Finding the bite in Baja
They say that the fishing in the Sea of Cortez is just a fraction of what it once was not too long ago. Conservation is not a word that I think is understood in this part of the country. I would have loved to have fished this fishery in its heyday. It is certainly pretty darn good today by our American standards.
As I indicated last week fishing from the beach was better than the previous year. We were here in June rather than April which makes a big difference. The weather was much warmer, averaging around the mid 90s during our stay.
Kayak fishing was not too productive. We will have to give it a better chance next year, but the fish did not seem to cooperate with us.
The pangha fishing more than made the trip for us. A friend from the fly fishing club who frequents the area hooked us up with some local guides out of the town of La Ribera. Trino’s Guide service provided us with two boats after having to cancel a hotel boat the day before due to high north winds. Our friend took us to Trino’s house and introduced us to the owner of the boats, Trino Sr. He was booked the next day, but he said that his son and nephew were both excellent captains and could take us out.
The nice thing about these particular local guides was that they understood fly fishing. This made things much better for us all. We would meet them at 7 a.m. and they would take us out to get bait since we were going to fish for Roosterfish. Two of the four days, the only bait available was lisa or mullet. The last two days we were able to get sardina or sardines. The first day we ran all the way south near Las Frailles, about an hour southwest. The last day we got sardina right off of the launch area.
Trino has three boats, the Paloma, En Sus Suena, and Danielle. My partner Mike Lombardi from Tahoe City and I had Trino Jr. on the Danielle as our captain and Fred Wickman and Bob McClintock also from Tahoe City had Chuy on En Sus Suena as their’s.
Trino Jr. was only 17, but was already a master on the Sea of Cortez. The only downside was that he did not speak much English. Chuy on the other hand spoke near perfect English.
I have to admit, I did do something that I never thought that I would have the chance to do down in Baja. That was to catch a yellowfin tuna (Thunnus albacares) on a fly rod. You see, I am prone to sea sickness and if you fish in the Pacific for these fish you will know that you have to go 10 to 60 miles offshore to get into these fish. In Baja, they are sometimes available within 4 miles and you do not have the same type of swells that you do in the Pacific. I have been out on some of the roughest days and I have to liken it to my experience on San Francisco Bay as a youngster. I didn’t even take any medication the last couple of days on this trip.
Catching this fish was the most pleasant surprise that I could have had, not to mention the great sashimi we all had for several evenings!
Although our fish were not that big they certainly could tax a #11 or #12 weight fly rod. The guide suggested using a blue epoxy head fly that we all had to imitate the flying fish that are one of the many bait sources available to the fish in the Sea of Cortez. That certainly proved to be the ticket as our pangha alone landed seven yellowfin one day. Though not large at around 8 to 15 pounds, they do put a substantial bend in the rod.
The last day we got into a larger school of yellowfin right away. The two boated on our boat were 15 pounds and the two boated on the other boat were also in that range. Both Fred and I lost our fish that were seemingly much larger judging from the fight.
The variety of species that you can catch down in Baja makes this quite an anglers paradise. We caught so many different fish that we would sit in our rooms at night checking our book to see what we had caught. One thing is certain, saltwater fish really fight hard when hooked on a fly rod.
My only worry about this area is that development is beginning to change the face of old Mexico. As this happens, more and more people will be drawn down there and the resources will be challenged.
It is already being over utilized in my opinion. The boat captains down here seem to want to keep everything. They do not seem to understand that catch and release insures their fishing future. Until they start conserving their resources, they are putting their fishing future in jeopardy. Let’s hope that we can get the message across to them before this wonderful fishery goes the way of so many others.
Bruce Ajari is a Truckee resident and regular fishing columnist for the Sierra Sun and other area newspapers.