By Tom Gatch
Now that summer has officially begun, the bite on a variety of popular gamesters is in full swing as water temperatures around the Baja California peninsula continue to climb several degrees above what is generally normal for this time of year.
Just below the international border, bluefin tuna have been on tap for anglers fishing the Coronado Islands, however those venturing down from U.S. waters in their own boats should make sure that they have valid passports and Mexican fishing licenses for all passengers onboard. Mexico’s Navy patrols these waters regularly, and foreign anglers are being checked to make sure that they are in compliance with the law has become a matter of course.
Since this type of monitoring is rarely applied to boats launching from Mexican ports, it often makes more sense to simply tow your boat down to Ensenada or San Quintin as an alternate point of departure. No boat? No problem; Baja is blessed with a bevy of capable outfitters that can put you on the fish in anything from a simple panga to an upscale sportfishing cruiser.
Sometimes, fishing from a small panga allows the added advantage of being able to work tight to inshore coves and boiler rocks that would be perilous for larger craft.
No one knows this better than anglers who fish with Vonny’s Fleet out of Punta Banda just south of Ensenada. Quality grade yellowtail up to 30 pounds have been inhaling trolled Rapalas, while those dropping to the bottom have been bringing up an array of nice lingcod, reds and johnny bass. And if that were not enough, a few big white sea bass have been recently landed as well.
Similar action can be enjoyed while panga fishing with Castro’s Camp in Erendira, just north of Punta Colonet. Depending upon conditions, this humble and somewhat remote fish camp offers access to fishing grounds that receive a lot less pressure and can offer some excellent summertime action.
Down the Coast in Bahia San Quintin, Capt. Kelly Catian at K&M Sportfishing says that the yellowtail bite has been strong, along with some excellent fishing for calico bass near San Martin Island. But his most spectacular catch took place on a recent spearfishing charter when one of the divers speared and landed a huge black sea bass weighing several hundred pounds.
Although a moratorium exists on these large grouper north of the border, they can still be legally taken in Mexican waters; where they are considered a prized delicacy.
Just off Baja’s central Pacific coast, Cedros Outdoor Adventures reports an outstanding bite on quality grade calico bass, as well as several large yellowtail that occasionally tip the scales at over 40 pounds.
Back on the peninsula, Bahia Asuncion is enjoying inshore yellowtail action on fish in the 15 to 20 pound class, while local halibut action along the beach is becoming increasingly productive.
Further south in Los Cabos, huge yellowfin tuna weighing well over 100 pounds are burning up the drag washers and offering visiting anglers the battle of a lifetime. The Pisces Fleet in Cabo San Lucas indicated that their biggest fish recently was a cow yellowfin that tipped the scale at 283 pounds. The giant tuna inhaled a cedar plug and was finally landed by visiting California angler, John Berry, after an exhausting battle that took nearly 5 hours to get the fish to the boat.
Although there have been an abundance of triple digit tuna being caught, almost 40 percent of Pisces charters have been taking between 1 and 16 smaller yellowfin in the 12 to 25 pound class. The offshore dorado bite has been improving, but most of the fish being taken have weighed under 10 pounds. Inshore action for jack crevalle, triggerfish and skipjack has remained solid.
Just around the corner in San Jose Del Cabo, Eric Bricston at Gordo Banks Pangas reports, “Live bait supplies have been good, and have consisted primarily of mullet, caballitos and ballyhoo. In a pinch, slabs of squid are readily available as an alternative bait. One of our more significant catches recently was a 122 lb. amberjack, which was landed near Vinorama on a super panga that was fishing with live mullet. Off the structure, at depths between 120 to 180 feet there has also been some productive action on yellowfin tuna in the 75 pound class taken on yo- yo jigs off of the San Luis Bank.”
Bricston added, “In addition to the tuna, other offshore action has included scattered strikes on striped marlin and a few dorado; no big numbers, but a few nice fish were being found, most of these just by trolling lures in open water.
In the final week of June, the combined panga fleet catch of approximately 63 boats launching out of La Playita at Puerto Los Cabos Marina included 8 striped marlin, 1 yellowtail, 9 dogtooth snapper, 23 yellowfin tuna, 16 bonito, 9 dorado, 26 amberjack, 18 leopard grouper (cabrilla), 18 pargo colorado, 24 yellow snapper, 5 sierra, 10 barred pargo, 72 jack crevalle, 74 roosterfish and 55 triggerfish.”
the Cortez coast a few miles at Rancho Leonero on the East Cape, John Ireland offers, “Water temperatures have generally been hovering in the low to mid-80s, with occasional pockets of cooler water up and down the Cape that allow anglers to find a productive bite by fishing the temperature breaks. The fishing has been good and you can pretty much take your pick: marlin, tuna, wahoo, roosterfish or pargo.
The striped marlin bite has been good to very good, with fish spread around all over. Anglers targeting stripers were able to get multiple fish daily. Rigged ballyhoo and lures were doing best. Although nobody seems to be targeting them, a smattering of dorado have been picked up by boats on a fast troll that are fishing for tuna. They have been nice-sized, but nothing really big yet. A few of the boats have picked up some wahoo using the same technique while fishing with Rapalas further to the south.” For those fishing onshore, fly anglers working the beach between Buena Vista and the lighthouse have been taking large roosterfish weighing up to 50 pounds or more.
Further north, Tailhunter International has fleets in both Las Arenas and La Paz to take full advantage of the wide variety of gamefish found in those adjoining regions, one of which is roosterfish.
Owner, Jonathan Roldan, explains, “This area has been referred to by some as the ‘Roosterfish Capital of the World’, and many of our clients pay us a visit from points around the globe just to have a chance to catch one. Even when other fishing may be a bit slow, during the peak summer season our Las Arenas fleet usually has no problem in locating a few. These are big fish often weighing between 30 and 80 pounds, which can make for a lot of big smiles onboard once one has been landed.
We have also gotten into some nice wahoo while trolling lures like dark colored Rapala XRap 15’s, 20’s and 30’s, or the Yo-Zuri Magnums. Clients are losing the captains rigs and it costs $30-40 to replace them and the lures have been so hot, the few tackle stores here simple don’t have any more to sell. I highly recommend buying a few of your favorites that were purchased at lower prices north of the border if you want to troll for wahoo once you arrive.
Unfortunately, as far as La Paz fishing goes, some colder green waters moved in just around the first week of June and our captains have had to venture all over the map in order to find better looking water. Most of that fleet’s fishing has consisted or a spring-like mix of bonito, skipjack and a few dorado between 5 and 20 pounds. That situation, however, already seems to be changing back to more seasonal conditions.”
Roldan concluded by saying, “One of the nice things that is unique about Tailhunter International is we have the advantage of owning 2 fleets; one in La Paz and the other at Las Arenas. This allows us to move folks around between our fleets, depending on the bite, the weather, the species available and, most importantly, how to give folks the best opportunity to get fish; even when the conditions aren’t always the best.”
Without a doubt, summer is the time of year to remember that when the weather is hot in Baja California …the fishing can often be even hotter! Take advantage of it while you can.