Jonathan Roldan – BAJA BEAT

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Tuesday, February 07, 2012
One more trip
Tuesday, March 20, 2012
Changes in attitudes one year later

Yellow fever
I’ve been writing columns and stories for various publications now for about 25 years and for Western Outdoor News now for about 8 years.  Usually, I pop them out in the middle of the night, press “send” …sigh that I got another one in the can and forget about it. I go to bed. Morning comes early.

We don’t get the publications down in Mexico so I never see them again and, unless someone mentions something about it, I don’t think about it again. Another deadline pops up soon enough!

But every now and then, I’ll go back and check out the backlog of stories.  A phone call this past week  from prolific San Francisco Chronicle outdoor writer (and WON columnist) Tom Stienstra got me to look back at some of the many columns from the past.

I noticed that as much as Baja has changed. So has my writing. The more fishing I’ve done, the more I’ve thought differently about fishing as well. Techniques change. Gear has changed Technology has changed and even in some cases, the fish themselves have changed.

Yellowtail for instance. I found I had last written about yellowtail in this column back in 2008. Other than tuna, I don’t think any other fish generates more interest or even frenzy among veteran Baja fishermen than yellowtail. And…co-incidentally, it’s yellowtail season in Baja!

The big jacks are not only real sluggers on rod and reel but can attain trophy-size proportions not to mention being great eating.

But, after you fish for a certain species a certain way, you can get set in your ways.  I mean, if one technique works, then if it’s not broke, don’t fix it.  I see a lot of Mexican captains like that. Grandfather, dad, brothers and cousins all used a certain technique so why change? They roll their eyes and grin when the gringo client shows some new-fangled lure or reel “guaranteed” to produce fish!  Lo que sea…”whatever!”

For example with yellowtail, I was convinced that the tried-and-true colors for casting lures (throwing iron) would be blue and white. With some variation at times for green and yellow or scrambled egg (white, red, orange, yellow). It seemed that everyone was always catching yellowtail on those colors. Well, it might also have been a self-fulfilling prophecy.  Everyone was ONLY using those colors because everyone, like me, had bought into the same mantra! Ergo, yellowtail were ONLY getting caught on those colors because that’s the only colors anyone was using.

However, like with many lures, I’ve found it’s not so much the color. It’s how you fish it. A variation on the saying, “It’s not worm, it’s how you wiggle it!”  

Generally speaking, fish any lure color at the right speed, depth and action and if the yellowtail are there, their predatory instincts kick in and they’ll bite!  Like a cat. They don’t care about the yarn ball. If it rolls past their noses, they’ll pounce!

Some of my BEST yellowtail action came when I had LOST my preferred colors and had to dig in my tackle box and fished with pink (lost that)…went to lime green (lost that) then found my “jewel”…an un-painted ugly  lead-colored jig that slammed fish-after-fish. Next time out, everyone else was using the “colored” lures and my ugly jig outfished most everyone! I used that lure for years until it was so scarred from teeth and until it too was finally lost!

Another “revision” to my yellowtail hunting. Structure. My amigos fishing Cedros, Benitos, Mulege, Loreto and Santa Rosalia might agree or disagree with me as they fish yellowtail a lot more than we do in La Paz where I am, but yellowtail move around a lot!

I used to always think to fish them deep or at least around structure. Off Southern Cal waters we’d search for them under kelp paddies. In Baja, we look for them around reefs and high spots on submerged mounts or generally deep areas over structure.   

I’ve now come to believe that, like most fish, find the food source and, like most fish, you’ve got a half-way decent chance of finding the big yellow forktails. They love mackerel.  But they also love sardines, caballitos, smaller jacks, and squid. You don’t see it as often as in the Baja glory days, but yellowtail will boil on the surface and I’ve caught yellowtail over sandy bottoms where the there was absolutely no structure and only a few feet deep. They key was finding the food source. Just common sense.

Finally, when nothing else works…troll!  Ewww…that ugly word. But yea…you’ll cover more water and hopefully roll up on some fish by dragging something behind the boat. If slow trolling a big slab greenie mackerel or caballito isn’t available then those big-lipped deep-diving Rapala, Yo-Zuri, Braid, or similar lure in the magnum size will often work when nothing else will!  Bigger the lip, the deeper the dive, but just don’t get hung up on any rocks!  


JONATHAN ROLDAN AND HIS WIFE JILL own Tailhunter International fish charters and Tailchaser, a bar on the malecon in La Paz,  and will be at the Long Beach Fred Hall show March 7-11, their final travel show of the year after months of traveling. Then it’s back to Baja! WON PHOTO BY GARY GRAHAM

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