Rockfish, Dorado and More Await Anglers off Baja

By: Tom Gatch

Our occasional periods of strong Santa Ana winds can certainly create much havoc inland and churn offshore surface waters into froth; but they often leave the inshore zone intact, making for fishable conditions under sunny skies. 

Fishing television host Dan Hernandez recently did a group charter with Capt. Chris Randel aboard his boat, Indian, out of H&M Landing in San Diego. The fishing party headed about 40 miles south along the Baja California coast to reach the fishing grounds. 

“It was around 6:30 a.m. before we actually started fishing,” Hernandez said. “The first stop produced some nice reds, but it was on our second drift that we got nailed by large Humboldt squid, so Capt. Chris had to run to the other end of the bank to get away from them. It was great fishing from then on. 

“We left the area with limits for everyone aboard — and they all were nice quality-size fish that included a lot of huge reds,” Hernandez said. “All of my fish were taken with 1-ounce B 52 bucktails on dropper loops. It was a great way to end a long year.” 

From Bahia San Quint’n, Capt. Juan Cook confirmed that the bite on bottom species has continued to improve along the Pacific Coast of Baja California Norte. “The weather was clear and sunny, but cold, as we loaded up on bait at the entrada and headed out to the 6-fathom spot. When we got there, a pod of sperm whales was feeding, so we took a little time to watch them before finding a place to drop. Though fishing was a little slow, we still ended up with a nice yellowtail, a fat lingcod, several reds and a chunky little cabezon.” 

On the Pacific Coast of Baja California Sur, Shari Arce at the Blowhole Bed & Breakfast said, “It’s been a very fishy week here in Asuncion, with large schools of yellowtail that have included a few fish in the high 30-pound class. Anglers have been nailing them while both trolling and jigging, and the bite is on, big time.” 

At the tip of the peninsula, Capt. George Landrum at Fly Hooker Sportfishing in Cabo San Lucas reported, “We’ve had to be content with an average of one to two striped marlin per trip, for the boats that concentrate on them. The best results in recent weeks have come on trolled Ballyhoo and good live bait tossed in front of tailing fish. Almost all the action has happened on the Pacific side, but it has been a bit spread out.” 

Landrum added that there has also been some action on a few larger yellowfin, but it has not been a wide-open bite. 

“Dorado remains the mainstay of the fleet boats, but they are beginning to make themselves a bit scarce as it gets later in the season,” he said. “While several weeks ago, it was common to come in with a near-limit load of fish, most of the boats recently have been lucky to get two or three fish … The boats that have done the best have been leaving the first fish hooked up in the water and then dropped bait behind the boat, using the first fish as a teaser to bring in more dorado. This method has worked well, but you always run the risk of losing that first fish, as a few anglers have found out. The best fishing for dorado has still been on the Pacific side, close to the beach.” 

In San Jose del Cabo, to the east, local charter boats have been concentrating their efforts from the Gordo Banks to the Iman Bank, according to Eric Bricston at Gordo Banks Pangas. “The most common species we’ve been catching this past week has been dorado. They have been found while trolling lures, and by slow trolling or drift fishing various baits. 

“The numbers still vary from day to day, as to the best locations, but if anglers found any type of floating debris, they were pretty much guaranteed of having wide-open action,” Bricston said. “The sizes have ranged from small juvenile fish less than 7 pounds to large 30-pound bulls. 

“These same fishing grounds have also produced a few wahoo, with many smaller fish in the mix, although they are normally more in the 30- to 40-pound range,” Bricston added. “The handful of wahoo that are being accounted for have hit on yo-yos, trolled baits and high-speed lures, such as Rapala X-Raps.” 

Yellowfin tuna action was slow during the recent cold fronts, but those tuna are still in the area, Bricston said. “With the weather now calmed down a bit, we’re anticipating hearing a lot more reports of good yellowfin catches. 

“There hasn’t been much bottom action lately, but as conditions began to stabilize some anglers did report a solid bite on cabrilla, yellowtail and pargo,” he said. “There are even still a few homeguard yellowtail biting on the Gordo Banks. The striped marlin are arriving in larger numbers — and with all of the mackerel now in our area, we do expect to see another great year for marlin.” 

Bricston added that shore anglers have been catching roosterfish up to 20 pounds, in surprisingly good numbers for this time of year. “Sierra are also here in increasing numbers, as they prefer the cooling water temperatures. Typically, these fish school in this area through May. They average 2 or 3 pounds, but can do grow to 15 pounds and are very aggressive fighters on light tackle.” 

Up the Sea of Cortez coast, fly-fishing guru Jeff deBrown validated the current reports of great fishing in the region. “Here in the East Cape, we have a lot of fish — and we’ve got plenty of marlin, sierra and very good numbers of dorado right now. We may have had some strong morning winds, but once it lies down a little later in the day, there are often some excellent fishing opportunities to be had.” 

Farther north in La Paz, Jonathan Roldan at Tailhunter International reported, 
we continue to find flurries of dorado around both Espiritu Island and Cerralvo Island, and some breezing tuna were also encountered in the channel out to Cerralvo. Fish were football-size 10- to 20-pounders, but moving fast so only a few have been caught. 

“Dorado can still be up to 30 pounds, but most of them are closer to 10 pounds,” Roldan said. “Roosterfish, sierra and pargo can also be found inshore in most places where there’s some kind of underwater structure. You can load up your fish box pretty fast, if you hit the school just right.” 

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