Jonathan Roldan – BAJA BEAT

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Friday, November 30, 2018
My hundred buck Christmas
Thursday, January 03, 2019
One Star

Can’t have too much
In my last column, I had written about the fact that when fishing in Mexico, live bait sometimes just isn’t available. This can be especially true during the winter months due to weather or other variables that can’t be controlled.

So, what do you do? Cancel the trip and go back to your hotel room? Throw or troll lures all day?

Over the years, I’ve often been asked about bringing down frozen bait like squid. Frankly, I never say no. Even if there’s plenty of live bait available, if someone wants to bring some down or buy some, that’s fine by me.

It’s one of those things like being rich… or being too skinny… you can’t be too rich or too skinny — relatively speaking.

And in my book, bait is one of those things that it’s better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it. I’d rather have too much than not enough.

To me, the best universal bait in Baja is squid. Pretty much everything eats squid. There are even times when squid works better than live bait. For example, I’ve hooked some of my largest tuna on squid.

Trolled, chunked, cast, jigged… it all works. And it’s better than nothing and sometimes it’s better than anything.

But, you don’t just want any kind of squid.

Leave that frozen stuff they sell at the bait shop home. Fresh-dead squid is the best. Believe me, fish know the difference.

If it’s fresh caught and never been frozen, all the better. That would be my first choice.

Rather than bring it down to your Baja destination, see if one of the local markets has some fresh squid or the fish sellers at the farmer’s market in town. It’s not only fresh, but it’s as cheap as you’ll find it short of catching your own.

Absent that, if you’re bringing some from home, again, hit up the fresh stuff from the seafood market or fish counter at the supermarket. If it has to be frozen stuff, make sure it’s table quality squid that’s for human consumption.

To bring it down, you’ll have to freeze it anyway. If you have a vacuum sealer, great. If not, use small Ziploc-style freezer bags and portion it out, so you use only what you need for the day.

There’s nothing worse than defrosting a 5-pound chunk of frozen squid on a boat in an ice chest, bait tank or… in the sun!

It’s not only going to make a stinky mess, but at the end of the day, you’ll have issues with the unused squid and storing the goopy glop for the next day’s fishing.

Years ago, I had some fishing clients who forgot their defrosted squid in the trunk of their rental car. By the time they remembered it, it was late and after a few dinner margaritas.

They figured it would be okay. It was night.

Well, nights in Baja are still 85 degrees and the plastic bag leaked right into the trunk carpeting… right under the rear seats and into the floorboards.

Come morning, they couldn’t even get into the rental car without gagging. Good thing they bought insurance!

Once you have the squid ready to use, there’s no end to the techniques.

Slow troll a whole squid behind the boat.

Pin a whole squid or strips of squid to a trolling lure for scent and action and drag it behind the boat.

Pin some on a lure and cast or jig with it.

Send some down on a hook with a weight, dropper loop style, and a half-dozen reef beasts will be all over it including, pargo, cabrilla, grouper, snapper and more.

Chunk with it.

Cut it into chunks and toss handfuls into a slow current as you drift. In the middle of the sinking chunks bait up another chunk of whole squid on a hook.

With your line slack and in freespool, let your baited hook drift down with the rest of the chunks. This is a dynamite way to get hooked up.

Keep your line slack and in freespool so it stays with the rest of the chunks. If your line suddenly starts ripping up, remember “dead bait doesn’t swim.” Flip the brake and set the hook!

There’s some fish, like dorado, that specifically like live bait. Dead stuff doesn’t get them too interested unless they are already in a frenzy.

But, you can use the chunked squid as chum. It gets the dorado coming to the boat so you can toss a lure or a whole squid and them and “swim” it back to the boat.

You can also cut up and pulverize a bunch of squid and make a chum bucket using a small mesh bag hung over the side of the boat or weighted down and hung at depth to attract fish.

If you want to supercharge it, add in some commercially bought fish scent to the bag as well. It’ll leave a nice slick of scent in the water and you never know what might show up!

If you have limited live bait, there’s one really nifty trick I learned years ago from one of my captains. You can put a live bait into the body cavity of a squid. It will swim! Just put a hook into it and let it do its thing.

And, as a fallback, if all else fails…

Fresh squid is great deep-fried or made into calamari salad!

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