By Tom Gatch
Labor Day weekend has come and gone, and we are now officially into the Fall season. The fishing action around the peninsula during the final days of summer was fast and furious until it was virtually halted for several days with the coming of Hurricane Kay, which swept up from the south bringing with it flurries of rain, churning surf, and heavy winds until it eventually passed through.
Now that Baja’s late summer Chubasco season has finally concluded, fishing activities are back on track in grand fashion, with a number of popular gamefish species showing up in fish counts around the entire peninsula.
Sergio’s Sportfishing on the Malecon reports that they have been having light passenger loads, but have been scoring well on bonito, calico bass, and barracuda, with a few rockfish and ocean whitefish tossed into the mix.
Down at the south end of the Bahia in Punta Banda, Vonny’s panga fleet says that their clients have been returning to the beach with an array of big bonito, chunky calico bass and red rockcod, along with an occasional trophy-size white seabass for a few extremely fortunate panga anglers.
Now operating out of San Quintin for the rest of the season, Capt. Juan Cook reports that visiting anglers have been scoring consistent catches of quality vermillion rockfish between 3 and 5 pounds. He mentioned that a few of his clients fishing with live bait around San Martin Island have landed big California halibut weighing up to 25-pounds or more.
Before the brief hiatus created by Tropical Storm Kay, the bite off Cedros Island has been outstanding for a number of popular species that include a bounty of trophy-grade yellowtail weighing between 30 and 45-pounds, along with several fat California halibut.
As a matter of fact, over the past 6 weeks or so, the halibut just seem to be getting bigger and bigger as time goes by.
Early on, most of the flatties were coming in at around 18 to 20 pounds. A few weeks later, the average fish was hovering around 30-pounds, and two weeks ago, a huge 40-pounder was landed by one of our visiting anglers.
This past week, returning angler, George Bowers, Jr. topped all of those previous catches when he hauled a monster 55-pound California halibut over the rail of his panga while fishing off the north end of the Island.
Fortunately, he was well armed for the battle, and offered, “I used a live mackerel on a 4/0 owner gorilla circle hook tied to a 4-foot dropper loop leader made with 50-pound Blackwater fluorocarbon on 80-pound braid fishing line. I borrowed a 6 ½ foot Seeker pole from the lodge and I used my Okuma Komodo fishing reel.”
Gordo Banks Pangas
Reporting from San Jose del Cabo, Eric Brictson, offered, “Hurricane Kay has passed, and overall, we feel very fortunate that this storm stayed far enough offshore to the west that we did not receive major damage. However, we received plenty of rainfall, wind gusts up to over 30 mph, and storm swells to 20 feet.
Due to the weather conditions, there were only a couple of days boats were able to get out this past week. Anglers dealt with limited bait options, and only mullet and ballyhoo were available.
Most of our charters were fishing areas from the Gordo Banks, north to Iman Bank and areas in between. Dorado were the most common catch, though most of these fish were smaller in size, under 10-pounds, with only a few exceptions of bulls weighing over 20-pounds. Some anglers have also caught some very big yellowfin tuna that topped out at around 150-pounds.
Trolling ballyhoo was the most successful technique. A few wahoo strikes were reported, and we expect to see more wahoo activity when water temperature drops back down near 80 degrees, presently it is averaging about 84 degrees.”
Bricston concluded by saying, “This is also the time of year when striped, blue, and black marlin begin to appear, and we have begun to see a variety of billfish off our area. Striped marlin have been the most numerous over on the Pacific Banks. But we have spotted a few blacks lurking around the high spots as well, including at the Gordo Banks.
Your best bet to catch one of these is to troll a large bait, such as a live skipjack, and be prepared to put in some time. A lot of patience is needed for this type of fishing, but the rewards can be great; the smallest black marlin we see start at about 200-pounds, and can weigh up to 1000-pounds.”
From Tailhunter International in La Paz, Jonathan Roldan reports, “It took a long time for summer to reach us down here with summer-time fishing as La Niña kept waters cool and fishing unseasonable until almost mid-July. Then, things finally hit stride and the fishing has been solidly summer and conditions more normal with sunshine, blue waters and typical Baja humidity.
However, this past week, it almost seems like the seasons are already changing to fall conditions. It’s been sunny but cooler.
Hopefully, things aren’t changing too fast because the fishing has been mostly very good, especially for dorado. That being said, we even hooked some “cold water” fish like sierra that we usually catch in the winter and pompano and trevally that we usually see in the cooler spring! We’ll have to wait and see.
We had Hurricane Kay pass through last week, which brought fishing to a halt for a few days. After that, the fishing wasn’t fantastic, but overall it was pretty good. The mahi have been 98% of the catch with fish in a wide area.
You can pick up fish here and there all day or you can hit that one school and have dorado pandemonium for an hour until your bait is gone and the fish box is full of limits and exhausted fishermen say they’re too tired! Many of the fish have been school-sized 10-15 pounders. Many smaller fish are getting kicked back. A few 20-30 pounders in the mix with larger ones breaking off."
In conclusion, Roldan offered, “Not much else showing up in the counts, but I think a lot of it has to do with folks who are fishing for and having a good time catching dorado. They’re great fun and abundant and it’s not complicated fishing.
So, no one is really chasing roosters, marlin, tuna, wahoo or the inshore species. We have had a few marlin and wahoo hookups, but nothing landed and the bites were incidental. The few times that folks fished the rocks, they hit pargo, cabrilla and even some pompano, but everyone was really chasing the dorado.”
Up the Cortez coast in Loreto, the dorado fishing is wide open. And, although the fish being caught presently are only weighing between 12 and 20-pounds, larger do-dos will likely begin showing up during the next several weeks.
Also encouraging, is the fact that several anglers fishing inshore and off the beach have been hooking up with some feisty sierra, which generally don’t make a showing until late October.
Working out of the Port of San Felipe, the Tony Reyes mothership panga trips continue to treat visiting anglers to a multi-day experience fishing the upper portion of the legendary Sea of Cortez for a wide variety of species.
As one angler who had just returned from a recent trip put it, “This was my 4th trip over15 years. The boat accommodations were great as usual, and the crew was always professional. We only had 14 people, down from the typical 27! This trip was planned under COVID restrictions, with 2 anglers per panga.
Jigs and dropper loops were the ticket for most fish during the trip. Mirror lures also caught fish for those that preferred trolling. Some did well with 2 hooks with squid or cut bait for small pinto bass and other bottom fish. We did some shallow water fishing for cabrilla, and also caught about a dozen dorado to around 15-pounds.”
Traditionally, the sportfishing around the Baja peninsula begins to peak over the next couple of months. So, if you haven’t already, now is the time to make reservations and book a trip with your favorite captain or outfitter before the party ends for the season.