, right now, it is the yellowtail wars in Baja!
Marina Puerto Escondido, just down Mex 1 a few miles farther down, opened registration for their May 13-15 Billfish Release and Gamefish Tournament. According to Stenson Hamann Tournament Director, 39 teams have already signed up! https://www.mpefishingtournament.com/
In the La Paz area, big yellowtail are the main targeted fish. Depending on the location and day there were some decent catches of one to four fish per boat. The fish are holding over structures in many areas around Cerralvo Island, Espirito Santo Island, and then off inshore structures closer to shore like rock reefs and high spots.
The fish eat live mackerel and sardine, plus frozen bait like ballyhoo. Additionally, jigging with yo-yo iron or knife jigs has been productive as slow trolling diving lures like the big Rapalas or Yo-Zuri lures in darker colors. The fish have been healthy solid fish of 20 to 30 pounds, with larger fish lost to the rocks.
In addition, the same areas produced some trophy-sized cabrilla (seabass) up to about 10 pounds and some 10 to 20-pound Almaco jack. Other species included jack crevalle, bonito, snapper, pargo, and a few stray dorado and sierra.
At East Cape, there has been an early dorado bite – nice-size fish from 10 to 35, and they were found south of Pulmo Park from Los Frailes down, from one to two miles off the beach. Trolled feathers, ballyhoo, and hoochies were all working, and there were at least a couple per boat.
Big yellowtail from 20 to 45 pounds were taken from both the Los Barriles high spot and the La Ribera drop-off in 50 to 100-feet of water off Los Barriles and 7 to 200-feet off La Ribera. The live ballyhoo and mackerel are the bait of choice. Most boats have been boating from three to four nice fish recently.
As usual for this time of year, there have been many stripers around in the same areas as the dorado. Taking slow-trolled ballyhoo and cast mackerel, again lots around. Not much pressure as most anglers, targeting the yellowtail and dorado.
There have been a few quality dorado to over 30-pounds caught here and there, but very nice-sized, particularly for this time frame.
At San Jose, bottom fishing showed better signs, the highlight being a handful of 30-pound yellowtail taken off the Gordo Banks. We also saw a few Amalco jack, weighing up to 40-pounds, and a mix of leopard grouper, red snapper, barred pargo, and more of the Pacific bonito than anything else. The incredibly productive area was the San Luis Bank.
The striped marlin action continued to dominate offshore action, though as baitfish schools became scattered, so did these billfish.
At Cabo San Lucas, the predominant catch for the fleet continues to be striped marlin. With an occasional wahoo and rumors of cow-sized yellowfin farther offshore. Inshore, grouper, and snapper are taken off the bottom, and sierra mackerel, jack crevalle, and white bonito are the best bet. In addition, there seems to be more dorado moving into the area.
It looks as though this will be a great fishing season! It is time to begin setting up your rods and reels.
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.