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Big Dorado Year for Baja?


Photo of Jim Dillon with record dorado, Cabo San Lucas, Baja California Sur, Mexico.

Jim Dillon's IGFA 85-pound dorado caught last July 31 at Cabo San Lucas, Baja California Sur, Mexico.


By Gene Kira, June 3, 2002, as published in Western Outdoor News:

With the official arrival of summer only a couple of weeks away, this year's Baja spring dorado migration has finally started moving up Mexico's Sea of Cortez.

The advance guard of these migrating pods of fish has now reached Mulege, and these dorado are having to chew their way through gigantic schools of bait that have surfaced as far north as the Islas Encantadas off Gonzaga Bay. By the time they get to Santa Rosalia, these migrating Baja dorado will probably be so fat and out-of-shape from overeating they won't be much interested in snacking on lures. It may well be August or even September before things really light up.

But for Baja anglers, it should be well worth the wait. Once this dorado crop shifts into high gear, we may see a run of truly big fish that will provide "bite of a lifetime" memories for thousands of anglers. Things are looking good--really good--for a spectacular run of giants this summer.

Please! Hold your sarcastic emails addressed to "The Great Kira"! There really are some good and logical reasons to hope for a super-good dorado season this summer.

It's been almost a year (July 31, 2001) since Jim Dillon caught his near all-tackle record "90-pound dorado" off Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, right off the extreme southern tip of the Baja California peninsula. Because of calibration problems with the scale used to weigh it, that monster fish was subsequently denied the IGFA all-tackle record. Instead, it was downgraded to an official 85-pound weight and was awarded the 80-pound tackle record. Still, that's a huge, huge fish.

Going back through the past two years' worth of Baja fishing reports, it seems arguable that there may have been an unusually abundant dorado spawn in the summer of 1999 that resulted in lots of smaller fish that summer, lots of medium fish in 2000, lots of large fish in 2001, and maybe--lots of very large fish this summer of 2002. It seems possible that Jim Dillon's record dorado may not have been an isolated fluke, but part of a trend that may see its culmination played out on the Sea of Cortez over the next few months.

The early signs of this run have been visible for months. The waters off the tip of Baja were unusually cool and tough to fish this winter, with striped marlin and yellowfin tuna getting mighty scarce at times. Even in the toughest weeks, though, the reliable bread-and-butter fish was dorado, and these weren't just punks.

This trend was most visible at East Cape where a massive concentration of big dorado seem to have been waiting all winter for the spring run to begin. Here are some key notes from Rancho Leonero's John Ireland, who tracked these East Cape fish all winter and spring:

With water temperatures still being measured as low as 66 degrees:

March 18-- "dorado to 40 pounds being taken every day."

April 8--"best dorado bite in at least five years...spectacular 50 pounds."

April 15--"all anglers limiting on 60 pounds."

April 29--"spectacular 60 pounds."

May 6--"best dorado year 60 pounds."

Of special note is the gradual progression of fish size Ireland reports, from 40 pounds in March, 50 to 60 pounds in April, and 60 pounds in May.

This, amigos, may be no accident. It is quite possible that these are all the same bunch of fish, growing like crazy in bait-rich conditions, and preparing themselves for a tremendous run up the Sea of Cortez.

If this turns out to be true, it will be because dorado, Coryphaena hippurus, are one of the most voracious and fastest growing animals in nature.

--Only six months after spawn, you have a 20-inch "chicken" dorado.

--At one year, it can be sexually mature at about 36 inches.

--It dies of old age in its fourth year, weighing up to 90 pounds.

With this kind of rocket-propelled metabolism, and a myriad of 40 to 50-pound fish heading north at this very moment, we can look forward to a lot of burnt thumbs and whoops and hollers this summer. Or, as the fishermen's prayer says: "Lord, give me just one more wide-open dorado bite!"

(Related Baja California, Mexico, articles and reports may be found at'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.")