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Baja Fishing Report - Spring 2024
by Tom Gatch

Baja Fishing Report - Spring 2024

By Tom Gatch

Baja Fishing
The inshore waters surrounding the tip of the Punta Banda peninsula have been kicking out a variety of quality red rock cod and lingcod, as well as an occasional home-guard yellowtail weighing over 30 pounds. (PHOTO – VONNY’S FLEET SPORTFISHING)
Baja Fishing

Despite previous fears of progressive drought conditions prevailing over the western portion of the nation, Mother Nature had a pleasant surprise in store for the residents of both California and Baja by delivering more rain during the 2024 winter season than has been normal over the past several years.

This situation has not only helped to replenish California’s desperately depleted reservoirs, but has also carpeted both SoCal and Baja with vast expanses of colorful wildflowers that treat the eyes of those fortunate enough to encounter them as they travel the rural highways both north and south.

The milder weather conditions of an encroaching spring have also aided in pushing up the dates that many of the most prized gamefish species have begun actively inhaling the baits and lures of the many anglers hoping to fill up their coolers as the season continues.


Ensenada

The offshore panga fleet is still focusing most of their attention on the productive bottom fishing off the Banda Bank, however, a few boats have already encountered a few early bluefin tuna on the surface between 12 and 15 miles offshore.

Vonny’s Fleet Sportfishing reports that their local pangas have been doing especially well on quality bottom fish like reds and lings in the waters just off the tip of Punta Banda. They added that a few lucky anglers have even scored an occasional home-guard yellowtail weighing over 30 pounds.

Similar fishing conditions and catches have also continued down Baja’s Pacific coast in places like Castro’s fishing place in Erendira and further south in Bahia San Quintin.

Baja Fishing
The fishing out of San Jose del Cabo has been excellent for a variety of species, which have included grouper, snapper, dorado, and smaller tuna. (PHOTO – GORDO BANKS PANGAS)
Baja Fishing

Cabo San Lucas

Down at the southern tip of the Baja peninsula in Cabo San Lucas, Pisces Sportfishing reports, “Over the past few weeks we have pretty much had clear skies and calm seas. However, the winds have occasionally been a bit stronger, with 5 to 6-foot waves mid-day and sea temps at 66 degrees.

Although some boats did score in the striped marlin category, like last week, fewer boats targeted the striped marlin as they were scattered on various banks because of the weather conditions.

Fortunately, the cooler water didn’t seem to affect the other species. The dorado, which were smaller, were replaced with larger ones that seemed more aggressive. However, there are still some small ones mixed in, and if you do find one of the smaller schools, release them and keep the larger ones.

In addition, there have been yellowfin, roosterfish, grouper, sheepshead, sierra, skipjack, triggerfish, red snapper, and ladyfish to fill in the blanks on the slow days.”

They continued, “As an example, Captain Ricardo, along with Mate Yahoo Jose Escamilla, welcomed the group Douglas Tom, Samantha Tom, Alexandra Tom, Justin Howley, Shoshana Howley, Ryan Ellazar, and Zachary Link, all from Webster Groves, Missouri, aboard the “YAHOO,” a 42-foot Bertram.

After a brief discussion, the group of anglers decided they were eager to target striped marlin. Captain Ricardo decided to check out the La Brecha Bank, which had been active earlier in the month. His hunch paid off. When they arrived, there was good bird life, indicating ample baitfish that usually attract the fish. After spotting several leaping stripers, he was sure of it! The weather was ideal.

They concluded their report by saying, “It wasn’t long before the first marlin appeared behind one of the lures trolled several boat links behind the immaculately maintained “Yahoo.” The colorful fish was gone, however, before they could drop back a cocinero (fresh bait) to entice the fish. Several tries later, it was “fish on!” The angler played the fish perfectly, and soon, it was alongside the boat with the hook removed. Within a few minutes, the gleaming striped billfish, estimated to weigh one hundred pounds, was revived and disappeared beneath the surface with a flip of its huge tail.”

San Jose del Cabo

Just around the corner in San Jose del Cabo, Brian Bricston of Gordo Bank Pangas reports, “We can tell Spring Break is here. We are seeing more numbers of tourists arriving, many of them younger, college aged, as well as lots of family groups. We are having ideal weather patterns now, lows of about 60 degrees, with highs of 80 degrees and mostly clear sunny skies.

We had a good variety of species this week. The tuna bite slowed down significantly as the only good days for tuna were Monday and Tuesday. On Monday, we had a 70 and 50 pounder; long battles on light tackle. We did see a couple of tuna this weekend as well, though there were only a few caught between 18-20 boats. Captains still report seeing some nice ones boil up on the live sardines, however they will not bite, even with light 30# fluorocarbon. Most of these yellowfins have been spotted at San Luis and Iman.

The fleet managed to catch a good variety throughout the week. We started to see more dorado this week, especially this weekend. The average size seems to be between 10-15 pounds; most of them females. A few wahoo were also landed while drifting live sardines for tuna, though nothing big, most of them 15-20 pounds. A few boats reported losing up to 3-4 in one day as they break off right away.

The focus has been the bottom as we continue to see good numbers of groupers, snappers, and amberjacks. Most of the bottom action is coming from jigs and live sardines. We are mostly catching yellow snapper, but we are starting to see more red snappers in the mix. Throughout the same areas of Iman and San Luis, we continue to catch our bonita limit on most days.”

Bricston concluded by saying, “Please keep in mind that our white bonito (Pacific Bonito) is very good to eat as it is very similar to tuna and it can be cooked in a good variety of ways, especially raw.

In terms of inshore activity, Sierra and Roosterfish action has remained consistent and very similar to previous weeks. We are mostly targeting the areas of La Laguna, Buzzards, Secrets/ Marriot, and Palmilla. We saw some big Sierra this week at Palmilla, some close to 12 pounds. Most of the Roosterfish are averaging 10-15 pounds.”

La Paz

Baja Fishing
Early spring fishing out of La Paz has been studded with surprise catches like these huge African pompano. This prized species is both a hard-fighting gamester and gourmet table fare once it has been prepared and served to lucky diners. (PHOTO – TAILHUNTER INTERNATIONAL)
Baja Fishing

Up the Cortez coast a bit, Jonathan Roldan at Tailhunter International offers, “We’ve been constantly on the road over the past few months with the Tailhunter 2024 Road Tour and just finished shows in Salt Lake City and Southern California.

However, frankly, there just hasn’t been a lot of exciting stuff to impart! Even I get bored writing about the winter winds and especially no one is really fishing or I’m actively discouraging folks from going out…especially if they are first-timers or have kids. No fun being seasick and wet!

Anyway…that being said…can things really be improving? Stand by!

It seems we’re finally getting some spring-time conditions! We’re not out of the windy zone yet, but little-by-little, there are more calm days than blustery days. More clear blue water than cloudy cold water. More flat water than choppy whitecaps!

Not good for all the windsurfers and kite boarders, but better for sportfishing! I still expect there will be some crazy windy times, but there’s reason to be optimistic.

There are some nice grade yellowtail busting around areas of Cerralvo Island and Espirito Santo Island. Fish are running 15-30 pounds mostly and willing to take jigs, live sardines and mackerel as well as deep trolled Rapalas and Y0-zuri lures near structure. The same areas are also kicking out some of yellowtail’s cousins the amberjack. Most of them are in the 10-20 pound class, but some of these fish can easily go well over 50 pounds…if you can land them and keep them out of the rocks.

Baja Fishing
The spring grouper season in the upper Cortez is already in full swing off of Bahia de Los Angeles, as witnessed by this incredible catch of quality baquetta, which is just one of the large, tasty bottom dwellers that live around The Midriff Islands. (PHOTO – FISHARMZ SPORTFISHING)
Baja Fishing

As well, there have been some jags of fast moving 20-40 pound yellowfin tuna and the warmer waters are have some spots of dorado as well which we usually don’t see either species unti much later in the season like May or so.

Inshore, the usual variety of fish are actively feeding on seemingly plentiful bait schools of sardines. So we’re getting reports of sierra, pargo liso (mullet snapper), barred pargo, yellow snapper, cabrilla, jack crevalle, bonito and even a few roosterfish…another fish that we usually don’t see until a little later.”

Roldan finished off his report by saying, “So, lots of reasons to keep an eye on things and we’ll keep you posted. We’re ‘officially’ calling April 15th the start of the season, but it looks like maybe the fish won’t wait!”

Bahia de Los Angeles

Fisharmz Sportfishing specializes in fishing for the large snowy grouper, baquetta, and seabass that live in the deep caverns surrounding the Midriff Islands. The spring grouper season has just begun, and their captains have already been successful in putting their clients onto some serious fish despite the fact that we are barely into April.

Also working out of L.A. Bay, Daggett's Beach Camping & Sport Fishing indicated that despite the windy conditions this time of year, their boats have been able to score well on the local yellowtail up to 30 pounds or more on the flat days that fall in between those blustery gusts.

Upper Cortez

Baja Fishing
Capt. Juan Cook and his family left on a trip from their home in Bahia San Quintin on the Pacific coast to Papa Frenandez’ at Bahia Gonzaga in the Sea of Cortez for a little spring fishing. They were rewarded with many quality gamefish, including this trophy-sized leopard grouper that almost blends in with the onshore topography. (PHOTO – CAPT. JUAN COOK)
Baja Fishing

From Bahia Gonzaga, a little over 100 miles south of San Felipe, Capt. Juan Cook reports, “After a few days of wind, it finally blew itself out and left us with flat, calm, and beautiful seas. My client Mickey Nielsen was ready to fish, so off we went to the Golden Reef. It turned out to be an epic day; as we arrived the yellowtail were actively feeding on the surface. We stopped, started some fast-pitch casting and loaded up. It was “FISHON!!! We also did well on the bottom for some fat leopard grouper.”

As you can tell, spring has barely arrived and the hungry fish around the Baja peninsula are already on the prowl to get the 2024 fishing season started. Are you? Now is the time to start making your plans and reservations for what looks like an epic year out on the water south of the border!

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