The rugged Baja California peninsula, nearly 800 miles in length, is world renown as an angler’s paradise. With theSea ofCortez (a.k.a. Gulf of California) on its eastern shore and thePacific Ocean on the west, this geologic marvel juts into some of the best sportfishing habitat on the planet. Although fishing can be productive along its entire coastline, the variety and number of tropical gamefish tends to increase the further south one travels. The regions of Cabo San Lucas, San José del Cabo, East Cape andLa Paz account for most of the action with striped marlin and other pelagics as well as great light tackle inshore variety featuring the prized roosterfish. These areas have distinctive histories, lifestyles and fishing profiles offering anglers many travel choices. For example, the popular striped marlin usually show up in Cabo San Lucas waters in mid-winter and gradually migrate into theSea of Cortez by spring, entertaining the East Cape operations whileLa Paz will see them in early summer. Some anglers schedule visits to all four destinations to coincide with a favored gamefish species.
CABO SAN LUCAS
“The tip of Baja California, an area of deluxe resorts, where the waters of the Pacific Ocean and theSeaofCortezconverge” was a fitting introduction made by the late Ray Cannon in his 1966 book “The Sea of Cortez”. Except for the famous “Friars” rock archway that marks the seaward entrance to Cabo San Lucas, there has been so much development centered here would Cannon may not recognize the place today. From a population of 200 in 1958, Cabo has grown into a mega-resort destination attracting international visitors seeking sun, golf and nightlife as well as fishing. Striped marlin put Cabo on the map. From December to March stripers congregate over large well-known banks such as theGolden Gateand San Jaime where they gorge on schools of Pacific mackerel. Unlike blue and black marlin, stripers show well on the surface allowing anglers to approach and cast live bait to visible fish. It’s an exciting and very effective technique and is preferred over trolling lures by many billfish anglers.
During the summer blue and black marlin arrive to augment the remaining stripers. A sea surface temperature of 80- to 86 degrees is optimal combined with good forage such as black skipjack and small yellowfin tuna. August to October are peak months and many Cabo charter operations are skilled at pursuing them. In addition to marlin, there are sailfish, yellowfin tuna, dorado, wahoo and the elusive swordfish that add to the offshore variety.
“Cabo” may mean “marlin” to most anglers who visit here and the various sportfishing fleets but there is an exciting light tackle nearshore fishery that is largely overlooked. U.S.trailerboaters and local panga skippers usually have a better understanding and appreciation for the inshore waters than the cruiser crowd. Although the now-modernized town of Cabo San Lucas is a good jumping-off point for this type of fishing, the references to “Cabo” or “Los Cabos” have grown into regional terms encompassing the waterfront town of San José del Cabo about 20 miles to the east and up the Pacific side to the village of Todos Santos. Numerous banks, reefs, rocky headlands and sand beaches provide a variety of aquatic habitat that attracts a long list of resident and migratory gamefish within easy range of the small boater or light tackle enthusiasts.
Roosterfish are probably the most sought-after inshore glamour fish but there are plenty of other rod-benders in these waters as well. Amberjack, African pompano (a.k.a. Threadfin pompano when young), California yellowtail, cubera (dog) snapper, mullet snapper, barred pargo, yellow snapper, colorado snapper, gafftopsail pompano, yellow jack, jack crevalle, black snook, spotted cabrilla, flag cabrilla, gulf grouper, broomtail grouper, leopard grouper, needlefish, Mexican barracuda, sierra mackerel, bigeye trevally, bluefin trevally (a.k.a. bluestar jack), triggerfish, leather bass, houndfish, greenbar snapper and Pacific red snapper are among the resident species.
Generally, the banks, high spots and rocky points (“puntas”) hold the greatest variety of resident gamefish and these habitats will also attract pelagics as well. Sand beach areas often appear devoid of gamefish and its best to troll along the deeper water edges to find them or to locate bird activity and forage where active feeding may be taking place. When you find bait schools it pays to stay nearby when gamefish aren’t showing because they may be lurking out of sight in the depths as they prepare to feed.
“The key to fishing inshore is to have enough good, live bait”, says Larry Edwards, Owner of Cortez Yacht Charter and longtime Cabo angler. “The marlin boats can get away with a dozen but I tell my clients that want to fish inshore to take at least 20 live baits because many will get damaged by triggerfish, needlefish and other toothy-types inshore. Caballitos are best and they are very strong. Roosters love ‘em. Lisa (mullet) are also good when you can get them. Smaller baits such as sardinas are great for chumming and you should have a scoop or 2 onboard”, says Edwards.
It pays to think big when using live bait. One hot technique is to slow troll a bridle-hooked live skipjack, bonito or similar bait, preferably with a Z-wing or traditional downrigger, deep over the rocky headlands or banks. Amberjack, pargo, grouper and big roosterfish respond well to these deep baits and, as a bonus, marlin and swordfish may surprise you as well.
Slow-trolling or drifting live baits is a great technique for Cabo but don’t forget the lures. These gamefish haven’t been pounded with artificials and will attack them with a vengeance, especially when they are competing for forage.
Gamefish can be hugging bottom in deep water, cruising the surface or anywhere in-between so its’ a good idea to pack lures that can cover all situations. Heavy jigs like the Kicker 25 and Ironman 5 can cover the water column and find the strike zone. Add a strip of skipjack or other bait to the jig hook to improve results with pargo, grouper and other rock dwellers. Trolling swimming plugs such as a Rapala CD-14 or CD-18 combines covering a large area with a fairly deep presentation. Surface lures are great when the fish are up and feeding but can also entice fish to come up just to eat a well-presented lure. In addition to light metal jigs, surface poppers work well by agitating the surface and getting the attention of gamefish from a greater distance than a more streamlined lure.
Cabo has become very popular with flyrodders. Sierra mackerel, bonito, black skipjack, yellowfin tuna, ladyfish, jack crevalle and rainbow runner attack flies well when “blind casting” (without a visible target or chumming). Roosterfish, as well as billfish, usually need to be teased into hitting so make sure you select a crew that is experienced using this technique. A good teasing method is to troll a hookless live bait on the surface such as a small caballito to approximate the length of a streamer or other popular fly, until a gamefish starts to pursue it. It’s important to constantly watch the teaser bait so that it can be pulled away from the attacker before it is taken. Repeatedly dropping the bait back and yanking it forward just out of reach of gaping jaws will excite and irritate any gamefish. The angler needs to be in control of the cockpit and will signal the mate to pull the bait as the captain puts the boat in neutral (flyfishing in forward gear is trolling). The fly is then presented to the fish which has hopefully been fooled into eating a hunk of hair and mylar dressing instead of a succulent natural bait.
Light tackle anglers can find something biting in Cabo waters all year but some species have peaks of availability. Yellowtail, sierra mackerel and barracuda prefer the cooler waters of winter. Roosterfish may be found all year but fish exceeding 80 pounds peak in July. African pompano, jack crevalle, needlefish, dorado, black skipjack and yellowfin tuna prefer late spring to summer. Black snook may be encountered around river months during the heavy rains of late summer to fall. The various snappers and grouper are resident species but will make short migrations from deep to shallow areas as water conditions and food dictate.
Anglers should be aware that inshore fishing at Cabo is somewhat of a specialty and some local cruiser crews may not have the expertise or desire to fish this way. Agents familiar with boats and crews such as Cortez Yacht Charters (619) 469-4255, Cass Tours (800) 593-6510 or Jig Stop Tours (800) 521-2281 can help reserve the best boats available.
SAN JOSÉ DEL CABO
San José del Cabo, in contrast to trendy Cabo San Lucas, is a sprawling yet slow-paced town still tied to its roots as the agricultural center of BajaSur. That doesn’t imply it’s not entertaining. Upscale shops, restaurants, nightclubs, and championship caliber golf courses are attracting a growing tourist trade to go along with its beaches and sportfishing. Its downtown retains the charm of old Mexico with historic buildings and narrow, cobblestone streets meandering around the many ornate plazas and fountains where locals gather to pass the time.
There’s something about landing billfish from a panga that is intriguing to many anglers and this is a good place to do it. Maybe it’s the lore that goes with big fish and small boats. Regardless of the attraction, the Gorda Banks are a good place to hookup with a blue, black or striped marlin as well as sailfish. One local skipper, Marcello Gonzalez, pushed this panga-style of fishing to the limit when he bridled an eight-pound yellowfin tuna on the Outer Gorda Bank at high noon during a full moon phase. The big bait was taken by a black marlin that weighted 993 pounds. Similar encounters are recorded on an annual basis around here but most result in lost fish and busted tackle.
There are two banks known as Gorda. Inner and Outer Gorda are four and eight miles, respectively, from the high, white-cliffed promontory to the east of San José del Cabo called Punta Gorda. The banks have reported high spots of 48 and 204 feet. A narrow, deep trench of 103 fathoms separates the two banks. Inner Gorda is larger than Outer Gorda and has extensive, broad shallows punctuated by high, rocky formations. Outer Gorda, however, is generally favored for fishing because it is more often covered by the blue water current and attracts a wider variety of gamefish including billfish.
Black marlin frequent shallow water and feed on the productive banks almost year-round. Spring to fall is prime time. Blue marlin reach a peak in August and are found in better numbers offshore in deep blue water. The smaller striped marlin, averaging 80 to 120 pounds, migrate through the area from December to April but can be caught all year if the conditions are favorable. Sailfish are unpredictable but usually start schooling up July through October. Full moons are favored for blue and black marlin but striped marlin action usually slows down during this period. “For most of the gamefish around here the bite improves leading up to the full moon then usually falls off for about a week after. Experienced clients usually book accordingly”, says Eric Brictson, owner of Gordo Banks Pangas.
Roosterfish can show at any time of the year but their size, numbers and reliability increase from May to August. If you want to test your skills on this dynamic gamefish the sandy shallows west of Punta Gorda, Red Hill in front of the Westin Hotel, and Rancho San Luis are good places to start your search. The larger roosterfish usually prefer a slow trolled live bait such as mullet, chihuil or caballito (bigeye scad). “When the mullet schools start arriving on the beaches it’s a sure bet the roosterfish will be close by. This usually happens about April or May and the inshore bite starts taking off“, says Brictson.
One exception to the summer action is the toothy sierra mackerel, which prefers the cooler water of winter. Sierra exceeding 15 pounds are like miniature wahoo and can cut even heavy mono leaders easily with their dense rows of razor sharp teeth. They are an aggressive gamefish and will hit shiny spoons, swimming plugs, hoochie skirts and live or strip baits. Wire leaders are recommended. Sierra are renown as tablefare and for making the classic “ceviché” dish.
During May and June pargo (cubera snapper and mullet snapper) move in vast schools to the inshore reefs where the water will appear red at times as they crowd near the surface. The Iman Bank, Rancho San Luis, Shipwreck Point, the 25-Fathom Spot and Distilidera are likely gathering spots. Closer to the beach the African pompano also forms large schools and can produce reliable action for weeks. This tough member of the jack family can exceed 30 pounds and its handsome, broad profile adds to its status as a trophy gamefish species.
Wahoo anglers have a big edge when fishing from beach pangas. The sunrise departures allow anglers to be on the fishing grounds for the early-morning bite which wahoo are noted for. By10 a.m.it’s usually all over with and late-arriving boats may never see a wahoo. Although live bait is very effective, many anglers are switching to lures due to the wahoos’ ability to cut baits in half without getting hooked. A proven technique is to fast troll a red and black Ironman Prolight far back in the spread around the high spots with a single strand wire leader. A light, metal jig such as the Prolight swims better and stays in the water while a heavy yo-yo type will break the surface and present a poor target. By late morning try switching to a heavy monofilament or fluorocarbon leader as visibility becomes a problem. You’ll be risking more cutoffs but getting more strikes. Generally, bright jig colors and single hook systems are preferred. Skirted lures should have cable hook attachments to the leader. In addition to the Ironman, top lures include the Braid Marauder, Yo-Zuri Bonita, Mold Craft Little Chugger (black/red), Rapala Magnums and jetheads. Troll the swimming-type lures close to the propwash for best results.
The Gorda Banks are almost synonymous with the yo-yo or deep jigging style of fishing. Outer Gorda, in particular, is very productive due to its extensive network of caves and rocky bottom habitat. Dog (cubera) snapper, cabrilla, leopard grouper, broomtail grouper and some huge amberjack exceeding 100-pounds live here. That’s the good news. Unfortunately it is very challenging to avoid cutoffs and many big fish are lost to the sharp bottom structure. Jig color doesn’t seem to be critical to success but blue/chrome, green/yellow, blue/white, all-white and all-chrome are popular.
Try dropping a lure straight to the bottom and reeling fast back to the boat or stopping it every fifteen or twenty cranks, dropping the rod tip to make the jig flutter down momentarily before resuming the retrieve. If you cast any distance from the bottom the increased line angle will expose you to more cutoffs and snags. When a fish hits keep reeling until the fish starts pulling drag to insure a good, solid hookup.
Deep jigging is hard work, especially under the hot Baja sun. Chumming or chunking fresh bait is a good technique to bring all types of gamefish, including bottom feeders closer to the boat where anglers can use a shorter drop to get action or fly-line live bait. Live bait is commonly used and at times, is the key to success. Amberjack are one species that tend to lock-in on one prey, chihuil, and without this bait you may be wasting your time. Chihuil (pronounced “chew-willy”) are called “baracuta” on the East Capeand are caught at night. They resemble a rainbow runner crossed with a “Spanish” jack mackerel and are a top bait for many gamefish.
Yellowfin tuna are a big draw almost on a year-round basis. Although most fall in the ten-to 80-pound range, some cows of over 200 pounds and more have been taken on these banks. A fairly recent development has been the use of the chunking technique on both the Inner and Outer Gordas. This is a fairly simple method. Pieces of cut bait or “chunks” are dropped overboard, preferably with a steady trail of ground-up chum, where they sink as they are carried by the current. Predatory gamefish, such as tuna, are attracted to this easy meal and will often follow the food line up to the surface. Watching large tuna, almost eating out of your hand, is quite a show. Although most chunking experts usually anchor upcurrent of a bank to allow the chunk trail to drift over the structure, the Gorda pangeros simply drift repeatedly over the high spots or in productive open water. Drifting allows anglers to be more selective with pelagics like tuna whereas anchored boats may be interfered with more by structure-oriented fish such as pargo and amberjack.
The heart of the East Cape is a large coastal indentation called Bahía delas Palmas. It is here where angling pioneers established the first fishing lodge known as Rancho Buena Vista while catering to legendary anglers such as Ray Cannon. The property has been expanded and modernized over the years. Although the geographic boundary of theEast Capeis debatable, for purposes of providing information and describing the region for readers, the 38-mile section of coast from Punta Los Frailes to Punta Arena de la Ventana (Las Arenas) will be included. This area is located between Los Cabos to the south andLa Pazto the north and contains nine fishing resorts. Each resort is self-contained and feature fast boats, experienced local crews, comfortable rooms, good food and the “Baja feeling” of remoteness and desert solitude framed with the deep blue of the Sea of Cortez. Competition for guests between the independently owned resorts has led to a tremendous bargain for anglers that is probably unmatched worldwide. Where else can a 28-foot marlin cruiser be chartered for $365U.S., including fishing tackle? Double rooms typically start at $90U.S.and include all meals and amenities such as swimming pools and air conditioning. Because of location variables each resort offers something unique to its clientele and half the fun is determining which operation fits your needs before booking a trip.
Today’s Baja traveler demands more activities than their predecessors. Now it is common to find windsurfing, horseback riding, off-roading, sailing, kayaking, canoeing, satellite TV and all manner of indoor games on the East Cape. There is also an increasing attraction for European vacationers as they compare the region to the Mediterranean hotspots without the crowds. In contrast to Los Cabos where golfers often outnumber anglers, there are no mega-courses on the East Cape.
Billfishing is a world-class fishery with over 10,000 released annually along the East Cape. Striped marlin are by far the most prolific species and are reliable between late April and October. Averaging 80 to 160 pounds, they offer a supreme light tackle opportunity since they often allow their whereabouts to be known by free-jumping, feeding, tailing or just “sleeping” on the surface. This is a visual sport. East Cape skippers practice several methods to take advantage of the striped marlins surface shows. Once spotted, the boat is maneuvered into position and the angler lobs a live baracuta, mackerel, caballito (bigeye scad), mullet, or other bait in front of the fish resulting in, hopefully, a quick hookup. Dropping back a live bait when a marlin comes up to inspect the trolled lures is highly effective as well. At times, marlin become satiated with deep-water forage such as squid and will refuse even the best live bait on the surface. Striped marlin usually peak in May or June on theEast Cape. They can be caught throughout the summer and fall but when the sea temperature climbs into the mid-80-degree range they can become sluggish feeders and anglers will start seeing more than hooking. Overall, trolled lures still account for about 50 percent of the catch.
Blue marlin, averaging 200 to 450 pounds, appear in good numbers by July and feed in these prolific waters through October. As in most of its tropical range, blues usually roam the 1000-fathom curve where fast-trolling lures is a proven method of finding them. In these waters, however, it is not unusual to also encounter blue marlin at coastal locations such as the 88-Fathom Bank andLosFrailesCanyon.
Black marlin are not as common on the East Cape as stripers or blues but can be found near banks and seamounts during late summer and fall. Larger bait such as bonito, black skipjack and yellowfin tuna are the baits of choice. Local skippers use good sonar equipment to locate the deep schools of bait that attract and hold marlin. The East Cape has produced some big fish exceeding 900 pounds. TheLosFrailesCanyonis a top location and the black marlin are taken with trolled lures as well as live bait there.
Sailfish peak from August to October. They can be found in large concentrations at times as they feed on sardinas near the surface. Frigate birds, or “tijeretas” sweeping down to feed will often give away their location. Sailfish will enter relatively shallow water and have surprised many inshore anglers. In fact, there have been documented sailfish catches by local shore anglers using handlines from rocky promontories. Other blue water pelagics include yellowfin tuna, dorado and wahoo. Collectively, these middleweights attract a high percentage of anglers yet billfishing, especially for striped marlin, remains the top draw.
Hotel Punta Colorada bills itself as the “Roosterfish Capital of the World” which is often an accurate assessment. The long, white beaches stretching south of the Punta Arena lighthouse is classic rooster territory while many fish are also encountered to the north at La Ribera, Tuna Canyon, El Cardonal and other famous places. Although lures will occasionally take roosterfish, this is primarily a live bait fishery especially for trophy-size fish exceeding 40 pounds. Mullet, sardinas, ladyfish, grunts, rayadillo, frigate mackerel, goatfish, cocinero, and when available, baracuta, have all taken roosters along this coast. Slow trolling baits from a panga close to shore is a favored technique.
Roosters will often show themselves as they rush a bait and it takes patience to not set the hook too quickly after a large bait is taken. With smaller bait such as sardinas a quick hook-set is in order. Big roosters are strong fighters and will usually make a long run parallel to the beach before slugging it out in deeper water. Roosters will totally exhaust themselves, especially when taken on light tackle, and will often come to the boat on their sides and may be unable to dive or swim. They need to be revived by holding their mouth open while the boat is moving ahead slowly to pass water through their gills. This may take up to five or ten minutes to get a fish going but it is worth the effort. Some fish just need to be pushed back and forth while holding the tail caudal fin for a quicker release. A minimum of 30-pound class tackle is recommended when pursuing larger roosters to reduce the fighting time and subsequent recovery period for these great gamefish.
In addition to good roosterfish action from May to October, anglers will find a variety of inshore fish on theEast Capeat anytime during the year. During the winter,Californiayellowtail, pargo and sierra mackerel are the mainstays. During the warm water months from late spring to fall, amberjack, jack crevalle, wahoo, pargo, grouper and cabrilla add to the possibilities. Although billfish may be the big draw today, the inshore gamefish were important during the early days of development on the East Cape. Bob Van Wormer, who owns Hotels Punta Colorada, Palmas de Cortez and Playa del Sol with his wife Cha Cha as well as the largest charter boat fleet inMexico, recalls his first impression of these Sea of Cortez waters. “During the summer of 1957, I came down for a two week vacation at Rancho Buena Vista and wound up staying for over three months working odd jobs for owner Herb Tansey. I got goose bumps looking at the steep desert mountains and deep blue sea,” says Van Wormer recently. “I caught my first marlin and ate “wild” food every night – fish, lobster, quail, whitewing doves, everything was so abundant. Every shallow reef was like marineland packed with tropical fish, pargo (snapper), huge grouper, and roosterfish. That’s how it used to be,” adds Van Wormer. The fish resource may not be as pristine today as 40 years ago but it has been surprisingly stable and continues to be productive.
La Paz is the largest port city and capital of Baja California Sur with over 180,000 residents. Its rich history includes tales of conquering Spaniards, pirates and pearl trading. More recentlyLa Pazhas developed as a tourist and sportfishing center.
Today anglers will find upgraded fishing fleets with deluxe super pangas featuring bigger outboards, fighting chairs, bimini tops, live baitwells and full electronics that compare well with the standard cruisers when it comes to comfort and efficiency.
The variety of habitats found close by, including the expansive bay, white sand beaches, offshore islands, seamounts, wrecks and deepwater canyons have made La Paz an appealing light tackle destination. Sailfish, striped marlin, yellowfin tuna, wahoo, dorado, roosterfish and snook are usually plentiful during the warm months. Several varieties of pargo including cubera (dog) snapper, mullet snapper, red snapper (huachinango), pargocolorado, yellow snapper and green bar snapper can be caught all year with large aggregations sometimes occurring during the spring. Californiayellowtail, amberjack, sierra mackerel, jack crevalle, cabrilla and grouper are usually at a peak from winter to late spring.
Most of these gamefish can be handled on light tackle up to the 30-pound class, however, in rugged environments such as wrecks and reefs a wiser choice is to gear up with 50-pound tackle to help avoid cut-offs. Even so, this range of tackle is still considered fairly light due to the challenging areas where yellowtail, amberjack, pargo and other bottom-huggers dwell.
A growing number of anglers are foregoing the light tackle action to concentrate on big blue and black marlin. La Pazis fast gaining a reputation of having the most reliable black marlin fishery inMexico. The blue marlin action runs a close second.
La Pazis surrounded by deep blue water and nutrient-rich currents) that produce an explosion of black skipjack, mackerel, squid, bonito and yellowfin tuna that are fed on by marlin. This reliable forage holds billfish from about June to December with a solid run from late July to October when the sea surface temperature exceeds 80 degrees. Although open-water blind trolling can be productive, experienced billfishermen prefer to work specific habitats for each billfish species. For black marlin the Embudo Bank, about 35 miles north ofLa Pazand 6 miles off the north end of Isla Espiritu Santo, is a good producer. Another good spot for blacks, which like to feed in relatively shallow water and are tolerant of the turbid conditions often found nearshore, is the north end of La Reina, a pinnacle on the north end ofCerralvoIsland.
Blue marlin associate with deeper, cleaner water more than black marlin and consequently tend to spread out over a wider range of habitat. Due to this dispersal, fast-trolling lures is productive and happens to be a standard method for most anglers, resulting in a blue marlin catch rate far outnumbering black marlin which prefer slow-trolled live bait. Hotspots for blue marlin include the remote 88 Fathom Bank east of Cerralvo Island, Cerralvo channel, “Yellow Bluff” on the northeastern side of Cerralvo Island, and with a clear current, the waters near the Embudo Bank and La Reina. Commercial shark fishermen set out hundreds of baited shark buoys anchored in deep water such as the Cerralvo Channel (separatingCerralvoIslandfrom the Baja coast). These buoys attract large numbers of dorado which create feeding stations for blue marlin. “They not only attract billfish but hold them later in the season and delays their migration out of the area,” says Richard Castaneda of Cass Tours.
Striped marlin and sailfish like all of the blue and black marlin habitat but will also concentrate in open water around schools of sardinas and mackerel. This is more of a sight-fishery as anglers look for diving frigate birds and pelicans as they work agitated bait schools as well as tailing and free-jumping stripers and sails. Blue and black marlin are notorious for their more covert behavior and rarely show themselves until they are tracking a bait or lure.
La Pazis known as a bargain destination due to its moderately priced hotels hugging the shoreline, bargain shopping (La Pazis a free port), inexpensive but excellent seafood dining and good public transportation with plentiful taxis and buses. Cactus-covered foothills, cattle ranches and dry desert heat contrast sharply with the blueSeaofCortezwith its remote white sand beaches, big game fishing and diving. There are several charter fleets and destinations to choose from. Most fleets have regular and deluxe pangas that depart from the bay and your panga skipper may even pick you up directly from the calm shoreline in front of your hotel. There are also pangas located on the beach at Las Arenas that have access toCerralvoIsland.
CerralvoIslandis about 16 miles long and 4 miles wide with a mountainous profile with peaks reaching 2,518-feet. Its scrub and cactus vegetation supports a population of goats and wildcats. Most of its eastern shoreline is rocky with a few prominent headlands. The western face is broken with intermittent rocky points and arroyos (streambeds) with small sand beaches. Along beachand sandy point forms the southwest extremity.
Offshore structure includes La Reina (Seal Rock) about 4 miles north of Cerralvo and Inner Montana Rock about 3/4 mile southward of Punta Sudeste at the island’s south end. Its underwater rocky terrain continues southward in depths of 30 to 100-feet before rising abruptly again about 1 1/2 miles offshore. This second ridge is called Montana Rock and is generally favored over the Inner Rock because it is near deeper water. Within ¼ mile it drops off to 100 fathoms and eventually connects with the 1000-fathom shelf that brings big pelagics such as blue marlin to its doorstep.
Cerralvo is like magic when it comes to attracting gamefish and Montana Rock has the biggest variety of fish in the region. Sails come in so thick at times that scuba divers often see constant groups going by plus marlin and swordfish. The wahoo swim along theMontanadrop-off and there are still lots of 100-pound fish around. They average 40-50 pounds. During the spring hundreds of big pargo or dog snapper (cubera) from 20 to 80 pounds gather atMontana, however, getting a big one to the boat is another matter. Pargo put on an incredible burst of power which is usually enough to cut even 100-pound line off in the rocks.
The underwater structure from the island toMontanais full of rock outcroppings, caves, valleys and sand which is awesome habitat. Divers say it’s not unusual to be surrounded by 100-pound amberjack here and anglers get there share of fish exceeding 70 pounds. Grouper over 400 pounds come into the shallows during May. There seems to be bigger cabrilla around now but the pargo lisa (mullet snapper) and cubera snapper may have diminished some. Roosterfish are still around in good numbers from schools of little fish to some over 70 pounds. The big roosters seem to travel in pairs a lot so it’s a good idea to troll two baits. They are found around both sand and rock areas especially if schools of ladyfish or sardinas are at the island. The white sand beaches at Las Arenas is another good choice for trophy-class roosters.
The great variety of gamefish at Cerralvo can create a tackle selection challenge for those anglers who want to be prepared for “everything.” Light spinning or bait-casting outfits in the 12-pound range, medium level-wind and conventional combinations from 15- to 30-pound classes and trolling tackle in the 50-pound range will usually suffice for bait and small game catching, popping and jigging or live bait fishing as well as blue water trolling, respectively. For the tough nearshore bruisers such as cubera snapper, amberjack and grouper, most anglers choose the heaviest tackle in their arsenal to have a chance with these powerful rock dwellers. Although live bait fishing is very popular, a variety of lures can also be effective from lipped swimming plugs, surface poppers, metal jigs and spoons to offshore-skirted lures for pelagics. First time visiting anglers should consult with a Baja travel outfitter for more specific tackle suggestions.
Regardless of what gamefish are targeted most anglers will encounter hook-ups with outsized brutes that will challenge you, your tackle and the small boat you’re fishing on in these prolific Sea of Cortez waters.
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