SAN FELIPE, MEXICO: With some Mexico sportfishing operators reporting business off by as much as 90 percent due to the swine flu scare, and some hotels even in the Cancun area and Baja's Los Cabos corridor closing temporarily, San Felipe's half-century long panga mothership tradition continued this month as boats began heading down the Sea of Cortez for yet another Midriff islands fishing season.
Tom Ward of The Longfin Tackle Store reported on the 2009 season's initial 6-day Midriff islands fishing trips by the Tony Reyes Fishing Tours panga motherships Jose Andres and Tony Reyes, returning to San Felipe on May 8, 2009, with a catch of:
B/M Tony Reyes: 79 yellowtail of 16 to 18 pounds, 69 cabrilla of 8 to 22 pounds, 4 pargo of 6 pounds, 673 spotted bay bass of 3 to 5 pounds, 7 white seabass of 16 pounds, 1 black sea bass of 140 pounds, 7 sheephead of 6 pounds, 42 ocean whitefish of 3 pounds, 22 sierra mackerel, and 150 miscellaneous fish released.
B/M Jose Andres: 74 yellowtail of 18 to 24 pounds, 1 grouper of 35 pounds, 96 cabrilla of 8 to 12 pounds, 10 Humboldt giant squid to 20 pounds, 13 red snapper of 6 to 10 pounds, 6 sheephead of 6 to 8 pounds, 449 spotted bay bass of 3 to 4 pounds, and 65 miscellaneous fish released.
The Tony Reyes boats fished at Midriff locations including Refugio, Isla Partida, Isla Angel de la Guarda, and Islas Encantadas. No live bait was caught during the trips, due to the full moon and cool water temperatures at 60 to 65 degrees. Midriff fishing area weather was good, with calm seas.
SAN FELIPE, MEXICO: With tourism in Mexico very slow due to the swine flu scare, Ed Valov of Bakersfield, Calif., reported on Baja travel conditions during his recent trip to San Felipe to fish aboard the Tony Reyes panga mothership Jose Andres.
"Along with 11 other guys, we left Bakersfield in 4 cars headed for San Felipe, as I have done every year for the past 22 years," Valov said.
"Leading up to the trip, there was a lot in the news discouraging travel into Mexico so we didn’t really know what to expect.
"At about 1 p.m., we crossed at the old Mexicali crossing as usual. I think I saw two people that were wearing white masks at the time.
"The drive through Mexicali was pretty normal and uneventful. The underpass project is now complete and there is no longer a detour. There was new signage to help guide you on your way to San Felipe.
"We arrived at the Mira Mar sometime around 4 p.m. and commenced our Saturday night ritual before heading out in the Sea of Cortez for a week.
"The weather was great, a little hot, and the ocean was very flat, as flat as I have ever seen it. We fished Isla San Lorenzo, but as we moved south, the water kept getting cooler so we bypassed San Francisquito and headed back north to Refugio.
"While in Refugio, my skiff landed 19 very nice cabrilla in one morning. Overall fishing was fair. I think there were close to 80 yellowtail caught, about 90 cabrilla, and lots of quality spotted bass.
"Of course there was the usual weird stuff and some giant squid, and the big fish was Erik’s 35-pound grouper caught on a pink MirrOlure with Capt. Ruben, followed by Ron’s 24-pound yellowtail with Capt. Antonio, a 19-pound yellowtail with Capt. Roman, another 19-pound yellowtail caught by the Long Beach boys with Capt. Victor, and then a 12-pound cabrilla also by the Long Beach Boys and Victor.
"The journey home was just as uneventful as the trip there, with a great fishing trip in-between. As I mentioned earlier, I have been doing this for over 20 years and I am not sure what all the hoopla is about. I am not saying there will never be any problems along the way, but there wasn’t anything to make me believe that Mexicali or the trip to San Felipe was any less safe than it ever has been, including the swine flu.
"The beer was cold, the weather was great, so go fishing!"
SAN FELIPE, MEXICO: Catalina Meders of the San Felipe Title Company Bookstore in downtown San Felipe reported very humid Sonora summerlike weather during the week, with air temperatures in the low-90s and humidity to about 65 percent. "Everyone is swimming every day," Meders said. "Folks are really enjoying the beaches."
San Felipe was quiet, as winter snowbirds departed. "Only us diehards remain," Meders said. "We will be here until the end of June, but not many others will."
Local activies were resuming as Mexico's swine flu scare eased. "It didn't prevent huge Mother's Day celebrations from happening all over town," Meders said. "It was really charming to see so many people carrying flowers. I was very lucky this year and received several bouquets and some pretty jewelry from our local friends. It always impresses me how thoughtful Mexican people are about these things and what care they take, wrapping everything so beautifully. As usual, I had a tearful day, but it was wonderful."
ENSENADA, MEXICO: Steve Ross of the boat Bad Dog at Ensenada's Marina Coral reported just 2 targeted Humboldt giant squid caught during a 154-mile long overnight outing that was turned back from a run south to Punta Colonet by rough seas.
At a 900-foot deep trench inside Bahia de Todos Santos, the Bad Dog was blown off squid after catching just 1 at a depth of 500 feet in 56-degree water.
"We had brought our Honda generator and lights," Ross said. "But the wind picked up and the swells increased and we didn't spend any more time on them."
Fishing was barren for yellowtail at the north point of North Isla Todos Santos and at the 500-fathom curve at the Banda Bank for squid. Ross said, "The squid were gone from this well-known area that we thought was their favorite grounds. One reason, no food. They ate it all."
An overnight run to Punta Colonet was aborted at 3 a.m. due to weather coming up from the south. "The moon lit up the swells coming from the south," Ross said. "I could see the tops being blown off 8 footers all bunched up. I turned the boat around and headed down swell for the Banda Bank."
After a 5-hour run to the Banda Bank, Ross and angler Juan Lu dropped 5-pound sinkers 400 feet deep for a catch in 20-knot wind of: 1 Humboldt squid, 5 vermilion rockfish, 1 cinnamon rockfish, 1 salmon grouper, 1 "square block" rockfish, and a few more assorted fish. "We lost 8 sinkers in a row," Ross said. "The swells would come over the gunwales. I believe the rockcod were seasick."
Ross also noted the local Ensenada commercial boat Maria Veronica fishing commercially inside Bahia de Todos Santos for anchovies to be reduced at El Sauzal. "When will they learn that this kills sportfishing entirely?" Ross said.
SAN QUINTIN, MEXICO: Pete Hillis of Pedro's Pangas at San Quintin reported on 2 boats fishing during the week for larger red rockcod, lingcod, and whitefish. San Quintin fishing area weather was good except for a southern wind on Friday. "The captains think that's a good sign," Hillis said.
BAJA CALIFORNIA, MEXICO: Paul Montgomery of Vista, Calif., and RB Anglers reported on a good Baja run to Camalu for 3 days of panga fishing with Capt. Lee Moreno for good counts of bottom fish including successful releases of fish caught in relatively shallow water.
Montgomery and trip partner Tom Kingsley found mackerel baits scarce, but used artificials for wide-open calico bass plus lingcod, red rockcod, whitefish, sheephead, and sandbass.
"The last stop on the third day was as wide-open as I have seen for this kind of fishing," Montgomery said. "We were using light tackle and dropping Megabaits in 60 feet of water. Since we were in shallow water the smaller fish did not inflate and could be released without any problem."
MAGDALENA BAY, MEXICO: Gary Graham of Baja On The Fly reported wind and rough seas offshore of Magdalena Bay but leopard grouper, or cabrilla in Spanish, caught to about 10 pounds inside the mangrove channels. Spotted bay bass and orangemouthed corvina were also caught. Outside Cabo San Lazaro, on the west shore of Isla Magdalena, yellowtail to about 12 pounds were reported. Halibut continued on sand flats inside the bay. Magdalena Bay fishing area weather was clear in the high-90s, with water temperatures at 69 to 77 degrees.
MAGDALENA BAY, MEXICO: For the previous week ending May 7, 2009, Graham reported Magdalena Bay fishing area weather clear in the mid-90s, with water temperatures of 69 to 77 degrees. Most local boats continued to work the commercial scallop harvest season as offshore conditions improved a few miles outside Boca de Santo Domingo and a boats fishing the mangrove channels caught a few snook to 10 pounds, cabrilla to 10 pounds, and some mangrove snapper.
CABO SAN LUCAS, MEXICO: Ramon Druck of the Cabo San Lucas charter sportfishing super panga Cheer's reported on 2 outings during the week with a total of 2 anglers, for a catch including released fish of: 12 yellowtail of small to 18 pounds, 1 skipjack, 1 amberjack of about 1 pound, 5 sierra of about 1 to 8 pounds, and 1 sierra lost to seals. The Cheer's fished about 200 to 300 meters off Cabo's Pacific-side beaches in water temperatures of 68 to 70 degrees and generally good sea conditions. Anglers fishing aboard the Cheer's included Mike Maleasy and an angler from Washington State.
CABO SAN LUCAS, MEXICO: Grant Hartman of the Baja Anglers fly fishing guide service at Cabo San Lucas noted the drastic drop in business caused by media reports of Mexico's swine flu scare. "This is crazy," Hartman said. "Not one case has been reported in Baja California Sur. Cabo is Cabo right now, but not many tourists. Early May guests decided to call it safe and bag their trips. Many have re-booked for late May, June, and July. Some re-booked for the fall. I personally have taken the extra time off to go beach fishing, get acquainted with my new surfboard, and take my family to the beach as much as possible." For a 10-day period, Baja Anglers was offering "Swiney flu special" prices of $500 per 8-hour fishing day, and $350 for a 5-hour day. Information, firstname.lastname@example.org.
CABO SAN LUCAS, MEXICO: Durance Lowendick of Marlin Masters Sportfishing at Cabo San Lucas reported few anglers during the week, but improved striped marlin counts including an 8-release day for the boat Marlin Master XI at the 95 spot, and a 4-release day for the Marlin Master II outside the Jaime Bank. Yellowfin tuna of 10 to 40 pounds and dorado of 15 to 30 pounds were also caught.
Fishing near the Cabo San Lucas arch produced large Humboldt giant squid, yellowtail, and sierra mackerel.
CABO SAN LUCAS, MEXICO: Jim Dillon of Salvador's Sportfishing reported on 4 outings by the Cabo San Lucas charter boats El Budster, El Budster I, and El Budster II, with a catch including released fish of: 5 striped marlin, 8 yellowtail of 20 pounds, and 2 dorado of 25 pounds.
CABO SAN LUCAS, MEXICO: For the week ending May 10, 2009, George Landrum of Fly Hooker Sportfishing reported no cases of swine flu in Baja but continued very low numbers of tourists present.
Boats fishing up the Pacific side has some rough sea conditions, with water temperatures found as low as 61 degrees near shore, rising to 67 degrees on the Golden Gate and Jaime Banks. Water temperatures straight south and eastward on the Cortez side were as high as 77 degrees.
Offshore boats found some striped marlin while running to warmer water on the Cortez side, some broadbill swordfish were seen at the 95 spot, and tuna and dorado remained scattered and mostly scarce.
Inshore boats avoided rough water on the Pacific side and caught yellowtail to 25 pounds, sierra to 10 pounds, and mixed species on the Cortez side.
CABO SAN LUCAS, MEXICO: For the Cabo San Lucas fishing week ending May 7, 2009, Tracy Ehrenberg of Pisces Fleet Sportfishing reported 50 percent of charters releasing striped marlin, 44 percent with 1 to 4 dorado to about 30 pounds, and just 16 percent catching yellowfin tuna, although the charter boat Ruthless had a good day on 20 tuna to 30 pounds.
Ehrenberg noted many cancellations and very slow business for Cabo San Lucas sportfishing operations due to Mexico's swine flu scare. "Despite there not being a single case of swine flu in our state of Baja California Sur, and with our geographic location keeping us far from the germs, people generally freaked out," Ehrenberg said. "This has been devastating to the economy. However, we know that Mexico, and especially Cabo San Lucas, has a lot of loyal fans who will return shortly."
Cabo San Lucas fishing area weather was windy in the afternoons, with water temperatures averaging 68 to 73 degrees.
SAN JOSE DEL CABO, MEXICO: Eric Brictson of Gordo Banks Pangas reported on 38 combined La Playita fleet pangas fishing out of San Jose del Cabo's Puerto Los Cabos marina, with a catch including released fish of: 29 amberjack, 24 various snappers, 18 bonito, 16 roosterfish, 16 sierra, 14 yellowtail, 13 yellowfin tuna, 11 dog snapper, 9 dorado, 7 pompano, 5 surgeonfish, 5 hammerhead shark, 3 striped marlin, 3 wahoo, and 1 mako shark.
San Jose del Cabo fishing area weather was unseasonably cooler in the 70s, with cooler water temperatures of 67 to 72 degrees near shore and up to about 77 degrees found 15 to 18 miles out. Water color near shore was very green, with visibility in some places as low as 5 feet.
Offshore big game fish action was inconsistent as fish continued to feed on abundant squid. With active surf conditions, sardina bait fish were scattered near shore, and near shore fishing was slower. "This fishing has stalled due to cooler, green water conditions," Brictson said.
"This cooler current always seems to plague the Los Cabos region at this time of year, rarely reaching fishing areas north of Los Frailes."
EAST CAPE, MEXICO: Gary Graham of Baja On The Fly reported very few vacationers in the East Cape fishing area due to Mexico's swine flu scare. "It's taken its toll, even without any reported cases in Baja," Graham said.
East Cape beach fishing produced good action for roosterfish, jack crevalle, pompano, ladyfish, and a few pargo.
Inshore boats found a few larger pargo plus grouper, jacks, roosterfish, and larger skipjack feeding farther out on sardina bait fish.
Offshore boats caught dorado to 35 pounds on floating debris, some sailfish were present in warming water, and a few broadbill swordfish were seen.
East Cape fishing area weather was clear in the mid-90s, with water temperatures at 72 to 78 degrees.
EAST CAPE, MEXICO: For the previous week ending May 7, 2009, Graham reported a continued lack of tourists at East Cape due to Mexico's swine flu scare, while noting that, "There are still no cases in Baja Sur."
East Cape fishing area water temperatures were warming into the high-70s, as boats found dorado in singles or in schools around floating debris, including a whale carcass of Punta Pescadero that provided dorado into the 60-pound range for several days.
Baja On The Fly guide Lance Petersen reported slower roosterfish action on East Cape beaches. "Perhaps it has something to do with the gill nets I've seen lately," Petersen said. "Two nights ago a panga set one right near our house. Yesterday, I saw men swimming with gill nets to set them near the park boundary. These guys run amok and do untold damage to the fishery."
Late season sierra including some larger examples were still present at East Cape, and good supplies of sardina bait fish were available.
EAST CAPE, MEXICO: For the fishing week ending May 6, 2009, Felipe Valdez of Buena Vista Beach Resort reported on 21 boats, with 33 anglers and a catch including released fish of: 8 striped marlin, 7 sailfish, 72 dorado averaging 30 pounds, 22 wahoo, 12 roosterfish, 1 shark, 24 snapper, 11 jack crevalle, 6 bonito, 4 triggerfish, 7 cabrilla, and 2 sierra. East Cape fishing area weather was in the mid-80s, with water temperatures at 76 to 79 degrees as fleet boats fished mostly to the north from Punta Pescadero outwards to about 25 miles. Good numbers of billfish were present but reluctant to bite. Wahoo, in addition to the usual dorado, were found schooling around debris in the water.
EAST CAPE, MEXICO: For the fishing week ending May 7, 2009, Chris Moyers of East Cape Smoke House reported on 105 charter boats from combined fleets including Hotels Palmas de Cortez, Playa del Sol, Punta Colorada, Buena Vista Beach Resort, Rancho Leonero, and Martin Verdugo's Beach Resort, with 302 anglers and a catch including released fish of: 1 blue marlin, 56 striped marlin, 284 dorado, 12 pargo, 15 wahoo, 8 roosterfish, and 19 sierra.
EAST CAPE, MEXICO: For the East Cape fishing week ending May 10, 2009, John Ireland of Rancho Leonero reported striped marlin full of squid and continuing to be shy, but boats running outside averaging 1 billfish per day, including 1 boat with 5 releases.
Dorado averaged 25 to 30 pounds, topped by a 67 pounder landed during the week. Inshore fishing continued strong for roosterfish into the 30-pound class and larger pompano, both feeding on abundant schools of sardinas. "There is so much bait around including squid, tuna crabs, sardinas, and mackerel," Ireland said. "The fish are bound to stick around for the next couple of weeks."
EAST CAPE, MEXICO: Eddie Dalmau of Van Wormer Resorts reported a fleet fish count including released fish of: more than 250 dorado averaging 25 to 30 pounds, more than 25 striped marlin, 90 pargo, 60 cabrilla, 28 sierra, 8 sailfish, 12 wahoo, 27 jacks, 2 mako shark, 15 triggerfish, and 1 parrotfish. Striped marlin were plentiful but not biting due to abundant squid present. "When there is that much squid in the water, marlin will feed and feed on them," Dalmau said. "That makes it very tough to land marlin off a boat."
LA PAZ, MEXICO: Gerardo Hernandez of Tortuga Sportfishing on the Las Arenas side of La Paz reported more summer-like fishing conditions, with weather in the 90s and seasonable winds coming more from the south. "In a few days, we'll be moving to launch pangas at Punta Arena for better protection and easier launching for our clients," Hernandez said. "Yesterday, we had some bothersome wind at Ensenada de los Muertos."
Tortuga Sportfishing pangas found good fishing at both Isla Cerralvo and Punta Perico on the Baja shore. "We had good quantities of wahoo at the island," Hernandez said. "At Punta Perico there are pargo lisa and big dog snapper, or pargones, up to 50 pounds."
Tortuga Sportfishing pangas running out to the 88 bank east of Isla Cerralvo found marlin and sailfish but no dorado.
LA PAZ, MEXICO: Jonathan Roldan of Tailhunter International reported variable action during the week with very few anglers on the water. "Because of the swine flu scare a few weeks ago, a number of anglers canceled trips with many of the fleets until a later date," Roldan said. "That meant the airplanes were almost bare, although not a single case of swine flu was reported on the entire 1000-mile-long-Baja peninsula. Airlines canceled flights. Some didn't even tell passengers until they got to the counter. That pissed off a lot of folks, as you can imagine."
Boats fishing at La Paz found generally spotty action. "The bite seemed to be off," Roldan said. "Even the jack crevalle seemed pickier. The bigger pargo were still around, but with so few anglers, it was difficult to say how good a bite took place. Bonito were rampant and some tuna ran with them in little flurries. Dorado were sketchy, as were some of the other fish. It didn't help that winds were up some days, keeping boats more inshore than we would have liked."
LORETO, MEXICO: Patty Zapata of Loreto's Hotel Oasis reported a slow charter week, with 1 party of 3 anglers fishing 3 days with Capt. Francisco Martinez Castro for a catch of: 15 yellowtail of 19 to 28 pounds, 8 dorado of 15 to 23 pounds, and 4 sailfish seen. Capt. Martinez and anglers Terry Brown, Tom Brown, and Arman Douglas fished between La Choya and Punta Lobos on the north end of Isla Carmen for yellowtail, and 6 miles east of Punta Lobos for dorado. Loreto fishing area weather was warm and calm.
LORETO, MEXICO: Pam Bolles of Baja Big Fish Company at Loreto reported continued smaller dorado found in warm water coming northwards up the Sea of Cortez, with some Mexico fishing limits caught on 10 to 15-pound fish about 10 to 30 miles east of Punta Lobos on the north end of Isla Carmen. "The warm water continues to just south of Punta Pulpito," Bolles said. "Dorado are in this water, but it's still a long ways off. There are still sardinas everywhere. They'll move off the shorelines when it warms up. It's looking like a decent dorado year, but we'll see."
Local boats had good counts of quality cabrilla at Isla Carmen, and some yellowtail were still available at the island.
Bolles attended a public hearing for a $1.6 billion development project proposed for Puerto Escondido south of town. "I had my newly received citizenship letter in my bag," she said. "The NGO's in the room seemed to have the conservation and environmental issued covered so I figured I'd ask some economic questions, given the crazy amount of money spent."
SANTA ROSALIA, MEXICO: Jim Anderson of San Bruno south of Santa Rosalia reported the 2009 Isla San Marcos Yellowtail Shootout fishing tournament cancelled from its scheduled dates of May 22-24, 2009, due to precautions taken with regards to Mexico's swine flu outbreak. "Agustin Casanova, director of COMSA on the island, felt it would be inappropriate to hold the tournament due to the problems noted with the swine flu virus," Anderson said. "This tournament, begun by San Marcos Mike Kanzler, the yellowtail legend, has been a great success but it was decided that the tournament would put workers and families at increased risk of the swine flu."
Santa Rosalia fishing area boats found good yellowtail action during high tidal flow periods on the bajos off the north end of Isla San Marcos. "There have been some very respectable fish caught," Anderson said. "The tides look very good for the 21st through the 30th of May, so there should be some fantastic fishing then, just a lessening of bragging rights."
SAN CARLOS, MEXICO: Bryan Replogle of the San Carlos boat Margarita V reported good fishing for dorado into the 50-pound class mixed with yellowfin tuna and wahoo. Marlin and some sailfish were present but still not biting actively.
"Boats are getting tuna to 55 pounds," Replogle said. "One boat caught a tuna and a dorado, and both weighed 54 pounds."
On 1 outing, the Margarita V landed 17 fish of 18 hooked on 4 sets of multiple hookups. "Two passes, and the boxes are full," Replogle said. "The purse seiners will be clearing out any tuna in the area, but at least my freezer is full already."
SAN CARLOS, MEXICO: Jon Jen Charters of San Carlos reported good dorado concentrations including fish of all sizes and Mexico fishing limits caught all week as boats averaged 10 to 20 dorado per day caught-and-released. "There are lots of peanuts and some bigger bulls among the babies," Jon Jen said. Capt. Abel reported dorado in the 20-pound class plus a 34-pound bull.
Billfish action was less active, with fish following teasers but not biting.
MAZATLAN, MEXICO: Tadeo Hernandez of Flota Bibi Fleet reported improved counts for dorado of 5 to 20 pounds, including many released, but with very few tourists present at Mazatlan. Inshore fishing continued good for mixed species including triggerfish, grouper, and snappers. Mazatlan fishing area water temperatures averaged 79 degrees.
IXTAPA ZIHUATANEJO, MEXICO: Ed Kunze, reporting for Baja On The Fly, said very few sportfishing clients fished at Ixtapa Zihuatanejo during the week, but local Mexican commercial pangueros did well on yellowfin tuna about 18 to 20 miles out. "Blue water moved in to 18 miles," Kunze said, "but reports are that the bite is moving out to about 40 miles. This is typical. It should move back in again within a few days."
The fleet also averaged about 1 or 2 sailfish per day, and a few blue marlin were also caught.
Inshore fishing continued very good for jack crevalle, with roosterfish also appearing and producing some good action 18 miles south at Petalan.
Ixtapa fishing area weather was partly cloudy in the mid-100s, with water temperatures at 78 to 83 degrees.
MEXICO: David Burns of the El Manglar Restaurant at Tecoluta, on Mexico's Atlantic coast near Veracruz, reported an unusual run of sailfish being caught by local fishermen. An offshore run by Burns, together with Capt. Erik Geertz and Chinto Manzana, produced king mackerel, or peto in Spanish, to 13 kilos, 1 dorado at 4 kilos, a couple of smaller bigeye tuna, several barracuda, and an assortment of fish speared including a nice grouper. One sailfish was also sighted but not baited.
"It isn't clear what has brought the sailfish in from the deep, but nobody's complaining," Burns said. "We had also headed out in hopes of finding a 90-kilo tarpon, as it is the season for these behemoths in the Gulf."