By Tom Gatch
We may only be a few weeks into the summer season, yet both the weather and the fishing around the Baja peninsula have been heating up substantially.
The promise of sunny days and rod-bending action out on the water have become powerful lures for the many tourists and anglers who are already planning a trip south to enjoy all of the great food, wine, fishing, and relaxation that Baja has to offer.
Current fishing conditions, particularly along northern Baja’s Pacific coast, the opportunity to catch a trophy-sized bluefin tuna in 2022 is better than it has been over the past several years. The offshore fleet working out of Ensenada has only had to travel between 4 to 15 miles out in order to find a bounty of fish ranging between 50 and 175 pounds.
Inshore, the panga fishing for quality grade yellowtail over 20 pounds has been stellar, and should continue to improve as the water warms. Vonny’s Sportfishing Fleet in Punta Banda has one of the most popular panga fleets in the area, and reports that their clients have been taking feisty forktails up to 25 pounds or more from the churning waters off the end of the peninsula.
In addition to the brisk yellowtail bite, Vonny’s Fleet reports that they have also been doing well on large, summertime calico bass weighing up to 8 pounds that have been inhaling plastic swimbaits.
Anglers fishing out of Bahia San Quintin have been enjoying a full array of angling opportunities, which include offshore tuna, yellowtail around San Martin Island, big calicos around the kelp, and even the chance of catching a big halibut around the oyster pens near the mouth of the Bahia.
Further south, off central Baja, Cedros Island Outdoor Adventures reports that their summer season is just getting into full-swing, yet prevailing conditions are already producing exceptional catches of fat yellowtail and trophy-grade calico bass for their guests.
Down near Bahia Magdalena it may still be a bit too early for wahoo, but the yellowtail fishing remains good off San Bruno. Anglers have been taking most of the fish on live mackerel, although several have also been caught on locally-made jigs. In addition to the yellowtail, anglers dropping their baits to the bottom have been successful in catching some snapper and a few grouper. As usual, the summertime fishing inside the estero has been extremely productive for a number of species.
From Gordo Banks Sportfishing in San Jose del Cabo, Eric Bricston reports, “Visiting anglers have been enjoying calmer weather patterns over the past week. Although, we are still following the paths of several tropical storms that are churning around further to the south.”
He continued, “We have had a few days of south winds, which contributed to cooling off and turning the water over some, it was even greenish in places. However, we are now once again seeing clarity improve.
The most consistent action remains off the bottom and close to shore for roosterfish and jacks. The primary bottom species now being brought in have been amberjack, yellow snapper, barred pargo, African pompano, pargo colorado, leopard grouper, gulf grouper, and triggerfish. A few of the amberjack have weighed in at close to 50 pounds.
The most recent highlight was a 290 pound yellowfin tuna, which was landed off of San Luis Bank while drift fishing with a live bolito for bait. Besides this one cow-sized tuna, we only saw a handful of other yellowfin, but they were mostly under 30 pounds. Dorado have also been very scarce, a few wahoo were accounted for and many other strikes were missed, most of these on the same bottom fishing grounds.”
Bricston concluded his report by saying, “Billfish action has been very scattered, although we did see a few sailfish and striped marlin. The good news is, it will not be long now before we start to hear reports of big blue and black marlin in our area.”
Jonathan Roldan, from Tailhunter International in La Paz, reports, “Although we have had a certain degree of success so far this season, we have had a heck of a time getting rid of the cooler weather conditions that have kept the fishing slower than normal.
Mother Nature just won’t give us a break. Not only are we in a La Nina year when it’s obvious by now that waters are colder and cooler than normal along with the air temperatures, all of which has affected our fishing.
Unfortunately, the weather gods threw another wrench at us recently. Tropical Storm Celia hit about 500 miles south of us. Fortunately, it didn’t come any closer, but that didn’t stop it from sending strong winds and big waves up our way, which really jacked up our south-facing fishing areas like Las Arenas, where we had to cancel fishing there for 2 days and send those passengers out with our La Paz fleet.
Fishing in the Las Arenas area, which should be on fire under normal conditions, has been sticky and picky to say the least. There are still some big roosterfish around between 10 and 80 pounds, but other than that, there’s just some inshore action on lots of bonito, rainbow runners, pompano, trevally, jack crevalle, pargo and bonito.”
He continued, “Strangely, the yellowtail bite continues. I say ‘strangely’ because yellowtail are a colder-water species that are usually gone from these waters by April. However, here it is in July and they are still around and have been biting strong.
Yellowtail between 20 and 40 pounds are not uncommon. A lot of these powerful fish have been getting lost. They’re true beasts, and are surprising a lot of folks with their strength and tenacity.”
Roldan concluded by offering, “We are starting to see an increasing number of dorado, so maybe that’s an indication that waters are finally beginning to warm significantly. However, I don’t want to get too excited. We should be thick into dorado by this time, but it just hasn’t happened. However, we did catch more dorado this week than we have all season. So, we are keeping our fingers crossed!”
Further north along the Cortez coast, Mijito Sportfishing in Loreto reports that they have already been enjoying excellent fishing for big dorados for several weeks. Although many of the fish have been in the 15 to 20 pound class, several have been close to 30 pounds, with some of the largest topping out at nearly 50 pounds.
Up in the Midriff Islands of the central Sea of Cortez, Deadhead Lures owner, Denis Quesnel, reported that a couple of his clients tied into a number of quality bottom species using nothing other than his heavier iron. The most productive color was the metallic blue, which, on one drop, was inhaled by a huge snowy grouper; a rather rare fish in that region.
Bahia de Los Angeles
On a recent Cortez charter, Capt. Juan Cook, operating out of San Quentin, reports, “I took my friends, Ryan Williams, and Don Hatch, to Bahia de Los Angeles for some yellowtail fishing. Unfortunately, our days were short due to the winds that came up by about 10:00 in the morning.
Since we had no live bait, we only fished with jigs. We had the greatest success using the Cudakilla Cyclops in orange and pink. We headed north to the Bajo, and began catching fish on our first drop. They were big fish, and we ended up putting 10 on the deck, but losing five. We finally realized that you really had to hammer down your drag, or be prepared to lose the next beast that you hooked.
Despite the wind, the fishing was so good that everyone still went home with smiles on their faces.
Tony Reyes Sportfishing, operating out of San Felipe, reports, “We just finished another sportfishing trip in the Sea of Cortez.
We stopped the first day at Bibora Island, where we took several big yellowtail up to 36-pounds on MirroLures. The next day we moved to San Francisquito and caught even more yellowtail up to 30 pounds. The next day, we went to Salsipuedes Island and loaded up on cabrillas and groupers.
Reyes finished by saying, “The following day we moved on to Snake Island for more snapper, grouper and yellowtail. We ran into a little bad weather on the return trip and were not able to fish the Enchanted Reef as we usually do, but we caught so many quality fish over our several days out on the Cortez that everyone returned to San Felipe feeling satisfied with our bountiful catch.”
After reading reports like these, it should be plain to see that the summer fishing season all around the Baja California peninsula has been incredibly promising so far and will likely get even better as the months go on. Now is the time to make your reservations with your favorite Baja captain or Deportivo to assure that you’ll have a place on board when the action is at its peak.