Baja California: The fishing
This was my second in what is becoming an annual trip to the East Cape region of Baja California. For the fly fisherman, you can fish from the beach, from a kayak or from a super-pangha. We typically try all three methods during our stay.
Fishing from the beach does not require a license or permit. However, fishing from a craft such as a kayak or super-pangha requires a valid Mexican sportfishing permit. The resort sells them for the week at $23. Only one rod or line with a hook is permitted to be used per person, and an angler can bring as many as 10 rods and reels aboard a vessel.
Fishing from the beach was more productive this trip than the previous one. Blind casting with a type III sinking line, preferably a shooting head, is the best if you are blind casting. A No. 8- to No. 10-weight rod is the recommended rod, 9 to 9.5 feet in length, with a large arbor reel seems best with a lot of backing just in case you hook a sizeable fish such as a Roosterfish. Most locals typically fish a No. 10-weight rod from the beach.
I found that a full line rather than a shooting head was a much better choice when searching for Roosterfish from the beach and sight fishing. The reason is that the casts are sometimes short and need to be made quickly. This is something that cannot be done with a shooting head set-up. An intermediate line was also an advantage. If I had to do it over, I would go at least one line weight up and possibly more to load the rod as quickly as possible.
Each trip I seem to learn a little more about finding success fishing down on the East Cape. Next year, I will bring a few heavier lines to test my theory out. Loading the rod quickly seems be very necessary due to the speed of the fish we are seeking, both from shore and from watercraft.
This trip, with four of us fishing the beach, we discovered that if we spaced ourselves out a bit, we could alert each other to passing fish and get our chances to cast to them. We were about 20 to 25 yards apart and were sight fishing to Roosterfish as they cruised the shoreline. If you were alone, you would have to walk the beach until you found cruising fish and work them.
Unfortunately for us, the Roosterfish, our primary targets, were elusive. The reason was that the main forage fish, the sardine or sardina, was nowhere to be found.
When we rented our super-panghas, we had to run at least an hour south to get sardines for bait. Everyone we talked to regarding catching them on the fly pretty much said the same thing. They just were not eating.
In four days of pangha fishing, which gives you the best chance at scoring with a Roosterfish, only one Rooster was actually landed on the fly among the four of us.
We did catch quite a few that were caught on the live bait teaser that the skipper was pulling on a spinning rod. They are easily caught on live bait. Almost half the day, on three of our four pangha trips, was spent trying for the Roosterfish.
Roosterfish, characterized by its spectacular “rooster comb,” is one of the world’s most exotic fish species. Roosterfish identification is about as easy as it gets. No other fish looks anything like this true oddball. It is a member of the Jack family, but does not look anything like other Jacks.
They are plentiful in the Sea of Cortez and will undoubtedly stay that way unless its primary food source, the sardine, disappears. The reason is that Roosterfish provide very poor table fare. Thus they are not a targeted species by commercial fishermen.
Next week we go out on the super panghas in search of Roosterfish and other species that inhabit the Sea of Cortez. We had a pleasant surprise in store for all of us.
Bruce Ajari is a Truckee resident and regular fishing columnist for the Sierra Sun and other area newspapers.