By Tom Gatch
After what was a chilly, blustery conclusion to 2021, the sunny spring weather has finally brought the welcoming warmth of the sun back to Baja California.
Spring marks a very special time on our peninsula, because it celebrates the blooming cycle for many of Baja’s native wildflowers, which paint the often barren landscape with a carpet of festive colors and soft pastels that are a treat to the eyes of those traveling south. However, right now is the perfect time to witness this splendid show of nature, because it begins to fade quickly as soon as the weather begins warming up even more during the coming months.
Of course, the biggest treat for anglers who are planning to fish in Baja is the promise of bent rods and big fish, along with the opportunity to temporarily escape the stress of daily life in a busy and crowded environment.
So far, the fishing around the peninsula has been outstanding for a variety of popular species, which is extremely encouraging this early into the year. And, although it is possible for those fishing out of large sportfishing operations based in San Diego to dig down into their wallets to get a slight taste of the great fishing that is available in the waters surrounding Baja California, it cannot compare to actually visiting Baja itself.
Aside from providing greater access to remote fishing venues, traveling to Baja also provides you with an opportunity to enjoy a wide variety of the great food and prize-winning local wines, along with a friendly, welcoming culture as an added bonus.
Although it may be spring, the water temperature off northern Baja’s Pacific coast are still hovering at 60 degrees or below, which has not been sufficient to mark the appearance of species like bonito and barracuda. Nonetheless, a few yellowtail have been taken out near Todos Santo Islands a few miles offshore.
Most of the seasonal action so far has been supplied by a variety of tasty bottom species. One of the most productive areas has been centered around the tip of Punta Banda at the southern end of the Bahia.
Vonny’s Fleet Sportfishing reports that their panga clients have been doing consistently well on red rockcod, salmon grouper, and other rockfish in the 2 to 5-pound class. These may not be considered glamor species by some anglers, but they are extremely hard to beat as table fare.
Castro’s Fishing Place in Ejido Erendira reports light passenger loads, but great fishing in this bucolic, rural Baja fish camp.
As is usual for this time of year, fat rockfish and lingcod are making up the majority of the catch, along with an occasional big yellowtail over 20 pounds and a few calico bass.
However, the most unusual catch recently was a small black sea bass weighing under 20 pounds that was taken by Captain Alfredo of the Castro Fleet.
K&M Sportfishing in Bahia San Quintin reports that Capt. George Catian recently took a group of several anglers over to Bahia Gonzaga in the Sea of Cortez and did extremely well, taking good numbers of chunky cabrilla and quality grade yellowtail.
Meanwhile, back in San Quintin, Bloodydecks member, Savage Son, traveled down from Costa Mesa to try his luck. He and his party of 5 other anglers stayed at the Old Mill, and went out the next morning with Pedro’s Pangas.
He reports, “We were on the water by 6:00 and stopped at a couple of spots to make bait. Our Sabiki rigs made quick work of the small mackerel and lizard fish, and we were able to load the tanks with 40 pieces of bait, and we also brought 3 pounds of frozen squid per panga.
We then headed out to the fishing grounds and worked a variety of areas, including San Martin Island, Ben’s Rock, and the 150 spot. We loaded up the cooler with cow cod, lings, and some of the largest ocean white fish I’ve ever seen. We were hoping for some yellowtail or white seabass, but the water was too cold and the weather was rough.”
Savage Son concluded his report by saying, “Our skipper, Ramon, worked very hard and took good care of us on the panga. He baited hooks, took care of our tangles, iced the fish, and even cracked open our cold beers! We fished hard until about 4:00 in the afternoon, then made the 60 minute boat ride back to the marina. We loaded the cooler with quality fish, and by day's end felt a little beaten up. Overall, however, it was a great trip and we hope to do it again soon!”
It is still a bit early for much surface action offshore, which has been comprised primarily of yellowtail and an occasional lingering wahoo.
Nonetheless, the Estero continues to fill the gap by providing some excellent angling opportunities for popular species like corvina, cabrilla, halibut, small grouper, as well as one of the most sought after species, snook.
Rebecca Ehrenberg, of Pisces Sportfishing in Cabo San Lucas reports that they recently took the first broadbill swordfish of 2022. It was hooked near the surface, and weighed over 260 pounds.
The hefty ‘pez espada’ was caught aboard a private vessel, the Gaviota IX, which was skippered by Capt. Cesar Ruiz. Capt. Ruiz initially spotted the fish a few miles out of the Santa Maria area, and his client, Scott, pitched a live mackerel out to it. The big sword took it on the first cast, and Scott, who had never caught a Swordfish before, ended up landing it after a battle that lasted well over an hour.
The fishing for swordfish has been promising over the past two months, with 5 surface fish being taken during that time. Locals are hoping that these fish will mark the prelude for many more to come.
San Jose Del Cabo
Just around the corner from Cabo San Lucas, Eric Brictson, at Gordo Banks Pangas offers, “This being the first official week of spring season, you can definitely feel a change in the climate and a warming trend with each passing day. Basically, it is the perfect time of year as far as all around weather goes.
Bait concentrations have scattered offshore. In the marina area, caballito had vanished the previous week and are now just starting to be found in limited numbers, there is still no word on sardinas. Other bait options included slabs of squid, mackerel, and ballyhoo.
Ocean conditions were greenish up to about ten miles offshore, water temperature ranging from 70 to 74 degrees through most of the zone. The warmest areas have been found further offshore. However, the winds are now becoming much less of a factor, and swells remain light.
Most anglers were concentrating efforts over the various rocky high spots from Red Hill, Gordo Banks, Iman and San Luis banks. Most consistent area was near San Luis, more Pacific bonito than anything else, while mainly jigging off the bottom.
Though there was a mix of other species as well, most notable were some amberjack to 40 lb., red snapper, yellow snapper, barred pargo, whitefish, triggerfish, a couple of yellowtail and others. A couple of impressive broomtail grouper to 60 pounds were also accounted for. We saw a couple of wahoo as well and a scattering of dorado, a few of them over 30 pounds.
Overall, despite there not being huge numbers of fish, there was quite a wide variety seen. The other day, there was at least one yellowfin tuna in the 50-pound class caught, and other tuna were seen breezing the surface near San Luis Bank, but they quickly vanished. This is a very encouraging sign; it has been a long time since we have seen any action for these yellowfin, we are hoping something develops on this.”
Bricston concluded his report by saying, “Not much is being reported close to shore right now. We’ve caught very few sierra so far this season and a few smaller-sized roosterfish, but more jack crevalle than anything else.”
Axel Valdez at Rancho Buena Vista reports, “First it’s sunny and then it’s not. First, it’s calm, then not so hot! But the one of the most constant factors after all of this unpredictable weather has been the yellowtail fishing! With water temperature in the mid-60s, yellows have been on a near constant boil despite the afternoon breezes. It has been the best for this time of year in recent memory.
To the delight of both anglers and boat crews, the yellowtail bite has been hot all the way from the south point of Cerralvo Island to the Lighthouse near Cabo Pulmo National Park, passing Buena Vista Resort only about a mile or two from our beach.
Valdez finished off by saying, “Jigging lures, live bait such as ballyhoo or mackerel or chunks of fish have worked as well. In addition, several nice sierra, dorado and marlin were caught during the past week.”
Up the coast a bit in La Paz, Jonathan Roldan, at Tailhunter International says, “All indications are that the conditions are warming and improving with each passing week. There are still not many folks fishing, but overall, the area has become much more fishable with only a few days being gusty. We have still had daytime temps in the low 80’s.
Two things stand out. First, the yellowtail are still around and biting nicely. Not sure how long they’ll stay around, but some nice healthy 20 to 35 pound fish are being hung on the high spots around Cerralvo and Espirito Santo Island as well as some of the inshore shallower rock reefs.
The fish are eating jigs, lures and live bait. Hopefully, these fish will hang out a bit longer, but as the waters get warmer, these fish will move off to deeper water and be replaced by warmer water species like the dorado of which we caught a few this week.”
Roldan concluded on a hopeful note, “The big surprise has been the number of huge cabrilla that we have been catching lately. Some have been trophy-sized fish up to 12 pounds that look like baby grouper.”
Closer to the northern end of the Sea of Cortez, Daggett’s Sportfishing in Bahia de Los Angeles said that the yellowtail fishing has been outstanding. They added that visiting anglers have been consistently enjoying limit-style fishing over the past month, making the possibility of a banner fishing season developing over the next few months a likely prospect.
Up the coast at Bahia Gonzaga, Capt. Juan Cook reports, “I took a couple of my Isreali friends, Kobi Kadem and a couple of his buddies, over to Gonzaga Bay for a couple of days. The weather was flat, but the action was a little slow at times.
On the first day, we were about 3 miles off the coast and encountered 10 commercial pangas. We followed up by dead dropping our baits straight to the bottom and caught some huge gold spotted bass, whitefish and Pacific hake.
The next day, we went back and Kobi caught a big baquetta, which is a type of deep water grouper that is very good eating. To top it all off, the mornings were calm and the days were sunny and warm with a beautiful sunrise and moon set.”
So, there you have it. Spring has barely sprung and the fish down in Baja are already on the chew. It’s definitely time to go fishing before the wildflowers begin to fade!
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