San Felipe, Mexico



July 8, 2007, Dana Allen, Reno, Nev., Gonzaga Bay, San Felipe, Baja California, Mexico:

I did a Baja drive down trip to Gonzaga Bay with Chris Novak of San Jose, Calif., the first time I've been there since the old days about 1974.

My friend Chris Novak was kind enough to help me wrench for 3 days to install a special TeraLow 4-to-1 transfer case and replace the clutch in my Jeep Cherokee to make the trip. I was in Baja from June 27th to July 1st and went in via Tijuana and through the Laguna Chapala side and out via the Puertecitos side at San Felipe.

Not much has changed in Gonzaga Bay. I met Coco Corral at Coco's Corner for the first time had a pleasant chat and a beer. It was 107 degrees at 10 a.m. there. Then it got really hot, would say over 120 degrees and very the dry first two days.

We camped in a tent at the Rancho Grande Palapas at Gonzaga Bay. From 9 p.m. to 1 a.m. a strong wind from the mountains blew at what I would guess was 20 m.p.h. and at 105 degrees. Overall, these were the hottest temperatures I have ever experienced anywhere. We drank 2 gallons of water a day per person the first 2 days. Then it cooled to about 100 degrees which was quite pleasant for last 2 days.

Two biggest changes from old Baja days are welcome, a Pemex and mini-market at Rancho Grande. The mini-market temperature gauge said 133 degrees but I think 123 is more likely.

Now for the fishing. We did "The Baja Catch" type fishing with jointed Rebel lures over 20 foot water mostly. I took a 10 foot Zodiac with a 2 h.p. Honda 4-stroke motor. The gas mileage was fantastic, 18 hours of trolling on only 2 gallons of gas! At 3/4 throttle it does 6 m.p.h., but we probably averaged 4 m.p.h.

The first fishing day we went north to Alfonsina's then followed the island to the south wreck on Isla Willard before we got much action. Then we did part of the east side of the island which had decent action. We caught the normal suspects: spotted bay bass, small grouper, triggerfish and a few barracuda. Unfortunately there were no sierra or yellowtail. The gold-orange Rebel lure seems the best color for jointed lures.

The second fishing day, we cut across Gonzaga Bay straight to the south point of Isla Willard, then ran up the back side of the isla to the entrance of Bahia Willard where we got a nice needlefish that jumped like crazy.

I was concerned about my engine oil level so headed in to what used to be Papa Fernandez's place to get oil. We had trouble finding any business there, but ran into Doug Magee, a frequent contributor to this report, who was kind enough to give me a half-quart of oil. He thought fishing was very bad now.

We headed all the way north up the Baja coast to Punta Bufeo. The fishing was decent but the fish size was small. At this point it was fairly rough, about 2 p.m., so we turned back and occasionally took water over the bow. Back at El Faro beach we had the best action of entire trip. From the lighthouse south to the big cobble reef that extends quite a way out to sea it was constant Baja fishing action. We caught the biggest scorpionfish ever and kept one for first time, with 12-inch needle nose pliers to get hooks out. Maybe that was the last time, as I read the description later of how bad their poison is if jabbed in The Baja Catch, but it was tasty. Overall for the day caught about 30 fish and kept 7. Even on the water the heat was outrageous and we both likely suffered from mild heat stroke.

On the third fishing day, we went through the Alfonsina's gap straight for El Faro beach. Fishing action there was again excellent but generally for small fish. We got some nice wrasse when we tried red-silver lures. The big ones got away literally; the ones that got the reels to screech got off before we could boat them so do not know what they were. The best one really had me pulling hard with my Tiger Stick pole, which has handled marlin. Then he got off the hook and I almost went out of the other side of the boat. Chris caught my ankle to keep me in the boat. Then after reeling for a while with slack line, I had a fish on, but it was a small bass. I figured out that it hit the lure after the big fish got away.

Overall we caught maybe 35 fish and kept 8. On the way back the tide was so low had to walk the boat over the south gap of Bahia Willard a la African Queen.

We heard that kayakers and guides did get some 20 pound corvina south of the wreck in deeper water, but they knew the secret spot.

On the way back, the Baja road to Puertecitos was rough but improved from 1974, 4WD no longer needed. San Felipe is hugely changed, from a sleepy maybe 500 people fishing village to maybe 10,000 now. It was an interesting Baja fishing, trip all in all.

We went down to Punta Final to check out some homes for sale, and a week before on takeoff a plane climbed about 500 feet then suddenly crashed straight down into the sea, killing both people. Mexican officials were investigating but so far no indication as to problem. We met some nice folks at Punta Final.