By Tom Gatch
The steamy, tropical weather patterns that dominated conditions along the west coasts of both the U.S. and Baja this summer finally came to a head over the Labor Day weekend. Tropical storm, Lidia, smashed the tip of Baja and worked her way up the peninsula leaving behind a trail of flooding and destruction.
Of course, this event was in no way comparable to the recent horrors inflicted by Hurricane Harvey along America’s Gulf Coast, which caused many deaths and displaced millions. Nonetheless, tropical storm Lidia still had a significant impact that affected many of those visiting Baja Sur during the peak of its tourist and fishing seasons. Luckily for anglers, tourists and local businesses, however, things managed to bounce back quickly after Lidia departed and more fish began hitting the deck again.
Just south of the International Boundary, the yellowtail fishing around Isla Coronados has been decent with many fish being seen, but far fewer actually being hooked. The overpopulation of sea lions in the area has done much to mitigate fishing success over the past several years, often resulting in a frustrated angler reeling in a head that once belonged to their fish that had just been hooked and battled to the boat.
The fishing has been solid in and around Bahía de Todos Santos, with Capt. Louie Prieto of It’s 4 Reels Sportfishing reporting a solid bite on medium sized yellowtail and bonito along with good catches of quality grade calico and sand bass.
At the south end of the bay, Vonny’s Fleet pangas have been nailing big calico bass weighing up to 7 pounds on plastics tossed into the frothing waters around boiler rocks and other outcroppings out near the tip of Punta Banda.
Down the coast in Erendira, about half way between Ensenada and San Quintin, Castro’s Fishing Place is a small, out of the way fish camp that just may offer some of the best bottom fishing for Sebastes rockfish in Baja California.
In addition to limit catches of big Pacific red snapper (vermillion rockfish), visiting anglers have also been taking a number of yellowtail in the 15 to 25 pound class. Over the decades, Fernando Castro and his family have earned the faith and patronage of generations of veteran Baja anglers.
Further south, panga and sportfishing charter services in the Bahía San Quintín area are reporting good catches of reds and lings on the bottom, along with some nice yellowtail and a few trophy-sized white seabass closer to the surface. The most reliable outfitters in the region for fishing charters are K&M Sportfishing, Capt. Juan Cook’s San Quintín Bay Sportfishing, Pedro’s Pangas and Tiburon Sportfishing.
From Cedros Outdoor Adventures just off Baja’s central Pacific coast, Jose Angel reports, “This week at Cedros Island....lots of action, several limits in record time of quality yellowtail from 20 up to 45 pounds, and lots of hungry calicos along with the recent arrival of yellowfin tuna. We have even had a huge white seabass and big halibut caught over the past few weeks to even out the catch. Now that Lidia has moved on, our guests can enjoy the great action and weather we have been having this season.”
Back on the peninsula at Bahía Asunción, Shari Bondi from Blowhole Bed & Breakfast reports, “Our water temps around Bahía Asunción are still hovering around 70 degrees or more; not as warm as it has been during the past two years of El Nino conditions. The kelp is coming back, which provides great structure for migrating dorado.” She concluded her report by saying that their early yellowtail bite has continued all the way into fall, with most fish in the 20 to 30 pound class.
Down the road in Los Cabos, Pisces Sportfishing in Cabo San Lucas offered, “Before we got hit by Lidia we had amazing summer fishing, with 96% of boats landing fish. Most of the action involved consistent catches of yellowfin tuna and dorado, as well as a few wahoo and various species of billfish.
Most of our good fishing remains on the Pacific side, occasionally shifting towards Punta Gorda and the 11:50 Spot. Boats fishing inshore ended up bringing in some nice roosterfish, and even a few grouper up to 30 pounds. Our biggest recent catch, a 210 monster yellowfin tuna that took almost 3 hours to land, was taken aboard the Pisces Valerie by the Gopffarth’s party, who was visiting from Arizona.”
In San Jose del Cabo, just to the east, Eric Bricston at Gordo Banks Pangas reports, “We had greater crowds of anglers who arrived and were able to take advantage of what turned out to be the calm before the storm. This time of year the weather can change quickly, and it did when Lidia arrived.
Prior to that, our charters had been relying slabs of squid and live sardines for bait. Surf conditions had been unusually light, which has given the commercial bait fleet more opportunities to net the schooling sardines.
The main action recently has been for yellowfin tuna; an influx of smaller sized fish in the 10 to 15 pound class has been dominating the bite on the Iman Bank, where fleets from as far as way as the East Cape have been getting in on this action.
One tuna in the 150 pound class was also reported a few weeks ago off of the Gordo Banks. This time of year we would expect more numbers of quality sized tuna, we do believe they are still in the area, but are hanging lower in the water column perhaps, not wanting to compete with the greater number of smaller tuna, who knows what is up with that.
Bricston concluded by adding, “Not much inshore fishing going on right now, this action does usually tend to fade out this late in the season. Most of our fishing activities are now centered on the high spots just offshore.”
Up the Cortez coast in La Paz, Jonathan Roldan at Tailhunter International lamented, “Talk about a ‘buzz kill’ ”; we had the best fishing of the season going until tropical storm Lidia showed up and crashed the fishing party, almost turning into a hurricane and bringing rain, flooding and high winds that basically just shut everything down! Winds up to almost 100 mph that havoc on local roads, neighborhoods and businesses. Even the Airport had to close down and flights were canceled, which stranded many visitors until the storm passed.
Before Lidia hit, we had an incredible tuna bite of 10 to 25 pound slugger fish just off the lighthouse at Las Arenas. Our anglers were lighting it up and getting totally plugged with limits of tuna by 9 or 10 a.m. in some cases. Then, they’d go for dorado and slam mahi-mahi for more limits! It was crazy fishing. It’s the best tuna bite I’ve seen all year and maybe in several seasons. Everyone looked like a “pro” out there! Add in some bonito, cabrilla, jacks and we had a lot of tired arms and big smiles!
Things are getting back to normal fast! I’m amazed at how quickly the waters are clearing up! So maybe things will turn back on again soon. As a matter of fact, our morning boats are just coming in as I finish this report and the news is good; limits of dorado, and plenty of yellowfin tuna. Our famous fall fishing season has just begun!”
Much further north, the waters surrounding the Midriff Islands in the Sea of Cortez are well known to harbor quality cabrilla, snapper and grouper. Bahía de Los Ángeles is situated near the center of the action, and Capt. Igor Galvan Jimenez regularly takes his clients out to enjoy the local bounty. On a recent trip, his anglers were rewarded with the regional ‘grand slam’ of a huge cabrilla, feisty yellowtail and a fat grouper.
Up in San Felipe, the Tony Reyes motherships have been doing well on their 6-day panga fishing adventures, and have been returning to port with limits of cabrilla and lots of yellowtail, as well as some black sea Bass, groupers, pargo and even some quality grade Cortez halibut. Trolling MirrOlures and casting Tady and Salas jigs have produced the best results.
It has been said on many occasions that ‘variety is the spice of life’, and by that definition, the fishing in Baja this past summer has been as spicy as salsa picante. So many places to go and so many types of fish to catch.
The good news is, fall fishing around the Baja peninsula can be just as hot as during the summertime, and sometimes even hotter depending upon where you happen to be.
Now is the time to visit Baja and take advantage of some of this year’s best fishing!