By Tom Gatch
After a particularly chilly end to our winter season, spring has finally sprung and it did so in a big way; with summerlike temperatures along the northern coasts of Baja California that provided hopeful encouragement to the throngs of anglers eager to hook up around the Baja peninsula during the warmer months to come.
Sportfishing boats out of San Diego visiting Islas Coronados in Mexican waters have been treated to some solid yellowtail fishing, with a few of the trips focusing upon deep water species taking good numbers of ocean whitefish and occasional red rockcod.
Less than 100 miles down the coast, Sergio’s Sportfishing in Ensenada reports increasing catches of yellowtail, bonito and barracuda near the surface as well as continuing action on the salmon grouper, rockfish and johnny bass closer to the bottom. At the southern end of Bahía de Todos Santos, Vonny’s Fleet pangas have been scoring well on red rockcod, salmon grouper and sand bass with an occasional quality grade yellowtail in the mix.
But, while the yellowtail and bottom fishing remains good between the International Border and Bahía San Quintín, perhaps the most inspiring sign for a productive offshore season ahead has been the appearance of bluefin tuna in the 15 to 30-pound class that were swimming within 50 miles of the coast as early as mid-March. While this may still be too far for the local pangas to travel, it is a sign that certainly bodes well for Baja’s upcoming 2019 summer fishing season.
Further south, off of Baja’s central Pacific, Cedros Outdoor Adventures is gearing up for their seasonal opening in early May, which will feature banner inshore fishing for trophy sized calico bass and yellowtail; not to mention the chance of hooking up with a big white seabass or huge Baja grouper.
Down in Baja Sur near Bahía Magdalena, a few private boaters have reported scattered catches of wahoo and a few tailing striped marlin, but things have yet to develop into a notable bite. The fishing inside the estero contuse to improve seasonally, with more spring halibut starting to show along with the usual cabrilla and corvina.
The coming of April ushered in another great week for Pisces Sportfishing in Cabo San Lucas, which was boosted even higher with a surprise appearance of billfish that unexpectedly showed up in great numbers at Golden Gate. Most of their boats averaged up to 6 striped marlin; all of which were promptly released. The yellowfin tuna numbers have also held steady, with the best performing boats catching up to 25 tuna apiece. Inshore action also continues to be good, with the majority of catches comprised of red snapper, yellowtail, amberjack, ladyfish, fat grouper and a few mako sharks to spice things up.
Nonetheless, a few of the Pisces cruisers had their trips turn out particularly well to round out the month. The Tracy Ann took the top spot with 6 striped marlin weighing between 100 and 130 being hooked and released on March 29th. A few days prior, the Rebecca released 5 striped marlin tipping the scales between 120 and 140 pounds each that hit on live mackerel at Golden Gate.
Just around the bend in San Jose del Cabo, Erik Bricston at Gordo Banks Pangas reports, “Ocean conditions have been relatively calm, with moderate swells and the wind has not been much of an issue, although currents remain swift. We are still in a transition period, with ocean conditions slowly rebounding, now up to 72 degrees and much cleaner, blue water returning and more signs of flying fish, which is a good sign that spring fishing action will be very good.
We have had a couple of flurries of medium-sized yellowfin tuna, but the billfish have been very spotty and scattered. Yet, every day there are reports of more striped marlin being seen; they just have not been in a mood to strike. With the ocean now on a cleaning and warming trend we do expect to see improved billfish action soon.”
Bricston concluded by saying, “The best chance of catching fish right now has been to focus your attention over rocky structure; with the most productive areas being from the Gordo Banks to the San Luis Bank. Most of our anglers have connected with a variety of species while using various whole and cut baits, as well as yo-yo style and flat fall jigs. Recently, we also saw some quality sized yellowtail in the 25 to 35-pound class, most of which were hooked using live bait off of the Gordo Banks.
A few broomtail group, amberjack, leopard grouper and various pargo species have been caught closer to shore over the rocky areas. There were more triggerfish than anything else, a few nice island jacks found as well with only one odd sierra being reported, along with a handful of jack crevalle and smaller sized roosterfish.” Up the Cortez coast a bit on Baja Sur’s famed East Cape, John Ireland at Rancho Leonero indicated that warmer currents have helped the fishing in Bahía Palmas, and they are now finding a few wahoo mixed in with an increasing number of yellowfin tuna. Smaller dorado up to 10 -pounds have also began showing up right off the hotel, and are taking live mackerel. He also said that anglers fishing the bottom have been scoring on medium-sized pargo, cabrilla and amberjack.
Further north, in the picturesque city of La Paz, Tailhunter International’s Jonathan Roldan commented, “What a difference a week or two makes! We’ve gone from some of the harshest and toughest winter fishing in a long time several weeks ago to some of the nicest conditions and fishing so far this season. Things are still not completely up-to-speed and I’d be crazy to say we’re completely done with winter and the pesky winds, but this past week was sure a nice time to be on the water.
With the first true week of springtime and temperatures in the high 80’s to low 90’s, the winds weren’t completely done with us and there were some episodes for several days, but overall, Mother Nature was good to our fishermen.
We have been blessed with some perfect candy-sized live mackerel bait for both our Tailhunter La Paz and Las Arenas fleets, and that really turned on the yellowtail. They popped up in several places, including the upper east-side of Cerralvo Island, south point of Cerralvo and Punta Perrico. We also had quite a bite going around the high spots around Espíritu Santo Island.
On the other hand, we also had some incredible cabrilla fishing tight inside the cliffs and rocks with some trophy-sized fish being landed on bait, jigs and slow-trolled Rapalas and YoZuris as well as a few pargo and some assorted rockfish.”
Roldan concluded his report by saying, “All-in-all we have been seeing some solid biters, as well as some of the best variety of the young season; and things should get even better as the months go by!”
Loreto and Mulegé have also been kicking out plenty of quality yellowtail around the local islands, as well as the chance to hook up with big cabrilla and trophy-sized grouper.
In the upper Cortez north of Bahía de Los Ángeles, Capt. Juan Cook from Bahía San Quintín took a private charter across the narrow peninsula to fish the remote waters of Bahía Gonzaga around Islas Encantadas. The group fished with a variety of jigs and bait, ending up with limits of fat cabrilla, chunky leopard grouper and also landed a huge Baja grouper weighing over 80 pounds.
The winter rains in Baja have now covered the otherwise arid terrain with a colorful array of wildflowers and stunning cactus blooms that are a treat to the eye, and offer a natural enhancement to anglers as they drive down the highway on the way to their favorite fishing grounds. You should plan your trip soon, however, because those blossoms will start to fade as soon as the hot summer sun begins to prevail.