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300-plus pounder taken in epic 7-hour tuna fight
Skiff angler Nathan Browne, a Baja resident and champion surfer fishing on his 22-foot boat, ended up running out of fuel, drifting out near the 1150 spot and had to be rescued by friends after taking the huge fish; in other Baja action, San Quintin and Erendira winter yellows eat the iron and Cabo action is just stellar for dorado and tuna

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NATHAN BROWNE OF San Jose Del Cabo with this 300-plus-pound yellowfin he caught on his skiff last week after a 7-hour battle on a trip to the Gordo Bank that ended more than 20 miles away at the 1150 Spot off Cabo. PHOTO COURTESY OF GORDO BANKS PANGAS

SAN JOSE DEL CABO — A local angler and champion surfer, Nathan Browne, caught a fish well over 300 pounds but it took a while to catch it and get it back to Marina Puerto Los Cabos last week.


Browne, a competitive surfer who lives in the San Jose Del Cabo area and runs his 22-foot skiff out of there, is also a world record holder for snook in the 8-pound line class category. He knows what he’s doing, but the fish he hooked at the Gordo Bank gave him a battle that lasted seven hours, and when it was over, he and friends found they had run out of fuel and had drifted at least 20 miles south west to the 1150 spot, an area directly outside Cabo marina, and had to be towed back by friends late at night.


The report came from Eric Brictson of Gordo Banks Pangas, a sportfishing service based at Marina Puerto Los Cabos in San Jose Del Cabo. He said big tuna had been hitting on the local Gordo inner and outer banks until typical winter north winds hit late in the week and some quality tuna — 20 pounds to 100 pounds-plus — were under the porpoise. There was little other info available on the huge tuna, he said, as it came back very late at night. But it is clear, the tuna bite continues inside and out between patches of winds typical for this time of year. Brictson’s full report on the region can be found below.


In other Baja action:


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PISCES SPORTFISHING STARTED off the new year in Cabo in grand fashion. A blue marlin was released and measured out to 400 pounds, caught by lady angler Jennifer aboard Pisces 35-foot Bill Collector 2, and they also caught 3 nice yellowfin tuna. Anglers aboard Pisces 40-foot Chasin’ Tail closed out the year with some yellowfin ranging between 30 and 100 pounds each and some nice dorado too. A third boat, the 42-foot Hot Rod, brought in the New Year with 7 tuna and 1 dorado. The Pisces Andrea (seen here with the big wahoo) caught 2 wahoo, 10 tuna and 4 dorado and 8 skipjack. The biggest tuna of the week was the 122.5 pounder by Brian Moore on the BBII on Jan. 5.

CABO SAN LUCAS — The New Year was kicked off in grand fashion off Cabo with great tuna and dorado action, but the biggest fish — and biggest surprise — was ablue marlin that was released, but not before being measured out to 400 pounds. The huge marlin was caught by a lady angler (Jennifer) aboard Pisces’ 35-foot Bill Collector 2, and they also pulled in 3 quality yellowfin tuna.


In other New Year’s action off Cabo, anglers aboard Pisces 40-foot Chasin’ Tail closed out the year with some yellowfin ranging between 30 and 100 pounds each. Anglers aboard Pisces 40-foot Chasin’ Tail nailed some yellowfin ranging between 30 and 100 pounds each and some nice dorado, too. A third boat, the 42-foot Hot Rod, brought in the New Year in grand style with 7 tuna and 1 dorado.


Rebecca Ehrenberg of Pisces reported Monday morning, Jan. 6 that the week’s catch rate was close to 100 percent. Dorado was the top producing fish with 416 caught and most released. Most were 12 to 28 pounds, and a few were over 30 pounds. The Andrea had a great day Saturday with 14 dorado caught by 9:30 a.m. (most released). Tuna fishing remains good, with average fish ranging from 20 to 50 pounds and others over 100 pounds. The Pisces 37-foot Viking BBII had back-to-back days of quality yellowfin — on Saturday they landed 10 fish, mostly 30 to 50 pounds on the porpoise, but one was a 100 pounder, and the next day they scored 8 yellowfin topped by a Jan. 5 catch by Brian Moore of a 122.5 pounder. There were 382 tuna caught by Pisces this week, Ehrenberg said.


“Billfish have been a little trickier to find, with 52 caught and released this week,” she said. “These have mostly been striped marlin between 100 and 160 pounds each, using ballyhoo and live/dead mackerel bait.” Weekly reports with even more boat-by-boat details can be found at piscessportfishing.com and you can follow the catches on Instagram and FB.

The main locations being fished are from the Old Lighthouse as far as Pozo Cota/Migrino for dorado, and up to 30 miles south of Old Lighthouse for tuna, along with some marlin at the 210 Spot and Golden Gate Bank.


The weather has been pretty good overall, Ehrenberg said, with minimum swell and wind a few days that produced chop but it was very fishable.


* * *


Ken Mayer, former DFG director, had just come back from an Excel trip to Guadalupe Island (a success, of course) and after reading last week’s issue, he emailed WON Northern California Editor Bill Karr.


I read a great article by Pat McDonell about the 115-boat protest in Cabo regarding the illegal fishing of dorado on page 22,” wrote Mayer. “The article ends on page 26. Immediately following is a Baja Fishing Action Report. That report starts ‘It has been an epic late season for dorado.’ It goes on lauding how fantastic fishing is. While it is probably true, it really negates/counters all the concern over dorado in the previous article. I hope the Mexican politicos aren’t reading this. When I was Director, stuff like that was shoved up my nose and set our conservation efforts back. I recognize there is a difference between great local fishing during one season and the overall fishing but that distinction will be lost in the political battle. Anyway, if you weren’t aware I thought I would point it out. I truly believe WON does have broad influence so it’s important to be strategic."


My response as Baja Reports Editor: “I appreciate the feedback — it comes from a respected source, that is for sure. It could be true that the juxtaposition is taken that way. But news is news, in whatever form it takes. The protest and outcry by sportfishing interests concerns proposed legislation making dorado a commercial fish for the first time. True, the Baja region’s dorado fishing is finally decent, but as the report said, it’s been a three-year wait for it to happen, and in my estimation these are small fish by Baja standards. I think it bears repeating that we can only keep two fish per day, which is the most restrictive sport fish limit in Mexico besides billfish. The pangas netters from the mainland, it is believed, three years ago took every fish, large and small. It was painfully obvious the fishery has suffered as a result. Could it have been the effects of El Nino? No one is sure. But, the fishery is not what it was. Two years in row (2016-17) the biggest dorado at the East Cape Shootout were 12 pounders (yes, the past two years the winning fish have been bigger) but Cabo’s dorado have been small by Baja’s standards. The Nov. 4-7 Cabo tourney WON put on this year couldn’t produce one dorado over 22 pounds over two days with 150 boats and $80,000 at stake. We had to reduce the minimum to 15 pounds for the second day to ensure a payout. The fishery is just making a comeback. This is a bad, bad idea to propose a commercial take, especially now.”


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THE GORDO BANKS PANGA fleet got into some nice tuna a wahoo before a north blow shut down the action. Typical winter weather. The porpoise are holding tuna on the outside, and on the banks, a local panga scored a 300-pound class yellowfin.


SAN JOSE DEL CABO — Eric Brictson of Gordo Banks Pangas reported temperatures were cool by local standards, with lows in the 50s and highs in the lower 70s, though it was still very pleasant “compared to most of North America.”


Skies were cloudy at times early, with sunny burning through by mid-morning. Winds were variable, the period started with light breezes, though through this weekend northern winds increased, this made for rougher ocean conditions and contributed to pushing in cooler and off colored currents.


“We are now in the season where conditions are cooling, north winds can be predominant and patterns can be unpredictable,” said Brictson. “Ocean temperatures were down in the 72- to 74-degree range.”


He said bait supplies remained similar, caballito being the main bait found in the marina, with slabs of squid and ballyhoo also offered. Schools of baitfish were inconsistent with very few mackerel, and more sardineta are being sold at this time. There have been no reports of the larger sardinas being available.


“This cooling trend normally could attract mackerel and sardinas, so we see what follows,” said Brictson. He said early this week, before cool front swept through, the all-around action was good for a mix of dorado, wahoo and some yellowfin tuna, as well as roosterfish and some billfish migrating into local waters.


“Things changed significantly through the week, mainly due to cold winds from the north pushing in off-colored, colder current,” said Brictson. “Dorado, which had been one of the more common catches, all of a sudden became very limited and scattered, and the same for wahoo. They had been elusive but were showing signs of becoming more active just before the weather turned over.”


Also the first part of the week saw the yellowfin action starting to rebound for some larger cow-sized fish in the vicinity of the Gordo Banks. No big numbers, though a handful of large yellowfin were brought in, the largest was by a group of local anglers led by local competitive surfer and angler Nathan Browne, who was fishing from his small panga. The fish was brought in late at night, and weighed over 300 pounds.


Overall the tuna bite had been slow early in the week, then the north blow came, which helped shut down the wahoo and dorado bites. But offshore of San Jose del Cabo, anywhere from 4 to 8 miles, there were rapidly moving pods of porpoise encountered, with the yellowfin tuna moving among them.


“Tuna ranging 10 to 30 pounds were being landed, with the best technique drifting under the porpoise with strips of squid,” said Brictson. “Charters targeting this hit-or-miss event were finding one or two, and up to 7 or 8 fish. But this is a fast-changing, opportunist deal with windy conditions making it even harder. Also, increased boat pressure put things down and charters had to chase these schools all morning to have a legitimate chance.”


Inshore, the roosterfish action has slowed down as dirty, cooler water pushed in. Bottom action was limited to various smaller jacks, pargos, bonito and triggerfish. The exception was that pangeros saw a couple of amberjack and cabrilla.


Brictson said billfish opportunities faded as the week progressed, though a few sailfish were still encountered in the cooler conditions, nicer sized fish, which were released. A few striped marlin were found but were very scattered.


“As conditions do eventually stabilize and we see more offshore baitfish, we anticipate the marlin bite to break open,” he said.


The numbers: The combined sportfishing fleet launching out of the panga area from Puerto Los Cabos Marina sent out an estimated 96 charters for the week and anglers reported an approximate fish count of: 3 sailfish, 9 striped marlin, 61 dorado, 56 yellowfin tuna, 14 wahoo, 8 yellow snapper, 2 barred pargo, 4 tile fish, 5sierra, 11 roosterfish, 28 huachinango, 3 blackfin jack, 2 amberjack, 4 big eyed jack, 6 jack crevalle, 8 porgy and 38 triggerfish.


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MONTE AND MARLENE ALDRIDGE of Richfield, Utah got in one day of fishing with Tailhunter Adventures and and picked the one day of the week when waters were calm enough. They scored some nice sierra mixed in with dorado on a run out of Bahia de Los Muertos, south of La Paz.

LA PAZ — Jonathan Roldan of Tailhunter International was headed to Denver over the weekend for the first of many sportsman’s road shows in their new custom-wrapped truck (the tried-and-true show van was finally retired), including the Hall stops in Long Beach and Del Mar in March. (FYI: Fred Hall & Associates no longer owns/runs the Bakersfield show. It went back to the original owners this year). Roldan filed a report from the road based on information he and Jill Roldan received from their panga crew in La Paz. The word is, if the weather is good and you can get out, the fishing is pretty good, so be flexible.

“It pays to watch the weather,” said Roldan. “This past week there were some incredible uber windy and cold days. Normally, these are days we would recommend not going fishing. We even had some rain this past week. It happens. It’s winter. It’s off-season. Some folks decided they still wanted to go fishing. So, off they went despite my warnings. They didn’t catch much of anything and it was so rough they had to come back early. We had others booked but had to cancel them because of the rough weather.”


He said that only two of seven days were fishable. That said, some folks were flexible on their schedule and on days when it was decent, they found fish. A lot of fish.


“Surprisingly, it was pretty decent fishing,” said Roldan. “Most amazing was the mixture of fish. Cold-water fish like big sierra typical of this time of year were running 5 to 8 pounds. However, mixed right in were some school-sized dorado. The strange thing is that dorado are warm-water fish that we usually catch during the warmer summer and fall months. So, they’re normally not running this time of year.


Richfield, Utah visitors Monte and Marlene Aldridge picked the one day of the week when waters were calm enough and got some nice biters on big sierra mixed in with dorado while running out of Bahia de Los Muertos south of La Paz.


“Along with those species, there were jags of bonito and scattered jack crevalle as well as snapper and cabrilla along the shorelines where there was structure such as reefs, rocks and drop-offs. The weather makes all the difference. The coming week forecast mostly cloudy weather again to start the year with winds running 15 to 20 mph at times.”


ENSENADA -— Rockfishing is closed this side of the border but open in Baja, so sportfishers from San Diego are heading south for a mix of bottomfish and yellows. If you want to head to Ensenada for a shot at both by going south by car, it’s a great time to fill the freezer by fishing with the Gamefisher out of Ensenada, either on your own or with charter trips by van with Baja Fishing Convoys.


For those that are fine with driving in Mexico, you can contact Captain Mike Slater at (760) 578-3022 to book, and if you want to join an open charter, Baja Fishing Convoys does escorted day trips to Ensenada on the Gamefisher. The cost is $156 per person including van transportation from San Diego, water, coffee, breakfast, fishing and fish cleaning. Tips are additional.


“We make our respectable taco stop on the way back home (not included),” said Orchid Martinez. “ I also try to get into the shortest waiting lane at the border on the way back. My method isn't a 100 percent guarantee, however, but lately I have been averaging anywhere from 20- to 60-minute waits.” That isn't nearly as bad as those who don't cross with her. Martinez currently has spots open for: the 22nd, 23rd and 24th of January and the 12th and 24th of February. Contact Orchid at (619) 483-7315 or send her an email at orchid@bajafishingconvoys.com .


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DANIEL AND MARCIA BIGELOW came all the way from Michigan to fish Erendira and Castro’s Fishing Place with Baja Fishing Convoys, and as you can see, they scored some some great rockfish.

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ERENDIRA TRIPS WITH Baja Fishing Convoys feature a cliff-top home within walking distance of the boats at Castro’s Camp, although a van will take you back and forth. The yellowtail fishing aboard Castro’s Fishing Place pangas was going off last week.


ERENDIRA — This area has been booming with yellowtail these past few days. Tere Castro, reporting for the Castro’s Fishing Place on Sunday, said the New Year has brought plenty of yellows.


“We had nine groups this past week mostly from SoCal and a group from Tijuana, and they were fishing around five to eight miles from the shore, 120 to 200 feet deep, and the water temperature was at around 60 degrees,” Castro reported to Baja@wonews.com. “This week we had a lot of yellowtail and also a lot of bottomfish in very good sizes, plus lingcod, red snapper and sheephead. The weather was great all week, perfect for fishing — we were able to fish everyday we had a scheduled group.”


Castro’s is a destination that BajaFishingConvoys.com often targets for its “freezer-filling” trips due to its abundant rock fishing. The New Year will see some bluff-top lodging for the group trips.


“When the yellowtail are in the area like they are now it certainly adds benefit to fishing in Erendira,” said Orchid Martinez of Baja Fishing Convoys. “We love to fish with all the very experienced boat captains at Castro’s Fishing Place. For decades, many have fished out of Castro’s camp and rented their unique bunk-bed cabins right there. This year, for our groups we have upgraded the accommodations with a house on the bluff with a private cook to make our customers’ experience feel like a true fishing vacation.”


They offer 4-day trips by van leaving from Otay Mesa with two days of fishing with three or four anglers max per panga. Meals are provided. The house has 3 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms, a huge living area with a several couches, recliners and chairs to relax in. It has a large kitchen and dining areas.


“It even has a fireplace for cooler evenings. The house is located on a bluff with a spectacular ocean view,” she said. “The sunsets here are beautiful and it’s is just a short walking distance to Castro’s camp but a van will be available to drive you back and forth.”


The cost for a hosted 4-day fishing trip by van from Otay Mesa is $589 per person and Orchid has two open charter dates: April 17-20 (5 spots left) and another in December, and she can set up others charters for groups at (619)483-7315 or emailing her at orchid@bajafishingconvoys.com .


LORETO — Rick Hill of Pinchysportfishing.com reported on Sunday the fish are “hitting the decks” this week, mostly firecracker yellowtail from the Isla Coronado area.


“This was the best deal for fishing boats last week, and when the winds permitted this week we repeated that,” he said. “Also in attendance have been dorado feeding on the endless schools of baitfish around Danzante Island.”


Hill added that their scuba trips out of loretotours.com are seeing their favorite groupers popping up at various dive sites.


“They had been unseen for most of this season and now they are back,” said Hill. “Their return has been a big relief emotionally for our dive instructors!”


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CEDROS ISLAND IS in its offseason at the lodges but the guys are still fishing here and there, and the big yellows are eating the iron, and quality sheephead are on a serious bite!

CEDROS ISLAND — The various operations still fishing in this offseason are hammering the yellows and the big sheephead.


BAY OF L.A. — Joel from Joel’s Pangas told Baja Fishing Convoys they went out on Saturday and caught 9-, 16- and 18-pound yellowtail and 6 good-sized cabrilla. All were down deep.


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SAN QUINTIN’S K&M SPORTFISHING has been posting a ton of photos of quality yellowtail caught on their 25-foot Parker charterboats, with the fish eating the iron top to bottom. It’s been a great winter. Cold, but red hot on the yellows lately.

SAN QUINTIN — The high spots, likely the 240 reef in particular, are holding quality yellowtail as the panga fleets and K&M Sportfishing on their Parker 25s are getting into the forkies with surface and yo-yo iron.


BAHIA ASUNCION — Shari Bondi from La Bufadora Inn reported lots of bonita and some yellowtail. Weather has been a factor, and hopefully better weather will bring better fishing.


LA BOCANA — Local boat captains are catching some midsized yellowtail and bonita. Water conditions are a little bumpy, making it hard to get out every day.


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Contribute to the fishing reports each week at wonews.com and in the weekly print version by sending a report to baja@wonews.com by Sunday morning to make the next edition and web blog.




Big tuna are hitting the kite baits on multi-day runs


WON’s charter trip to yellowfin country off Puerto Vallarta is slated for Jan. 20-24, and indications from sportboats are that anglers will have more chances for early season tuna catches in the trophy sizes


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ANOTHER HUGE TUNA comes over the rail aboard the Apollo on a 3 ½-day run out of Puerto Vallarta on the annual WON charter. The Apollo was heading to PV this week and begins it’s all-charter runs this month and reports from the area off Islas Tres Marias indicate more early season fish are around than last year. The WON charter runs Jan. 20-24.WON PHOTO BY PAT McDONELL


PUERTO VALLARTA — The big tuna season for sportfishers out of San Diego is on, and unlike last year’s early stages when the numbers of winter fish were thin in waters off Islas Tres Marias, this season the situation is looking much batter based on reports coming in.


“It’s not like last year when the fish had not come in very strong,” said Jody Morgan, owner of the sportfisher Apollo which is heading to PV this week and running PV charters all winter, one of them the annual 3 ½-day ”WON run” hosted by Pat McDonell Jan. 20-24. “There’s a lot more fish in those water early in the season than we saw last year, so we are looking for a much stronger start.”


The islands are accessible on multi-day runs out of the PV marinas, but the extended one-day tuna runs have been productive, too for local charterboats. Cortetena and El Banco have had some great months of action on the big yellowfin on 12-hour charters, reported Stan Gabruk of Masterbaiters Sportfishing in PV. Despite some cooling waters, which are typical for the January time frame, the bite is still going.


“Well it had to happen, the calendar is getting long in the tooth and the cool water finally came in,” said Gabruk. ”It always happens at the end of December, but this year we were lucky. But luck doesn’t last forever as we see strong and cold currents coming down from the north. With this cold water is coming the winter bait, the whale food so to speak. Squids, krill shrimp, sardines to name a few have flooded the area. This is a double-edged sword.


“Corbetena this week experienced the same drop in water temperatures. What was 81 degree water is now 75 degrees. We’ve seen as much as a 1.5 degree drop in just one day, and this puts a chill on fishing. But at Corbetena we’re still seeing yellowfin 60 to 200 pounds one to two miles north of the rock, slashing through bait all over the place. The problem is that bait is squid in the 3-inch range with red tuna crabs and massive amounts of 4-inch sardines plus krill squid and shrimp are moving in. These 3-inch squids look like popcorn “squirting” up about four inches from the water trying to escape being eaten. Basically it’s all whale food the tuna are indulging in!"


He added, “Keep positive, though, because the guys bare still catching fish, and this is where experience comes in. Sails are chasing baits but they’re fickle. Marlin are dropping in size, but 300-pound blue marlin and 175-pound striped marlin will be around for a while longer. Dorado are also here, but they’re thinning out and full of those same squid and tuna crab.”


Gabruk said the area around Punta Mita to El Morro has been alive with sailfish, dorado and striped marlin very close to shore. In fact, they are so close inside the surf fishing guys have a great shot at 30-pound dorado in the surf line. Roosterfish are possible north of Sayulita in the 20-pound range. For most they’re catching one dorado and a sailfish, maybe 2 to 3 dorado the next day.


Gabruk said the monster tuna multi-day Tres Marias region yellowfin trips he offers feature Capt. Oscar of the Maximus and his first mate Armando at the helm. Gabruk said they still have open dates for February and March.


— Pat McDonell


• • • • •

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