Summer fishing ramps up as Baja adjusts to “new normal”

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Tourists are slowly starting to come back to Mexico, though the numbers are limited, as restrictions continue in many places; and the fishing is “back with a bang” in the East Cape

BY MEGAN McDONELL

LA PAZ – Like many places in Mexico right now, Jonathan Roldan of Tailhunter International reported that La Paz is still figuring its way through the “new normal” after restrictions started to lift on June 16. He said the government is especially trying to find a balance between health and a struggling economy.

According to Roldan, restrictions currently include only 30% occupancy for all activities and locations including restaurants, hotels, businesses and even beaches – and facemasks are required.

“It was hoped that restrictions might be further loosened,” said Roldan, “but like many places, folks have been taking advantage of the eased restrictions and ignoring prohibitions, so the government has extended the current restrictions and is threatening to revert back to full lockdown. In the meantime, COVID-19 infections are unabated much like many places in the world that open up. The government says this was to be expected and the levels are acceptable, but in places like Cabo, they have already shut down water-based activities again, such as water tours, kayaking, paddle boards, wakeboard operations, snorkeling, diving, booze cruises and others. Sportfishing has remained open, but with restrictions.”

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LA BAY LOCALS caught a wide array of species last week, such as grouper, cabrilla and yellowtail.

Roldan said it’s important to remember that the U.S. and Mexico extended the border closure until July 22, but it does NOT apply to travel by air, water or rail.

As for fishing in La Paz, Roldan explained that there aren’t many sport fishermen out yet, since the hotels are still struggling to get open by early July – and airlines are scrambling to reopen and reschedule routes.

However, Roldan said the locals (including their captains) have been fishing and doing pretty well.

“Our Las Arenas captains that have gone out of Bahia Muertos are finding lots of live bait and good spots of roosterfish between 20-80 pounds,” said Roldan. “Lots of jacks and bonito are also around, as well as decent action over structure for barred pargo, dog-tooth snapper, red and yellow snapper and big mullet snapper and cabrilla. Some small spots of dorado between 5 and 30 pounds are also starting to show up.”

As for their captains working north from La Paz Bay, Roldan reported that yellowtail, pargo and amberjack have been bending rods over the reefs – and more dorado are being found, “including some legit-sized bulls, as sargasso weed starts to build up in the current lines.”

STRIPED MARLIN between 100 and 140 pounds were hitting on live caballito bait for anglers on the 35-foot Bill Collector 2 and 38-foot C Rod.

CABO SAN LUCAS – Rebecca Ehrenberg of Pisces Sportfishing

wrote in on Sunday to say that, while only 12 boats went out this week, they had a 100% catch success rate! “There was fish for everyone!” she said.

The marlin kept them guessing all week – picking up heading into the weekend last week, and then slowing down, only to be back again the next weekend! According to Ehrenberg, their top marlin release boat was the 35-foot Bill Collector 2, which went 5 for 7 on striped marlin released in one day. They also targeted yellowfin, which are finally showing up, and landed 7 of them total.

Ehrenberg said other boats fishing the area nearby also did well with marlin. For example, Captain Ty Valli of the 64-foot Chupacabra reported 17 for 26 on striped marlin released hitting on ballyhoo, and another boat went 16 for 23. Meanwhile, the 45-foot Chasin’ Tail 2 landed 17 yellowfin and released 4 striped marlin. As for tuna, most averaged 10 to 35 pounds.

Ehrenberg added, “In our ‘other’ category, we have some big roosterfish (around 40 pounds) taking the cake once again this week, with a few sierra mackerel and yellowtail sprinkled in too. Plus, we got news of an approximately 300-pound grouper caught by commercial fishermen out of Punta Lobos, Todos Santos.”

BIGGER DORADO are starting to show up in the sargasso weeds building up north of La Paz. Captain Blas was out with his neighbor and hooked this thick bull.

SAN JOSE DEL CABO – Eric Brictson of Gordo Banks Pangas reported that, though the numbers are limited at this point, they’re seeing tourists start to come back. “This is helping to restart businesses that have been shut down for nearly three months,” said Brictson. “This will be a slow process, but the local population is putting in the extra effort to make the safest environment possible so that people are able to relax and enjoy themselves.”

In terms of fishing, he said they’re seeing large schools of bolito congregated on the fishing grounds north of Punta Gorda, as well as some larger-sized yellowfin tuna in the same area. However, Brictson said not many were hooked into, as there was limited angler activity, but they did hear about an 80-pound tuna mid-week.

According to Brictson, the most consistent catches were for red snapper (huachinango), amberjack, cabrilla and some trophy-sized roosterfish patrolling the shoreline – a few of which were over 50 pounds! He also reported a few larger-sized sierra in the mix, as well as jack crevalle.

Finally, the striped marlin action slowed some due to changing water conditions, though Brictson reported that early in the week, there were still decent numbers of stripers. “As conditions stabilize, we do expect action to improve,” he said. “Soon will be the time when the black and blue marlin move onto local grounds.”

CAPTAIN LUIS MARTINEZ from the Tailhunter Fleet in La Paz worked some live bait around Espirito Santo Island and took 4 big dog-tooth snapper, including this hefty fish.

LORETO – Rick Hill of pinchysportfishing.com reported last Saturday that not too many sport fishermen are back at it yet in Loreto. He said, “It’s hard to pinpoint where the action is in a huge area like Loreto when less than a dozen boats are out fishing.”

However, he did say they are catching dorado near Coronado Island, and the commercial guys are doing the snapper and redfish harvest at the usual high spot. As for the weather, Hill reported it’s “hot with a powerful blast of sunshine for 10 hours every day.”

EAST CAPE – Matthew Clifton of Scorpion Sportfishing was happy to report that, after sport fishing officially opened up in Baja California Sur along with hotels and restaurants, it’s back with a bang!

“It was as if the fish were waiting,” said Clifton. “Fishing has been great, and anglers are enjoying all the beauty of the East Cape.”

On their first charter of the year, Clifton said El Regalo landed approximately 15 nice-sized tuna. It sounds like tuna fishing continues to be good overall, with most found outside on the porpoise with hoochies, cedar plugs and kite baits, as well as close to shore.

“Marlin fishing was likewise on fire!” said Clifton. “On one day, El Regalo released 8 striped marlin, with most days seeing multiple releases. Marlin came on both trolled lures and ballyhoo. We should begin seeing some blue marlin mixed in soon!”

If you’re looking for dorado, those are being found close to shore and at the buoys – with some real quality dorado coming aboard for those targeting the species.

Last but not least, Clifton said the roosterfish game has been epic. “The presence of good-quality live baits and grande-sized roosters have put lots of smiles on the faces of anglers. Most boats targeting roosterfish have been releasing multiple roosterfish up to 50-60 pounds!”

THE DOVE AND FARR FAMILIES from Dallas kept a nice yellowfin for dinner, which they caught on a hoochie lure fishing a few miles out of Chileno.

LA BAY – Orchid Martinez, owner of Baja Fishing Convoys, said, “Bahia de Los Angeles locals have been going out and have caught diverse grouper, cabrilla and yellowtail. Fish are located on the surface; however, the bigger ones are down deep.”

PUERTO VALLARTA – Stan Gabruk, owner of Master Baiter’s Sportfishing & Tackle, reported in his weekly newsletter that fishing has officially returned to Puerto Vallarta – with the highlight being stripers at Corbetena.

He wrote, “Finally, after 12 weeks or more, the Port Authority has opened the Bay of Banderas again to fishing and, of course, tours… which is good for us and you. Frankly, I can’t think of a better time to be out there fishing.”

Gabruk said that with the currents and warm water, the summer species are trickling in. “With empty fishing grounds, hungry crews and great early summer fishing is hard to beat. We’re all making deals right now to feel safe and put our attentions back into life, liberty and the pursuit of world-class fishing!”

In the deep water fishing grounds of Corbetena (locally known as the “Rock”) Gabruk said sailfish are circling the area now, and striped marlin are running the area from 60 to 150 pounds. He said they’ve seen some smaller stripers, but this is a temporary thing, as they’ll continue moving north to the Cabo area with cooler water temperatures.

As for yellowfin tuna, Gabruk said they’re (much to his surprise) running anywhere from 40 to 100 pounds in June! And they aren’t seeing any real numbers of black or blue marlin, but with water temperatures in the correct range, it’s just a matter of time.

Gabruk offered a tip to anglers heading to the area: “If you take a heading of 300 to 330 off Punta Mita, you’ll run bow-first into spinner dolphin all over the area. Spinners are always a welcome sight, as they’ll run with the tuna – and right now they’re running with 20- to 40-pound yellowfin tuna, or ‘footballs’ as we call them.”

He said the dorado are also starting to move in, and sailfish too, as their numbers have been gradually increasing since March. They’re also seeing bonito to 25 pounds, jack crevalles 30 to 50 pounds and roosterfish around Sayulita. “8-hour fishing trips can put you in the middle of this!” he wrote.

As for what’s to come, Gabruk predicts that in the next few weeks, they’ll see black and blue marlin moving in for the season, plus some yellowfin tuna. “We know Corbetena is a favorite hangout, so my cracked crystal ball predicts arm-burning action in your near future,” he said. Gabruk also sees a lot of dorado in the future too, thanks to a ban on wholesale export practices that were killing the dorado populations.

In terms of remaining COVID-19 restrictions, Gabruk said that boats operating in Puerto Vallarta are operating at half capacity. “What that means depends on the boat size you’re heading out on,” he explained. “In reality, this isn’t much of a restriction… All boats are cleaned daily, and crews [will] wear masks until it’s determined they’re no longer needed. Disinfectant gel is also part of the process – so you can feel secure your health and safety is being seriously looked after.”

Overall, Gabruk believes it’s a great opportunity to come on down. “With the hotel vouchers and airline promotions, summer could be the best time of this year to explore and enjoy Puerto Vallarta.”

 

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