July 10, 2000, by Gene Kira, Western Outdoor News:
Sport fishing people are smiling all around Baja, and business is very, very good. I can't count the number of times lately when I've heard people say that the year 2000 is turning out to be the best in the last five years, or the last ten, or one of the best years ever, or the best they can remember, or maybe even the best that anyone can remember. We've got hordes of dorado over 50 pounds (and even bigger hordes under 50), Midriff yellowtail over 40 pounds, sailfish going wild from East Cape to almost San Felipe, and marlin simply all over the place. When you add it all up, this really is looking like one of the best years in recent memory for Baja fishing waters on both the Pacific and Sea of Cortez coasts.
It all started in early November of last year when a reliable report came in describing a fantastic run of totoaba about 25 miles north of Bahia de los Angeles. It wouldn't be a good idea to give out the exact location of this run, but it was inside the triangle formed by Punta Remedios, Puerto Refugio, and Ensenada Grande, and some of the fish ran to over 50 pounds. Many years ago, I asked Neil Kelly if he had any theories about where totoaba spent their winter months, and he put his finger on the map at this exact location. Neil wouldn't say how he knew, but he did say that they stayed down deep and even the Mexicans didn't know about them. Well, now they are catching them again in the Midriff Area, which is a blatant violation of Mexican law, but nevertheless an indication that this fish is making a serious comeback after being almost exterminated in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Other recent (and illegal) totoaba catches include fish of 150+ pounds, and even one of 171 pounds.
Then, in late November, I was at the Thetis Bank, 18 miles outside of Bahia Magdalena's main entrance near San Carlos, and I witnessed the most spectacular display of sea life imaginable: a striped marlin "fish pile up" that matched the wildest early stories of Ray Cannon. This thing went on continuously for the five days I fished there with Gary Graham of Baja On The Fly, and I find it hard to believe my own notes. There was a circular zone of marlin, about 10 miles across, centered in the deep ocean upwelling southeast of the bank itself. In this zone, I would estimate there were about 100 distinct pods of marlin feeding under birds at any given moment, and each pod held at least 20 fish that were visible all around us as we trolled our teasers through them. During this trip, we raised over 200 marlin to the fly from our 42-foot boat, but the biggest thrill of all was looking down from the bridge as--every ten minutes or so--a dozen or more marlin of different sizes would streak into the attack all at once beneath our boat. It was mind-boggling. Interesting note: in five days of fishing this bank, we caught nothing but striped marlin; no tuna, wahoo, dorado, not even a skipjack. It was pure, pure marlin.
Then, beginning in March-April, the dorado began a run up the Sea of Cortez the likes of which has not been observed for decades. This run has not matched those of the 1950s in sheer volume, but it's timing has been remarkable because it contains so many monster bulls over 50 pounds, and because it began so early and has lasted so long. (This long season was the norm in the good old days. Few Baja anglers today are aware that the Cabo Pulmo-Punta Colorada area used to have a March yellowtail run that was so intense you could stand on the beach and actually see it. It looked like a river of fish, heading slowly northwards.
Schools of yellowtail would crash the beach at Buena Vista, just as jack crevalle and roosterfish do today.) During this year's run, one East Cape fly angler averaged more than 10 dorado per day for 30 consecutive days. This has got to be some kind of all-time world record for dorado on the fly. This year's massive wave of fish pushed far northwards, setting anglers on fire, as it passed through La Paz, Loreto, and Mulege. Now, the advance guard has reached the southern rim of the Midriff Area, just south of Isla San Lorenzo. For anglers going on San Felipe's panga motherships in July, August and September, this year is shaping up like the dorado bonanza of a lifetime, with many quality fish over 50 pounds mixed in with the usuals. The total number of fish involved is huge. It must be remembered that this is the advance guard of a basically solid mass of dorado, the tail end of which is still down in the East Cape area! Amigos, that is a lot of dorado!
Other odd things have happened this year all around the Cortez, such as June's wild yellowfin tuna bite at Cabo Pulmo, and the early run of blue marlin that is going on right now from Cabo San Lucas to La Paz. In the far northern Cortez there are now more sailfish swimming than in many decades, with confirmed sightings made north of Puertecitos last week. In Loreto, this year's spring yellowtail run was almost as intense as in days of yore. From the Midriff to Mulege, giant squid are being caught in truly giant sizes running to 50 pounds. At this moment, there are as many billlfish being caught from Santa Rosalia to Cabo San Lucas as memory will recall. And in East Cape, we're having an unheard of run of beach jacks: jack crevalle, various pompanos, armies of roosterfish, and the rare palometa amarilla and yellowspotted jack. And finally, in the Midriff Islands, yellowtail are plentiful and the bread-and-butter leopard grouper and their larger cousins are showing up in big numbers. Add it all up, and it's already been a great year--and the end is nowhere in sight.
NOTE: As this column was written, a report was received of the year's first dorado caught inside L.A. Bay. So, the advance guard of the annual migration has now pushed north of Isla San Lorenzo. Excellent dorado fishing should be expected around Isla San Pedro Martir in the next few weeks.
(Related Baja California, Mexico, articles and reports may be found at Mexfish.com's main Baja California information page. See weekly fishing news, photos, and reports from the major sportfishing vacation areas of Mexico including the Baja California area in "Mexico Fishing News.")