Marlin Showing Off Baja

I first began posting my “Baja on the Fly” reports back in 1996, long before Bloodydecks was even a glimmer in the eyes of the site’s founders, Ali Huissany and Jason Hayashi. It wasn’t until September 2005 that I began posting my reports on at least two different BD forums. If you have an interest in Baja fishing, you probably have a general idea of the content of those reports.

This new column, “Baja Bytes,” will deliver detailed Baja fishing reports on steroids. What’s biting, where, when and who’s catching will only mark the beginning. In addition to all of the fishing action, I’ll talk about obscure places, unusual encounters, interesting Baja characters, conservation, current events, tournament updates, new techniques and plenty of insider tips. I’ll probably toss in an occasional “good ol’ days story,” along with anything else that attracts my attention on my frequent drives up and down Mex 1.
Yep, I still drive more than I fly. I just can’t see much at 30,000 feet. Cruising down the road in my self-contained Road Trek van is about as good as it gets. If you see a mint-green-and-white van with a BAJAFLY license plate, wave, honk or do something.

Now to the first report: Marlin Showing Off Baja

The Humboldt Squid are missing According to William Gilly, a Professor of Biology at Stanford University based at Hopkins Marine Station, Pacific Grove, California, “We have been studying the effects of El Niño on the squid for over a year now, and it has turned out to be extremely interesting. Small squid only eight inches long were mature and spawning in the Guaymas Basin in June — totally abnormal. Big squid were in the midriff islands in the summer and off northern Sonora this winter. Now they are nowhere to be found — we were just all over the Guaymas Basin up midriff islands area and found very few squid. Commercial boats have also been searching without success.”

In addition, Gilly observed that from February through March this year the mixed surface layer of the ocean has gotten steadily thinner — from about 300 feet in February to almost nothing by mid-March. Along with this change has come an abnormally steep fall in oxygen level down to levels too low to support pelagics at unusually shallow depths. Yellowfin tuna and billfish probably would have a really hard time under these conditions, because they would be compressed into the top 60 feet or so. If the bait in that surface zone is bountiful, you would think it might be good for the species. But if a fish can only breathe properly very close to the surface due to this habitat compression, this hypoxic stress might well affect its eagerness to feed regardless of the availability of prey.

In 2009 and 2010 a similar trend developed during the spring, but it was much less severe. This year is definitely unusual. These are features normally associated with tropical eastern Pacific water much farther to the south.

For the past several years, having the squid as a backup bait source when the sardina periodically disappear has been convenient. The first time that one of the captains suggested I use the squid was on a fly-fishing trip in East Cape. Since we would only be using the chunks for chumming yellowfin tuna, I was sure the pieces of squid would sink too fast to be effective. The buoyant squid pieces remained suspended in the water column much longer than the live sardina. Turned out to be one of the best chum baits we have ever used for the fly anglers.

Last week, Mark Rayor of Vista Sea Sport, observed, “I’m not sure about Cabo or San Jose but the squid disappeared from the East Cape last October and have not been back. Winter fishing has been dismal compared to past seasons.”

“The Sea of Cortez is turning over similar to what lakes do in the fall,” Mark says. “Earlier in March, while diving on anchors for inspection we noticed the water was warmer at depth then on the surface. Now it appears growth on the bottom is dying off, then floating to the top. There is a huge abundance of bait and we have seen large schools of jack cravelle, kawakawa, roosterfish and yellowtail in the shallows close to shore but they’re not very aggressive.”

Farther south, Eric Brictson of Gordo Banks Pangas reported, “Yellowfin tuna counts were negligible. Tuna were seen feeding and breezing the surface on the Gordo and Iman Banks, but only a sporadic fish was being hooked. The tuna are very line-shy, preferring to feed on the plentiful red crabs.”

“At this same time frame last year there was an abundance of giant squid in the region and anglers had success using the strip squid as bait for tuna,” Eric says. “This year the giant squid have not appeared, even though conditions seem favorable.”

As usual, the Sea of Cortez is a puzzle that has many pieces. After several months of unusually dull billfish action, conditions suddenly improved. Striped marlin began to show from the tip all the way to Cerralvo. Not overly aggressive, but plentiful. So is everything back on track? Well, not exactly. Swordfish have begun to fin, and more importantly, bite, with several good-sized fish landed at Cabo — a good thing, but odd. Even odder is the sailfish that usually prefer warmer water have arrived in impressive numbers.

The Sea of Cortez in March yielded some unusual puzzle pieces that demand more questions than provide answers. Got to love it! If fishing was predictable, it would lose its glitter quickly.

Thanks for joining me on my latest journey. I will do my best to be your eyes and ears for the Baja fishing scene, but it’s a two-way street, and I hope that each of you will be mine. Let me hear your Baja stories by emailing them to me at [email protected]

That Baja Guy-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 record...