San Quintin, Mexico:
Mixed Bag Baja Panga Fishing With Capt. Hector Of Pedro's Pangas

Jan. 19, 2007, Richard Hollo, San Quintin, Baja California, Mexico:

On January 13th, my wife Monica and I made our 7th trip to San Quintin, Baja, since we picked up the fishing guidebook, The Baja Catch, two years ago.

We had a last minute break and called Pete Hillis at Pedro’s Pangas to see what we could arrange. We have a 22-foot Bayrunner Cuddy that we normally tow down to San Quintin, but due to our limited time to prep we wanted to see about a day of fishing with Captain Hector.

Pete made us a great deal on a Panga so we left our boat at home and left early evening Friday from Bloomington, California for the 330 mile drive to San Quintin.

We left at 4:00 in the afternoon, not the best time to drive through southern California and into Mexico at Tijuana, but as soon as we got onto the Ensenada toll road, the traffic cleared and we had a pleasant ride the rest of the way to San Quintin.

One of the benefits of the cold weather is that the crowds in Ensenada are light and the drive through Ensenada was hassle free.

We arrived at The Old Mill Hotel in San Quintin just after midnight but Jim had a room ready for us and had left a note on the office door to tell us where to go. Temperatures were around 50 degrees, but we have a small propane heater that keeps the room toasty and we brought along an extra wool blanket for the bed. If you have not been to the Old Mill before, be aware that the rooms are not heated and come prepared.

We met Captain Hector and Abel at 5:30 in the morning and loaded our gear into our fishing boat, the panga Coyote. Normally, Captain Hector pilots the cruiser Romy, but we had limited funds and the winds were mild so we opted for 2 days fishing on the Coyote versus 1 day on the Romy. Although San Quintin weather was still in the 50’s, the wind off the Baja Pacific coast was calm and there was minimal swell on the ocean and we had on plenty of warm clothes.

As usual, we had no issue making bait and we were headed south towards Socorro by 7:00 a.m.

Everywhere we looked, there were birds working and it didn’t take long for us to start pulling fat sandbass and rockfish up on the jigs. We were hoping to catch a stray white seabass or two, but they apparently were not home. We caught a nice mixed bag of bass, rockfish, and a couple of big bonita and at 10:00 in the morning we hit a school of big ocean whitefish and finally got tired of reeling them up after a couple of hours and headed to a little deeper water to fish at one of Captain Hectors’ "little places."

The water was about 250 feet deep and the structure was a small hump on the bottom no bigger than 50 feet in diameter. Normally, we shun fishing water this deep but the tide was lazy and we had a mild breeze and it only took 8 ounces of lead to get to the bottom nearly vertical. The action was instantaneous and the rockfish were big. Captain Hector reeled in the biggest Sheephead I have ever seen and we caught a couple of monster whitefish. For some reason, even the rockfish seemed to fight hard on this trip.

Monica has never caught a lenguado, or halibut, so Captain Hector took us back to the bay around noon to try our luck. It’s not the best time of the year for halibut but we gave it a shot and we did have one pick up our baits, but pulled the bait out of his mouth.

We went back into the dock at San Quintin around 2:00 and Abel pulled us out of the water. As usual, Javier was already cleaning fish and we, Captain Hector, and Abel loaded our fish into buckets.

The first day we fish, we give a lot of our fish to the locals and to the captains; there is always plenty of fish for us to take home.

While Javier was cleaning our fish, we went back to the hotel and got cleaned up and then put our fish away and headed for town to one of our favorite restaurants. It was too late to drive to the north side of town to the roadside palapas, so we went to Viejo San Quintin which is a very nice, clean restaurant just past the military base on the left as you are heading north. They have absolutely killer chile rellenos and shrimp and beers are only $1.50 a bottle. Dinner for the two of us was under $15 including 2 beers each.

Another favorite stopping spot for us is one of the fish taco stands on the north end of San Quintin just as you come into the roadside strip called Al Cliente. They are the second stand as you enter town from the north and are easily recognized by the big fish sign on top of their stand. The family runs a very clean operation and makes excellent fish and shrimp tacos and Mexican seafood cocktails. They don’t sell beer, though, so make sure you bring your own if you want to have a couple of beers with your lunch.

On Sunday, we decided that we already had plenty of fish so we would concentrate on fishing for ling cod and halibut if we had time.

We had no problem filling the bait tank with big mackerel for lings and little, brown jack mackerel for halibut. The lingcod fishing was predictable as usual: pin on the biggest mackerel in the bait tank, drop him down to the bottom and reel up a couple of turns, wait about 2 minutes, reel the line tight, hit as hard as you can and hope the hook finds a spot to penetrate that bony mouth. Plenty of lings, but we decided to skip the halibut since we had to get going early so we could take a shower and head north.

What we have learned in our 7 trips to San Quintin is that by far the fishing here is the most consistent we have experienced anywhere and there is always something to be caught.

Bonito here are common over 10 pounds and can become an annoyance when you are trying to catch yellowtail or bass.

The bass, whitefish, and rockfish are massive by southern California standards and there are plenty of yellowtail and white seabass to be caught in the summer.

We usually tow our own boat, but we have also fished with Captain Hector, Captain Miguel, and Captain Chava out of Pedro’s Pangas and all have treated us very well and produced plenty of fish for us.

San Quintin bay is very shallow and can be treacherous at low tide, but the panga captains are always very friendly and several of them offered to show us how to navigate the channel until we finally got enough points in our GPS and time on the bay to make the run on our own. We have even been invited to follow the fleet to the fishing grounds on several occasions making it very easy to mark numerous productive fishing areas in a short period of time.

The Baja drive is long, about 7 hours down and 9 hours back on average, but the rewards are huge. A weekend in San Quintin is also relatively inexpensive. On this Mexican fishng vacation trip we took $600 cash and returned home with money to put back in the bank. We’re already planning our next trip for 4 days in April, if we can wait that long.

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