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Rockfish South of the Border

With the new visa requirements officially in place, a one-day fishing trip to Mexico just got a lot more expensive. The visa, which will cost anglers approximately $30 per trip, is required for anyone fishing within 24 miles of the Mexican coastline, and the message boards have been abuzz with complaints and proclamations like, “I’m selling my boat and never spending another dime in Mexico!”

The reality is that the vast majority of anglers are just going to suck it up and pay for the visa. The first of many visas that I plan on buying this year will be used on a rockfish trip.There is some incredible rockfishing to be found just south of the border and with rockfish currently closed in California, it’s a great time to head down and take advantage of it. In preparation of my trip, I met up with Capt. Jamie Thinnes, of the charter boat Seasons, to get the dope on targeting rockfish in Mexican waters.

“You don’t have to go all the way to Colonett to catch big fish, there are plenty to be caught a lot closer to home,” Jamie said.

“During the winter we run four-pack trips [trips with four passengers] we leave the dock at 6 a.m. and we’re usually home with limits of big reds and lings by 4 p.m.”

Seasons is a 25-foot Parker Pilot House, a fast boat which makes for plenty of fishing time during the trip. “I mostly fish the areas outside or below the Coronado Islands, so we’re usually fishing within an hour or two of leaving the dock,” Jamie continued. “It normally takes some looking around to get on the right fish, but once we do we usually catch limits pretty quick.”

When asked about how to find the “right fish” in Mexican waters, Jaime said, “We spend most of our time fishing in depths from 275 to 450 feet. If you fish too shallow, you get a lot of small fish and if you fish too deep, the passengers get worn out from all of the winding.”

Along with looking for particular depths, Jamie also keeps an eye out for other factors that affect the day’s fishing. “The biggest factor is finding the fish,” he said. “Just because you’ve driven to a particular hot spot doesn’t mean that the fish are going to be right where they are supposed to be. So, it pays to drive around and look for schools of fish.”

Once he’s located a school, Jamie will try to figure out what species they are and what they’re biting.

“If I’ve got four passengers on the boat, I’ll have each of them use different techniques on the first drop. One will drop a live squid, another a sardine and someone will fish the iron. You never know what the fish are going to want on any given day and this is a quick way to figure it out.”

Jamie advises against filling your limit with fish that you don’t necessarily want. “My main target are big reds, so if we catch boccacio or bank perch on our first drop, it’s time to move the boat.”

Bocaccio have voracious appetites and if they are in the area there’s a good chance that they’ll get to your bait before a red does. “It sometimes takes a bit of driving around to find the right school, but catching limits of big reds makes the effort worthwhile.”

When it comes to tackle, Jaime likes to keep it simple, “You basically only need one rod. I use a Shimano Trinidad 14 filled with 65-pound spectra on an 800H Calstar Graphiter rod. This set up holds plenty of line and has enough backbone to get a big lingcod out of the rocks.” Regarding terminal tackle, Jaime said, “I mostly just fish a single dropper loop above an 8- to 10-ounce torpedo sinker. A lot of guys like fishing a gangion, but one hook is plenty when you’re catching big fish.”

Jamie’s favorite way of targeting rockfish is with a jig. “A lot of guys use jigs for rockfish, but most of them just put a slab of bait on the hook, drop it to the bottom and wait for a bite. That’s not a lot of fun.”

Instead of using the lure as a bait holder, Jamie likes to actively jig for the fish. “Ahi makes a jig called the Assault Diamond Jig and it’s the only jig that I fish anymore. The jigs come in a range of sizes from 6 to 14 ounces and several different colors.”

Maximum Angler, carries the jigs. Just click on this link,, and it will take you to the jigs.

When fishing a jig for rockfish, Jamie stresses that presentation is key. “You need to use a jig that’s heavy enough to stay vertical when the boat is drifting, so the faster the drift, the heavier the jig you’ll need.”

Sometimes the drift is too fast to effectively fish a jig. “If you drop down and your line is scoped out at an angle by the time you hit the bottom, you’re better off switching to bait because the scope in your line will absorb any jigging motion you make, leaving your jig basically sitting on the bottom.”

The act of jigging is fairly simple, “You just drop the jig to the bottom, take up the slack [to prevent it from hanging up in the rocks] and bounce the jig using long vertical sweeps of the rod tip.”

For more information about charters or open party rockfish trips on Seasons check out their website at

Join me next week as I head back north of the border to take an in-depth look into targeting wintertime bass and sculpin on a sport boat.

Erik Landesfeind
Erik Landesfeind is BD's Southern California Editor and has over 30 years of experience saltwater fishing for a range of species in both California an...