Baja Fishing Report

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Gateway to Baja opens at Shelter Island
Long awaited ramp opening for private boaters in San Diego Bay goes off Dec. 21; Marlin action still incredible off Cabo, and a 313-pound yellowfin is taken at the Gordo to highlight the action this week


Special to Western Outdoor News

SAN DIEGO — For anglers fishing the Northern Baja coast and heading to the outer banks or the Coronados, a Christmas gift came four days early. The Shelter Island Ramp is open, as of Dec. 21. The $10 million rebuilding project by the Port of San Diego was delayed almost a year, but is now operational and anglers are free to launch over 10 lanes.

The ramp was completely replaced in the original footprint with more docks and a far bigger basin for boaters to maneuver. It is free to use and it is free to park. It is one of four launch ramps in the bay, but is open 24 hours and is the only ramp close to the entrance with ample parking, or any overnight parking. The Glorietta Bay ramp is the only other 24-hour ramp, but offers a small parking lot. The City of Coronado’s street parking limits trailer/car parking to 72 hours. The National City and Chula Vista launch ramps do not allow overnight parking, or long-term parking. Shelter Island’s ramp was a critical boating component to San Diego Bay and is California’s busiest ramp with 50,000 estimated launches.

As for fishing in this upper west coast Baja region accessible by the rebuilt launch facility, the Coronados and the 27 Fathom below the Rockpile have turned up a few yellows for private boaters, but without side-scanning sonar like the partyboats possess, the 27 fathom curve 5 miles off Descanso is a long ride of 28 miles to merely catch large bonito, which while fun, can be caught much closer to home.

Overall in Baja, the fall months have been mild for the most part, and the East Cape — even as winter approaches — is still showing tuna and dorado and marlin with warm waters still around, just not many paying customers who fish. In other news, dorado and big sierra are off La Paz but with few anglers going after them, and the top spot to get into a great billfish bite is still Cabo San Lucas, especially at the Finger Bank where the action has been wide-open for two months but is now raging closer to the marina. In addition, a super cow tuna, a 313 pounder, was caught at the Gordo Bank last week on a short run out of Puerto Los Cabos by well-known tuna chaser Bob Deeter on his boat.

THE TRIO OF Mike Richardson, Tony Crowder and George Roddick were in in Cabo last week and had, get this, 37 releases at the Finger Bank with 49 hookups aboard the 61-foot Viking Retriever. Aboard were Retriever owners Martha McNab and Larry Warlaumont.

CABO SAN LUCAS — The Finger Bank is offering just silly fishing. Throw a bait to breaking, slashing fish on bait balls and hang on! Mike Richardson, Tony Crowder and George Roddick were in Cabo and reported to WON late last week that they scored big at the Finger.

“I just wanted to report we just got back to the dock in Cabo San Lucas from the Finger Bank,” e-mailed Mike Richardson. “The stripers were plentiful and so was the bait. We had 49 hookups with 37 releases. We were with Martha McNab and Larry Warlaumont on their 61-foot Viking Retriever. Fantastic day!”

There were many web/Facebook reports of outstanding marlin fishing at the Finger and also off the Lighthouse closer to home. The Finger Bank is a long haul for most charterboats, 50 miles, so having the fish move south has been a boon to the fleet after a slow billfish start to the season.

In other Cabo news, last week the Los Cabos Tuna Jackpot slated for its 21 st running, announced a format change. The wahoo/dorado $1,000 optional has been split up. There is now $1,000 wahoo and a $1,000 dorado optional. There are no changes to the six tuna optionals. The new entry form available at www.loscabostunajackpot.com reflects that change. The Cabo Tuna Jackpot, produced by Western Outdoor News, will be held next year Nov. 6-9. It drew 163 teams this year.

In other Baja action:

EAST CAPE — The East Cape has had a solid season, and it keeps going and going well into the fall months. The East Cape Guides Service recapped the amazing season.

“The 2018 season capped off a major transition out of the El Niño warm current patterns and back to more predictable 75- to 85-degree water temps throughout our April to November fishing season,” the report began. “The return of the sardina bait was a welcome sight and set the stage for a promising season. Fishing highlights this year have really been the return to consistent tuna fishing and the explosive wahoo bites we had in August and September.

“The tuna showed up a month early and roosterfish showed up a month late... that's fishing. The tuna action was predominantly south of Los Barriles with a good showing of fish in the 50- to 100-pound range from Los Frailes to the Iman Bank. Although a bit late this year, the larger unit roosterfish were also very consistent when they did migrate into the shallows as the summer progressed. More notable action this season included the African pompano bite in early summer, which was absolutely incredible as they are considered an incidental catch.

“We were averaging 6 to 10 per day of these chromed wonders just south of the Lighthouse. Billfish was a bit slower this year overall for East Cape standards with a few incredible flurries in early June when we saw a huge school of striped marlin move into the San Luis Bank area. This kicked off a week of wide-open marlin fishing on live bait and subsequently cooled off by a large population of sharks that moved into the area. We did see our share of exceptional catches including a 66-pound bull dorado in July and a few blue marlin over 500 pounds.

“As I write this report the bite continues on marlin, dorado, tuna and wahoo. All in all, a very good season and return to the East Cape fishery we know and love. Thanks again to all our clients for another successful year on the water and we look forward to another excellent season in 2019. We wish you and your family all the best and tight lines in the New Year.”

LAURA HERNANDEZ, A bikini model and professional body builder from San Diego was pictured last week with a dorado on her first day of fishing with Tailhunter, and she stayed all week and fished several days out of Bahia Muertos near La Paz, catching dorado and big sierra like these. TAILHUNTER PHOTO

LA PAZ — Jonathan Roldan of Tailhunter reported that Laura Hernandez from San Diego fished several days this week out of Bahia Muertos near La Paz.

“The first days she got some respectable dorado not far off Punta Perico,” said Roldan. ”Nice fish for December. Second day, no dorado, but some huge sierra bit the lines in the same spot. Not too bad a week, for the weather. It was just cold, by our La Paz standards! Tourists were still running around in shorts while locals donned long pants and jackets! Likewise, earlier in the week, winds laid down long enough to get boats out and fortunately for our type of fishing, no one really had to go out very far.

“There’s still some schools of dorado around with some nicer 15 to 20 pounders mixed in. Very surprising given the time of year. Along with the dorado, some tuna were also hooked and a wahoo did bite one of the lines but came unbuttoned which is an encouraging sign, that it bit, not that it came off! Plus, add in the usual bonito and way too many needlefish. All in all, not too bad.

He said that as the week went on, winds came up again and the waters changed resulting in more restricted fishing with colder-water species like sierra, jack crevalle, cabrilla and snapper biting.

”It’s hard to know when not that many folks are fishing,” said Roldan. “Most of the visitors to town are snowbirds just looking for sunshine and an escape from even colder places. Locals are all getting ready for Christmas.”

BOB DEETER SCORED a big yellowfin tuna, 313 pounds, last week on his boat that he keeps at Marina Puertos Los Cabo.

SAN JOSE DEL CABO — Eric Brictson of Gordo Banks Pangas based in Marina Puerto Los Cabos, said all is quiet with few tourists as families prepare for Christmas. The weather was not a big draw, anyway.

“Weather was cooler this week, persistent north winds continued as well, so far to date we have seen more wind than we normally do, just one of those years,” said Brictson. “Scattered cloud cover, high temperatures of 75 to 80 degrees. The ocean water temperature has been ranging from 75 to 78 degrees, and we expect to see more of a cooler trend with the northerly winds pushing in cooler currents.”

Bait is an issue. Wind and cold.

“There is still no sign of a new resource for sardinas, as caballito continue to be netted in the marina channel, while other bait options for anglers have included strips of squid and ballyhoo,” he said. “Local sportfishing fleets are searching out the fishing grounds from Chileno to Vinorama, with the most consistent action found from Iman to Vinorama, the problem is that this is where the wind has been blowing the grounds out of shape and making it more difficult to drift fish for the yellowfin tuna.”

He said anglers were doing well to land two or three tuna, these yellowfin ranged in sizes from 10 to 80 pounds, most being in the 10- to 20-pound class. The highlight catch for the week definitely was the super cow sized tuna that was brought in by a team of local anglers on Monday. The yellowfin tuna was weighed in at 313 pounds and was hooked into on the Gordo Banks on a piece of squid, quite an impressive tuna for this late in the season, it took the team headed by Bob Deeter close to an hour and a half to bring the monster to gaff.”

Besides the sporadic bite for the tuna, dorado and wahoo proved to be even more elusive. Only a scattering of these gamefish were encountered. It’s hard to say what the coming weeks will bring, said Brictson, with cooler, off-colored greenish ocean conditions now, as it’s a seasonal transition time.

Close to shore charters were doing well for roosterfish, not normally prime time for these fish, but they are around at this time, particularly in front of the San Jose del Cabo hotel zone.

“Most of these roosterfish are smaller sized juveniles, under 10 pounds, with an occasional larger specimen in the mix. Please remember to always release these prized fighting gamefish, they are known more for trophy fish, take a photo and release, not known for their eating quality.”

The combined panga fleets launching out of La Playita, Puerto Los Cabos Marina sent out approximately 71 charters for the week. Anglers reported a fish count of: 1 sailfish, 3 striped marlin, 12 dorado, 4 wahoo, 105 yellowfin tuna, 10 bonito, 5 white skipjack, 14 red snapper, 10 yellow snapper, 2 amberjack, 1 sheepshead, 6 cabrilla, 4 mohara, 1 island jack, 12 sierra, 48 roosterfish and 55 triggerfish.

LORETO — Rick Hill of Loretotours.com reported, “We are still catching dorado even though the December weather has crashed to the 70 degree mark! Cabrilla are the prime target of the week with the numbers telling a different story. The prized pink flesh bonita has been number one in the fish count again this week due to it being in every corner and biting on just about anything.

“The other toothy creatures in town are sierra and some days they fall in the number two on the list followed by cabrilla and dorado. The winter weather cycle of windy and calm days has started and so far the calm days out number the windy.”

BAHIA ASUNCION — Shari Bondy at her La Bufadora Inn (a B&B) reported lots of nice quality yellowtail there for guests fishing on the pangas, and the fishing has been very close to shore, in the 30- to 40-pound range.

“We’ve had gorgeous weather and great shore fishing,” said Bondy. “Halibut are still being caught as well as calico, corvina and corbina.”

Have a great trip to Baja? Share your tales of fishing and travel with other WON readers by sending reports to Baja@wonews.com and send a photo or two.

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