The Loreto area was known as a two-species fishing season for many years – dorado in the summer and yellowtail in the winter, but that view is expanding as the fishery is explored more every day.
In his Mexfish.com report in WON in February of 2003, Gene Kira commented that “Loreto’s geographic location, sandwiched between the cooler waters of the Midriff Area to its north and the warmer waters of the southern Gulf of California, gives it two very pronounced fishing seasons on two very different and highly-prized game fish: dorado in the summer months and yellowtail in winter.”
Before the 1960s, the local pangas were wooden. After the 60s, the majority of the local fleet consisted of fiberglass pangas that were introduced to Baja and manufactured by Mac Shroyer, who along with his family, owns and operates the well-known downtown Marina de La Paz.
Now, in addition to fleets of pangas who are willing to guide fly- or conventional anglers, there are also a host of larger vessels, cruisers to take their anglers, and kayaks for the even more adventurous.
The summer dorado bite attracts anglers from far and wide. Hotels lining the beach fill up and Loreto’s large fleet of pangas and cruisers are reserved. Fathers, mothers, children, and grandchildren all join in the annual pilgrimage as old friendships are renewed, and new ones are formed among the many repeat visitors.
The dorado is the poster child of saltwater fishing, possessing the most fish-worthy of characteristics – they bite aggressively, they are strong, colorful, acrobatic, and they usually travel in large schools. Dorado (aka mahi-mahi or dolphin fish) will satisfy the saltwater angler’s need for action, challenge, excitement, or just downright fun! A one-pound bull (male) dorado placed in a large tank of warm water at the San Diego Sea World and given ample food, weighed 35-pounds just eight months later.
That incredibly rapid growth is a plus for the saltwater angler because dorado must spend most of their time eating. And they will eat just about anything. Some 32 species of fish, crab, along with the assorted creepy crawlies that live in and around Sargasso, have been found in the stomachs of dorado.
In years past, if you wanted to tick dorado off your bucket list, Loreto in July was almost certainly the way to do so. However, the dorado have been less reliable recently and local pangueros have begun targeting roosterfish, giant needlefish, sierra, pargo, cabrilla, and a host of other miscellaneous inshore species with great success during the summer months.
Fishing for Loreto’s California yellowtail that arrive in the late fall and peak when the larger fish arrive from January thru April is quite a different proposition from the summer dorado fishing for two reasons: wind and depth.
By mid-November, the winter “North Winds” can make getting out to the offshore fishing grounds tough or nearly impossible about three or four days per week, and once you get there, the yellowtail are rarely feeding on the surface like the dorado, but are down deep near the rocky bottom, where their short but extremely powerful runs cause a lot of tackle to be lost and a lot of cussing to be heard among the Americans, Mexicans, and visitors from other countries.
Several IGFA world records for California yellowtail have been set and broken over the years from January through April. Cousins of the famous Almaco jacks, the torpedo-shaped yellowtail can grow 18-inches in one year. Unpredictable, strong, and great fighters once hooked, they never fail to excite anglers.
In addition to its famous summer dorado and winter yellowtail, the Loreto vacation area offers seasonally good fishing for a very wide assortment of offshore and inshore species, including marlin, sailfish, and distant yellowfin tuna, as well as inshore roosterfish, giant needlefish, sierra, pargo, cabrilla, and a host of miscellaneous fish.
But really, these other fine game fish are not the main event for anglers who travel to Loreto, where dorado and yellowtail remain the foundation of a large sportfishing fleet of experienced pangueros, well-equipped pangas, and even a few charter fishing cruisers that operate from town as well as from the recently opened Marina Puerto Escondido, located a little less than 20 miles from the town of Loreto.
Visiting sport fishers along with permanent ones began to also explore the offshore areas with success. MPE held their first Robert Ross Fishing Tournament in May 2019 which attracted 28 teams in the Inaugural event from Mexico mainland, La Paz, and Los Cabos.
Robert Ross is a 20-year resident of the area who fishes out of his home at Playa San Cosme farther down the Baja Coast at San Cosme Development, and who has racked up many notable catches of different billfish that frequent the area. Plus, he has caught some huge yellowfin tuna, including a near-world record for the largest ever caught.
He is considered a voice of authority earned by his years of dedication to exploring the fishery, so it’s no wonder that the owners of the Marina Puerto Escondido honored him by naming their new sportfishing event for him.
Even though it was considered early for billfish, a handful of teams influenced by Ross’s success, elected to fish the area offshore. Although no large yellowfin tuna were caught, the few sport fishers in that area reported releasing more than 100 billfish during the two-day event.
John Sercu, aboard the vessel “Tag”, observed, “Marina Puerto Escondido is fantastic! The offshore fishing for billfish this weekend reminded us of the billfish action at Magdalena Bay.”
Unfortunately, the 2nd Annual Robert Ross Tournament was canceled because of COVID-19. MPE has scheduled the event for May 2021 instead, according to spokesman Stenson Hamann.
The expansion of the fishery farther offshore for dorado, yellowfin tuna, billfish, and maybe a wahoo or two is a welcome addition. There are already a few larger pangas and small cruisers offered as an option for anglers seeking more action, or in some cases a monster-sized catch.
Another option that sounds appealing is a multi-day charter aboard a 50-foot catamaran with all the amenities – sailing, snorkeling, or fishing while exploring the five islands that dot the Gulf of California waters off Loreto – Coronados, Del Carmen, Danzante, Montserrate, and Santa Catalina.
Loreto’s diversity can be sampled in a variety of trips ranging from a half-day, full-day, or multi-day trips.