Baja Fishing Report - Winter 2016
By Tom Gatch
A happy angler shouts out a hoot of delight while showing off his late
November yellowtail, which was caught just off of Punta Banda. Photo: Vonny's Fleet
As we know, there are two sides to every coin; and such is the case with our
ongoing El Niño conditions, which have brought us some of the finest offshore
fishing that we have seen in over 20 years. As we witnessed in the last few weeks
of 2015, however, the flipside of this cycle offers the promise of more frequent and
intense winter storms this year. Nonetheless, surface water temperatures along
the southern California and northern Baja coasts are still hovering close to 60
degrees and, most importantly, the fish are still biting.
While most of the tuna action has decreased significantly during the past few
months, the bite on quality grade yellowtail between 20 and 45 pounds has
remained solid. There have also been occasional flurries of bonito and Pacific
barracuda from time to time.
Anglers fishing tight to inshore boiler rocks and pinnacles with weedless plastics on
fluorocarbon leaders are also finding a fair amount of chunky calico bass willing to
greedily inhale their bait, although the cooler water requires a bit more patience.
One of the nicest things about fishing the Pacific coast of Baja California Norte
during the first few months of the New Year is that you are still legally allowed to
fish for the many prolific species of tasty Sebastes rockfish, which are illegal to take
in southern California during January and February.
Despite some stormy weather during the holidays, the quality grade yellowtail are still hanging in there
off of Bahia San Quintin; as shown in this photo taken on the second day of January, 2016. Photo: K&M Sportfishing
One of the best ways to do this is aboard a Baja panga that targets these popular
fishes inshore along many sections of the coastline between Marina La Salina and
San Quintin. Some of this region’s most reliable operations include Vonny’s
Sportfishing in Punta Banda, Castro’s Fishing Place in Ejido Erendira and K&M
Sportfishing, Tiburon Pangas, Pedro’s Pangas and Capt. Juan Cook in Bahia San
Quintin. In addition to the rockfish and lingcod, Capt. Kelly Catain at K&M
Sportfishing indicated that a nice grade of yellowtail is still on the chew.
Cedros Outdoor Adventures off Baja’s central Pacific coast reported banner fishing
for big yellowtail, calico bass and periodic runs of yellowfin tuna during 2015 and
says that quality forktails and checkerboards are still available going into the New
Down in Los Cabos, Capt. George Landrum at Fly Hooker Sportfishing indicated that
there has been some decent striped marlin action locally, “The best concentrations
of stripers have been found about 1 to 3 miles off the beach. Many of the fish
caught were hooked by casting live bait in front of tailing fish, and by dropping a
live bait back into the trolling pattern when a marlin showed up. Most were taken
on live bait and about a quarter of them
Even as water temperatures begin their seasonal decline, the massive kelp forests around Isla Cedros
are still generously kicking out chunky calico bass. Photo: Cedros Outdoor Adventures
on plastic swim baits being worked at
depths between 80 and 200 feet adjacent to high spots holding bait. A few sailfish
were reported as well, but as the water continues to cool it is doubtful they will be
around for long. I did not talk to anyone who hooked up a Blue or Black Marlin this
week, but heard gossip about several fish in the 200-300 pound class that were
hooked up and fought to release.” Landrum added that both the yellowfin tuna and
dorado bite has been ‘off and on’, with most of the fish in each species weighing in
between 10 and 20 pounds.
Around the corner in San Jose del Cabo, Eric Bricston at Gordo Banks Pangas
reports, “Average ocean temperature locally is now 76 degrees, we are seeing this
cooling trend, though this is still several degrees warmer than seasonal normal.
Along with the unusual weather patterns of this past year, we continue to see
abnormal fish migrations as well, even the annual migration of whales has been
late to arrive to its peak. This is the time of year when we normally would find
schools of sardinas congregating along the shoreline and mackerel mixed with
sardineta on the offshore grounds, so far we are not seeing any of this baitfish and
are relying on bait sources of caballito, cocinero, slabs of squid and some ballyhoo.
Fishing action has been more scattered than we would normally expect, options are
limited without the mainstay of sardinas.”
“The most productive grounds this past week was found two to four miles straight
out front of Puerto Los Cabos Marina, this is where practically the entire fleets from
both San Jose del Cabo and Cabo San Lucas were congregating. Striped marlin with
a few dorado in the mix were striking on slow trolled baits, or while drifting baits
down deeper, occasional feeders on the surface. No huge numbers of fish, heavy
pressure. But still the best bet to find action. Most of the stripers were in the 60 to
90 lb. class, with a few reaching 120 lb. There must be some food source now
holding in this area, porpoise are being seen cruising through this zone as well.
Commercial shrimp trawlers are moving in our area now, and these are the same
grounds where they regularly work, often contributing to scatter any action that
does start to develop.
A New Year’s surprise was in store for these visiting anglers, who caught this huge yellowfin tuna in
the blue water off of San Jose del Cabo on January 2nd. Photo: Gordo Banks Pangas
Ocean currents pushed in cooler, greenish water from the north and combined with
persistent northerly winds, this made it tough to find any action around the Gordo
Banks and further north. Some yellowfin tuna were accounted for, one tuna of 143
lb. was weighed in early in the week, others in the 15 to 80 lb. range were taken,
but numbers were not significant at all and until conditions stabilize, this will most
likely be the same situation. Tuna at times could be seen coming into chum lines or
just breezing the surface, but proved to be very skittish. Late in the week anglers
found sporadic action for yellowfin closer to shore off of Punta Gorda while drift
fishing with strips of squid, these fish weighed up to 20 lb. and some charters
landed as many as five tuna. Though this bite would slack off as quickly as it had
started and be over just like that. Unusual to not see any of the larger sized
needlefish that are typically present this time of year.
Only a handful of wahoo were reported, ranging 20 to 40 lb., though as conditions
settle, we expect these fish to become more active. This coming week is forecast to
be warmer and less windy, so this combined with a favorable moon phase could
trigger improved action, of course these particular fish are very unpredictable. The
bottom continues to show signs of more life, as more numbers of snapper and
cabrilla were appearing, a couple of amberjack, yellowtail, ever present triggerfish
and bonito. Need calmer conditions though to have better chances at these species.
Inshore there are now good numbers of smaller sized roosterfish, not always easy
to hook on the larger baits which are being used, though still this has been an
option for variety, please remember that these fish should always be caught and
then released with care, so that they can mature and help maintain the future
fishery of these prized gamefish, which are known for their fighting qualities and
not as good table fare.”
In addition to some decent billfish action offshore and a few dorado closer in, shore anglers on the East
Cape are scoring well on the toothy, tenacious and tasty sierra mackerel. Photo: Rancho Leonoro Resort
Bricston concluded by saying that the combined panga fleets launching out of La
Playita, Puerto Los Cabos Marina sent out approximately 80 charters, with anglers
reporting a fish count of: 48 striped marlin, 26 yellowfin tuna, 56 dorado, 4 wahoo,
2 yellowtail, 16 cabrilla, 11 huachinango, 20 yellow snapper, 2 amberjack, 8
rainbow runner, 1 dogtooth snapper, 4 white skipjack, 22 bonito, 44 roosterfish and
While, up the Cortez coast in the famed East Cape region, John Ireland at Rancho
Leonero Resort indicated that their boats have been working the area from La
Ribera to the lighthouse for billfish. Stripers and sailfish have been providing most
action, although there are still a few nice sized blues around.
He also said that they had not seen any yellowfin tuna for a few weeks but added,
“There have been a few good dorado being taken in the 20 to 30-pound class. Most
of these fish have been picked up on the troll off in front of the Lighthouse.”
Ireland concluded his report by saying that some of the most spirited action has
been taking place just off the beach in front of their hotel and down toward the
marina, where onshore anglers continue to pick off a nice grade of sierra mackerel
and a few roosterfish under 10 pounds.
It may be winter, but you would never know it by the fish counts being tallied up by
anglers fishing around the Baja California peninsula. And, as the months continue
to go by, things are bound to get even better.
Updated: Oct 25, 2017 10:34 AM