By Tom Gatch
As late spring slips into early summer, there is an awakening of activity amongst a number of Baja’s most popular gamefish. One highly targeted offshore species is the yellowfin tuna, which regularly work their way up the peninsula on the wake of more southerly hurricane activity as the season progresses.In any given year, depending upon the cycle, they might even migrate up Baja’s Pacific coast as far as southern California.
Sometimes these more northerly waters also see an incursion of long-finned albacore tuna, whose firm white flesh was once referred to by some as 'the chicken of the sea'.
Occasionally albacore arrive in June, more often in July; but during phases of extremely warm water, like those created during an El Niño, they may not show up at all. Yellowfin, on the other hand, are generally more dependable and increase in size and number the further south you travel. These fish can range in size from 8 to 12 pound 'footballs' all the way up to ones weighing several hundred pounds that are usually taken off of Baja Sur.
Along Baja Norte’s Pacific coast, red rockcod, lingcod and other fish that live in deeper water are still available during the summer, but tend to be a bit more lethargic as the water warms up. Fishing inshore kelp beds for calico bass between the Playas Rosarito and Guerrero Negro can be extremely productive this time of year for diligent anglers using live baitfish and appropriately colored plastics. There is also the chance of encountering an explosive melee of feeding activity under diving birds that involves surface feeding species such as bonito, barracuda, mackerel and occasional yellowtail.
These aggressive, hard fighting members of the jack family are particularly prevalent in the summertime, and were once so common in the waters off of Ensenada that the city was nicknamed 'Yellowtail Capitol of the World'. Although times have changed considerably since then, these fish are still relatively prolific and can be caught on both sides of the Baja peninsula.
A bit down the coast, the picturesque waters off of Bahia San Quintin regularly host trophy size calico bass, yellowtail and white sea bass. Visiting pelagic fishes like yellowfin tuna, dorado and albacore have generally made their seasonal appearance by mid summer, and often remain in the region through late October.
Much further south, just off Baja's central Pacific coast, Isla Cedros stretches 24 miles in length and is renowned for world class yellowtail and calico bass fishing during summer. But another highly prized species, the white sea bass, is also on the menu; some of which can weigh over 60 pounds.
Back on the peninsula, Bahia Asuncion offers a remote venue for angling, camping and bed & breakfast lodging adjacent to the popular blowhole along with a gas station and a few stores providing the basic necessities. Panga fishing gets even better as summer progresses, and affords the opportunity to tie into anything from a big yellowtail or tuna on the surface to a fat Baja grouper cruising near the rocky bottom.
Shore fishing from one of the many sandy beaches between here and Bahia Magdalena can be quite rewarding, with an expected catch of halibut, calico bass, corvina, croaker and sometimes even yellowtail.
The estero fishing inside Bahia Magdalena really springs to life as the air and water temperatures continue rising toward their cyclical peak; everything from snapper to snook go on the hunt, attacking both live and artificial baits. Offshore, anglers can expect to catch quality grade yellowtail, yellowfin tuna, dorado, wahoo and even billfish as the season progresses. While you can certainly trailer your own boat in and launch at the small ramp in San Carlos, most visitors who come to fish this region rely primarily upon local charter services and knowledgeable pangeros to help put them on the fish.
At the southern tip of the peninsula, Los Cabos features numerous fishing charters, outfitters and marine facilities that can assist you with practically anything you might need for a successful day on the water. While there is decent shore fishing this time of year, most of the attention is focused off shore by those in the pursuit of marlin, tuna, bull dorado and big amberjack.
Once past San Jose del Cabo, you can head about 50 miles up the Cortez coast to Baja Sur's legendary East Cape; home to such popular fishing resorts as Rancho Leonero, Hotel Buena Vista, Palmas de Cortez and Punta Colorada. Inshore action for large roosterfish, African pompano and pargo usually continues to improve all the way into chubasco season in late summer. Most of the offshore action here is targeted at tuna, billfish and large dorado.
Up the coast in La Paz, boats fishing off of Punta Arenas and Isla Cerralvo offshore enjoy a summertime combo both of hot weather and hot fishing. Depending upon the type of live bait that is available on and given day, you can expect to hook into a wide variety of gamefish ranging from marlin, bull dorado and chunky yellowfin tuna to big, tackle busting dog snapper that can often outwit and out fight the most accomplished angler.
Further north, the smaller towns of Loreto, Mulege, Punta Chivato and Santa Rosalia offer launching facilities and basic accommodations; as well as some first rate summertime fishing for yellowtail, dorado and even an occasional striped marlin.
Located up near the peninsula's midriff, Bahia de Los Angeles is occasionally subject to strong winds that can sometimes keep anglers off of the water even during the months of summer. Nonetheless, the many surrounding islands can offer exceptional fishing for yellowtail, white sea bass and grouper.
At the northern end of the Sea of Cortez, San Felipe is a prime destination for campers and anglers who tirelessly fish this relatively shallow region both from shore and small boats. the construction of inshore artificial reefs in the area has greatly enhanced local opportunities for catching species like, spotted bay bass, pinto bass, yellowfin croaker, corvina and even white seabass while fishing in summertime air temperatures that often reach the triple digits.
To be sure, the fishing around the entire peninsula can be good almost any time of year. But it is important to bear in mind that some of the very best action in Baja California is enjoyed when the sun is blazing overhead and the water is as warm as a backyard swimming pool.