SNOOK BEING TOSSED AWAY AS BYCATCH BY MEXICAN
COMMERCIAL FISHING NETTERS AT ESTERO DE COYOTE
May 14, 2005, Doug Pierson, Estero de Coyote, Baja California, Mexico trip report:
Traveling and fishing during the past 10 days, in various parts of Baja, I went back to Estero de Coyote on the Baja Pacific coast. Most of the commercial netters have pulled out of Estero de Coyote leaving few fish behind. At this time the coop from Punta Abreojos is planning to resume netting of the estero on an annual basis after 3 years of a no-nets policy. The guys from the oyster farm are still gill netting at night. These night nettings are including hundreds of small snook which are tossed aside as a bycatch with no market. Speaking of snook, they are visible in schools, these are small 2-4 pound looking fish, in shallow pockets in the mangrove roots. Guess what? They are only in the one channel described in The Baja Catch map and marked "snook"! I did not spend any time trying to catch them, but a few casts of very small minnow-type lures produced no takers and not the slightest interest. Most of Estero de Coyote seems now devoid of fish. Miles of exploratory trolling produced absolutely nada. Going back to my one ace-in-the-hole, one deep channel 1/2 mile long, once again produced outstanding catches of large spotted bay bass from 2-4 pounds. The few halibut taken were very small. A couple corbina. This one channel must be the last fish haven left in the estero. I also got some small barred sandbass and porgy. All fish were taken on cut jack smelt baits. There were much too many weeds for casting or trolling of lures in the channel. It is a very tricky place to fish until it is learned. The tides were only high enough to fish 3 hours a day. Then it was low water and/or blasting winds.
At Laguna la Bocana, just up the Baja coast from Estero de Coyote, I camped about 6 miles down from the mouth of the laguna at the Minus 5 Star Resort known as Campo Doug and fished from my 14 foot Gregor the 2-3 hours a day that the wind allowed. Fishing was very slow at best. Places that had always produced catches from the shore were pretty dead except for very small fish. The water was too cold, was our diagnosis. A few fish, all very small, hit my trolled gold-and-black or silver-and-black plugs. Spotted bay bass and barred bay bass and a couple small halibut. Buddy Juanchy and amigos fixed a special lunch for me one day. There was not enough food for everyone so they sat and watched me eat and that was not comfortable but something I have experienced before among the wonderful people in Baja. I am convinced that these people are a better class of people than we are. Juanchy insisted in taking me out for free in his panga the next morning. There were no sardinas to be found so we went to the regular calico bass holes a mile or so out in the Pacific and were skunked. Then he wanted to try the halibut beaches so we cruised over there and were skunked again.
On the way in we tried right inside the mouth of the lagoon, using green scampis and there we hit the jackpot on nice 2-3 pound spotted bay bass and barred sand bass. Juanchy took delight in constantly reminding me that he was catching 3 or 4 fish to each one I caught! When I took my wire leader off my catch caught up to his (well, almost). Another panga came to the beach at the same time we arrived and Wow! They had set their small net 3 miles from the beach and had 8 huge white seabass and one 20-pound black seabass. The whites were up to an estimated 50 pounds and all looked over 35 pounds! I told Junachy, "I'll stay an extra day! Let's go after those tomorrow!" His impression was that the white seabass could only be taken in a net so I am convinced La Bocana could be a good Baja spot for sport fishing white seabass but one would have to figure the techniques from scratch as the local captains are not very familiar with catching this species with rod and reel.
Returning to Mulege on Baja's Cortez coast, and fishing only the 2-3 hours a morning with Daryl Johnson the winds allowed my small boat to venture out, it was still great for barred pargo but not much else other that a very few triggers and porgy. The weed beds below the cliffs from Punta Tiburon south to the cliff north of Los Suenos had pockets of pargo but they were right in the weeds. Cut bait cast into the weeds usually produced pargo but it took heavy tackle to horse them out. From Los Suenos to camp at Las Naranjos, 8 miles into Bahia Concepcion it was thick with spotted bay bass in two sizes: very small and even smaller. John from down south of Santispac pulled into my camp one morning and we took his beautiful sport fisher around the outside of Punta Concepcion for a great boat ride but only a few fish. Triggers and porgy on squid. Nothing trolling spoons and plugs.
Next, up the Baja peninsula to Camp Gecko at Bahia de los Angeles, it was my first time to L.A. Bay and the daily windstorms continued to dog me just as they had this entire trip everywhere I had been. I fished with Terence Austin who was living in his Chevy Suburban at Camp Gecko for several months. It was maybe 1-2 hours in the morning from the 14 foot Margaret Ann and then hit the sandy beach south of Camp Gecko with lawn chairs and cut bait. I decided to try a green scampi for a couple casts and got one fine 8 pound shortfin corvina. I really came to appreciate that lonely corvina as I did not see another one in the remaining 4 days I fished Camp Gecko. Very slow trolling of silver-and-black Rebel Spoonbills and other lures along the sandy beaches in 6-10 feet of water gave us enough halibut for the camp and there were scores of small spotted bay bass over the rock strewn bottoms. This area was infested with stingrays. Idling along in the clear Baja water near the sandy beaches it was stingrays by the thousands.