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Wednesday, March 28, 2018
Yellowtail kicking at Loreto


East Cape, La Paz yellowfin tuna: Did they ever leave?
Fleets in La Paz and from the East Cape are scoring limits over porpoise schools in a VERY early showing of tuna aas the season begins! Wahoo at Punta Gordo; Also, get your Baja plans together this week at the Del Mar Fred Hall show

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THE YELLOWFIN ARE the hot ticket off the East Cape right now but quality numbers of dorado are also in the mix for the Hotel Rancho Leonero boats.


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IT’S BEEN WIDE open on the East Cape for yellowfin tuna. Here, the crew of the Jen Wren Sportfishing with part of full limits of 20 fish for four anglers. Every day has seen that kind of bite. The Halcos did the trick on the troll on porpoise schools holding tuna. JEN WREN PHOTO


EAST CAPE — Here comes the East Cape, as we predicted all winter. The winds are diminishing, seas are flat and tuna are on a tear under porpoise, plus there’s dorado and marlin. And it’s only March.


John Ireland relayed a report from his Hotel Rancho Leonero that reopened March 1 after a winter hiatus. The southern areas of the Sea of Cortez are already seeing great, early fishing. A reminder that the hotel’s reps for Rancho Leonero and other Baja-related companies will again be in their booth at the Del Mar edition of the Fred Hall fishing and boat show this Thursday through Sunday.


Ireland said the East Cape is in prime condition as the temps for this year are warming, both air and water, with some winds, but when they are calm, look out, because the offshore fishing is already excellent. This kind of fishing warrants a look at an early trip to the East Cape if you can swing it.


“The water is warm of this time of year,” said Ireland. “It’s 74 to 75 degrees, and while we had winds earlier in the week, they calmed down with boats out fishing Wednesday through this weekend.”


The air temps are perfecto, cool in the morning, up to a high in the mid 80s, spring weather and the Leonero crews are killin’ it.


“We’ve been sending out four or five boats a day starting mid week,” said Ireland. “The warmer than normal water is really helping start our season with some very good fishing. Lots of mackerel and sardine spread throughout Palmas Bay providing anglers with live bait. All boats targeting marlin are releasing at least one daily.”


There are lots of dorado around (early) with all boats scoring. Good-sized yellowfin are also biting both close inshore and outside under the porpoise. There are skipjack everywhere. Inshore fishing has been good with lots of sierra and roosters along most beaches.


The yellowfin are the hot ticket right now. And they may never have ever left the area. The fleet found porpoise 15 miles off La Ribera, tuna underneath from 15- to 40-pounds smacking hoochies or cedar plugs and cut squid on some stops for bigger fish. Smaller yellowfin were taken on mackerel at the Pulmo Park boundary, similar to last year’s bite.


The dorado, said Ireland, have been fairly common with anglers releasing many smaller fish on their way to a quality 2-fish limit.


“Most anglers are limiting out with fish 10 to 30 pounds. An awesome early start for dorado!” said Ireland. “Hoochies and mackerel working best.”


Striped marlin? Yep. This is seriously bueno news. They have been on the La Ribera bank two to three miles offshore with at least one released per boat, said Ireland. The stripers have been around in big numbers all winter.


Capt. Mark Rayor of Jen Wren Sportfishing in Los Barriles got a nice intro to the season as well last week.


“Finally, Wednesday we launched Jen Wren for our season. Having to set our anchor and pick up some bait we got a bit of a late start,” he said. “Reports indicated good fishing off La Ribera and further south. I’m not crazy about fishing with the fleet and always try to get away from the traffic when we can. Also, looking for broadbill is always on my mind so my decision was to head offshore.”


He went on: “We ran straight east for about an hour, plunked in the marlin lures and I jumped into my Frazier gyros. The water was 72 degrees and a nice color. It didn't take long for our Simrad sounder to start sounding off. As we worked further east we were metering spots of bait constantly. Conditions looked right and I could see the vision of that swordfish in my mind. Turned out I never found Willie but it didn't take long to spot a school of common dolphin.


“We made the first pass through the dolphin trolling marlin lures. Not getting bit I told Diego to put on a Halco Laser pro. It only took about two minutes to get confirmation the porpoise were holding yellowfin. Landing our first fish I asked Diego to put on another Halco. Moments later it was double hookup. Three fish in the box, we changed out all the trolling rods to Laser Pros. After that it was cockpit chaos with more reels screaming than anglers to handle them. By 11 a.m. the kill bag was full and we had limited out. It was hard to drive away but we had the best-ever first day of the season fishing any of us has ever experienced.”


Rayor doubled back the next day and went out and found porpoise quickly but there were no fish biting, so they looked elsewhere and quickly found a productive set of mammals.


“Before the end of the day we limited out with yellowfin tuna and also dorado,” said Rayor. The wind is up again, but it will be a quick blow. He said that in cleaning the fish he saw market-sized squid in the bellies and figures that “with the volume of bait out there, the amount of bird life, mantas, turtles and whales I see no reason gamefish will leave the area, and all indications are that we are in store for some great fishing.”


On another note, he has installed a Seakeeper unit on his flagship Vaquero, the first Cabo 35 to be outfitted with a stabilizer. The Seakeepers will be a boon to those older folks with balance issues and those who are prone to seasickness.


There were a lot of East Cape reports, obviously. ScorpionSportfishing.com reported a good opening week, led by the tuna bite on the porpoise.


“The El Regalo started 2018 with a bang,” said the Scorpion’s Matthew Clifton. “On its first day of the season, the El Rogalo landed 16 yellowfin tuna all good size 15 to 20 pounds with one larger model of 45 pounds mixed in. The tuna were found some 15 miles outside on a school of white belly porpoise. The school of porpoise was huge stretching for miles in each direction. Patience paid off as Captain Arturo continued to search the school for the tuna despite the lack of early morning action.”


Clifton said the Rapala X-Rap 30 Magnums did the job as well as hand-tied flies, while the larger fish of 45 pounds was caught when chumming squid chunks after hooking up.


“This is a great way to get a larger model tuna or to land more each pass,” Clifton said. “Tuna were also caught on the banks to the south this week using squid and sardinas.”


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BILL EVANS, A La Paz resident, was fishing with a Mexican panga captain at the south end of Cerralvo Island, at one of his secret rockpiles. Using a whole dead bonita for bait, Bill hooked into his life- time best cabrilla of 29 pounds. BILL EVANS PHOTO


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GREG GARRISON FROM San Diego hung this thick yellowtail off the north end of Cerralvo Island dragging a deep diving Rapala. TAILHUNTER PHOTO


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STEVE STRUMMELL HAD just one day to fish and was out with the Tailhunter Fleet and got this decent bull dorado while fishing just outside of Bahia de los Muertos. Steve is from the East Bay near San Francisco. TAILHUNTER PHOTO


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LA PAZ TUNA with the Baja Pirates fleet were thick for the David Austin group last week. They scored limits for all on a run outside to the El Bajo, a high spot to the northeast, outside Isla Cerralvo.


LA PAZ — Tuna action turned on for the Baja Pirates Fleet in an area from the El Bajo area outside Cerralvo. The yellowfin spread all the way inside to just off Isla Espiritu Santu. Leonard Phillips reported from his Baja Pirates fleet on Sunday the David Austin American Heroes group last week had a great trip.


“Austin is a famous artist based in Hawaii and Scottsdale, AZ and American Heroes is a veterans group based in Eugene, Oregon,” said Phillips. “They put military people just returning from war with current first responders to help bridge the gap as to what do you do when you return from the military. They use fishing and hunting outings to bring these folks together. Retired Army Ranger Captain Troy Givings heads up the organization. I’ve been working with them for three years now. They are great to work with.”


Phillips said the tuna were good quality for the vets, and in his reckoning, the fish never really left the area and the season for La Paz and other areas of mid to southern Baja look very promising for the spring and summer.


Also reporting in from La Paz was Tailhunter International’s Jonathan Roldan who will be in Del Mar at the Fred Hall show this week with his wife, Jill.


“Well, the good news is that after three weeks, the winds settled down a bit and allowed us to get to do a bit of fishing,” Roldan said. “The bad news is that, well, there weren’t many fishermen, fairly typical for this time of year. Further bad news is that the winds are supposed to jump back up this coming week. Oh well, you just roll with it because that’s how it is during the winter months.”


He added, “Anyway, on the days we could fish, we got out and got an interesting mix. Coldwater species like snapper, cabrilla, pargo, jack crevalle and yellowtail mixed it up with warm water species like dorado and even a few tuna and lots of bonito. The better action and most consistent bite was in shallow water over structure for the colder water species using Rapalas, live bait and dead bait. We found fish close and around Punta Perrico and also at the north and south ends of Cerralvo Island.”


SAN JOSE DEL CABO — Eric Brictson of Gordo Banks Pangas posted on March 17 from Puerto Los Cabos Marina that they were enjoying warmer air, water and a promising pre-spring season with coastal wahoo, dorado, small tuna, nearby marlin.


“With the official start to the spring season not set until next week, the weather is already feeling much warmer, as we’ve had clear sunny skies with high temperatures up to 87 degrees,” he said. “Winds were moderate, with most of the winter north winds now over with, lows in the morning are not so chilly in recent days, and a jacket is barely needed. The ocean water temperature is averaging in the 73- to 75-degree range and is very clean and blue within a couple of miles of shore.”


Anglers found a wide variety of fish available, he said, but catching was not always a guarantee, and the yellowfin tuna action was very limited. The pangeros were seeing good numbers of the tuna come up to free-chummed sardinas on the La Fortuna Bank, though lots of bait was needed to get these fish into a big enough frenzy that they’d bite a baited hook. Going down to as light as 30-pound leader was necessary.


“The yellowfin that were landed weighed in the 20- to 45-pound range,” said Brictson. “Supplies of sardinas were more limited, as these schools dispersed from the Palmilla area and are now being found schooling north near San Luis. More boat pressure and not as much bait available made the bite tougher.


“The early part of the week started off with good numbers of dorado, though only a small percentage of these fish were over 10 pounds. This action slowed down later in the week, as did the tuna action as well.”


Over last week and through the first part of the week we saw a wahoo bite develop, he said, most of these fish being found close off of Punta Gordo. Of course, there are no secrets these days, and word on this unseasonable action spread like wildfire. Even 100- foot yachts were trying to get in on the action. The problem is, this one particular area is very vulnerable and fragile to excess boat activity.


“The spear fishermen arrived in numbers as well, we heard of several afternoon trips killing eight or more wahoo in one outing, a bit of an overkill, and it’s too bad the local authorities are not making any effort to deter this exploitation,” said Brictson. “There’s just no room for the increased number of rod and reel charters, as well as so many boats now with spear fishermen.”


This week there was increased striped marlin activity encountered off of the Gordo Banks region and towards Desteladera. With some balls of mackerel and chihuil baitfish being found on these same grounds, as well as trolling with ballyhoo and artificial lures, decent action for marlin now, with average fish seen being in the 90- to 120-pound range. With the tuna action being much slower now we expect more anglers might be targeting these billfish


The combined panga fleets launching out of La Playita, Puerto Los Cabos Marina sent out approximately 79 charters for this week. Anglers reported a fish count of: 16 wahoo, 25 yellowfin tuna, 11 striped marlin, 132 dorado, 13 yellow snapper, 11 cabrilla (leopard grouper), 24 huachinango (red snapper), 35 bonito, 3 amberjack, 6 barred pargo, 21 sierra and 70 triggerfish.


NORTHERN BAJA — The Coronados are holding yellows, mainly fished by the sportboats, but the small forkies are there. Rockfishing is about it from Ensenada but charters are scoring a few yellows on high spots. It is worth a trip to Ensenada and the Coral. Castro’s Camp, San Quintin’s guides are promoting the rockfishing but water is warming a bit and trophy white seabass season is upon the area. There is a good opportunity for a monster croaker out of Quintin with K&M Sportfishing and Camalu with guide Lee Moreno. Surprisingly no word from Sheri Bondy at the 5-star ranked (Yelp!) La Bufadora Inn at Bahia Asuncion, but it’s whale season down there.


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LORETO YELLOWTAIL IN the 25-pound plus side have been caught in areas near Isla Catalan aboard the 40-foot Luhrs Cast N’ Reel out of Outpost Charters based at Marina Puerto Escondido. The group also scored a big striped marlin.


LORETO — Jay Yadon’s Outpost Charters at Puerto Escondido Marina fished the high spots of Isla Catalan and scored limits of big yellows and one striped marlin as the weather and conditions are spring-like. Several groups during the week aboard the Cast N’ Reel found success on the live mackerel at Catalan.


To the north in Loreto, Rick Hill of Pinchy Sportfishing weighed in, saying the bottom fishing has been the only game close to town.


“The yellowtail action that has been reported has all been down south (at Catalan) at the extreme range of most pangas,” said Hill.


“The south end of Catalan Island has been good for yellowtail with the average size being around 18 pounds. Live mackerel has been the best bet with a few yellows hitting the iron.”


CLUB VAGS — As for the 52-year-old club’s valuable road conditions updates we get from time to time, the 2018 Baja Beaches and Whales Caravan just returned from 30 days on the Baja Peninsula. Said a Vags spokesperson, “They had a wonderful trip with no problems on the road. They entered Mexico on Feb. 15. On their journey south, they experienced the horrible potholes near Catavina. However, on March 10th returning north, road crews had started repairing that section of road.” Word to the wise for Mex. 1 travelers, don’t drive at night, and go slow as the potholes on the 900-miles are deep axle breakers and the cows are hard to see and unpredictable.


On the Vags tournament front, Richard and Marie Thompson at the Fred Hall booth went over some events. The 10th annual Padre Lucas Yellowtail Tourney with a $50 entry at Bahia Del Los Angeles headquartered at Papa Diaz Hotel. And there is the Aug. 31-Sept. 2 San Quintin Yellowtail Tourney based at Don Eddie’s. Call 800 47-4BAJA for more details.


CEDROS ISLAND — Cedros Outdoor Adventures is exhibiting at the Fred Hall Del Mar show this week Thursday through Sunday at the Del Mar Fairgrounds. Be sure to stop by and say hello to Jose Angel Sanchez. This season is shaping up to be outstanding with yellowtail already being caught by the locals before the season gets going for the various island operations.


As a reminder, WON has its annual 2018 hosted and sponsored charter with Baja Reports Editor Pat McDonell going with the group to the island, Sept. 14-17, and the cost is $1,720, which includes all transport to and from the lodge, meals, 2 ½ days of fishing, and filleting. For booking that trip, contact Kevin@wonews.com. For all other trips, check their website at www.cedrosoutdooradventures.com and call them at (619) 793-5419 or stop by the COA booth at the shows and book the best dates.


For a full story on Cedros Outdoor Adventures, go to their website or click on this link through wonews.com: wonews.com/t-FeatureArticle_CedrosOutdoor_031318.aspx


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Baja and mainland Mexico reports from readers are appreciated when you return from your trip, or during. Just send any information or attached photos to Baja@wonews.com . Reports for the paper and wonews.com should be sent by Sunday mornings.


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