By Tom Gatch
Despite the disruptive weather in some parts of the Eastern Pacific that is often associated with El Niño conditions like the one we had in 2014, to most avid saltwater anglers it is just a gift that keeps on giving. That is because, historically speaking, the fishing in the year following one of these events tends to be even more productive; and so far 2015 has followed right on track.
Even during the middle of what passed for winter in southern California and Baja, the surface water temperature never really dipped much below 61 degrees and, for the first time in years, offshore anglers were treated to a stellar bluefin tuna bite ranging from the Cortez Bank south to beyond San Quintin that continues in full swing as I write this report.
From It’s 4 Reels Sportfishing in Ensenada, Capt. Louie Prieto indicated that the surface fishing for yellowtail has already started to take off. “There is a good grade of fish out there.” reports Prieto. “We are taking a lot of them on Salas 6x Juniors in the blue mackerel pattern. We found most of the fish were found under working birds, along with some free roaming schools. They were spread out in the deeper waters from 1 to 3 miles north of San Miguel Reef.”
When the surface action slows down, most passengers take the opportunity to drop to the bottom for some of the tasty rockfish species that cluster around the rocky pinnacles over 100 feet or more below. “We use a variety of cut squid and jigs.” Capt. Prieto concluded “and most of the fish are taken in water less than 120 feet deep. The good weather and warmer water has provided us with a very nice mix.”
Similar conditions exist further down the coast in Puerto Santo Tomas, Eréndira and Bahia San Quintin; although the usual influx of stateside anglers that usually begins after Memorial Day has yet to arrive. This presents a great opportunity for ‘early birds’ to venture down early for plenty of good fishing with lots of elbow room.
Cedros Outdoor Adventures is preparing for the hot season to come, and reports that the fishing for trophy grade calico bass, yellowtail and even occasional white sea bass has already started off on the right foot. Back on the peninsula at Bahia Asuncion, a few whale watchers who have had the luxury of lingering in the region a bit longer have discovered this delightful, out of the way destination that is currently kicking out some nice California halibut for diligent anglers fishing off the sandy beach.
Down at land’s end in Cabo San Lucas, George Landrum at Fly Hooker Sportfishing offers, “Wahoo have been a recent surprise, since there are more of them around than we usually see this time of year. Although most of them that hit the docks were only around 12 to 15 pounds, many more of them were hooked than were actually landed. Many were hooked by passengers that were actually trolling for sierra using small plugs on a wire leader.”
Also operating out of Cabo, Jerry Chapman at JC Sportfishing reported some good action for striped marlin. “Most of them have been up around the lighthouse on the Pacific side. We have had most of our takes come on live bait and ballyhoo.”
Around the corner in San Jose del Cabo, Eric Bricston at Gordo Banks Pangas says, “The fishing action has been changing from week to week, not an overabundance of billfish being found offshore now, no large concentrations of baitfish for these fish to feed on. Only a scattering of striped marlin, these fish had been found mainly 20 some miles offshore, but this past week we have seen marlin moving much closer in the warmer, clean currents while searching for a food source.”
He continued, “It has truly been an unusual season; changing rapidly and going from wide open yellowfin tuna action to a complete drop off for a few days, then the yellowtail broke loose on the Gordo Banks. This year we have seen mixed up migrations for various bait and gamefish species, much better action for yellowfin tuna that we normally find during February and March, now with wahoo being another bonus catch. The yellowfin tuna are striking on sardinas near San Luis, ranging in size from 20 to 35 lb. We have also had a few dorado in the mix, including a couple of big bulls, but the majority of them were smaller in size.”
Up in the East Cape, Jen Wren Sportfishing indicated that they experienced summertime conditions during Easter week, which promises to get even warmer in the coming months. “Every day we are sighting manta rays jumping, schools of bottlenose and common dolphin and humpback whales breaching. But an early showing of striped marlin has been the main event, and for a couple of weeks it was pretty much nothing but billfish until inshore dorado, amberjack and roosterfish started getting in on the game. Typically, this time of year greenback mackerel are plentiful. They are candy bait for our gamefish but have been absent since February. This happens sometimes when there are a lot of bottlenose dolphin around that feast on the mackerel. Luckily, horilitos, caballitos and fresh ballyhoo have all been available and getting the job done.”
John Ireland at Rancho Leonero reports, “We have had a wonderful mix striped marlin, thresher sharks, roosterfish, pompano, dorado, sierra and even a few wahoo. I would have to say that on a scale of 1 to 10, we have been at about a 9, which is a bit unusual this early in the season. All of our boats targeting marlin have been blessed with multiple releases practically every day. The billfish have been mixed in with thresher sharks in the 200+ pound class. In fact, we have been seeing and catching more of these great eating sharks than I can recall in the past 30 years. What has been amazing is that all of this wide open action has been taking place right off the La Ribera bank, only a 10-minute boat ride from the hotel.” Ireland concluded by saying that those fishing from shore with light tackle or fly gear also have a good shot at tapping the concentrations of roosterfish in the 10 pound class that congregate just off the ends of the entrance jetties to the new Riviera marina.
Further up the coast in La Paz, Jonathan Roldan at Tailhunter International says, “We have been having a mixed bag of catches in both La Paz and Las Arenas. The good days have produced some truly quality fish, even though the numbers in the fish count may not have reflected the grade. With air temps now into high 80’s to low 90’s, conditions continue to improve. And as they say, the better the weather…the better the fishing.”
Roldan continued, “For our Las Arenas fleet, inshore the mix produced some pargo, cabrilla, bonito and sierra. But, the big news is that the big roosters have started showing up, with some of the fish going 30 to 40 pounds. We have also had a good showing at Cerralvo Island on some fat yellowtail, along with a few breezing yellowfin tuna that came breezing through.”
At the northern end of the Sea of Cortez, Tony Reyes’ mothership panga operation is now in full swing for the new season. Last year, there were some permit issues with the Mexican government that disrupted part of their schedule, but that has all been rectified. These 6-day trips venture down the coast to the islands of Bahia de Las Angeles, where passengers can expect to catch anything from quality yellowtail to big grouper weighing over 100 pounds. At just over $1,000 per person, which includes lodging, daily panga fishing, fish cleaning, all meals and unlimited sodas and beer, this trips remains one of the best values on the planet. And this year, Baja’s fishing is at its finest!