Baja Fishing Report

Baja Hits the Switch: Springs into action

BY ROBIN WADE/WON Staff WriterPublished: Apr 09, 2013

LA PAZ — Last Sunday the Baja peninsula finally turned the clocks ahead and as if on cue, the La Paz bite sprung into action, this time with the best wahoo bite in two years off Cerralvo Island. There was also springtime action on chunky tuna. As many Baja contacts suggested, it’s time to pack the bags — it looks like the bite’s a little early this year.

“What a crazy week and start to the season,” Jonathan Roldan of Tailhunter International said. “It started with some of the best yellowtail action we've ever seen in a long time and as the yellowtail petered out, it turned into the best wahoo bite we've seen in two seasons!”

“At the beginning of the week the yellowtail were crashing the boats north of Cerralvo Island as well as north of Espirito Santo at the El Bajo seamount,” Roldan said. “Anglers were getting anywhere from 3 to 10 big yellowtail and telling tales of many more fish that they just couldn't stop or just didn't have the experience to put the wood to them. These fish were all slugger 20 to 40 pounders with reports of a few fish moving towards the 50-pound notch.”

LA PAZ MOVES FROM BEST TAILS TO BEST ’HOO — In one of the best wahoo bites La Paz has seen in several years, Dr. Bruce Dodge and Bob Patterson enjoyed two days of the bite with friends and took these two hog wahoo including the big one by Dodge estimated at 60 pounds. The wahoo were biting slow trolled magnum purple Rapalas. PHOTO COURTESY OF TAILHUNTER INTERNATIONAL

Roldan said it was almost like someone threw a switch and they had about two days of so-so fishing but added that it was almost as if the stage was getting cleared for a new act. “When the curtain came up later in the week it literally exploded,” he said. “Not only were we taking pargo, cabrilla and sierra as well as all the bonito we could ask for but suddenly we blew up on wahoo.”

“We've had terrible wahoo fishing the last two seasons,” Roldan said. “It was literally the worst fishing for the skinnies that I've seen in almost two decades here. But late in the week we had free-swimmers around our pangas and our guys reporting hooking (and in most cases losing) 2, 3, 4 wahoo each as the speedsters busted lures and sheared lines. Still, some pangas got 1 or 2 to the panga and in that period we caught more wahoo in the last three days of the week than we had in the previous two years.”

“These were nice fish, with most in the 20- to 30-pound class but several were in the 50- to 60-pound trophy range that had big shoulders and thick guts,” Roldan said.

“On top of that, remember it’s only April and we had big brick tuna pop into the fray crashing around the pangas and blowing out of the water,” Roldan said. “These were nice grade fish ranging from 50 to100 pounders and if you could get through the schools of ravaging bonito, there were thick fat tuna waiting to inhale your bait.”

“It looks like things are warming up and with the warming waters, maybe we're seeing some of the last yellowtail but with wahoo, tuna and dorado taking their place far earlier than we're used to seeing them in the year, there are not too many complaints.”

In other Baja fishing action (if an area is not listed, no report was available):   

— ENSENADA: It’s back to the bottom but at least the fish are big.

“Reel Adventure went out bottom fishing again off the point at Todos Santos Island,” Marianita Hammann from the Coral Marina Store said. “The weather out there was calm so they were able to fish in deep water (400 to 500 feet) and all the fish were extremely large.”

“They caught limits of reds, lings and other miscellaneous bottomfish,” Hammann said. “They were using live mackerel they caught in the bay. With water temperatures ranging from 55 to 60 degrees, it was very good fishing.”

SEEING RED IN ENSENADA — From left to right, Steve Russell, Alvin Mathis and Wes Price stand guard over some or their reds and other bottom dwellers they caught bottomfishing. Thanks to calm seas they were able to fish deep and found a good bite. PHOTO COURTESY OF CORAL MARINA STORE

— SAN QUINTIN: Wind, wind and more wind. Two boats tried to get out one day and turned right back around and went home.
— LORETO: With only 10 days to go before the Yellowtail Tournament, it’s good to know the yellowtail fishing is starting to get better by the day.

“During Easter when everyone wanted fish, the yellowtail didn't seem to want to eat (full moon) but now they are coming in more frequently and are larger,” said Pam Bolles of Baja Big Fish Company.

“They are eating mainly near the surface now but we are also still getting some at the bottom,” Bolles said. “It just depends on where you’re fishing. We're using live mackerel or iron jigs. Macks when not weighted down and sent to the bottom, were hooked, cast and allowed to swim freely. Jigs are also getting huachinango and tijereta. All of our fish were caught on jigs from the bottom at San Bruno.”

YELLOWTAIL BANDITS TOURNAMENT — Getting an early jump on the tourney season. This past weekend 9 pangas competed in their own little event. As you can see though, the bite is gearing up for The Great Loreto Yellowtail Tournament on April 18, 19 and 20. PHOTO COURTESY OF BAJA BIG FISH COMPANY

“We're fishing for yellowtail from Pulpito to Catalana and all around Isla Carmen,” Bolles said. “The bite is happening to our north and south because the southern currents have been coming up and our SS's are in the low 70s consistently. Water is still turbid (not clear) but bait is abundant, we're catching mackerel and now the bait sellers have started selling it as well.”

“There was a small group that had their own three day tournament called the Yellowtail Bandits Tournament this past weekend,” Bolles said. “There were nine pangas Saturday and I counted 34 yellowtail from 10 to just over 30 pounds each, one amberjack which was just over 30 pounds and 3 huachinango of about 5 pounds each. They mainly fished north at Pulpito with live bait
and jigs.”

“With only ten days before the tournament starts, fingers are crossed that we have good weather and fishing but you can count on us all having a good time,” Bolles said.

— MAGDALENA BAY: Bob Hoyt of Mag Bay Outfitters says the bay fishing continued to be good with lots of corvina halibut and grouper.

“There are also a few snook being caught,” Hoyt said. The surf fishing on the beach has been good to incredible for corvina pargo and snook. Outside the water is starting to warm up and there is lots of bait, lots of nice size yellowtail on the rocks in front and even a few nice grouper.”

— EAST CAPE: It wasn’t a great week of fishing for two reasons. First, there was no bait to be found and second, while there were fish — not many were biting.

“It was not a great fishing week,” said John Ireland from the Rancho Leonero Resort. “Bait has been hard to find and the fishing has been better up the coast where the sardine are plentiful around Punta Perico. Ranch boats going north are catching dorado and doing well along the beaches, picking up sierra, roosterfish and jack crevalle,” Ireland said. “One ranch boat picked up yellowfin fishing the south end of Cerralvo Island.”

“Good live bait has been the key to success this week,” Ireland said. “Closer to the ranch, there’s lots of striped marlin directly off the hotel four to eight miles offshore and south to Pta. Arena. But they are very picky biters and anglers are spotting dozens but with very little success. A few medium-sized wahoo in the 50-pound range came to the cleaning table this past week though. Ranch anglers are catching schoolie-sized dorado in the same areas as the stripers.”

— SAN JOSE DEL CABO (LOS CABOS): During the springtime conditions can heat up and cool back down, changing from day to day. This past week anglers fishing out of San Jose del Cabo experienced both.

“More anglers were in town this past week, appreciating the improved offshore conditions and calm seas for the most part, with sportfishing fleets concentrating on the grounds straight outside of Cabo San Lucas and north in the direction of the Sea of Cortez,” Eric Brictson of Gordo Banks Pangas said.

MORE DODOS COMING IN AS WATERS WARM UP — This 30-pound dorado was taken by the Michael Limoni group fishing out of San Jose del Cabo. Pictured is deck hand Jorge, left, and skipper Marcelnio onboard the 26-foot super panga from Gordo Banks Pangas. More dorado moved in off the La Fortuna area over the weekend as water temperatures are warming back up. PHOTO COURTESY OF GORDO BANKS PANGAS

“Water temperatures as cool as 65 degrees were reported outside of Todos Santos on the Pacific and outside the Gordo Banks there were readings of 75-degree waters but most of the region ranges from 70 to 73 degrees. The currents have been moving swiftly, cooling off and then warming back up just as quickly and lots can happen from day to day during the spring season. Baitfish schools are also moving according to their water temperature preferences, this in turn has the gamefish scattered and following their food source.”

Brictson said this past week there were schools of skipjack, mackerel and sardineta encountered sporadically on the fishing grounds and early in the week there were pelagic red crabs found drifting to the surface in masses around the Gordo Banks. “This natural occurrence lasted for a few days and anglers, both commercial and recreational, were catching good numbers of the true Pacific red snapper using these small crabs for bait, locally known as huachinango, this was the first significant bite on these prized table fare species for the season,” he said. “These fish normally range from 6 to 12 pounds, are very fun on light to medium weight tackle and of course produce very fine eating fillets.”

“Dorado numbers were down with only a handful being encountered,” Brictson said. “Some were on the offshore billfish grounds and others were near the shore where they were attracted by baitfish activity. Their sizes ranged up to 25 pounds. Same deal for yellowfin tuna, not many were found this past week.”

“The main attraction offshore has been for striped marlin as concentrations of these billfish are now scattered off San José del Cabo’s fishing grounds and north towards Los Frailes,” Brictson said. “Many charters are accounting for multiple catch and release days. These fish were encountered in feeding frenzies at times, other times they came up as blind strikes on trolled lures or taking dropped back baits. It is shaping up now for some wide open marlin action in this same region for the next several months, as this is typically peak season for the striped marlin.”

Brictson said the yellowtail action tapered off with only a few scattered fish found on the various rock piles. “Mixed in with the yellows were some nice amberjack, a few cabrilla and various pargo species though,” he said. “Along the shore there were sierra and this past week we saw more numbers of juvenile roosterfish moving in along the beach stretches.”

“Live sardina became harder to obtain in recent days, as the baitfish are now schooling off the beaches far north of Punta Gorda and it’s not practical for the commercial fleet to travel that far.”

The combined panga fleets launching out of La Playita and Puerto Los Cabos Marina sent out 88 charters for the week, with anglers reporting a fish count of 2 sailfish, 3 wahoo, 46 striped marlin, 7 yellowfin tuna, 23 dorado, 22 amberjack, 18 yellowtail, 55 sierra, 225 huachinango, 12 cabrilla, 115 roosterfish and 6 mako shark.

— CABO SAN LUCAS: Surprisingly the marlin bite picked up for a bit, before it took a dive again. Even so – the numbers were better than one finds almost anywhere else in the world.

“We were shocked at how good the marlin fishing was at the start of the report, in fact we can’t remember a March when marlin fishing was so good,” Tracy Ehrenberg from Pisces Sportfishing said. The catches were quite astounding, starting with Pisces’ Shambala who fished off Medano Blanco and released 8striped marlin and a sailfish, as well as catching a wahoo, two dorado and 4 jack crevalle. That same day our Tracy Ann also released 8 striped marlin between 100 and 140 pounds. Pisces Rebecca didn’t have as many marlin, just six but they did release a sailfish and then boated 2 wahoo.”

“Other boats caught between 1 and 5 marlin giving us some of the best results of the month,” Ehrenberg said. “Catches did not remain at this speed though; they slowed in the following days down to 1 to 4 billfish per boat and then declined a little throughout the week when boats caught dorado and skipjacks, with some marlin in the mix.”

“Marlin were caught every day, with 1 to 3 fish more the norm and of course there were a few boats that got skunked; 8 percent to be precise,” Ehrenberg said. “So very high catch rates for anywhere in the world, just a downer if you were in the percentage that didn’t catch. To hook up boats used a combination of live bait, frozen ballyhoo and lures with all the catches taking place on the Cortez side. Marlin were the number one catch for us with 83 percent of our charters successful for this species. We caught a total of 93 striped marlin and 4 sailfish with all but one billfish released.”

Ehrenberg said dorado catches edged up slightly to 39 percent but the number of fish caught was not huge at one to four fish per boat when found, with weights from 20 to 35 pounds. “Our total dorado count was 39 fish,” she said. “Yellowfin tuna catches really dwindled with just two boats catching schoolies and no more than 8 fish were landed when found.”

“But it was nice to see some wahoo, one of the top eating fish you can catch, however, they  were far from plentiful and sizes no more than 35 pounds,” Ehrenberg said. “There were a few skipjack caught as well as yellowtail and we had some jack crevalle from the beach and boats.  A solitary mako shark around 40 pounds was released aboard Cabolero which also let a striped marlin go and boated a jack crevalle.”

“According to Capt. Marquez, owner of the Fish Cabo boats, the better fishing was in the Destiladeres area, just south of Las Frailes and southerly along the 1000-fathom curve, down to the 1150-fathom spot,” Larry Edwards of Cortez Yacht Charters said. “While billfish were being seen in all of the regular areas on the Sea of Cortez side, the 95-Fathom spot, Chileno, Palmilla Ridge and Gorda Banks, the fish were not very cooperative until you got into the warmer waters from the 1150 and northerly from there.”

“The Fish Cabo had 6 stripers for two days with 5 fish for a single day, all in the Destiladeres area and all released,” Edwards said. “Gaviota I had 4 stripers for 4 charters and the Tuna Time had 3 stripers for 3 charters, all in the 1150-fathom area. The overall combined fish counts for 30 charters included 21 stripers with 19 released, 2 yellowtail, 3 skipjack, 3 mako sharks and 28 dorado.”

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