San Carlos, Mexico



July 1, 2004, Stuart Burnett, Fishing at San Carlos, Mexico, and Yellow Slime at Isla Tortuga.

San Carlos Fishing Report:

Just returned from fishing in San Carlos, Sonora 6/23/04 thru 6/29/04. Figured I’d take a few a minutes and fill everyone in on the trip. Overall, the fishing was probably the poorest I’ve ever had in San Carlos at this time of year. But, that didn’t stop us from catching a few.

The trip down was uneventful (for a change). No blowouts, trailer problems, or any of the other little trip gremlins that like to get in the way of my fishing time. My wife, son and I trailered my Bayrunner Baja down and Mike Doukas trailered his Hydra-Sport, so we had a buddy system going for the drive. We met Dave Harcourt, his friend Jim, and son Eric in San Carlos with their Cobia. We had three boats to work the water for five days.

Border crossing was better than ever, but a note to anyone who plans on driving -- only pesos are now accepted on the toll roads from Nogales to San Carlos. Something about “national pride in currency” or so the billboards state. But, they’re serious, so make sure you get some pesos before you hit the road to head down there. Tolls were about the same as usual, about 230 or so pesos if you’re towing a boat. Many stretches of the road have been resurfaced and work continues on some others. Figure on about a five hour drive once you cross the border at Nogales.

Our first day of fishing, we tried the 180 to the south. Just not much going on out there. Dave Harcourt managed to get a dorado or two in the boat, but we didn’t see much of anything else all day.

Second day, we made the run over to Tortuga Island on 240. Caught and released a sail and put three dorado in the box. Oddly enough, all the dorado were solitary females. We never did see a school, or any bulls. I saw two bulls caught by other boats during the entire week we were there. Also got one marlin strike on a rigged ballyhoo. Tried to drop it back and set him, but he bit short and I reeled in a ballyhoo head and empty hook.

We opted to run to Tortuga again the third day. This shall forever be remembered as the “Day of the Yellow Slime.” It seems there’s this certain nasty algae that likes to bloom in this area when the water conditions are just right. And they were right, alright. As we neared Tortuga, we encountered the first traces of it. Patches and long lines of thick, yellow mustard were forming. We tried to press on through it to find some clean water, but the stuff was literally exploding as we went on. So, we turned and ran back out to the halfway mark in the Sea of Cortez, the last place we had seen good blue water. Too late. Yellow slime everywhere. In some places, the stuff was so thick you could of shoveled it. And such a wonderful smell when you’d splash through it. Yuck. Later, a local captain told me that it forms every year about this time. He told me that it’s a result of the sardine processing plant in Guaymas burning all the sardines that are too small to can. I don’t know how much faith I put in that explanation, because for literally 60 miles, from San Carlos to Tortuga (I have no idea how far north/south), this stuff was everywhere and you could actually see it growing and forming as you went. I figured it would take every sardine in the Cortez to make that much slime, but who knows?

Anyway, to escape slime city, we ran south again and did eventually find some clear blue water. Very warm blue water, like 88.9 degrees, with no fishies to be seen anywhere. On the way back in after a long day of nothing, we did encounter an unusual sight. We saw what appeared to be fins on the water. Not tail fins, like we normally spot for billfish, but like the fins of sea lion as he lays on his back and sticks his flippers up in the sun to warm. As we got closer, we discovered it was a pair of sailfish, perhaps doing some kind of pez vella mating ritual or something, but they were dancing right on the surface with each other with their top sails fully extended and out of the water. A very strange sight. They submerged as we got closer and weren’t interested in anything we had to offer.

The fourth day, we tried the 270 to the north to see if we could find good water. Clear water east and south of San Pedro, but slime again on the back side of the island. We worked the reef area to the south of the island for awhile and hooked a very large sailfish. No tappa-tappa in the spread like typical sails do, this guy just hit a black/green hootchie on a jumping daisy chain and was off to the races. I thought we had a marlin hook up until later when he decided to jump and I could see it was a sail. Best fight I had the whole trip and after carefully removing the hook and towing him along side the boat for about 10 minutes, another successful release. We continued to run southwest with not so much as a knockdown for the rest of the day. At about 4 o’clock, we decided to head in and spotted a school of birds working. Ran over and dropped the hootchies for a double hook-up on skipjack. We followed the birds and repeated this three more times before pulling lines and running the 25 miles back into the marina. Although I don’t care to eat them, I still say skippies are one of the most fun fish to catch. And it was good practice for the following day.

The fifth day (don’t ask me why; I’m a glutton for punishment, I guess) we headed to Tortuga again. The water looked better and most of the slime had disappeared or went wherever slime goes when it dies. The water was also cooler, 83.8. Nothing trolling for the first hour and we saw a school of birds working. Skippies was my first reaction, but we decided to give it a shot. The fishing gods were finally smiling on us; we had a double-hookup and one break off on nice, fat, football yellowfin! The school was moving quickly and by the time we boated the fish we had on, they went back under and the birds dispersed. Worked the water close in to the island (about 10-13 miles out) but never got another bump. Did see a couple dorado greyhounding on flyers, but couldn’t get them interested. Another long ride back to the marina at the end of the day.

On the sixth day, the wind came up. Nice 5 to 6 foot rollers with whitecaps on top. So much for fishing. We headed up the coast and found a nice protected cove and spent the better part of the day snorkeling. Saw virtually every type of fish the reefs have to offer. Gorgeous wrasse, triggers, small groupers, tangs, octopus, starfish, and the biggest stonefish I’ve ever had the displeasure of meeting face-to-face in two feet of water! It was fun cruising through schools of small barracuda and just seeing the great variety of life that is the Cortez.

There were some longlines this trip, but not as many as we’ve seen in previous years. I don’t know if that’s due to the slime, or fishing just being so slow it’s not worth it for them. Also encountered finback, sperm, and a species of whale I had never seen before, beaked whales. At first I thought they were large dolphins, but as we got up on them, they were about three times the size of a dolphin and brown in color.

So, I figure I spent about $400 in boat gas, ran and trolled well over 600 miles, and brought home three vacuum-packed bags of dorado fillets. Most expensive mahi in my life! Also got to spend some time with some great fishermen and baja bullshitters par excellent! Would I do it again? In a second!

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