Baja California, Mexico



March 10, 2007, Matt Quilter, Pacific coast report, Baja California, Mexico:

Back in the early 1980s, I discovered a great book called "Offbeat Baja," by Jim Hunter, which gives detailed road logs, circa 1977, of numerous off-highway journeys. One trip he logged that had always intrigued me was the section of coastline from Punta Canoas to Punta Blanca, possibly the most remote and untraveled stretch of road on the Pacific side beach areas of Baja California. This track no longer appears on the AAA map, but the Baja Almanac shows it as dotted lines.

Last year, we camped and surfed, and attempted to fish with no luck, at Las Mujeres near Punta Canoas, and I talked the lads into a side trip down the coast on the beginning of the road in search of fish. My modified 4X4 Vanagon Syncro Westfalia was having little difficulty, but we only got about ten miles before the other vehicle chickened out. Great looking territory lay south, and I resolved to explore the area on my next trip.

On March 1st, two Syncro Westies, three guys and a dog, and numerous surfboards and fishing gear set off to conquer this mystery Baja road. To appease the surfers, we agreed to tackle the road from the south, so the guys could get some time at the popular Baja breaks like Rockwalls and El Cardon. (To their dismay, howling winds and a rapidly dropping swell meant zilch surf opportunities for the first few days).

With major minus tides, we decided to head to Punta Lobo, which usually has rideable surf at low tide, plus we had done well there in the past on calicos and croaker. Alas, the access to our favorite campsite on the point was inaccessible due to deep sand, and what swell there was just wasn't going off. So, we just decided to keep going north until we found a decent campsite and hunker down until the wind let up.

Thus we lurched into the first of the three nameless points we discovered by simply taking those little trails down to the beach.

Point Number One was somewhere between Punta Cono and Punta Blanca, and turned out to have a wonderfully clean campsite, a sand and cobble beach with excellent surf potential on the right swell, and a large rugged volcanic headland jutting out to sea. The tide was way out when we arrived, so I made a note of some holes and rocks and fishy-looking areas. Not really expecting much, around nine that night I took a lantern down to the beach armed with my ultralight gear and some Berkley Gulp fake sand crabs.

The first two casts yielded two smallish corbina (hey, those things work!), so the trip was off to a good start.

About two in the morning though, the offshore winds came up and just about blew us into the Pacific, generally making things miserable.

Next morning, I decided to hike out on the point to see if I could find a sheltered place to fish. This was rugged stuff, particularly for a geezer like myself, but I did manage to get down a gully on the far side of the point to some rocks that were out of the wind.

I was fishing with my new Penn AF2000, a terrific reel, by the way, strung with 10 pound Calcutta braided line, my first foray into braided line, a lot to like, but harder to tie and to cut. Get a decent pair of nippers. I never messed with leaders, and tied everything directly to the line.

Green curly-tailed plastic on a 3/8 ounce leadhead seemed to be as good a bet as any, so I tied up and cast into the one fishy-looking area I could get to. There's a wonderful vibe associated with that first cast into new water, and, who knows, I may have been the first gringo to chuck plastic into that hole.

The long walk paid off with a nice sand bass on the first throw, and several more were caught and released until the wind shifted and blew me off the spot. The catch set the tone for the whole trip. Not a single calico bass was caught. All the bass were sandies.

In the meantime, my buddy Dan had caught a bass and a perch closer to the beach, so we had enough for dinner and a batch of ceviche. By the end of the day, the wind finally died, and a few small waves were caught, and we decided to spend one more night in hopes of better surf.

None materialized, so we struck out the next day for points north, hoping to find a new one each day to explore.

After several side trips to the beach, we settled on Point Number Two, another great deserted beach and smallish point somewhere past Punta Vibora, a swampy area. Avoid it unless you want to get stuck in the mud like we did.

The weather had turned drop-dead gorgeous, 70 degrees and sunny, with just enough breeze to keep you cool. Lack of surf just meant more time to fish, and this point featured only a short walk with great access to the water in several spots. One spot in particular had a perfect shelf over deep water with a friendly bottom.

Our green plastic was producing one quality bass after another, but something toothy kept shredding our tails on every other cast, and we were rapidly running out of the good stuff. We thought we'd try some bait for the mystery fish, but all the mussels were tiny.

As a last resort, Dan pried one of those silver dollar-sized limpets off the rocks and cut it up and tied it right to the leadhead.

In a hurry, we found out what was eating our plastic. The water was filled with sheephead, and they went nuts for the limpets. We landed at least a dozen, including a few males to 10 pounds, and lost several more that simply outgunned us on light tackle. In a testament to the braided line, I hooked and lost an absolute monster. It didn't break off, it simply straightened out the hook on my Owner leadhead.

At this point, I should mention that these fish were apparently possessed. I've caught lots of sand bass and sheephead in Southern California, and they always struck me as being a tad sluggish, but these fish fought like pit bulls, and on light tackle were more fun than should be permitted.

While not quite as nice a Baja campsite as the first point, Number Two was perhaps my favorite, due to the wide open action on multiple spots, and great surf potential.

Point Number Three, located somewhere past San Jose de la Piedra, was the least attractive for camping, but was still quite nice, and had the best rideable surf, but didn't look all that great for fishing. Or so we thought.

In the morning, I followed Dan out to a tiny cove next to a long steep sandy beach, where I found him in an extremely agitated state. He was retying, and said to chuck my plastic into the small sandy-bottom cove and to "be ready."

Expecting yet more sand bass, I was greeted with a modest bump and a light strike, and set the hook on what I assumed to be a small fish.

Au contraire, as I was almost pulled into the water. This was a tiny little cove you could almost pee across, and it was filled with white seabass. There was no way we could land them, so we had to make our way over the rocks to the beach and surf them in.

We hooked about ten and managed to land three to about 10 pounds, and lost several others way bigger than that.

We just couldn't believe our luck, three Baja points, all different, all great, and all to ourselves.

We saw only one other set of USA vehicles in five days, and none above Punta Blanca. The rest of the drive to Las Mujeres was fairly uninteresting for surfing and fishing, endless cobble beaches and no points to speak of.

The remote Baja road turned out to be not all that hairy, a few bad arroyo crossings and grades, but doable for any capable vehicle. We saw not a single recent tire track over the last 40 miles. We made such good time that we ended up spending two nights at Las Mujeres, where the surf was much better, and we even caught some nice croaker on Gulp bait at high tide. We had no GPS, and I can only hope I can remember how to get back to these Baja fishing spots next year. I could easily spend a week at any of the three.