By Gene Kira, October 20, 2003, as published in Western Outdoor News:
How many species of fish can one angler hope to hook during a lifetime of fishing around the coastline of Baja California and Baja California Sur, Mexico?
I used to think the practical limit was somewhere around 100 species, with most people achieving about 70 or 80 after a sustained Bajs fishing effort over many seasons. But during the past five years, I've had to constantly revise that number upward as people have emailed catch reports and photos for the "Fish I.D." section of my website.
As of this writing, there are 433 photos already in this section, or waiting to be added, representing a total of about 180 species of fish actually caught while fishing in Baja waters, and there is no end in sight. If you were to hunt for species in a "serious" manner, all over Baja, I'd now have to guess that you might eventually end up with over 200 species to your credit. Maybe even more than that.
One might naturally think that the anglers catching the most species in Baja would be those who travel constantly to all areas and fish many different kinds of water, but that has not been the case so far. It is interesting to note that the current record for sending in the most species photos belongs to John Snow of San Diego, who fishes almost exclusively in shallow water around La Playita Beach at San Jose del Cabo, and always with the same panguero, Capt. Pata of the panga Salome.
Right behind Snow is Peter Langstraat of The Netherlands, who comes to East Cape several times per year and almost always fishes along the coast from Punta Arena to La Ribera.
Both of these dedicated specialists combined have fished no more than, say, 100 miles of Baja's 2,000-mile coastline, and yet they have already accounted for over 100 species between them. They both fish with light tackle and usually with small lures or small hooks and small pieces of bait, and both are also species identification experts. (For the really exotic weirdos, Snow also consults with Dr. Milton Love of UC Santa Barbara and Dr. Ross Robertson, of The Smithsonian Institute, Panama.)
Some basic fishing notes from Snow are illuminating for anglers who might want to play this excellent game. He likes the #4 size Mustad 92553 hook for exotics in the surf, and is considering even smaller sizes. He fishes with small bits of cut squid or peeled shrimp bait on 15-pound line and is rarely broken off, citing the example of Cabo guide Jeff Klassen landing 100-pound roosterfish with that same line weight. He prefers the traditional "fish finder" rig, with the main line passed through a small, 0.5 to 1.5-ounce egg sinker and tied to a barrel swivel. More main line connects the swivel to the hook at the end. Basic tackle consists of "K-Mart-quality" rods and cheap conventional or spinning reels, regularly replaced as they fall apart.
Both Snow and Langstraat fish near the Baja shore in small boats, or they surf cast as they walk the beaches, and neither troubles himself with ultra long-distance casting.
(With the long graphite rods available that can cast well over 100 yards in real conditions, I suspect there is quite a bit of interesting action awaiting anglers along both coasts of Baja who are interested in surf fishing farther out. An example of this would be Geronimo Cevallos of Mazatlán, who casts about 140 yards and has caught seven large roosterfish in a day at that distance.)
But, whether near your ankles, or far out near the color break, the challenge of building a lifetime Baja fish species list seems to be something more and more people are taking up. Fun!
(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.")