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There is still a lot of confusion regarding the newly implemented requirement for all passengers aboard foreign vessels entering Mexican waters within 25 miles of shore to carry tourist visas, in addition to the usual fishing licenses that have always been needed by anglers.

Some have even suggested that every foreigner that comes to Baja California to fish will need a visa, as well. In an effort to get some clarification on this matter, I recently paid a visit to the main office of the Baja California Department of Tourism in downtown Ensenada and spoke with representative Marco Antonio Padilla.

But while issues involving maritime entry into Mexico’s coastal zone are still in the process of being ironed out, Padilla assured me that nothing has really changed for anglers who drive into Baja California Norte to fish or enjoy other recreational activities.

He explained, “From a technical standpoint, all foreigners entering the republic of Mexico have always been required to get a visa whenever they cross into the country. But because we have a local visitor-based economy, our coastal regions within about 100 miles of the border have been designated as tourist zones, where one can stay for up to 72 hours, or three days without the need for such documentation.”

He added that beyond this distance, just as at U.S. immigration checkpoints near San Clemente and Temecula, a visa is required to travel to farther points in either country. Of course, anglers and tourists who either drive or fly into Baja California Sur have become well acclimated to the visa process over the years.

Padilla summed things up by saying that, most of all, he wanted to get the word out to stateside anglers that there are many good sportfishing charter and panga operations in the Baja California Norte tourist zone between Playas Tijuana and Bahia San Quintín that are waiting for them with open arms. Anglers who drive here to take advantage of some of the best fishing on the northern coast can stay for up to three days without having to be concerned about getting a visa.

But if anglers travel to Baja California regularly and would like to stay longer or enjoy fishing farther south, they can simply purchase an FMM visa, which is also good for those aboard foreign boats venturing into Mexico’s 25-mile coastal zone.

Current Conditions

In current fishing conditions around the Baja Peninsula, the bottomfishing action continues to improve along the Pacific Coast of northern Baja California. Charters out of the Ensenada marinas are scoring well on a mixture of bottom species, such as lingcod and rockfish, as well as ocean whitefish, sand bass, Humboldt squid and even a few yellowtail.

Vonny’s Fleet in Punta Banda reported that panga clients are taking limits of rockfish, along with several big lingcod up to 10-plus-pounds, along with a couple of large homeguard forktails on the iron.

Down the coast in San Quintín, Capt. Juan Cook reported that a recent fishing trip with friends resulted in “lots of quality reds and other bottomfish on metal jigs, in addition to a few quality yellowtail.”

Farther south, at Bahia Asuncion, Shari Bondy-Arce at the Blowhole Bed & Breakfast indicated that the forktail action is in full swing along the Pacific coast of Baja California Sur. “2012 started off incredibly well, with awesome fishing really close to town,” she said. “Big schools of fatty yellowtail that make fantastic sashimi. The calm winds and mellow seas have made for perfect fishing.” From the eastern tip of the Baja Peninsula, Eric Bricston at Gordo Banks Pangas reported, “Anglers have been able to find live sardinas for bait without much difficulty and there are also schools of mackerel and sardinetas being found locally. The fleets were fishing in all directions; this past week there have been more consistent reports coming from the Pacific side of Cabo San Lucas.

“The striped marlin bite was most productive off Cabo San Lucas and the old lighthouse area, 3 to 15 miles from shore,” he added. “Scores of tailing billfish could be seen on any given charter, though these fish proved to have lockjaw at times. Different techniques were used with varied success — trolling lures, casting and soaking live baits.”

Dorado were being found in smaller-sized schools, Bricston said. Fish averaged 5 to 15 pounds, with some larger fish up to 25 pounds accounted for. Bricston concluded by saying, “Yellowfin tuna action has switched this past month from the Sea of Cortez to off the Pacific and Chileno — associated with porpoises most of the time, more often anywhere from 10 to 20 miles offshore. Most of these fish were in the 15- to 30-pound range. In recent days, there were signs of more yellowfin action.”

In La Paz, Jonathan Roldan at Tailhunter International said he is extremely happy with the way that the winter fishing season is shaping up, so far. “On the days when the wind blew, fishing was scratchy at best — but for most of the week, winds laid down and the little firecracker yellowtail we were catching around the holidays suddenly grew into the big trophy fish we usually don’t see until a month or two from now.

“The fish were in several areas. North Point Cerralvo Island held fish, as did the southern area near the lighthouse,” he said. “The fish were holding off the bottom, but could be enticed up with live bait or slow trolling deep-diving Rapalas or Yo-Zuri Magnums. The green mackerel and silver/black patterns worked well. Yo-yo iron in blue/white and brown/yellow also got picked up a lot on the fast retrieve. Other good areas included Bahia de Los Muertos, which rocked up some nice amberjack, but the fleet also took fish south of the bay in the shallow drop off areas off Boca de Alamo, near the arroyo. Most of these fish were taken on live bait and iron.”

Have a question or a hot tip? Share your input by sending e-mail to: livingbaja@gmail.com.

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