Fall Baja Fishing Report
By Tom Gatch
Capt. Louie Prieto of It’s 4 Reels Sportfishing in Ensenada hoists a fresh dorado that was caught just a few miles offshore. Photo: It's 4 Reels
It may be fall, but those swirling hurricanes and tropical storms from central and
southern Mexico continue to push warm water along the coast of Baja California,
and along with it, a plethora of exotic gamefish such as yellowfin tuna, bluefin tuna
and dorado. There have even been reports of a wahoo being hooked near the
Coronado Islands just south of San Diego. And, although this migration of pelagic
species has recently extended up into U.S. waters, it can ultimately be far more
relaxing and less expensive to target these fish from the coast of Baja than out of a
jam packed sportfishing landing in southern California.
In addition to the great offshore and inshore fishing off of Ensenada, there is now a
new glimmer of hope in regard to a resurrection of the once popular Ensenada live
bait receiver, which has not been in operation for several years. Many veteran
anglers who are longtime visitors to this area remember Mike Richardson and his
numerous canine companions, who used to regularly manage the operation. The
word on the street is that Mike and Julio, who was the one who actually corralled
the baitfish for the receiver, are now in the process of putting together a revitalized
operation to handle the live bait needs of both local and visiting sportfishing craft.
We are all keeping our fingers crossed.
A quality grade yellowtail taken on a trip off Bahia San Quintin with Capt. Juan Cook. Photo: Captain Juan Cook
Down the coast at Bahia San Quintin, offshore action for small to mid-grade bluefin
and yellowfin tuna are keeping cruiser passengers busy, while inshore panga fishing
for yellowtail, calico bass rockfish and an occasional halibut are filling the ice
chests. Unfortunately, except for a few early fish in July, the anticipated arrival of a
large number of big white sea bass that usually occurs in late August and early
September never really happened this year. Some have ascribed this situation to
the unusually warm water currents that have been pushed up toward Baja and
southern California during the ongoing El Nino conditions.
Further south in Bahia Asuncion, the water temperature is over 80 degrees with air
temps in the low 90’s and the seas are flat and calm. In addition to the typically
good fishing for calico bass and yellowtail, the action on yellowfin tuna has been
stellar and, luckily, the fish are close at hand. Recently, Capt. Juan Arce Marrons
fishing partner, Martin, and his son got into a good bite only 4 miles off the beach;
both anglers ending up with limits for the day.
The tuna fishing off of Bahia Magdalena has also been quite good, and is
periodically spiced up with an occasional wahoo. Those fishing with chunk bait near
the bottom have also hooked a few nice grouper, although not all of these tasty and
tough fighting bruisers ultimately end up making it over the rail.
Renegade Mike Sportfishing in Cabo San Lucas hooked this happy couple
up with a trophy size yellowfin tuna weighing 138 pounds. Photo: Renegade Mike Sportfishing
At the tip of the peninsula near Los Cabos, the lack of dorado that are usually
present this time of year has been made up for by the availability of quality grade
yellowfin tuna in the 130 to 160 pound class. Most of these fish are showing up
about 20 to 30 miles out of Cabo and are inhaling trolled cedar plugs and lures of
similar design. Some wahoo are being caught as well; fast trolled deep diving
Rapala style lures in purple and black are presently catching most of the fish.
Erik Bricston at Gordo Banks Pangas in San Jose del Cabo reports, “Water
temperature are now ranging from 85 to 87 degrees, clarity is clean and blue in
most areas, still a bit off colored inshore north of Punta Gorda.”
He indicated that the supply of sardinas remains plentiful near the marina entrance
and are now being found along beach stretches close to Cabo San Lucas, where
they had not had these schooling baitfish available until recently. Most consistent
action now has been for various sized yellowfin tuna, action was centered from
Santa Maria to the Iman Bank and most of the yellowfin being accounted for are
fish in the 10 to 20 lb. class, though other areas produced decent numbers of tuna
50 to 70 lb., with several fish up to 150 lb. landed. On the Gordo Banks a variety of
sizes of yellowfin tuna were seen breezing on the surface, some of these were cow
sized fish, though these fish proved finicky, with all of the natural food source and
strong currents sweeping through, the fish are not always in the feeding mood.
Best action for numbers of fish recently has been either near shipwreck of the
Santa Maria area or around the Iman Bank, though the Gordo Banks also produced
some quality action mid-week, before slower days later in the week.
Wahoo have made a strong showing off the Gordo Banks. Photo: Gordo Banks Pangas
Dorado and Wahoo action slowed back down, though there were some of these fish
being found, just not a consistent bite. Strong current also limited bottom action to
sporadic numbers dogtooth snapper, various pargo and snapper species. The warm
water continues to attract rainbow runners into the fish counts.
“Several black marlin were also landed this week, largest weighed in was a 335 lb.
specimen, all of these were hooked into near the Gordo Banks, while trolling with
chihuil, caballito or skipjack. This is the time when billfish grand slams are possible,
as striped, blue marlin and sailfish are also now being found on local fishing
Bricston concluded by saying that the inshore bite has been slow, with exception of
a handful of nice corbina to 10 pounds that were taken off the beach and a few of
the elusive local snook.
Just up the Cortez coast at the Baja Sur’s famed East Cape, Owner John Ireland
reports, “The marlin and sailfish bite continues much the same as it has all year
with perhaps a few more sails than normal. Not a lot of anglers targeting billfish
right now; most are working the tuna.”
The tuna bite continues close to the Ranch, right off La Ribera. No big fish; the best
yellowfin are mostly in the 18 to 20 pound class. Fish are still being taken on both
live and dead sardinas. Fair numbers of dorado were around as well, but not many
of the fish were schooled up.
Ireland indicated that the wahoo bite remained fairly good as well. “The fish seem
to prefer Rapalas rigged with a fluorocarbon leader. If you are planning to target
them, it would be a good idea to bring a roll of 60/80-pound Fluoro for wahoo and
30/40 pound for the tuna. Most wahoo are being taken from around La Ribera down
to the Lighthouse.”
There’s nothing like a fat, East Cape pargo to put a smile on your face. Photo: Rancho Leonero Resort
Further north near La Paz, Jonathan Roldan at Tailhunter International indicates
that the fishing around Las Arenas and Bahia de Los Muertos has fluctuated from
day to day and from panga to panga. Most of this situation has been blamed on
abruptly shifting weather conditions. “One day, we would get marlin and sailfish,
dorado, pargo, cabrilla and roosters as well as other species. All of our clients would
want to fish there the next day. That next day…it was like someone turned off the
spigot. Guys would work hard to get 2 or 3 fish. Some skunked. No real change in
conditions. Just the fish changed their attitudes. The following day, the fish would
blow up great again.”
Roldan continued, “Overall, if you wanted to put fish in the cooler and get bent, the
La Paz side of the bay is where you wanted to fish this was the side to fish. The
fish are not big, but there are a lot of them. And they are close; you can literally
find fish right in La Paz Bay.”
Up near the Midriff Islands, anglers fishing out of Bahia de Los Angeles are catching
a few yellowtail up to 25 pounds or so along with some skipjack and plenty of
triggerfish for tacos. But as the season progresses, expect to see more brief spells
of inclement weather this year because of El Nino. The waters of L.A. Bay are best
fished under sunny skies when the seas are calm.
Overall, we should be looking at several more months of productive fishing around
the Baja California peninsula. Just be sure to bring along a rod and reel when you
pay us a visit.
Updated: Oct 25, 2017 09:35 AM