Baja Fishing Report

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Wednesday, December 18, 2019
Dorado close in and big off Cabo

Protest over commercialization of dorado erupts
Dec. 17 in Cabo marked the protest of 115 boats off the famed arch to decry possible legislation that would allow commercial catch of dorado in Mexican waters; In fishing news, dorado go off and close-in yellowfin to 215 pounds continue to be caught off Cabo

CABO SAN LUCAS — There is no question that illegal commercial fishing of dorado in the Sea of Cortez in Mexican waters has affected the size and numbers of dorado which at one time was prolific. But legislation recently introduced would not stiffen the penalities for the commercial take, it would condone it.

It is hard to understand the rationale behind this, and sportfishing operations have joined together to protest this move, and a petition to oppose the pending legislation is now being circulated.


legislationtoLEGISLATION TO COMMERCIALIZE dorado was met with a 115-boat protest fleet at the famous arch in Cabo. The founder of Pisces Sportfishing in Cabo San Lucas, Marco Ehrenberg, was one of the organizers and speakers.

Mexican Senator Claudia Valero Yañes, of Veracruz, with the Morena party, has introduced a proposal to remove dorado from the list of fish reserved exclusively for sport fishing. The legislation (Bill 68 Ley General de Pesca y Acuacultura) would open all dorado in Mexico to commercial fishing, and the fear is that dorado, already sold illegally everywhere, would open the gate to commercializing marlin. The dorado commercialization would also open a catch loophole for “incidental” catches of marlin. There is also concern heavy commercial fishing for dorado would adversely affect the marlins’ food chain.

“Only in Cabo the capture of one dorado caught in sport fishing has an economical value of around $2,500 dollars,” said Rebecca Ehernberg of the Pisces Sportfishing Fleet. “This means that to fish that one dorado, studies have shown us, that there is an expenditure of close to that amount since it involves other industries, hotels, restaurants, air travel, transportation, local bait guys and others purchases. The commercial value per fish is only about $20 per fish and the distribution of wealth is nowhere near what sport fishing provides.”

On Dec. 17, 115 boats out of Cabo San Lucas Harbor joined in an official protest. Strangely, yellowfin tuna is not considered a “sportfish,” primarily due to its commercial value, and dorado could be moved to that category at a time when the fishery can least afford the pressure. It goes without saying that dorado has always been the foundation of the charter business — fast growing, abundant, easier to target around floating structure, high flying and great tasting and not particularly difficult to fight. Great for tourists, especially kids, beginners and cruise ship customers.

However, the past three seasons have seen a sharp decline in their numbers off Baja, and it has only been in the past month — extremely late in the season — that Cabo has seen an influx of dorado in bigger sizes. The East Cape saw two years in which the winning dorado in two big tournaments, the Dorado Shootout, were 12 pounders. In the past two years the winning sizes have increased, but overall the size of dorado has been far smaller overall and in far less numbers.

This season in Cabo the influx of dorado came late, and the size of the fish was not impressive. In the November Cabo Tuna Jackpot when the minimum size for the Dorado Optional worth $80,000 ($40,000 each day) was 30 pounds, no dorado were weighed in the first day close to that, and the second day the minimum was dropped to 15 pounds, and none were weighed over 24 pounds. Small fish, indeed, and that scenario has played out over all of Baja the past three or four seasons. Only in the past year has the fishery seemed to rebound.

The blame by many in recreational fishing has been put on rampant illegal fishing from mainland Mexico pangas. Now, it appears Mexico is poised to make such plundering legal when the dorado has one of the most stringent recreation restrictions, two fish per day per person. Only marlin is more restricted, one fish per day and the emphasis is on catch and release. Most other Mexican species, like tuna, cabrilla and bottomfish, have a 5-fish limit.

The founder of Pisces Sportfishing in Cabo San Lucas, Marco Ehrenberg, was one of the organizers and speakers for the 115-boat protest and afterward shared his opinion on the subject in a video. Ehrenberg, speaking from the bow of a charterboat and surrounded by dozens of captains and crew, spoke in Spanish but with English subtitles. You can see the video by going to their website at or their Facebook page.

“The dorado is a sportfish that sustains a fishing industry that supports and feeds 600 people here in Cabo,” said Ehrenberg who began Pisces Sportfishing 42 years ago. “This law would affect the older guys, the younger guys and the guys starting out.” What Ehrenberg did not mention is that the sportfishing industry is the foundation of Cabo’s growth over the past five decades, and the health of the fisheries is critical to thousands of jobs in the tourism sector.

Ehrenberg went on, “In this whole country we have seen how the sale of marlin and dorado is indiscriminate and we don’t want this to end in a sort of apocalypse of fishing… all because a few want to benefit. It has been said fishing is an elite sport. It is not an elite sport, it is an industry, it is a profession of generations and in southern Baja and we have succeeded in creating the best fishing in the world with sustainable programs.

“The ocean belongs to all of us, the commercial and the recreation fisherman, and we need to take care of our resources and we are all in this together, as we demonstrated today.”

Longtime Baja and Cabo San Lucas angler Dave Brackmann, part owner of the charterboat Caliente booked in Cabo, wrote in support of the protest last week.

“They have been illegally wiping dorado out with the converted shrimp boats with fleets of pangas fishing with short set long lines baited with live baits along the mainland coast for years now,” wrote Brackmann in a Facebook post. “Remember back in the days when dorado were thick and big bulls were a nuisance when pulling blue marlin size lures? Seeing dorado over 30 pounds was commonplace. I miss those days before the illegal long liners raped this fishery.

“In the meantime the illegal commercial slaughter of striped marlin continues each year on the Finger Bank by harpoon, hardline and buoy panga pirates running out from the beach each day in groups killing stripers for illegal sales. Imagine if those in higher positions lose sight of the sportfishing tourism economic value of dorado and legalized the slaughter! I hope they are wiser than that and not let the dollars go to a few who would allow this put their own interest above that of the community and tourism economics.”

The petition is online and accessible through the website and Facebook page.

In Baja fishing action:


COW TUNA HIT the docks for the Pisces Fleet in Cabo last week. In one day the Pisces 37-foot Viking BBII and angler Mike Kott brought in this 215-pound yellowfin after a 45-minute fight. The fish hit on a Yummy Flyer about 30 miles south of Cabo, along with 4 other quality yellowfin. The other angler onboard, Gary Bailey (pictured), caught 3 dorado.

THE YELLOWFIN TUNA frenzy captured underwater by the Pisces crew last week. Three tuna were free-gaffed and the bite produced some great catches for two boats and yellowfin to 160 pounds.

A WILD TUNA and dorado season is going on in Cabo for the holiday visitors aboard Pisces sportfishers.

CABO SAN LUCAS — It has been a epic late season — or just a continuing season for dorado and tuna at a time when the marlin action is doing its typical winter transition to deep water with all eyes on the Finger Bank which saw one of the best bites ever last winter and through the spring. For now, it’s all tuna and dorado for the holiday visitors.

“We had another truly amazing week of fishing in Cabo,” said Rebecca Ehernberg of Pisces Sportfishing. “We had an incredible catch success rate of 100 percent! All 69 charters caught fish, and in good numbers. The dorado fishing produced the most, with 280 fish caught and most fish were of nice size as well, ranging from 10 to 15 pounds to up to 30 pounds each. The dorado were found from the old Lighthouse and up the Pacific coast until Elias Calles. They took mostly live and dead bait, mackerel mainly, as well as varied feather lures, blue/white lures or green.”

Ehrenberg said it was the yellowfin tuna that were creating an even bigger stir, with the tuna found closer to shore and some of those catches were pretty notable — and exciting.

“Mate Martin Aguilar of the Pisces 38-foot C-Rod captured a big yellowfin tuna frenzy on camera only three miles offshore,” Ehrenberg said. “The crew were searching for tuna and found a pod of spotted dolphins. They, and other Pisces boats trolled the pod, and while everyone landed their limits and headed back the C-Rod and Ruthless stayed behind. C-Rod had caught about 6 tuna already on cedar plugs, feathers and lures, but Captain Abel and crew, as always, were eager to land the big one and weren’t about to give up.”

Martin Aquilar explained, “All of the sudden the tuna erupted! We got near and caught some of the bait they were feeding on, green jacks, and pitched them back in. We got the big one, about 160 pounds on a Shimano 50 with 100-pound test and 200-pound fluorocarbon leader. Captain Abel fought it in just under 45 minutes.”

Meanwhile, Captain Beto Lira of the Ruthless described the moment.

“I have been fishing for over 20 years and have never seen anything like this,” Capt. Beto said. “I was so excited when the tuna picked up that I almost flew onto the deck. I could see the tuna everywhere and I couldn’t help myself, I put the gaff in the water it was so thick with fish. To my surprise, I landed one! It was a day I won’t forget.” There were 3 tuna free-gaffed that day.

The Ruthless caught its tuna limit of 10 that day (with two anglers aboard) and one dorado. The C-Rod ended up with about 12 tuna around 20 pounds and not only one, but two yellowfin over 150 pounds each, topped by the 160 pounder, said Ehrenberg.

“In various occasions the crews were surprised to find schools of porpoise only 1 to 3 miles offshore, accompanied by enough tuna to limit in an hour,” she said.

In another report, the Pisces 37-foot Viking BBII also surprised many at the dock on a run earlier in the week, when anglers Mike Kott and Gary Bailey weighed in a 215-pound yellowfin. The fish hit on the Yummee Flyer about 30 miles South of Cabo at the 210 Spot. They also caught another 4 tuna there and 3 dorado around 20 to 20 pounds. The fleet accounted for 224 fish over the week.

She said billfish catches were very slow this past week, Which is atypical of the season, but actually not surprising since we haven’t even seen the striped marlin fishery start up at the Finger banks yet. The few striped marlin caught and released this week were all on the Sea of Cortez side, between Cabo Real and Palmilla areas.”

Other catches this week included several wahoo, sierra mackerel and some nice roosterfish. All these were caught on Pacific side as well, and all roosterfish were successfully released — taking live bait mostly.

MOST OF THE local charters out of Puerto Los Cabos Marina are working the fishing grounds from Red Hill, Gordo Banks, La Fortuna and off of Punta Gorda. Most common species found were dorado, but there were decent chances at yellowfin tuna and wahoo. GORDO BANKS PHOTO

SAN JOSE DEL CABO — Eric Brictson of Gordo Banks Pangas at Puerto Los Cabos Marina said a typical winter weather pattern of north winds continues, particularly early in the week. That said, there was decent fishing action close to shore in more protected areas. The Pacific side was calm for the most part. The ocean water temperature was averaging 77 degrees throughout the local region. There were scattered clouds and the climate was a bit cooler than previous week, though on most days highs were at least up to 75 degrees, and no rainfall was reported.

As for bait, vendors were finding decent supplies of caballito, and also offering ballyhoo and slabs of squid.

“No sardinas were found near San Jose del Cabo,” said Brictson. ”Some of the panga charters were able to find some chihuil for baitfish, but this was not a guarantee, and needed to put in the extra effort and time for this. Most of the local charters are working the fishing grounds from Red Hill, Gordo Banks, La Fortuna and off Punta Gorda. Most common species found were dorado, but also still decent chances at yellowfin tuna and wahoo.”

Off La Fortuna there were yellowfin tuna of various sizes found, with some quality fish.

“The problem was that there was an abundance of large aggressive sharks on these same grounds and they were ready to grab any tuna that was hooked, a ratio of at least 80 percent of hook-ups being lost, so not many charters were even fishing there anymore,” he said. “There were yellowfin found on the Inner Gordo Banks, though numbers were very limited, a handful of tuna over 100 pounds were accounted for this week, though this took a lot of persistence and large amounts of squid, so that you could continue to drift, while chumming and patiently waiting for a chance at a hook up.”

Brictson said wahoo were also found on the Gordo Banks, though they have been finicky, and the best bet was to slow troll baitfish, either caballito or chihuil.

“Not many were striking on lures, some of these fish were also found further north and off of Punta Gorda,” said Brictson. “With the warmer water still hanging around we expect to have chances at wahoo into the New Year.”

Dorado were providing the most success for anglers, most of these also on various baits, ranging in sizes up to 20 pounds. Many anglers were able to catch their two-fish limit and release others.

“Areas closer to shore, such as Punta Gorda and Cardon were best for the dorado, a few tuna were also found on the same grounds, if sardinas were available the chances of getting into the tuna action would be much greater, so who knows when we will have sardinas locally. These baitfish do also migrate along the shorelines.”

He said bottom fishing catches were minimal, though they did see some red snapper this week; the majority were smaller sized, but a few nicer fish were in the mix.

Roosterfish are always a wild card but it’s getting to be that time. He said good numbers of roosterfish were found along the beach stretches, within a mile or less of Puerto Los Cabos Marina. There fish readily hit on trolled caballito, most of them were under 15 pounds, a few much larger jack crevalle were mixed in.

Billfish catches were scattered off of San Jose del Cabo, and he said it was surprising there were more sailfish seen than striped marlin, an anomaly for this time of year.

The combined sportfishing fleet launching out of the panga area from Puerto Los Cabos Marina sent out an estimated 56 charters for the week and anglers reported an approximate fish count of: 4 sailfish, 2 striped marlin, 88 dorado, 15 yellowfin tuna, 16 wahoo, 4 yellow snapper, 2 barred pargo, 1 amberjack, 4 bonito, 8 sierra, 22 roosterfish, 24 huachinango, 4 jack crevalle and 45 triggerfish.

LORETO — Wind blew out half the days this week. “Fishing is starting to get interesting with spots closer to town heating up,” said Rick Hill at “The San Bruno high spot and Candeleros are the best shots when the wind starts blowing in from the cold north.

“Yellowtail to 25 pounds are there and cabrilla and red snappers rounded out the fish count. Sardina and mackerel are working the magic for most fish.”

QUALITY CALICOS WERE reported being caught in waters off La Bocana.

L.A. BAY, LA BOCANA, MAGDALENA BAY, BAHIA ASUNCION — Baja Fishing ConvoysOrchid Martinez had several great short reports from various remote spots from her various pangeros she books with.

From L.A. Bay, she said, “Our boat captain Hector Torres from Guillermo’s Sportfishing was reporting lots of pargo and medium-sized yellowtail. We all know how strong a medium- sized yellowtail can fight.” From La Bocana, she said, “La Bocana assistant manager Ezequiel and Poncho, a local fisherman, are reporting junior size yellowtail, bonito, grouper and really nice size calico bass. Shore fishing for calico bass has been lots of fun.”

From Bahia Asuncion, Orchid said, her friend and hotel operator Shari Bondi from La Bufadora Inn reported some good-sized yellowtail, “if you can get past all the bonito. It looks like it’s time for some bonita albondigas, people!”

Out of Mag Bay, her good friend and avid spearfishing free-diver, Andres Solorzano, took a vacation and speared marlin.“This one in the picture was bigger than him and I must say Andres is not a small man at all! He also caught some nice size pargo.”

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ANDRES SOLORZANO, TOOK a vacation in Mag Bay and speared striped marlin and also caught some nice size pargo. BAJA CONVOYS PHOTOS

SAN QUINTIN — There were no postings of yellowtail this week, but there were pictures of big lingcod and bottomfish by Garcia’s Pangas.

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