By Tom Gatch
This past winter has delivered some of the most tumultuous storm systems to the Pacific west coast that have been experienced in decades. These events caused major flooding and damage throughout California and even reached down into northern Baja at times.
As a result, colder than normal air and water temperatures have kept all but the most dedicated anglers off of the water from the Coronado Islands down past Bahia San Quintin, except during those times between storms when the sun was able to shine and conditions improved.
Despite all of this, however, those who did take advantage of the opportunity to go out fishing occasionally encountered an exceptional bite on a wide variety of hungry bottom fish.
Capt. Louie Prieto, of It’s 4 Reels Sportfishing out of Ensenada has been taking good catches of ground fish from the deeper water between Salsipuedes and Islas Santo Tomas. He reports that many of these fish have been averaging been 2 and 5 pounds, which makes them virtually perfect for culinary application.
At the south end of the Bahia, Vonny’s Fleet in Punta Banda are experiencing much of the same type of action, except for the fact that the fish have been a bit larger with an occasional big bonito thrown into the mix.
Jim Gibson and his sons, Dan and Patrick recently paid a visit to Magdalena Bay for a bit of whale watching and a couple of days of fishing.
Although a couple of yellowtail in the 12 to 15-pound class have been taken over the past few months, most of the action has involved dropping deep for reds and lingcod. No calico bass or halibut catches have been reported
Down on the Pacific coast of Baja Sur, however, the bite for many species has been much more active.
Gibson offered, “Although the winds got to us, there were lots of whales in the bay and a few of them even came up to our panga!
As for the fishing, he added, “We had plenty of action, and ended up catching black snook, corvina, pompano, red snapper, yellowtail snapper, dog snapper, triggerfish, broomtail grouper, spotted bay bass, cabrilla, pacific porgy, and barred pargo.”
He concluded his report by saying, “One of the most exciting moments was when our pangero, Rigo, took us outside the bay to fish his favorite rock pile and we literally got ‘rocked’ by a couple of big grouper that we eventually lost. We were really under-gunned for that experience!”
Down the coast at Cabo San Lucas, Pisces Sportfishing reports, “What a week! The weather has been pleasant, in the low 70s, with a bit of wind in the afternoons, which allowed our fleets to capitalize on the remarkable variety of game fish found in our waters.
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.
At the end of last week, a lucky thirteen varied species were in the count, including striped marlin, dorado, yellowtail, amberjack, grouper, mako shark, pompano, skipjack, sierra, red snapper, ladyfish, bonito, and even a few triggerfish!
In early March, Capt. Beto Lira, took out Gerardo Rodrigues, John and Kimberly Meeks, and Kerri Sonnenberg from Texas, who enjoyed a banner day. They released a striper estimated to weigh approximately 130 pounds, three dorado weighing up to 20 pounds, and a six-pound skipjack at Destiladera.
Mid-week on a half-day trip, the 32 ft Cabo Express, aptly named “Bill Collector,” with Captain Esteban Balderas and angler Adrian Olache, scored not one but two striped marlin estimated to weigh, respectively, 120 and 140 pounds. The fish could not resist the dead mackerel trolled in front of them, only 4 miles off the Lighthouse on the Pacific side where they were released by Justin Lee Weber and Nichole Weber from Temple, Texas.
Captain Chato Padilla, of the Karina, and Jorge Velez, found a school of roosterfish and a few ladyfish for Graeme Vass, Megan Walters, and Tim Murray from Los Arcos, California. And, by the time they were finished, they had released 20 roosterfish, one bonito, one grouper, and four ladyfish. Oaks, Monalisa Oaks, and Phillip Oaks from San Jose, California and taken on mackerel.”
Just around the corner in San Jose del Cabo, Eric Bricston, at Gordo Banks Pangas, reports, “We’ve seen a noticeable increase in crowds this past week; just in time for the first wave of spring break activity. And, just like clockwork, the weather is changing as well, definitely feels like spring season already with sunny days and high temperatures up to 86 degrees. Those relentless north winds have also diminished and not such a plague as they were through the past few months.
Live bait remains scarce and scattered, slabs of squid and ballyhoo are available every day, but obtaining live bait such as sardinas, caballito or mackerel has been very sporadic.
The sportfishing fleets have been scattered about searching different areas, this week the more consistent action was encountered from the Gordo Banks, to Cardon, La Fortuna, Iman and San Luis Banks. With a mix of surface and bottom action being found.
The number of dorado being found dropped way off in recent days, just a handful now being found, most of these fish were in the 10 to 15 lb. class, did see a few bulls as large as 25 pounds. A couple of wahoo were landed earlier in the week, which is a bit unusual for this time of year.
Yellowfin tuna were still hanging around the Iman Bank, but were not easy to entice, only an occasional tuna being landed, some days none at all, others days just a few for the combined fleet, of the fish we saw, they ranged from 30 to 90 lb. Some hit on strips of squid, others on caballito or sardinas, if you were fortunate enough to obtain the live bait.”
He concluded by saying, “The most numerous bottom species were the bonito, striking over the high spots mainly on yo-yo jigs. We did also see limited numbers of grouper, snapper, whitefish, sheephead, amberjack and triggerfish, a couple of amberjack over 50 lb. were weighed in. The billfish action slowed way down and we are only seeing an occasional striped marlin accounted for, no large bait concentrations now attracting these fish into any feeding frenzies.”
“This has been the coldest, windiest winter in …forever!” declared Jonathan Roldan at Tailhunter International in La Paz as he began his report.
“Not many people have been out on the water most of the time over the past few months. It’s been so rough that, from time to time, the Port Captain has had to shut down the entire port to all boating traffic.
The key has been to find the small windows between the winds to get out on the water. If you pick the right day, there’s quite a variety of species willing to bite.
Colder water species like yellowtail, amberjack, sierra, pargo, cabrilla and snapper have been available over the reefs and rocks. Some warmer water species like dorado have surprised us. Live and dead bait is best, but casting lures have also been productive.
It does look like the yellowtail bite is starting to heat up. Hot spots at the north end of Cerralvo Island as well as the south and east side of the island have been productive as well as parts off the rocks near Punta Perrico and Punta Arenas.”
Roldan concluded by saying, “We have also been catching some nice hog-sized fish, and there have been schools of big breezing 100+ pound tuna that have been moving too fast for us to jump on.”
Up at the northern end of the Sea of Cortez, Bahia Gonzaga has been providing epic fishing opportunities for catching exotic species, especially in the area around Golden Reef.
Capt. Juan Cook, from San Quintin on the Pacific side of the peninsula, took a party of clients across to Gonzaga recently for a fishing trip that they will likely never forget.
Cook related, “I took my friend, Larry Hansen, and a couple of his buddies to fish Gonzaga and the Golden Reef for a few days so that they could fish for some types of fish that they had never encountered before.
They were amazed at the size of some of the fish we few catching, including a big 10-pound gold spotted bass, which was one of the biggest that I had ever seen. One of the highlights of the trip was when Larry hooked and landed a huge pink grouper that ended up taking top honors that day.”
Cook concluded his report by saying, “Most of the yellowtail we caught were on a morning bite, and then we would end up dropping down to the rocks for more gold spotted bass, whitefish, and grouper.”
So, as it turns out, it looks like most of that wet and frigid winter weather that was handed to us in 2023 is now in the rearview mirror. What a perfect time to head down to sunny Baja to catch the seasonal bloom of wildflowers …as well as a few fish!