A ROAD TRIP DOWN MEXICO'S BAJA PENINSULA TO
FISH WITH TORTUGA SPORTFISHING IN LA PAZ
July 25, 2005, Mike Hutton, Baja California, Mexico Fishing Trip Report:
I just got back from a 9 day trip down Baja California.
Our trip was ultimately going to be in La Paz with Gerardo Hernandez at Tortuga Sportfishing. But we didn't want to do a banzai 18 hour Baja drive all at once, so we broke it up a bit.
We left Saturday morning and drove down to Santa Rosalia to stay 2 nights. We chose to stay at Santa Rosalia Casitas. What a nice place to stay and great rates made it even easier to stay there.
There was a Dorado tournament going on when we arrived and I had talked to Brenda at the Santa Rosalia Casitas and she was competing in the tournament. Saturday she had caught quite a few Dorado, but only kept the biggest one for the tournament. She told me that the Dorado she kept was about 35 lbs. On Sunday, she told me that nobody caught any Dorado at all. She took 2nd place with her 35 pounder and won a new rod and reel.
We went snorkeling while at Santa Rosalia and the water seemed pretty warm, but we didn't see a whole lot of large fish or any desirable fish for that matter. But the night squid fishing is in full swing and there were about 75 pangas out on Sunday night. They made for a great view with all the lights, while enjoying some cerveza on the Casita balcony.
We drove down to La Paz Monday morning, the traffic was very light and it was an easy drive. We went out fishing on Tuesday morning (July 26th) and fished between Isla Cerralvo and the lighthouse for Wahoo first thing with captain Rigo.
My son (10 yrs) caught the first one and fought it for about 15 minutes but lost it right at the boat, it looked to be about a 50 pounder. About 30 minutes later I hooked another Wahoo and landed it, it was also in the 50 pound class, a very nice Wahoo. Both were caught on Magnum Purple Rapalas.
Sardinas looked a little tough to come by, we watched the bait guys cast theirs nets several times with no results, but they did have some in their pangas that they caught earlier, so we got several scoops and started out pulling 2 behind the panga. We got into quite a few Jack Crevalle, but no Dorado anywhere. Nobody that we saw got into any Dorado on Tuesday. Later in the day we went near the lighthouse to catch a few Ladyfish to use for Roosterfish. Rigo caught 2 about 18 inches long on a handline. We hooked em up and pulled them around for about 30 minutes and caught one that was in the 40 pound class. We pulled our last Ladyfish for about 15 minutes and caught another really nice one in the 50 - 60 pound class. Both were released unharmed.
On Weds the 27th, we got some bad news. There was a storm system headed toward the island and we were told that we may not be able to go out. We had to wait about 30 minutes for the captains to decide whether or not it would be safe to go out. They decided it would be worth trying and if it got to rough we would come in. The water was very cold and large swells all over the place. We were wet most of the day. Nobody tried for bait because of the rough water. We trolled purple and green/yellow Rapalas for a little while, but nothing was interested. We decided to try the big 12" blue/white plastic skirted Zukers for Marlin, but the only thing interested at the time was Jack Crevalle. We caught 5 of them and there were plenty of them out there, but not much else in the morning. Later that day we tried trolling a few Ballyhoo for Marlin and we got lucky as one passed about 10 feet away from the Panga, Rigo worked the bait as to get the Marlin interested and we got him hooked up. The Marlin was about 80 - 90 pounds. That was about it for Weds, it was rough, cold water all day but it worked out for us.
On Thursday, the 28th, I switched captains with my buddies who were fishing with us. They hadn't had a whole lot of luck in the past couple days, so I offered to switch with them. I went out alone with captain Jorge, my son was too tired to wake up in the morning. The weather was much much better but we didn't try for bait again. The water seemed to be a little warmer as well. We trolled purple Rapalas in the morning just to the south of the island and caught some more Jack Crevalle, no wahoo or Dorado. Later, we did see someone hook a Dorado, but none for us. Most of the Captains were fishing with hand lines for Mackerel or Bonita for Marlin, so we worked them as well. After getting 4 of them we started trolling 2 of them, Jorge managed to get us into a double hookup of Marlin. We lost one of them and fought the other for about an hour and a half. This one was a nice one, we didn't weigh it, but it looked to be about 175 pounds. Later in the day we heard over the radio that there were some Yellowfin being caught about 4 - 5 miles out south from the island. We reeled up and hauled ass over there as did every other panga. Once we got out there, Dolphin were everywhere, and I do mean everywhere. We trolled small Bonita through all of the Dolphins and got another double hook up on Yellowfin. The first was about 20 - 25 pounds and the other was a nice 30 - 40 pounder. My buddies also got a Marlin of about 120 pounds and some more Jack Crevalle.
We usually stay with Gerardo, but since my wife and daughters did not want to fish, we stayed at a hotel recommended by Gerardo. We stayed at the Hacienda Del Cortez, it is a great place to stay. It's located right on the beach near the downtown area. They have a very nice pool and the service is outstanding. The food is without a doubt 5 star, some of the best food in La Paz! There is also a palapa bar right on the beach and all of the rooms are air conditioned.
To top off all of the service, food, and amenities, they have a policeman, not a security guard, patrolling the hotel all night until the morning, to keep an eye on hotel property and all of the cars out front. It is probably one of the best places to stay in La Paz.
There were 8 other guests there for the fishing as well. The woman who owns the hotel, Selena, is working very hard to upgrade all aspects of the hotel: www.haciendadelcortez.net.
We left Friday morning for Mulege, heading down Baja HWY 1, we missed the turnoff at Ciudad Insurgentes and found ourselves in the one lane, dirt road at San Isidro. We talked to some of the locals and they told us that if we stayed on the dirt road it would eventually take us to Mulege. But the also said the road "es muy feo," with my 3 kids, my wife and one of my buddies in the truck with me, we decided to not risk it with the kids in the car. I was very tempted to take this unknown road just for the adventure of it, but I didn't want to freak out the wife and kids if we got stuck somewhere. We lost 2 hours from my little detour but finally arrived in Mulege. We had made reservations at Hotel San BuenaVentura, but when we arrived we were informed that they could not give us our rooms because their generator was broken and it was much too humid to have no AC. We were very disappointed because we really wanted to try some diving and fishing here. It had been raining most of the morning and the roads had small boulders all over the place from the rain breaking them loose. We really dreaded the idea of getting back on the road, but had no choice. We headed towards the main city of Mulege to find some where to stay, but couldn't find anything. We decided to head back towards Santa Rosalia. With the sun starting to break through, it seemed we were leaving our bad luck behind us.
We arrived in Santa Rosalia and went back to Hotel Las Casitas, we already knew this place was great and we didn't want to try our luck anywhere else. Brenda told us she only had 2 rooms left so we took them both. We didn't have a panga with us and the local Pescadores didn't seem very friendly, in fact we tried talking with a few of them and they acted like we weren't even there? We decided to try fishing from the shore, but couldn't find anybody with carne for bait. We went back to the local fisherman and we got the same treatment. We talked to guy in charge of the boats and he told us to come back in the evening for bait. We wanted to fish right then so we put our heads together and decided to try going to a restaurant and getting some fresh fish for bait from them. We had eaten at a nice place overlooking the ocean earlier so we thought we would ask them first. After getting a lesson on why one goes to restaurant and how unethical it is for them to supply bait for fisherman with the fish they use to serve their customers, we walked out with 2 fillets of Cabrilla for 65 pesos. We headed down to a point that we had spotted earlier and got out our light gear. We caught a few Triggerfish, a few that looked like spotted bass, and several species of eel. We released everything, but the eels were a little difficult to remove from the hooks...what a strange fish!
Saturday morning we noticed that our fish from La Paz was starting to thaw. We weren't leaving until Sunday so we asked Brenda if she had a freezer to keep our fish in, but she didn't. She told us that there was a woman about 12 miles back towards Loreto that had a freezer and sometimes let people keep their fish in. So we went out to find the store the woman operated from. We found it and she let us keep our fish in her home freezer for 40 pesos. Luckily we convinced our buddy who flew back home on Friday to take 2 of the coolers with him, because the cooler that we had barley fit in her freezer!
Sunday morning we went back to get our fish, gave the woman her 40 pesos and a couple nice chunks of Marlin, gave some Marlin to Brenda and headed home.
I must say, all of the rumors of horrible roads and dishonest Federales, are totally false. This was our first drive down Baja and we were expecting the worst, but the roads are well maintained and the Federales were very professional and only took quick looks in the truck. We got stopped 6 times, both going down and up, so a total of 12 times. I had my wallet on the center console just to see if they would mess with it (no $$ inside just in case!) but they never once touched it. The worse thing that happened is one of them looked at my ID and saw my first name was Michael and he called me Michael Jackson...I take that all day! Every person we encountered was very helpful and very nice, with the exception of the Rosalia fisherman. The only stressful part of the drive was the long stretch between El Rosario and Villa Jesus Maria. No gas stations for about 300 miles, but we made sure to fill up before starting down. It's just far enough that we had just under 1/4 tank at the end of the stretch of road. On a side note, the little food stop behind the gas station at Villa Jesus Maria has excellent Carne Asada tacos if you can handle the flies and the dirt floor!