2019 may be the best year I have seen for roosterfish in 30 plus years of fishing Baja. An abundance of bait fish helped attract a variety of species to the area. The sardines were large sized and plentiful as well. Some sardine schools had fish averaging 4-6” and were readily available at the Island and along the coast. Whether it was the abundance of baitfish, consistent water temperatures or sheer luck, the roosterfish were present and big this year.
Large and aggressive roosterfish were in several spots right from the start in May. The roosterfish were at times LARGE, with A couple roosterfish in the 70lb range landed, as well as, several in 40-60lb range.
Also landed were large jacks, a smattering of dorado and an occasional marlin, sierra, amberjack, pompano, pargo, cabrilla and other species. Most of the fishing took place within 5 miles of the lodge. Worth noting; Eric Pana had the first Baja Grand Slam on fly I have witnessed landing; 1 Marlin, 5 roosterfish (all over 40 lbs), 1 dorado, and 2 Jack crevalles all in one day on fly.
The addition of a jeep CJ-& has opened up land based trips for beach fishing for FFMEX. 2019 couldn’t have been a better year to fish the beach. Large roosterfish were prevalent along the beaches this year. On some beach days we had as many as 6-8 shots at roosterfish 30-60 lbs. Extreme skill and luck are necessary for landing a roosterfish from the beach, but the rewards are worth the effort. If your skills are above par, consider adding a day or 2 beach fishing for roosterfish and jacks.
October is an amazing month to be in Baja. You can usually count on a large variety of species, good weather, and light fishing pressure. The desert is green, in full bloom, and the fish just seem happy that time of year. This year did not disappoint. I am thrilled to report abundant stocks of sardines and mackerel, among other bait species, throughout the fall season.
As for game fish; tuna and dorado were the main course with a smattering of nice roosterfish inshore. A couple late season hurricanes passed south and north of the East Cape in October and made for a little weather, but not enough to keep us off the water. The few days that were a bit choppy provided some of the best, wide open tuna bites we saw all month.
Yellowfin tuna were schooled up in 3-4 spots and provided consistent action through October. These were perfect fly-sized tuna 15-30 lbs, and could be landed in 15-20 minutes. Larger fish were also taken on bait. The larger roosterfish, 30-50lb, came in the first couple weeks of the month. Small to medium roosterfish tested fly fishing skills in the bahia all month long.
Those who went out looking for dorado were usually rewarded at the buoys or found them mixed in with tuna schools. We started to see some good size dorado in the second half of October with some fish 30-40lbs. It has been a few years since we have seen consistent dorado in the 40-50lb class so it was nice to see a few larger fish showing up this year.
A few anglers added to their species list by gear fishing with great results. The pargo fishing was incredible. We boated some amazing specimens.
The forecast is looking good for the spring season. Captains are reporting good size schools of sardines spread around the island. Looking forward to some good fishing May/June. See you all there!
The 2017/2018 Season in Baja showed Baja fishing in all its glory. Good stocks of bait including sardines up to 6 inches, mackerel, skip jack and ladyfish attracted a huge variety and large numbers of sport species to the East Cape region of Baja.
By late June 2017, sardines schools started to appear between Cabo San Lucas and San Jose. The schools continued to proliferate up the East Cape and into the Sea of Cortez. Bringing with them awesome fishing. By October the Isla Ceralvo area was wide open for roosterfish, tuna and a variety of other species. The sardine schools held up through the windy winter months and were there to greet us in early May. Some tuna had wintered over as well and kept guests busy all spring. Most tuna were in the 20-40lb range, with some jumbos mixed in.
The inshore fishing was on fire as well. Roosterfish, dorado and jacks were abundant for most of May. Some BIG roosterfish were landed this spring, including one estimated @90lbs (sorry no pics). The Dorado, at times, were coming right to the beach and one was even landed on fly from the sand. African pompano also added to the action inshore.
The fishing action slowed temporarily just prior to and during Hurricane Bud, but turned right back on afterward. The storm also dispersed the larger sized sardine schools and left behind clouds of smaller sardines which spread up and down the Island and along coastal beaches.
The outlook is excellent for the fall season; Sardines stocks are good and tuna have continued to grow and provide action through summer.
October always has the potential to be an explosive month for fly fishing on Baja’s East Cape. Septembers storm season has past, water temperatures are warm, but gradually cooling. It is a time of year when a mix of species frequent the area and anglers have the opportunity to to chase a variety of fish.
The big news this fall was the return of sardine schools to southern Baja. Sardines first started showing up in late spring around San Jose and by fall were scattered along the East Cape. This season water temperature and conditions were relatively stable compared to the last few years and definitely helped the fishing., let’s keep our fingers crossed it continues!
This October was outstanding. The yellow fin tuna, dorado, and roosterfish bite was wide open. The return of sardine schools seemed to re-ignite the fishing, echoing shadows of the past and made for some stellar fly fishing. We enjoyed Calm seas and little or no wind through the month..
Tuna; yellowfin from 10-30 lbs were schooled up in several spots that held strong throughout the month. At times, they seemed to be anywhere and everywhere, popping up on the surface up and down the coast. Fishing sink lines with sardine patterns increased the catch rate, but intermediate tip lines worked well and some fish were even landed on the surface with popper flies. Some spots held larger tuna, up to 200 lbs, which were taken by bait and commercial fisherman. Fly fisherman wisely left them to it. Most tuna schools we fished held perfect fly sized fish which were manageable on a 10/11wt fly rod, and made for some tasty sashimi dinners.
Dorado; Schools of dorado were encountered daily and anglers often were tired out before the dorado relented. The dorado ranged from 10-25 lbs, and usually came in sizable schools. The clear flat conditions made it fun to sight cast and target specific fish using sardine patterns and popper flies for some great top water action. At times, we took a break from fishing, sat and watched these beautiful fish, sometimes tossing them sardines, like pigeons at a park bench. Commercial fisherman rumored of large bull dorado offshore 20-30 miles, but the action inshore was too hot to leave.
Roosterfish; The month just got better and better fly fishing for roosterfish. It started with sporadic encounters; a small school here solitary fish there, but each new day brought more roosterfish ranging 15-60lbs. By mid October we were finding fish consitently up and down the coast. Roosterfish were drawn into shallower water and flats by sardine schools close to the lodge. Lady fish already starting their migration could be found further south with big roosters chasing them on the beaches.
Although it was another difficult year for sardines, we started to see more stable conditions and water temperatures bringing back the normal order of change. The water temperature rose and fell with more regularity throughout the season than in the past couple years when they varied and flip flopped. For Baja, I would rate this past spring fishing season a 6 out of 10, but that is because it is Baja.
Most guests landed roosterfish on the fly and we also had catches of dorado, jack crevalle, skipjack, bonita, pargo and some gear caught wahoo. Not bad for a 6! This year I also saw some of the largest roosterfish I have seen in 30 years of fishing Baja. A couple roosterfish fish were pushing 100lbs. Seeing and catching are two different things, and these big boys earned their reputation for being one of the more difficult and prized sport fish to be taken on a fly
By far, the biggest challenge is landing one of these beauties off the beach on a fly. This spring far too few beach days were requested. I encourage guests to consider putting in the time to land a rooster from the beach. The payoff can be huge. Those who did venture on to the beach encountered fish. There were plenty of close calls, chases to the beach, missed opportunities, bungles, etc. These fish require extreme patience, readiness, skill and a lot of luck! There were some good size jacks landed from the beach, testing both gear and angler.
Sardines can make the going a lot easier by teasing fish within casting range. The last couple years have been tough for sardines, a subject of much speculation. This year we made due with ballyhoo as a substitute which helped get most guests into roosters. Sardines are the premium bait fish in the area, but it is the abundance of ladyfish that can bring in the big boys and the opportunity to land one from the beach. Although sardines have been scarce in recent years, mullet and ladyfish stocks have been strong. Large schools of ladyfish and mullet migrate up and down the East Cape beaches attracting bruiser roosters and jacks. If you are patient, following these schools can yield a chance at a trophy.
As the water temps rose in June, we saw a good dorado fishery open up with some quality 15-25lb fish. It was another strong year for wahoo and guests landed several on Rapalas for table fare before continuing the day chasing fish on flies.
As I am writing this, reports are filtering in from Captains about good sardine schools in the area. Yellowfin tuna, dorado, and roosterfish are fishing well. I’m looking forward to a productive October, and the return of sardines!
Check out the slideshow here.
Fishing Report 2016 October
Modulating weather and water temps made for an ever changing palette of species on the bite. In the first week of October we had large variety, but only a fair catch rate. We encountered wahoo, tuna, large roosterfish, big skipjacks and huge marlin.
There has been a school of tuna mixed with skipjack were inshore and could be chummed up using squid and fished for with sink lines and squid patterns. Also inshore small to medium dorado could be found at buoys and mixed in with the tuna school. The dorado bite ranged from good to sparse throughout the month but never caught fire the way you can normally expect in October.
The story of the trip had to be the big, and very big roosterfish. These fish have been around all season keyed in on schools of ladyfish moving up and down the coast. Warmer water moved most big roosters off into deeper water. There were fewer chances from the beach but some incredible action from the Panga. The roosterfish all ranged from 40 lbs and up with some in the 80lb range. These fish do not come easy, they have incredible eyesight and are as picky as a trout sipping spinners. We had 2-8 fish to the boat every day, with some heart stopping action. The fish were at times uninterested and closed mouthed, but when you got a player it was worth the wait.
Margaret S hooked into a 50 lb plus rooster, in accordance with IGFA rules attempting to break the 16lb class record. 30 minutes into the fight the hook came unbuttoned. A small handful of big roosters were hooked, only 3 landed but all trophy fish.
The North Wind has started to blow and should be consistent enough by November to make fishing difficult. As water temps cool, pelagic species follow warm currents out of the Sea of Cortez. In the mean time we will be getting gear ready for the Spring migration and dreaming of warm days and big fish in May.
Fishing Report 2016 July 7/15-7/26
Hot days and cool water temps in Southern Baja made for an action packed, but different summer season. Curiously absent was the schools of dorado we normally see this time of year, but the marlin offshore and roosterfish inshore kept us plenty busy.
We saw good numbers of roosterfish, big roosterfish along the beaches in July. Cooler than average water temps for July made inshore fishing feel more like it was May. Large schools of lady fish and mullet provided ample forage for big roosters and jacks inshore.
Most days the fish seemed lethargic possibly due to the full moon or perhaps a mating /spawning ritual. They could often be seen lazily swimming on the surface or paired up along the beaches. We watched a pair of good size roosterfish swimming along the beach among schools of lady fish and mullet without any interest in either. There were a couple days when the roosters did turn on AND SEVERAL FISH WERE HOOKED INCLUDING a behemoth that practically spooled a reel with drag fully engaged before breaking off. There were fish pushing 80 lbs surfing waves inshore. Large Jack crevalle added to the inshore action and a couple nice fish were landed from the beach.
Also inshore were large schools of milkfish, but conditions were not optimal for targeting them.
Off shore there were schools of Marlin; stripers, blues and whites (also known as short billed spearfish). The Marlin were much more aggressive and could be taken on fly using bait and switch tactics if fisherman were willing to put in the time. Yellowfin tuna also are starting to show in the area and one fish was lost by our boats.
Summer months is Baja are hot, no joke, but so is the fishing!
Tight lines, James
Fishing Report 2016 May/June
The new normal in Baja is that nothing should be taken for granted, except that change is inevitable and constant.
Unseasonable weather and water conditions combined with different, but abundant bait forced guides and captains to get creative. The time proven chum and switch technique using small bait like sardines or ballyhoo, was short lived when the ballyhoo supply dried up by mid-May. No sardines were to be had again this Spring in what can now be considered a trend. Ballyhoo are a poor substitute for sardines with their lethargic flight barely eliciting a response from roosterfish. Plug teasers are helpful both with roosterfish and dorado, but not something to rely on as a sole teasing method. Plugs help attract the fish, but will not hold their attention long. While the ballyhoo bait was available in early May, small to medium roosters were picky, but around.
This year the predominant inshore bait was ladyfish. Ladyfish might be the most consistent bait in the area, particularly given the recent fluctuation of sardine population. Ladyfish are a favorite prey for roosterfish, but as a bait, given more attention by bait fisherman than by fly fisherman. This spring the ladyfish schools are everywhere and big in numbers. It seemed like almost all the beaches had ladyfish and/or mullet schooled up inshore. The abundance of big bait brought big fish and, in my experience, this was the most consistent BIG roosterfish year in recent past. The trick was getting them on a fly.
Some of the best opportunities for big fish on the fly were from the beach. With a little patience, and a lot of luck, big roosters can be spotted and cast to while they are chasing the larger bait up onto the beach. The ability to cast large flies, 8” and up, with proficiency is an absolute necessity. Every few days in May and June we had big roosters cruising the beach right in front of the lodge, some exploding on bait.
For those sports not feeling confident or lucky enough to give the beach a try, it was time to do something new. After all small bait was exhausted and the plug teasing unsatisfactory, we began using ladyfish. Bridling live bait is something we have used successfully to tease billfish and occasionally inshore for roosterfish. This year it seemed like the roosters were keyed in on the ladyfish and were easily engaged. Smaller ladyfish worked best and we found schools of juvenile fish to the South. Within a week or so, the technique and flies were improved and we started hooking and landing fish. Being able to see the big roosters stalking and attacking the bait at such close quarters was reward enough. Some fish stayed on the teasers for what felt like minutes with repeat attacks all the way to the motor. Big, angry, fish.
There were enough dorado at the inside buoys to make them worth checking, and several guests landed 8-20lb fish. Wahoo were again abundant off shore, but difficult to target with out decent attractor bait. A fast trolled rapala in the am usually yielded a nice sashimi and dinner.One of the most exciting developments this spring was the ability to start hooking milkfish. Although none were landed, 4 were hooked and with a little work I see this becoming an exciting species to target. Huge schools of milkfish can be seen sipping the surface film through out spring and summer. Calm days are best, but quiet presentation and accuracy are essential for these spooky fish. A splash from a #4 crazy Charlie will spook the entire school in a flash. 20 lb fish are common and these fish fight hard.
I am looking forward to July when we will be targeting big bull dorado and hopefully see some marlin. Who knows, there might be a monster rooster fish or two to chase as well.
There are still some spots for the October trips 10/09/16-10/25/16. Please contact me if you have and questions or are interested in booking.
Check out the Baja Mexico slideshow.
For those who braved the hurricane devastation and threat of Dengue fever, the Baja bite was wide open last week. Sardines have rained down on the peninsula and with them came hungry fish of all kinds.
Our trip started at team Beulah’s usual Baja haunt. Flyfishing, by any other standard, would have been considered excellent but by Bahia Buenos standards it was so so. A reunion with old friends at the quincinera of a very good friend’s daughter made up for it. After much celebration, and a couple days of fishing, we decided to chase our commercial fishing compadre down the coast. The rumors of a tuna bite in the area had us packing up and heading out early. It proved a great decision and ended up being one of the most productive 24 hrs. of fishing I have experienced in Baja.
A pre-dawn ride, complete with ten miles of hurricane thrashed dirt road lead us to a primitive winter fish camp with some of our local captain friends. The greeting was curt; “Hay Atun?” Response: “Si …muchos!”, and he wasn’t lying.
A hundred feet from shore lays a blue hole and in it, 40-80 lb. yellow fin tuna were jumping and commercial pangueros had rods bent as they doubled over in exhaustion battling the big fish. We rode past the spectacle with Capt Texas confident we would find a more suitable sized fish for fly fishing. Ten minutes later it only took a couple handfuls of sardines to get the 15-30 lb. tuna popping. We had Beulah Opal 10 and 11 wt. saltwater fly rods rigged w/Serum fly lines at 350 and 400 gr., 20 lb. tippets and sardine fly patterns. The yellow fin tuna were hungry and plentiful. These fish are as beautiful and strong as they are tasty. They kept us busy all afternoon and we even had a few Dorado 15-25 lbs. come to our party as well. If that wasn’t enough sea life, we watched a 200 lb. blue marlin chase one of our hooked tuna beneath the panga. I know this all sounds too good to be true, but it got even better.
The next morning we were flying out at 2:00pm, but had a couple hours to fish in the am. With Texas’s convincing, we decided to stay in close and go for roosterfish. Again, it was only a couple minutes, a few sardines tossed less than a hundred yards from where we launched, and we were casting to roosterfish. Fish 15-60 lbs. busting all around us. These fish were aggressive and seemed not quite as educated as the fish to the North, which see flies all spring long.
We landed a couple Roosters, lost a few and even landed some large skipjack for commercial sharking bait. Within a couple hours we exhausted our sardines and it was time to get cleaned up and head home.
The ten mile ride down a dirt road into a primitive fish camp, along with the rides in beat up pickups and worn commercial pangas, was a throwback to old Baja and simpler times. The trip was a re discovery of what Baja used to, and still can be with a willingness to venture, explore, and trust the word of old friends who have fished these waters since childhood. Thanks to Texas, Mark, Marcos, Marisol, Hugo et al for laughs, beer, fish and friendship new and old.
Fishing is always good in Baja, you just have to adapt to what’s hot. The 2015 spring season was hampered by late winds and cold water. Bait was available, though not plentiful or large in size. The combination of these two things worked against the normal May-June fishery of roosterfish and dorado, but presented opportunities at species that normally would not be seen this time of year. The trick was to be versatile enough to change your target species and accept the hand nature has dealt. This is the wahoo year, they are everywhere; offshore, inshore, at the buoys off the beaches, you name it. We also saw numerous other colder water species like Sierra and Bonita hanging around in what would normally be outside their seasonal range. There were roosterfish in the area, but colder water temps made them sluggish and hard to turn on. For roosterfish, the best shots came from the beaches after the pangas went home. Cooler water had cold water species in the area all the way into June until Hurricane Blanco rolled through and shuffled the deck. Temps, post-hurricane have risen slightly and what we usually see in May is just starting to develop. You just can’t guess what Mother Nature will do, she’s a fickle bitch. Storms continue to build and head towards the Baja earlier than previously seen. With each storm, conditions change and bait can appear, and with it, a whole new set of species.
I’m looking forward to October which has been a more stable month for weather and water conditions in the last couple years.