By Gene Kira, December 15, 2003, as published in Western Outdoor News:
I had a pretty good view of the wet weather front that passed through Southern California last week--as I clung to a six-inch-wide cliff trail, looking straight down, twenty stories, to the crashing surf of Punta Santo Tomas, Baja California, Mexico.
Above the roiling Pacific Ocean, a dozen rain squalls came drifting in from the northwest, and each gust of wind made my feet knock rock chips off the ledge. I inched forward, gripping tufts of grass with both hands, looking down at the magnificent volcanic seascape so far below me, and thinking, "This is really, really dumb, you idiot."
But, dang it, the year has only so many days, and last week I had decided, once and for all, to map the rarely-visited shoreline between Puerto Santo Tomas Resort and the famous Soledad bottom-fishing reef, just a few miles north. This whole coastline of magnificent, cool water rock fishing platforms--where shore anglers can land rockcod, whitefish, lingcod, cabezon, calico bass, barracuda, bonita, sheephead, opaleye, and various perches--is only thirty miles south of Ensenada, but for all the attention it gets from Baja anglers, it might as well be on the moon.
In three-and-a-half days of cliff hanging, hiking, and four-wheel-driving, I finally did map out this beautiful, lonely setting, but the fishing part will have to wait for a future trip. After finally locating some alternate safer access points to this area, I managed a grand total of two casts into rain and a howling headwind that not even a four-ounce torpedo sinker on 12-pound mono could penetrate beyond a thick layer of surf-whipped soup stretching out as far as you could see. Basta!
Back at the resort, I sat down to a terrific sea food caldo, and had time to celebrate my continued presence among the living with proprietors Sam and Juanita Saenz, and their four-year-old son, Joseph.
This is an auspicious time for the Saenzes, whose Mexican corporation, Real Baja, this summer was at last able to lease a federal concession for tourist development of the waterfront "Zona Federal" at Puerto Santo Tomas.
For Baja fishin' types, what this means is that the bay can now be legally developed, with a launch ramp that does not face directly into the Pacific surf, perhaps a minimum-impact pedestrian malecon, and even a small pier to shelter a couple of larger boats that will be able to run out to the nearby San Jose and Soledad Banks for summer tuna.
These projects won't be ready for a while, but with the federal concession now won after many years of struggle, legal mechanisms are finally in place to develop this spot for something more than a commercial sea urchin camp.
The commercial pangueros of Puerto Santo Tomas were also given their half of the sheltered shoreline for continued use, so there is a potential here for everybody to come out ahead, if they all have the wisdom to cooperate with each other. Perhaps someday this beautiful location and others like it can develop a cooperative, equitable mixed use philosophy that will sustain proper commercial fishing as well as tourism. Call me weird, but I just love the sights and smells of colorful commercial fishing boats in a tourist setting--think of our own Monterey Bay or Portofino on the Italian Riviera.
Meanwhile, Puerto Santo Tomas Resort continues to offer its comfortable cabins, excellent meals, pangas for local bottom fishing, and the virtually unused shore fishing potential of the rocky shore going north. Someday, perhaps, this idyllic setting may become "developed," but for now and for a few years to come, this is still the "old Baja." During my entire stay at Puerto Santo Tomas last week, only two tourists arrived--a pair of overnight motorcyclists from Montana. On the entire complex of trails going north over the cliffs and all the way to Bahia Soledad, I saw not one other tourist. Love it.
(Related Puerto Santo Tomas articles and reports may be found at Mexfish.com's main Puerto Santo Tomas information page. See weekly fishing news, photos, and reports from the major sportfishing vacation areas of Mexico including the Puerto Santo Tomas area in "Mexico Fishing News.")