MAG BAY GATEWAY--The Mag Bay Tours remote camp at Punta Hughes is a jumping off point for offshore trips to the Thetis Bank from Magdalena Bay. Photo courtesy John Gilkerson.
Oct. 18-24, 2004, John Gilkerson, A-SALT WEAPON, Thetis Bank, Magdalena Bay, Baja California Sur, Mexico Fishing Trip Report:
Jim Bentley, Jimmy Bentley and I just arrived home from our second annual fishing trip to the Magdalena Bay area. We fished on my 21-foot Bayrunner ”A-SALT-WEAPON”. We stayed in the “Mag Bay Tours” surf camp that is located on Punta Hughes on the north end of Bahia Santa Maria. The camp location provides excellent access to some of the best offshore and inshore fishing in the area.
We arrived in San Carlos, overloaded our boat with fuel and gear for the seven-day trip and headed for the camp. Conditions were rough and it took us a good 3 hours to make the 50-mile run. We anchored up off the bluffs of Punta Hughes and the Mag Bay Tours panga came out to transfer all our gear and us ashore. This transfer service was a big help and prevented us from ever needing to bring our boat near the rocky shore. Every morning the panga ferried us out to our boat, and Magdalena Bay in the afternoons, when we returned from fishing, the panga picked us up and returned us to the camp on shore. We spent the rest of the first afternoon day getting organized, and doing a little hiking and shore fishing. Shore fishing was slow and we only caught needlefish.
We started fishing seriously on the 19th. Our first day we made bait a half mile off the camp in 72 to 74-degree cold water, compared to last year when it was 80 to 82 in the same area. Took a 270 heading from Punta Hughes for 20 miles looking for the shark buoys that were in the area last year. We trolled tuna feathers, catching skipjack and dorado on the way, all of which were released. The water temp offshore was 76 to 77, again several degrees colder than last year.
We arrived at the 100 fathom curve and switched to wire leader and Marauders. Found one shark buoy, and just after passing it a mako shark attacked my Marauder. I boated the estimated 60-pound shark and released it after a struggle in good condition. With all those teeth, it is not easy to get your Marauder back. We then trolled on towards the Thetis Bank catching two nice bull Dorado on the way. We joined several yachts and the Royal Star fishing the high spot on the Thetis. Rounded out the day with eight nice yellowfin tuna with the largest weighing 30 pounds.
Day two we decided to follow “Super Mario”, one of the camp chefs and panga skippers and learn some of the local spots. Bait was tougher to make but we managed a few. Fished the high spots outside Bahia Santa Maria for one 15-pound yellowtail, four 5- pound yellowtail (released), and 4 huge bonito (released) that must have been close to if not over 15 pounds. Ended the day early and did some snorkeling just off camp. The water clarity was good to excellent and the area was loaded with fish, lobster, octopus, and a lot of other interesting critters.
Day three the bait was really tough, and we only ended up with a few mackerel. Resorted to keeping “Junk Bait” such as bass, bonefish and some perch like things, and were glad we did. Headed straight into the nasty seas for the Thetis high spot and were the only ones on the bank. Tried drifting bait on the pinnacle that came up to 97 feet. Because of our poor bait situation, we were forced to pin on the junk bait. Much to our surprise, the baits were immediately inhaled by monster line rippers on the bottom. All three of us were shredded on 60 and 80 pound line by grouper that we could never even turn! The bonefish was the absolute best bait, and the grouper liked them so well they would come up off the bottom far enough for us to actually land a few. We ended up boating three grouper to 30-pounds, and who knows how big the ones are that got away. The grouper were brown with dark spots, and Mario back at camp called them “Merro Blanco”, and told us a story about a local hand liner that caught one of about 500 pounds. Rounded out the day with two yellowfin tuna, two dorado (released), some giant triggerfish (released didn’t want to ruin my knife), and lots of skipjack.
Day four the wind was blowing and we decided to do the inshore thing again. Bait was nonexistent off camp. A seine netter was working the inside of the bay just off the sand dunes. We headed over and found the true bait grounds in Bahia Santa Maria. Filled the bait tank with prime mac’s in ten minutes and headed for Mario’s high spots. In addition to the usual giant bonito and skipjack, we caught several nice yellowtail in the 15-pound class and a 20-pound broomtail grouper. We decided to go back to our new found bait grounds and load up the tank for the next day. There are not too many places where you can make bait at 2:00 in the afternoon but this is one of them. Our bait was ready for the next day, and we repeated this afternoon ritual for the rest of the trip.
Day five turned out to be our best day of the trip with reasonably calm winds and seas, and unbelievable fishing off the Baja coast. We headed for the shark buoy and started trolling the Marauders and Wahoo jigs. Instant double hookup on Marlin! Jim and Jimmy’s first. Jim boated his first marlin (just a little pup) and we released it after a couple of quick photos. Jimmy was using a new Okuma lever drag real, and he decided to back off on the drag a few minutes into the fight. Operator error resulted in free spool, a massive backlash, and a prematurely released marlin. At this time in the trip Jimmy is still marlin-less. We continued trolling on to the Thetis, and just as the bottom started to come up on the edge of the bank, my Marlin Magic lure was gobbled up by another Marlin. I boated the Marlin in short order on 60 pound and we released it. Finally we arrived at the high spot and started our bottom fishing routine. We added three 30-pound yellowtail and Jim caught another beautiful Merro Blanco. We put out the Marauders and trolled for the point. Wahoo!!! Jimmy’s Ahi colored Marauder was the one of choice. This time, there was no operator error, and Jimmy got the big Wahoo alongside the boat. We sunk two gaffs and got the fish onboard. My 50-pound digital scale maxed out at 54 pounds, and I have no way of knowing for sure how much the fish weighed. It was a very nice Wahoo, bigger than any we had caught in the area before.
Day six, our final day offshore was windy, rainy and rough, but we decided to tough it out and repeat our run out to the 100-fathom curve, shark buoy, and Thetis Bank. Fishing started a little slow, and the Qualifier 105 was anchored right on top of the pinnacle, making bottom fishing for grouper and yellowtail impossible. We scratched one small yellowfin tuna and a big Dorado before leaving the bank. About 15 miles from Punta Hughes, I saw some birds working in the distance. We slid into them, and out went our live baits on 40-pound gear. A nice Marlin ate mine, and after I was down to the Spectra backing on my Newell 533, we started chasing the fish with the boat. I can’t wait to look at the drag washers in that reel! In about 30 minutes, I had the very feisty and still fresh Marlin beside the boat. After a couple of photos we released him and went back after the working birds. Out went the baits, and Jimmy got a second chance to finally land his first Marlin. He was also using 40-pound gear and this time no fancy lever drag reel. Jimmy’s Newell reel got so hot that he burned his wrist with the nut that holds the handle on. The fight seemed to last forever, and I chased the fish with the boat while it leapt out of the water about one hundred yards off the bow. Jimmy’s dad kept telling him what that star shaped thing on the right side of the reel was for, but he was patient, and after what seemed like an hour, Jimmy got the Marlin along side of the boat. A few photos later it swam away unharmed.
It looked like our timing was right, and the next morning, we loaded our gear and headed back to San Carlos in the rain with building wind and seas. After pulling the boat we drove through heavy rain nearly all the way back up the peninsula. We had planned on fishing for a couple of days in San Quintin, but the weather prevented it. On our way back the rain increased, and the flooding along the highway in Ensenada and Tijuana was terrible, with water entering the doors of the businesses along the road. It looked like the people there suffered significantly. Some areas of the toll road were completely covered with rocks and mud, and the road that follows the border in Tijuana was a river. We crossed the border safely with the shortest wait we have ever had.
In conclusion, even though the weather and water temps were a little off compared to last year, we had another great trip with the expected fantastic fishing found offshore in the Magdalena Bay area. Jim and Jimmy both finally got their first Marlin so I won’t have to hear about that anymore. The folks with Mag Bay tours took great care of us from the time we arrived in San Carlos until they met us at the ramp with our truck and trailer upon our departure for home. The meals at the camp were excellent as usual. The accommodations and overall comfort of the camp are unbelievable for such a remote location. Special thanks to Mario, Ina, Cruz, Chilate, and Steve with Mag Bay tours who worked hard to made our trip enjoyable. We are already planning for the same time next year. For those interested in visiting this area, Mag Bay Tours can be contacted at www.magbaytours.com , or at (800) 599-8676.
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