MAG BAY MUSTER
Mag Bay is also a great place for locating bird schools, learning to interpret bird behavior and what it means. Finding slow moving, almost stationary birds close to the water means they're probably on a well-formed baitball. High-flying ones are searching for bait and suddenly swoop down when fish are spotted beneath the surface.
Low-flying birds moving fast in one direction are usually following predatory fish that are attempting to surround and contain the sardines or mackerel into a seething mass which will allow them to feed at their leisure. Attacked from above and below the bait ball will whittle down one bait at a time until the few remaining baitfish instinctively sense their schooling behavior has failed.
Suddenly they flee in every direction with their attackers in hot pursuit. Seen from a distance, the bird school breaking up signals that the fish have already decimated the bait ball and it's not worth running to.
This is a great spot to learn and understand the behavioral characteristic differences between billfish and tuna.
Want to determine which side of the mouth the hook is in? Try maneuvering the boat so the fish is in one corner or the other of the cockpit — the side that the fish comes up the highest in the water column will indicate which side of the mouth the hook is in.
Practice your boat-handling skills. Big tuna dogging it? Instead of remaining stationary over the fish, idle slowly ahead to lead the fish, preventing it from swimming in circles under the boat.
The Trailer Option
If you are planning to trailer your own rig down, facilities and services have improved over the past few years. Both Puerto San Carlos and Lopez Mateos have cement ramps. The Puerto San Carlos ramp is located on the southeast side of town (24°47'4.73"N / 112° 5'34.65"W). While it is cement, at low tide it only extends a few feet into the water.
If you do decide to base out of Puerto San Carlos, a word of caution: The distance to reach the open Pacific is approximately 20 miles.
There are safe anchorages at Magdalena City and Belchers Point, including a small fish camp nearest to the Entrada. Usually there is plenty of mackerel here to catch for bait. This area is your best choice if the action is either out in front of the Entrada or down below Punta Tasca. There is room for a few boats to anchor at Tasca, but bait is hard to come by there. Boats with large bait tanks usually run up to Belchers to replenish their supply.
One more consideration is fuel, which may be purchased at Magdalena City as well as Puerto San Carlos.
If the action is north, (Thetis Bank and the ridge) the preferred anchorage is Santa Maria Bay, roughly 20 miles north of the Entrada. There are usually ample mackerel here in the anchorage.
Four companies offer some services here — Mag Bay Outfitters, Mag Bay Tours, The Fisherman's Fleet and Adventures South of the Border. Services on the island are sparse and range from tents to cabins.
There is a launch ramp and pier on the southwest side of Lopez Mateos (25°11'23.61"N / 112° 7'3.92"W). This ramp extends an ample distance into the water to accommodate trailer boats of any size at any tide. A word of caution — there are curbs on each side of the ramp extending into the water that can damage a prop.
The distance to reach the Pacific from this ramp is only six miles through Boca Soledad. If you have never been out the entrance, it can be tricky going through the surf. The best route is to head north across the entrance until you can see a parallel line to your left across the face of the swell without white water. Once clear of the entrance, a 225-degree course for 32 miles will lead you to the Thetis Bank area.
The outstanding offshore fishing in front of Magdalena Bay has taken on almost mythical proportions over the years. From October through December the schools of marlin, wahoo, tuna and dorado are consistently the largest found anywhere in Baja.
Conversely, the number of boats fishing here is minimal compared to other Baja destinations, creating the perfect proving grounds for beginning and veteran fishermen to fine-tune their angling skills while enjoying sportfishing of epic proportions. While improved, facilities are still primitive when compared to other popular Baja destinations, but that's part of the equation that keeps the crowd away.
Adventures South of the Border: www.asobonline.com
Brennan Hotel Puerto San Carlos: www.hotelbrennan.com.mx
Mag Bay Outfitters: www.magbayoutfitters.com
Mag Bay Tours: www.magbaytours.com
The Fisherman's Fleet: www.thefishermansfleet.com/the-mag-bay-experience
Gary Graham, the BD Outdoors Baja Editor, has more than five decades fishing experience off of Southern California and the Baja Peninsula. From light tackle and fly up to offshore marlin fishing, Gary has experienced all facets of this fishery. He's set several fly-fishing world records and in his first year as a member of the Tuna Club of Avalon, he received more angling awards than any other first-year member in the club's 109-year history. He's been involved with many California angling clubs and is the Baja California Representative for the International Game Fish Association. Gary's a conservationist as well as a writer and photographer. In addition to two books on saltwater fly-fishing, hundreds of his articles and photographs have appeared in publications around the world. Graham has devoted his life to finding new fisheries and developing new techniques — all of which he shares through his guiding, speaking, photography and writing.