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Baja Fishing Report

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Tuesday, August 27, 2019
Big tuna continue to show
Tuesday, September 10, 2019
Cabo billfish bite goes ballistic


Tuna 100 to over 200 pounds set the stage
But a 700-pound black marlin off Cabo is the biggest story in Baja Sur; San Quintin white seabass go off as water warms with help of tropical storm pushing north

CABO SAN LUCAS — Rebecca Ehrenberg at Pisces Sportfishing said that although the port closed two days because of a tropical storm nearby, the fishing since then has brought forth some nice surprises in the form of big tuna and one spectacular 700-pound black marlin.


“Even if it was slightly inconsistent,” said Ehrenberg, “and I mean by Cabo standards, it was inconsistent, we had some spectacular catches.”


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PISCES SPORTFISHING HAS seen some nice surprises in the form of these three big tuna and one spectacular 700-pound black marlin.

Highlights this week included a 700-pound black marlin released on a private boat, Hammer Time, and the epic release of an approximately 215-pound yellowfin tuna on the Pisces 31-foot Tracy Ann, which caught a 146 pounder last week as well. The Pisces Andrea caught a 128-pound yellowfin too, along with 2 dorado and 2 striped marlin released in the same day!


“Other boats in the area have also reported big tuna from 100 to 250 pounds,” said Ehrenberg. “Dorado numbers picked up in the beginning of the week, but slowed towards the weekend. Blue marlin have been consistent with blues caught and released almost daily, ranging from 150 to 280 pounds. Thirteen blue marlin and 28 striped marlin were caught this week by Pisces boats.”


First, the details on the 700-pound black marlin. Hammer Time owner Matt Campbell sent out his friends on Aug. 30 for a day of fishing at the Iman Bank, where Captain Gonzalo Castillo thought they would have the most luck. Captain Gonzalo is only 24 years old but has already won multiple big money tournaments such as the Bisbee’s (the richest tournament in the World) and the WON CaboTuna Jackpot, both coming up soon in October and November, respectively.


Said Campbell, “We never expected it to be a marlin, and definitely not a black of this size. I thought it was another tuna when we got the hit. We had drifted out from the Bank about a mile, so we were about five miles offshore total and we were repositioning ourselves, slowly trolling back to the area where we had already caught a 70-pound yellowfin tuna.”


His brother and deckhand, Freddy Castillo, had just caught a green jack for bait and put it on a 30 Shimano Tiagra with 80-pound line and a 130-pound leader, just in case they found a striped marlin. As they slowly trolled back to their spot, it was adios green jack! The black erupted from the sea only a few minutes after taking the bait and it was on. Angler Trevor Conroy from Calgary did a great job of working the fish and fought it standing up for about two and a half hours. They only saw the fish twice, when it first took the bait and then about 3½ hours later just before the release. Gonzalo estimated this marlin at about 700 pounds. The fight for the release lasted 4 hours and 20 minutes, according to Gonzalo.


“The intent was always to release her,” said Gonzalo. “She broke off just as we were closing in. The leader clip hit the reel and she snapped the line.” They also caught another 2 red snapper and 3 nice dorado, making for an epic day.


As for the “other” Cabo action, the Pisces Andrea became the fleet’s top producing boat with consistent fishing every day. They started off the week with 15 dorado caught and 9 released, only keeping those of about 10 pounds. The dorado hit on feathers and hoochies out of Solmar and the Old Lighthouse area. The same day, Pisces 42-foot Caliente did well to catch 12 dorado around 15 pounds each, releasing 6. They also hit on hoochies and green feathers at the Old Lighthouse.


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BIG YELLOWTAIL AND calicos ruled the roost around Cedros Island this week. Here, Paul Smilanick, his brother Joe Smilanick and their fishing buddy Bill Lafferty show off their yellowtail, while Jack Preston and Dan Sedden hold up some beautiful calicos.


CEDROS ISLAND — Tom Gatch at Cedros Outdoor Adventures reported in on Sunday, and the WON charter trip with 12 anglers with Pat McDonell next week looks like they are going to have their hands full on big calicos and yellowtail!


"Once again, big yellowtail and trophy-sized calicos ruled the roost around Cedros Island leading into the Labor Day weekend," said Gatch. "Many of the anglers visiting at the island this time of year have been here several times before, while first timers get an opportunity to understand why this is one of our most popular seasons among veteran saltwater anglers."


One report was about a second trip for Paul Smilanick, his brother, Joe Smilanick, and their fishing buddy, Bill Lafferty, who came down from Sacramento for a premium, 4½-day angling adventure.


Paul said, “We caught yellowtail every day of our trip, most of which weighed at least 25 pounds. Thursday ended up being our best day with 15 fish, which was our daily limit for the three of us. We took them slow-trolling lures, fly-lining live mackerel and on a variety of jigs and lures.”


Not everyone was interested in big yellowtail though, according to Gatch. A number of anglers were focused on the world-class calico bass fishing that Cedros Island has become famous for. Jack Preston and his regular fishing buddy Dan Sedden were two of these anglers. They’ve taken advantage of this opportunity on several occasions and, once again, returned with checkerboards in their sights!


As Preston reported, “The first day we fished St. Augustine area and found some decent calico bass action, as well as inadvertently catching a few yellows on our bass gear. The next morning, we cruised up to the northern end of the island and got into a nonstop calico bite. We got hit on almost every cast. What a day – it was unbelievable!” He said they used Reeb's Kelp Assassins, Reeb's swimbaits and hard baits, but the Kelp Assassin was by far the most productive.


Jim Bentley, and his dad (also Jim) have been to the Island several times and came with a party of 9 this time – 4 of whom had never been there before. Despite a glut of red tuna crabs, Jim’s dad was not disappointed and ended up catching a host of chunky calico bass on the fly! Others in the group did well too, taking yellowtail up to 25 pounds on scrambled egg, blue and white and mint-flecked bottom iron.


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JOE BAIMA CALLED Jen Wren Sportfishing in May to make reservations for his bucket list wahoo trip. He has been trying for more than 20 years for that elusive wahoo. Capt. Mark Rayor assured him if he was willing to put in the time and stick with it, they could make his dream come true. Mission accomplished!

EAST CAPE — John Ireland at Hotel Rancho Leonero reported that under clear skies and flat seas, there were some great East Cape catches this week, which was similar to the past three weeks.


“The dorado and wahoo fishing has been very consistent, and the bill fishing has been excellent, with lots of stripers, blues, blacks and sails released daily,” said Ireland. He continued, “Big roosters in the 50-pound-plus class are plentiful and biting aggressively. The bottom fishing has been nothing short of spectacular, with lots of big amberjack, big pargo and grouper mixed with pompano on the inside drop-offs.”


Most boats are taking at least one wahoo a day (ranging from 20 to 75 pounds) off the white cliffs at Vinaramas, all within two miles of shore. Ireland says Rapalas, Marauders and live caballito are the best baits.


As for dorado, they’re in the same areas as the wahoo but another couple of miles farther offshore. Overall, they’re seeing bigger fish lately – the average size is between 5 to 15 pounds, but quite a few bulls have been taken in the 30- to 40-pound range as well. The smaller schooling fish are taking hoochies and chunk squid, while the larger ones trolled marlin lures, ballyhoo and live caballito.


According to Ireland, the marlin fishing is great too – spread out but best off the La Ribera bank south to Frailles and south. They’re seeing lots and lots of stripers, and every third or fourth billfish is a blue or black, with a few sails mixed in. Ballyhoo, trolled larger lures and live caballito are all working.


If you’re looking for big gallos, Ireland says, “The roosters have been hitting the flies all week,” and your best bet for landing one is with live caballito.


Finally, the bottom fishing is “very, very good,” according to Ireland, with big amberjack up to 90 pounds and pargo up to 34 pounds. The grouper and pompano are biting on skipjack and chunked squid too.


In other East Cape action, Capt. Mark Rayor of Jen Wren Sportfishing fired off a blog this weekend, reporting that billfish have taken the center stage for the last couple of weeks with a solid bite of striped marlin, sailfish and blue marlin.


"Some days the fish are more aggressive than others, but most boats have been releasing between 3 and 9 fish a day,” he said.


According to Rayor, yellowfin, wahoo, small dorado and roosterfish have also been making a showing but it’s “a little more of a show than go.”


"Hard to believe it is September already,” he said, reflecting on the fact that it’s the height of their hurricane season, but they have not had any threatening events (knock on wood). Sunday night, Tropical Storm Juliette formed in the Pacific and, like the previous nine storms in the area this season, it’s predicted to swing wide past Baja California.


LORETO — Rick Hill at Pinchysportfishing.com reported that the weather continues to be the big story for the fishing scene in Loreto.


“Hurricane season is here, and it's not clear if this year will be a big hit on Baja,” he said.


Until then, the small dorado are plentiful with bonito the most-caught fish while trolling. Hill is also seeing great battles in many areas with reds, pargo and an occasional yellowtail at the high spots.


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IT WAS AN eventful week for Tailhunter International in La Paz. Here, Dan Bovee holds a big dogtooth (cubera) snapper that he pulled out of the shallow rocks; Darrell “Gomer” Oleson shows the big snapper he landed after some hard pulling; Riley Florence displays the tough pargo liso (mullet snapper) he caught while out with Captain Pancho near Bahia Muertos; and Brent “Mountain Dew” Racker poses with his first roosterfish.

LA PAZ — Jonathan Roldan at Tailhunter International reported that this week has had “as many ups, downs and sideways as a Disneyland ride!”


The week started kind of so-so – not necessarily bad, just not real consistent, with a hodgepodge of species.


Then, on Tuesday, they got hammered by an unexpected storm that was not on the radar. Roldan said they call these storms “toritos” (baby bulls) because they are powerful and come out of nowhere. Apparently this one hit “with a fury that had thunder shaking glass window panes like a bass drum and so much lighting you could easily have read a book!”


Roldan had several dozen people ready to climb into boats that morning, but they waited out the storm and ended up having their best dorado bite of the season.


This continued pretty solid all week. “It was pretty hard not to catch a dorado,” said Roldan. “Some fish were literally caught within 10 yards of the beach! Most of the fish were respectable 10 to 15 pounders, but there were also some 20s and even 30s mixed in. The only thing that diminished the bite was that once the word got out, traffic on the “honey holes” sometimes had the fish running for cover.


Add to the dorado a nice smattering of yellowfin tuna that ran 10 to 25 pounds, some 40- to 60-pound roosterfish, a few wahoo and plenty of bonito, and it made for a pretty decent day of action for most folks.


“We also got into big-time dog-tooth snapper (cubera snapper) that were 30 to 50 pounders in the shallow rocks,” said Roldan. Add to that some pargo, cabrilla, the occasional amberjack and even rainbow runners (plus a surprising showing of cold-water sierra), and it was hard not to head home with some fish in the coolers.


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accordingtocapt1ACCORDING TO CAPT. JUAN COOK, the white seabass are back following Tropical Storm Ivo. K&M Sportfishing also had a strong showing in San Quintin this week, as did other local panga fleets.

SAN QUINTIN BAY — Capt. Juan Cook reported that the white seabass are back in, as the recent tropical storm Ivo pushed warm water into Santa Maria Bay.


“It had been 57, now it’s 66 and lots of baitfish moved in,” said Cook. “Also, a couple of our local expats have been fishing for the seabass and doing well. On the 28th I was fishing with my longtime friend Ed Atkinson and Mike Bell and we went 1 for 3, and landed a very nice 45-pound-plus fish. Also fishing the bay were Todd Phillips and July Parkes, and they went 3 for 3; Capt. Jaime Garcia was there and went 2 for 3 on the white seabass.”


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GORDO BANKS PANGAS saw some decent action for yellowfin tuna up to 100 pounds and over on the Iman Bank.

SAN JOSE DEL CABO — Eric Brictson at Gordo Banks Pangas said that since the passing of Tropical Storm Ivo last week, the weather seems to be stable, with no new storms developing.


“The next three weeks is historically the time frame with the highest chance of hurricanes striking Southern Baja, so we are all hoping that this year we do not have any disasters,” said Brictson. “We have felt a very slight cooling in the early morning, but the days have been warm and humid with heat index over 100 degrees.”


As for the fishing, the tuna are back! Starting last weekend, there was decent action for yellowfin tuna up to 100 pounds and over on the Iman Bank.


The bite became more sporadic this week, however. According to Brictson, there has been lots of boat pressure on this one area since it’s had the best chances of catching nice fish. “Boats from as far away as the East Cape are making the long run south to fish these same grounds,” said Brictson. Drift fishing with strips of squid was the main deal and the tuna were also hitting on the live caballito.


Brictson added that anglers were feeling fortunate to land just one yellowfin, though a handful had as many as three. The average size was 35 to 60 pounds, and anglers had better luck using leader material of 50- to 60-pound; many of the larger tuna were lost after extended battles. In fact, one black marlin estimated to be well over 400 pounds was battled for over three hours before finally being lost due to lighter leader.


“Dorado were found a little closer to shore than were the tuna, off of Cardon, La Fortuna, Punta Gorda, with many juvenile-sized dorado in the area and boats had to search to find any over 10 pounds,” said Brictson. “Overall, numbers of dorado were down from previous weeks. Wahoo are in the area, as they were seen free-swimming and feeding in the chum, though these fish proved finicky and only a few were actually landed – these fish can become sluggish when the water temperature is over 80 degrees.”


The combined sportfishing fleet launching out of the panga area from Puerto Los Cabos Marina sent out an estimated 62 charters for the week and anglers reported an approximate fish count of: 5 striped marlin, 3 blue marlin, 185 dorado, 3 wahoo, 70 yellowfin tuna, 6 leopard grouper, 26 Mexican bonito, 14 yellow snapper, 4 barred pargo, 1 amberjack, 2 dogtooth snapper, 3 roosterfish, 5 jack crevalle, and 38 triggerfish.


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To contribute to the WON Baja report, just email your reports and a photo to two to baja@wonews.com or patm@wonews.com


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