A Different Type Of Baja Fishing
I have been traveling up and down the Baja Peninsula since I was in my late teens. In the last 20 years I have seen a lot of change, but one thing remains constant — you’ll always find great people and great fishing in Mexico. These trips usually entail towing a small boat to places like San Quintin, Mulege or Loreto. As we got older, we did more and more fly-down and yacht trips. My favorite trips, however, have always been the ones we did ourselves — from our own boats.
About seven years ago a buddy of mine from the BD fishing forums invited me on a trip to Abreojos and La Bocana. These two spots lie 12 miles from each other about 600 miles south of the border. Located at the top of the famous Ridge, they’re right in the middle of some of the most prolific waters in Baja. On that particular trip we towed down my skiff in late December and had an awesome time catching tonnage of big yellowtail and calico bass. Since then, I’ve always wanted to get back but just haven’t made it happen.
Then I got a call from my good buddy Julio Meza, saying it was time to go again. Julio is a Mexican farmer in the San Quintin Valley who grows cucumbers and strawberries for U.S. customers like Subway and Costco.
Baja Grouper Fishing
Julio is an absolute grouper and yellowtail nut and on his last trip to Abreojos he left his 31-foot Contender there so we could fly in and fish a couple of quick trips.
That phone call was all it took and we started to make plans. It would be myself, Julio, his buddy Aristeo Canelas and Julio’s nephew Elias. We left the day after Christmas. Aristeo and I took a private charter plane out of Ensenada, picked up Julio in San Quintin and headed south to Abreojos.
Everything went as smooth as silk and just 2.5 hours later (as opposed to 13 hours of driving) we touched down on the dirt runway at Abreojos. Several of Julio’s local buddies met up with us and began preparing for the next day’s fishing.
The mission was simple, target three species of groupers for the first couple of days and then spend a day chasing the mass of yellowtail that call the area home.
Thanks to the lobbying of Julio and his friends, the cooperativas no longer buy ANY grouper for commercial sale. This has really helped the populations rebound and ensure healthy stocks for many years to come. Julio made it clear that we would take just one fish to eat and release the rest — that was fine with us.
Julio is also a Shimano distributor so we used all top gear, including Talica and Trinidad A reels matched with Terez rods. Most of the fishing would take place in water from 35 to 75 feet so Spectra, tight drags and stout rods would be the rule.
To hedge our bet, Julio enlisted the services of a couple of the local abalone divers who also skipper sportfishing trips. These guys dive the local waters daily and keep a bead on where the fish are. They brought along their handheld GPS units with all of the recent hot spots locked and loaded.
A couple of local guests joined us on the boat each day. Julio is a very generous guy and really takes care of the locals, and they treat him like a saint. On day one Capt. Rigo Zuñiga captained the boat and we had the head of the commercial fishing cooperative (“cooperativas” in Spanish) Antonio Zuniga and his teenage son on board.
We struggled to make bait but once we found enough to fish with, it didn’t take long to hook up. We dropped the baits at our first spot scored a double hook up on some big local groupers in just a few minutes. Me and Antonio began pulling for all we were worth. About 10 minutes later the first fish showed up on the surface — a huge 185-pound-class black sea bass! As this would be our one keeper, the boys quickly pulled the behemoth aboard while I continued to fight my fish.
About 10 minutes later I hauled in an even larger specimen! We estimated the size of my fish at about 225-pounds and quickly released him. Watching a fish of that size swim off strong and healthy was truly a great sight.
I have to say, the strength and fight of this black sea bass was really incredible. I have caught smaller models and seen larger ones, but none of them pulled like this beast. This fish really fought like a big cow tuna, but didn’t have the same long battle.
After the obligatory high fives and photos we went right back to work. We hopped from rock pile to rock pile never getting more than three miles offshore.
About an hour later I struck gold again with a monster bite on the giant jacksmelt I was fishing. It was clear from the get-go that this was another nice grouper. After about a 15-minute tussle the huge broomtail grouper came into site. We wired the fish and pulled him into the boat for a few photos and sent him back to his home.
This was a special fish for me. I’ve been targeting groupers in the Sea of Cortez for years but have never landed one anywhere near this size. It was truly the fish of a lifetime — I was stoked.
We continued to rock-hop down the coast. A couple of hours later it was Aristeo’s turn. After another epic tug of war in shallow water he wrenched yet another fat broomtail grouper to the boat. This was another awesome fish, almost identical to the first.
We spent the rest of the day fishing from spot to spot, landing one more 30-pound gulf grouper and about a million sand bass. The amount of bass in this area is amazing!
Elias, Julio’s 10-year-old nephew fished for sandies from the bow all day and easily released 100 fish with probably a 4-pound average, including several pushing the 10-pound mark!
Fishing slowed on day two with just a handful of bites late in the afternoon that we were unable to connect with or lost to the rocks. The fish definitely won that day. We licked our wounds and headed up the coast to spend the night with friends in La Bocana.
We met up with our friends Juanchy, Domingo and Jouquin Aguliar at a little restaurant and were treated to a nonstop flow of great seafood and even a fried turkey.
We ran north of La Bocana on our third day, looking for the giant schools of yellowtail that roam the area. After about an hour of searching we found the mother load — birds, bait, dolphin and yellowtail going ballistic tearing up massive balls of bait.
We slid into a few of the piles but they didn’t bite. That didn’t last long. We finally hit the right one and it was game on. We made a two-hour drift that produced over 25 yellowtail ranging from 6 to 30 pounds, with the majority in the high teens.
After the bite petered out, we picked up and made the short run back to La Bocana to pull the boat and get ready to head home. The Aguillar boys were waiting for us with the trailer and we were gone in no time.
After a 30-minute ride back to the Abreojos airstrip we were once again on our way back up the coast.
This trip reminded me of all the things I love about Baja. We had a fantastic time, but the new friends, great fishing and all the laughs are what I will remember most.
With all the negative press on Mexico border towns, it’s really nice to get back to the real Baja and enjoy all it has to offer. If you haven’t been to Mexico in a while, maybe it’s time to start planning a trip. The good times and great fishing are waiting for you!