Monthly Fishing Report by Gary Graham
Jacques Cousteau referred to the Sea of Cortez which separates Baja from the mainland as “the world’s aquarium.” It has almost 3,000 marine species, including over 900 species of fish and a third of the world’s marine mammals. So far, there isn’t a better time than the present to showcase Cousteau’s astute observation.
Many anglers are drawn by the behemoth billfish and yellowfin tuna that frequent the waters surrounding Baja’s tip nearly year-round and this year they won’t be disappointed; the yellowfin tuna, sometimes nicknamed “cows” because of their remarkable weight exceeding 200 pounds, are being caught on a regular basis.
And equally good news for the anglers looking for billfish is the quantity being hooked, as some fleet boats return with numerous red triangular flags flapping from the outriggers signifying double-digit scores of striped marlin having been released.
Adding to the excitement are the many other exotics that are also in the neighborhood now. After a long-time absence, schools of dorado are being found not only beneath almost anything floating but also in the open water trolling. One tip to remember is when there is a bite, reel that fish to the boat but don’t remove it from the water for a few minutes as often others in the school will follow the first dorado to the boat. Usually most of the larger yellowfin tuna are caught with specialized techniques such as dangling either lures or live bait from a kite. Smaller yellows will bite the same lures as the dorado and striped marlin.
Inside, closer to shore, where the sprawling hotels that dot “Land’s End” are clearly visible, there are several different species to be caught. The bizarre-looking roosterfish with alternating dark gray and white stripes along their body, topped with an unusual dorsal fin resembling a rooster’s comb, are always a popular target. Regardless of their looks, they are tough customers that force the angler to pull hard to bring them to the side of the boat before releasing them. They are oily red flesh and not good to eat. Usually in the same area are other great fighting fish, “jack crevalle” which are also a ‘release’ candidate.
The sierra mackerel with their sharp teeth are difficult to catch but are at the top of many visitor’s favorite eating list. They are great in ceviche or grilled and most restaurants in town will be happy to prepare them for you and your group.
Another close-to-shore option is bottom fishing around some of the underwater pinnacles (think ‘underwater mountains’). Grouper and red snapper along with amberjack and yellowtail, are likely candidates and are tasty prospects. They are usually fished on the bottom with heavy sinkers and live/dead bait or lures. Expect a battle if you hook one as they have earned the reputation of being tough adversaries that don’t give up easily.
Up farther into the Sea of Cortez, most of the larger yellowfin (the cows) are being caught on the Gordo Banks. Anglers confirm there are many more bites than fish landed which is understandable considering their huge size.
At the East Cape, outside of La Ribera Marina, there are also smaller yellowfin, dorado and ample striped marlin. Of course, this high up into the Sea you can expect some intermittent north winds which can either prevent boats from going out or shorten the fishing day.
Then at Muertos Bay, outside of La Paz, there is Isla Cerralvo. The fishing here is not unlike East Cape with north winds always being a consideration. Basically, here it’s scratchy mixed-bag type of fishing. Inshore, there’s snapper, bonito, pargo, seabass and good schools of jack crevalle. There should be more sierra around, but so far, they haven’t been consistent. The best quality found in the area has been some firecracker 10-pound yellowtail and some surprising 20-pound class tuna in Muertos Bay, plus a few free- swimming wahoo that have been spotted.
All in all, the year has begun with nice cool 80-degree weather, along with clear skies and an extraordinary variety of fish to chase!