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CALIFORNIA'S ONLY SPORTSMAN'S NEWS SINCE 1953

Feature Article: Cedros Outdoor Adventures

The first, the best on Cedros

BY PAT McDONELL/Special to Western Outdoor NewsPublished: Mar 13, 2018

It’s time to get the best dates at Cedros Outdoor Adventures, so stop by the Fred Hall Del Mar show and find out why fishing around the island is better than ever after 12 years in operation

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THE VIEWS FROM the Baja Magic Lodge’s deck and rooms are spectacular, unobstructed to Guerrero Negro. It’s a perfect setting for an evening cocktail and telling tales of the day’s fishing.


CEDROS ISLAND — Each year I travel to Cedros Island, the more I am amazed at what Jose Angel Sanchez and his wife Melanie have done over the past 12 years in creating and expanding the Cedros Outdoor Adventures experience.


In 2017, the WON charter group I headed up gathered before dawn at Brown Field in Otay Mesa next to the border. At 5 a.m. we hopped in the lodge van and traveled down Mex. 1 to Ensenada’s airfield, where we checked in with Mexican customs and flew south along the magnificent Pacific Coast of Baja to the island, a 300-mile trip that is without a doubt a big part of the adventure.


We were picked up by the staff at the airport and transported to the Baja Dreams Lodge that sits on a bluff outside town and you’re close enough to walk, but you are quite isolated. The view from the decks outside the spacious rooms and the patio deck is simply spectacular. There is nothing like it. You’d break open a beer and light a cigar and celebrate life but for one distraction: Fishing! The crew is ready to go, the super pangas await, and if you decided to not bring tackle or just reels, you can spend a half hour picking through the rods and reels and put together an arsenal for the next three days.


You are limited to a few rods because of the flight/weight ­restrictions, so if you need more, loaners are there for you to use free of charge. I brought my Daiwa Lexa 400 surface iron reel for casting and three other reels and matched them up for yo-yoing iron, throwing light iron and one calico reel, a small Avet I bought just for the big calicos in the kelp on fly-lined mackerel. You don’t even have to clean tackle, as Jose has created rod racks, and all your equipment is transported to and from the lodge and dock and they wash the outfits. So-o nice. Before you go, there is a hot snack for you to gobble down, and by 1 p.m. you are in the back of a truck and headed to the marina a mile away and 20 minutes after that, you are on the yellowtail/tuna/dorado fishing grounds.


My second fish of the trip was a big yellowtail on a 7X Tady. The yellow was my personal best, a 40 pounder. Okay, I can go home right now. Game over. Nope, it got better. Not bigger fish, but it was nonstop on yellows, boiling football- to 20-pound yellowfin tuna on the iron, and a smattering of dorado. We had limits early each day. The final day we were “done” with limits on tuna and yellows by 10:30 a.m. Some of the others in the group on pangas got limits even earlier.


daughterswivesandDAUGHTERS, WIVES AND girlfriends all love the island’s slow pace, great fishing, calm water and sure enough they often out-fish the guys. *(“Because they listen,” we’re told).


The one holdover issue from El Niño is that the massive kelp beds that harbored huge calicos within a short panga run are still gone. Calicos still abound on the reefs. On the second day after limiting on yellows and tuna, we hooked dozens of 2 to 4 pounders on surface iron just off the salt works transport facility at the end of the island.


“Kelp is only back to the west at San Augustin, but most times it’s too windy to make it fun,” said Sanchez. “Still, there are big calicos for the ones who make a morning and all-day priority. All of these calicos are catch-and-release.”


With our WON group that was on the island mid-September, the air was mild in the high-70s with some wind but there were no issues because you fish on the protected, lee side of Cedros and no one was after huge calicos or wanted to make that long run to St. Augustin’s kelp areas — not with the tuna and yellowtail so thick within a few miles of the marina.


It is a whirlwind trip, but one that I cannot imagine not going on each year. After 7 or 8 trips, I still feel I have not scratched the surface of the Cedros Island fishery. Jose Sanchez, a marine biologist as well as the owner and manager of the lodge, who lives on the island half the year, says a tour of the island, which looks sparse and dry on the lee side, is actually quite lush and beautiful on the interior. That’s a must-do bucket list item this year.


So, what is a must-do for you this year?


Well, I would suggest a trip with Cedros Outdoor Adven­tures, and the Fred Hall Show is here and every major Baja sportfishing business will be on display. And among them is Cedros Outdoor Adventures, which 12 years ago came on the scene to introduce sportfishing at the island to the average fisherman.


There are now four companies taking anglers to the island 300 miles south of Ensenada in search of big yellows, calico and sand bass, dorado and tuna and halibut and white seabass. The main targets for anglers flying out of Ensenada (and in some cases, Brown Field in the U.S. as an option) are personal best calico bass up to the 10-pound class, and 20- to 40-pound yellow­tail. A prime asset of Cedros is the weather. The fishing grounds are close by the lodge and marina on the lee side of Cedros and because it is offshore, the heat in the Baja summer is not a factor. It is 80 to 85 degrees at the most, and the protected lee-side fishing grounds are almost always calm.


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THIS PAST YEAR saw amazing fishing for yellows and also a big influx of yellowfin tuna held by Mike Flores and a trio of dorado by three anglers on another late-season island run. Because the seiners in the area are outlawed within the new, massive West Coast biosphere, the local fishery is expected to be even better in the coming years ahead.

It is an adventure, and the creation of the Baja Dreams Lodge by Melanie and Jose Angel Sanchez adds a special feel to the trips. It is a lodge on a bluff, with a view of nothing but the Pacific and the isolated coast to the west. Rooms for two or three anglers are spacious, and a deck is a perfect spot outside your room to read, smoke, have beers and look at the ocean. Yes, it’s pure bliss, but you’re tired, because catching fish all day will wear you out. But who’s complaining?


But why was Cedros Island’s fishing more spectacular than in recent years, and why will it continue? Simple. No commercial purse seiners. Ever. Again.


“After a decade in the making, in 2016 we got the news of the creation of a biosphere, a vast protected area including the waters around Cedros and San Benitos islands, and the ruling forbids any company from outside the island to fish or profit from the area, with the original emphasis on purse seiners and shrimp trawlers that for decades have been pillaging the area without any benefit to the locals,” said Jose Angel Sanchez, who started the Cedros Outdoor Adventures company with his wife Melanie. “Their predatory absence brought an immediate and incredible increase in the presence of sportfishing species and bait. We are expecting every future season to be as spectacular as the last one, which even for Cedros’ standards blew our minds.”


Most years, he said, the island’s season starts in late May, but usually there are fish to be caught much earlier than that, and Sanchez said that Melanie will be stateside taking care of the business side so all is smooth on bookings and flights, he will be on the island, reporting on catches starting in May, in case anglers are ready to fly down early. He’ll be there waiting, but first he has some “show biz” to attend to.


“Of course, we will be at both Fred Hall shows in Long Beach and Del Mar, and we’d love to show you the lodge, the food, the fishery and the whole operation. We have more competition on the island and throughout Baja and the world for your business, so we have to constantly keep up the pace, and if you stay with us, I guarantee a great experience at the lodge and our operation in getting to the lodge and back home.”


WON charter attendees last year were full of praise. “It was a great trip, and I was counting on it after hearing the reports,” said Bill Stafford. “But it’s an island and you never know whether it could be off for a few days, but it wasn’t. It was a whole lot better getting out there each day, getting a lot of fish early, rather than being out there all day and really working for it. It was a great trip, well organized, a comfortable lodge and skilled boat captains.”


Said Carlos Gutierrez, a law enforcement officer, who traveled with two fellow SoCal peace officers — Santos Jimenez and Chris Komarthy, “It’s a best-kept secret and I would recommend it to other friends and family.” The trio limited out all three days on yellows and tuna. — in short order.


I think the lodge deserves a few extra words. The Baja Magic Lodge was built by Sanchez seven years ago and while I thought it was an achievement when I first saw it, Sanchez keeps expanding and improving it, providing extra amenities for the anglers. The two-story facility with a grand view of the island’s coast can currently handle up to 19 anglers, but this year he will be able to host up to 21 people. It’s not an expansion. Sanchez finally built himself a small house above the lodge, and moved out of one of the rooms.


Most groups are of up to 12 people because the commercial prop plane from Ensenada can handle up to 12 passengers, but three more people can be flown in on each private charter plane from Brown Field if they wish, providing more fishing time, but there is an additional cost, about $400.


“We’re looking at options for flights, some different transportation options for bigger groups,” said Sanchez, who said a big “announcement” is coming soon.


As a reminder, WON has its 2018 hosted charter going to the island, Sept. 14-17, and the cost is $1,720, which includes all transport to and from the lodge, meals, 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 show and book the best dates.


calicobassfishingCALICO BASS FISHING on the surface with iron is a blast a cast, but the bigger grade of fish in good numbers are a long boat ride away in the early morning if wind is a factor — so it is a commitment, but the rewards for a personal best calico are worth it.


wonspatmcdonellholdsWON’S PAT McDONELL holds a 40-pound yellow caught on a yo-yo’d iron. Monster yellows are part of the excitement, caught on dropper loop mackerel, yo-yo’d iron, surface iron and hard baits. They smack ‘em all and they can get big, like this one, a personal best for McDonell last year.

thereisevenTHERE IS EVEN a solar-powered saltwater spa, beachside. Grab a nearby kayak and go for a paddle, and bring a rod. You’ll have a blast.

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IT WAS QUICK limits each day for the WON group. These fish were caught the first day, and each day the action got better and out arms more tired. We weren’t complaining.

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THE BAJA DREAMS LODGE is the perfect place to relax and enjoy all that a remote area has to offer with all the amenities you need to feel safe and comfortable. The Cedros Outdoor Adventures staff is friendly, professional and the lodge operation is a big part of the island community and economy.



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