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Magdalena Bay Hot Again!

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In my last Baja Bytes report, Mag Bay light’s up…, I featured the offshore fishing, concluding that after an inconsistent show last year, it was headed for one those banner years again that has made Magdalena Bay famous.

Because we are published on the Internet, we don’t have to wait up to three months to go to print. we are provided the ability to publish an in-depth “how to” story while it is still happening.

If you decide to chase your dreams and become part of the story in the next couple months, good luck. Let us know how your trip turned out.

El Wahoo Loco

After several shaky seasons, Magdalena Bay’s 2016 offshore season has started off with a bang. Bob Hoyt, Mag Bay Outfitters, began reporting exceptional results for his clients aboard his new El Wahoo Loco, a 50-foot Delta that began running 2 ½-day trips the first of September.

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Short, cryptic reports from locals of excellent wahoo, tuna and dorado, plus striped marlin (though not targeted) were already showing up in the spread, and adding to the early season buzz were reports from yacht sport fishers transiting both north and south past the Bay during August and September.

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“Left Cabo on Tuesday morning. I forgot how long these trips from Cabo to Ensenada are, with only 2 people aboard a 45-foot Viking. Fishing was good coming up with blue marlin, striped marlin, all the dorado we wanted and nice schools of 15- to 20-pound yellowfin and a yellowtail. I think Karma 3 caught all of the wahoo the day before we made it to the Thetis Bank. We raised 10 stripers in about 3 hours between the Thetis and the 23. They were chewing the dorado cedar plug all the way up as we weren’t even looking for marlin.”…Horace Barge, August 20 · Ensenada, Mexico

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Even the typical September parade of weather systems failed to have any significant impact on conditions as they passed.

SST’s from terrifin.com confirmed favorable Pacific sea temps holding steady in the waters outside the Bay.

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When the SoCal summer offshore season began to wind down, some private sport fishers headed south to the waters off Magdalena Bay. Captain Steve Lassley, aboard Bad Company, fished there for a couple of days before they continued south. The results of his two days confirmed other reports: 84 billfish — 82 striped marlin, 15 wahoo, 2 dorado and 2 yellowfin tuna.

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“Leaving San Carlos . . . nice to get the 130’s out; focused on blues the rest of today and will again tomorrow. Mission accomplished!

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Two for two on blues by 2:30 p.m. – released two of the four by 3:18 p.m.: update — lost one at leader and jumped another off. They were not males!!! (small) We’ll be back to do one more trip to Mag in November.”…Anthony Hsieh

I suspect that I’ve written more about Magdalena Bay than any other spot in Baja since the late 70s. That old adage “even a blind squirrel finds an acorn occasionally” certainly applies.

Many years ago, with my newly-acquired 100-ton Captain’s License with the ink barely dried, I was a Christmas guest on a friend’s wooden boat, a 48-foot Santa Barbara, moored in the outer harbor at Cabo San Lucas. Engine hatches were up, and the local mechanic at the time, Doc Ross, was giving the owner and me an assessment of all the mechanical problems the old girl had.

The owner and his family departed soon after Christmas leaving me with a lengthy punch list and a request that I return the yacht to San Diego as soon as it was repaired.

It took until New Year’s Day before Doc Ross had both mains and generators starting simultaneously and I immediately gathered our crew, Yvonne, Craig Miller, deckhand and Hector Morales, a local engineer we hired for the trip, and we departed.

Traveling at hull speed (7.5 knots), we turned the corner and headed north trolling a couple of lures. By the following morning, we passed Cabo San Lázaro beneath cloudless skies and on flat seas.

Somewhere near Thetis mid-morning, one of the trolling rods bowed, the clicker stuttered like a machine gun, and a striped marlin grey-hounded across our wake toward the horizon.

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Once the fish had settled down, we found ourselves in the midst of the most striped marlin any of us had ever seen! From then until the sun sank below the horizon, we were still seeing groups of fish.

Almost 20 years later, I returned to the offshore waters at Magdalena Bay in October/November with Baja on the Fly clients. We had scheduled a series of six live-aboard trips to the area and as luck would have it, the fishing was dismal. It seemed more like fishing southern California — if you saw, or better yet caught, one fish it was a good day.

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Notice the sardine school in the distance. No green flash though.

The following year we scheduled the same six live-aboard trips; we found bait ball after bait ball of sardine, all with billfish, dorado, wahoo and tuna in the mix, eager to bite. Fishing mostly on fly, the fishing was off the charts with double-digit catches of stripers as well as other species being the norm for each of the six trips.

More recently, the offshore bite has been sporadic as the amount of bait in the bay and offshore has seemed to diminish each year. Weather anomalies, overfishing and many other explanations have been forthcoming.

But now, some locals are hinting that the recent moratorium on fishing from Puerto Lopez Mateos all the way to the southern region of Punta Abreojos may have had a positive influence on the 2016 season. http://www.oem.com.mx/elsudcaliforniano/notas/n4162098.htm

Others nod their heads wisely and point to nature’s cyclical ebbs and flows.

Still others debate all of these answers.

My advice: don’t let this wonderful opportunity of experiencing the Magdalena Bay fishing that thus far has been a throwback to the good old days slip by you.

If you own a Sportfisher, gather your crew and go for it; it’s never been easier, and the adventure will remain with you for the rest of your life.

For trailer boaters, Mex 1 is in good shape and the few washouts between Santa Rosalia and Luigi below Loreto, are being repaired. There are few or no delays.

Once you are at Magdalena Bay, there are hotels, restaurants and other services, as well as launch ramps both at Lopez Mateos and Puerto San Carlos. A bit of local knowledge hereit is approximately 20 miles to the Entrada of the Bay from San Carlos ramp and fewer than 5 miles from the Lopez ramp.

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If you plan to RV on your boat, Santa Maria Bay is a good choice. According to Bob Hoyt, mackerel are hanging in 35- to 40-feet of water, about half way into the Bay, almost even with the Mag Bay Tours surf camp on shore. If you are coming out of Puerto San Carlos, mackerel has been on the inside of Belcher Point in 8- to 12-fathoms.

For trailer boats departing from Lopez Mateos, Boca Soledad is approximately 5 miles north from the launch ramp in the main channel. There will be waves across the Boca as you head out the entrance. Steer along the northern point as you head for the open ocean . . . there are fewer swells and waves breaking to contend with.

Assuming you have a GPS and charts to go with it, you will find the Thetis Bank roughly 230-degrees about 32 miles. If wahoo are one of your targets, the earlier you get there, the better.

Much of the best action for dorado, yellowfin tuna and billfish can usually be located by frigate birds and bait balls of either mackerel or sardine. High flying frigates are always worth a look. The run to the bank from the Boca covers some fertile water that merits careful examination on the run out for any signs of activity. Too often boats can be seen rushing to one bank or another, missing obvious signs of activity that should be explored.

If you are heading up from Santa Maria Bay, after you have gone around the corner and you are in open water, the course is approximately 305-degrees and 22 miles. Often on that line you will find feeding fish on the 100-fathom curve; again look around as you are running toward the bank.

It is not uncommon to find pangas on the high-spot with free divers in the water searching for free swimming wahoo. It only takes a couple of divers in the water to make it impossible to troll the spot. If that happens we usually continue up the line until we find another high-spot without free divers.

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Another tip: many of the boats fishing this year have basically been using a couple of squid-chains and dropping back bait when the fish show in the pattern.

You don’t have to reinvent the wheel here, just relax and have fun on your own boat.

I promise, assuming the volume holds up through November, those of you who get there will return home with improved skills honed by the daily double- or triple-digit shots you experience during your trip.

For the ones who either don’t own a boat or prefer to charter, there are a number of operations and individuals listed below who are eager to provide whatever services you need to experience one of the most legendary and prolific fisheries on Baja’s west coast.

Links to other Magdalena Bay Features
WATER-LOGGED OF MAGDALENA BAY
MAGDALENA BAY – BAJA’S LAST FRONTIER PART 1
MAGDALENA BAY REMAINS REMOTE
MAG BAY UNDER SIEGE
MAG BAY MUSTER

Information you may need to know

Discover Baja, http://www.discoverbaja.com/
Vagabundos Del Mar, http://www.vagabundos.com/
http://www.californiasportfishing.org/temporary-importation-permit

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Ensenada is Mexico’s first port of entry for vessels entering from the U.S. so it’s important that everybody understands what documents are required,” cautions Arnulfo “Fito” Espinoza R., the bilingual Dockmaster. He points future visitors to the San Diego Conapesca office webpage (www.sportfishinginmexico.com) for “important information” that everybody needs to observe before journeying below the border.

Puerto San Carlos, BCS
Hotel Brennan
Enrique Soto, Puerto San Carlos Sportfishing +521 613 111 0587
David Jones, USA: 1- 408-884-3932 [email protected] http://www.fishermensfleet.com/mag-bay.html

Lopez Mateos, BCS
Bob Hoyt http://www.magbayoutfitters.com/ ground transportation, yacht services, guide service for yachts entering Mag Bay, marine fuel, panga rentals, charter boats and multi-day trips aboard boats up to 52-feet, airplane landings in Lopez Mateos, guided fly-fishing trips, whale watching and Eco tours.
Sergio Garcia Tapia, +52 613-11-1-7186, [email protected], http://magbaysportfishing.com/ Panga trips and guiding.
Mag Bay Tours http://magbaytours.com/ 202-642-6386 Sportfishing and camping.
Success Sportfishing, Owner/Operator, Cary Dodson, (760) 230-6331, http://successsportfishing.com/magdalena-bay/ Multi-day charters, [email protected]

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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.