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Surf fishing Baja’s Pacific coast

'Tis the season for local trout and long range trips

Winter fishing blues? Fat corbinas and empty beaches await along the mid-peninsula Pacific coast of Baja.
Winter fishing blues? Fat corbinas and empty beaches await along the mid-peninsula Pacific coast of Baja.

Dock Totals 11/21 – 11/27: 1,830 anglers aboard 81 half-day to three-day trips out of San Diego landings this past week caught 1,020 bluefin tuna (up to 256 pounds), 1 bocaccio, 58 bonito, 1,182 calico bass (697 released), 12 lingcod, 109 lobster (75 released), 1 mako shark, 5 rock crab, 4,437 rockfish, 61 sand bass, 326 sculpin, 60 sheephead, 1 Spanish jack, 1,019 whitefish, and 152 yellowtail.

Saltwater: The season has turned to winter mode for the fleet. Though bluefin tuna from 40 to over 200 pounds are still active around the Cortez and Tanner banks within 1.5 day-range, yellowfin, yellowtail, and dorado have retreated south to warmer climes and are mostly outside of 3-day range. Long range boats working from south of Cedros Island midway down the Baja peninsula to the high spots south of Cabo San Lucas are reporting very good fishing on large yellowfin tuna and wahoo during 8 to 14 day trips. The Intrepid reported that their first long range trip of the season to the lower banks off the tip of Baja produced 11 yellowfin tuna over 200 pounds, with one fish weighing a whopping 392.5 pounds.

Though they have been slow from the Coronado Islands south to San Quintin, yellowtail fishing along the Baja coast picks up around the Vizcaino Peninsula near Bahia Tortugas, Bahia Asunción, and La Bocana. There, fish in the 15 to 30-pound range are being caught within a couple miles of shore, while further out on the banks, middling-sized 20 to 40-pound yellowfin tuna are showing with a few dorado and wahoo in the mix. That area is known as the Eastern Pacific Transition Zone, where northern cooler currents collide with semi-tropical waters and hosts a varied fishery with kelp beds and San Diego-like inshore fishing, while within 20 miles offshore, warmer currents still hold exotics. Though the inshore and coastal climes are a lot like those here in San Diego, the mid-peninsula fishing seasons are about three months behind southern California’s.

This is the middle of the ‘high season’ along Baja’s mid-peninsula coast, as yellowtail, tuna, and other exotics do not usually start to show until August, and warmer water sets in from September through January. Surf fishing this time of year along the mid-Baja peninsula can be phenomenal. Sand crabs are prolific and easy to find, and while there are few surf perch, corbina and croaker can be thick. Where alongshore cuts develop during hurricane-driven swells in the late summer, shortfin corvina, halibut, and even bonito and smaller yellowtail feed in the winter months. The latter two can be caught on just about any lure you can cast out 50 yards or so when they are crashing on bait just behind the waves.

If a road trip is in order and surf fishing is the goal, I’d suggest avoiding the usual winter snowbird crowds in Loreto and Mulege, and instead head out to the mid-peninsula Pacific coastal towns where the fishing is awesome, tourism is minimal, and you can fish all day on a stretch of beach and not see another soul. With normally tranquil seas, small surf, and moderate warm weather, the Vizcaino stretch of Baja’s Pacific coast is an ideal winter surf fishing destination.

Closer to home, rockfish, sculpin, sheephead, and calico bass will be the main targets for local runs until warmer water returns in late spring. On the beach, surf perch, corbina, and halibut are still being caught on sand crabs (where found), gulp baits, and lures. While there are still a few around, fishing for halibut during low tide can be good with access to cuts not reachable during high tide. Croaker, corbina, and surf perch seem to bite better during the last couple hours on an incoming high tide. This is also the time of year to start looking for spotfin croaker in the bays, as they spawn during late fall and winter months. Bloodworms and clams seem to work best for spotfins when they are in the bays. My favorite spots to catch winter spotfin are in Mission Bay along the southeast side of Fiesta Island near the dog park and ski ramps, and across the bay between the South Shores boat ramp and SeaWorld’s outflow pipe.

Freshwater: San Diego may be the home of the world’s largest live-bait sportfishing fleet and a world-class saltwater fishing destination, but ‘tis the season for trout in many of the county lakes. Lake Poway will be kicking off their trout season opener this Friday with 2,000 pounds of fresh-stocked trout. They will be closed to fishing Wednesday and Thursday to let the trout acclimate before Friday’s opener, otherwise the lake is open for fishing Wednesdays through Sundays from 6am to sunset. There is no state fishing license required, however, Poway fishing permits are required and available for $3 to $7 at the concession stand. For those who would like to get on the water, rental fishing and pedal boats are available. Check boating/fishing details here: https://poway.org/420/Fishing.

New Moon night fishing is back at Lake Jennings this Saturday until 10pm. As the lake is freshly stocked with 3,500 pounds of trout over the past two weeks, the evening bite should be good. Catfish are still around and love to bite after sunset, and bass should also be active in the evening hours just before dark. Be sure to get there before 8pm when the gates are closed for entry. Fishing fees run from $5 to $11, and a California state fishing license is required. Boat rentals are available, and some private boats are allowed. See https://lakejennings.org/see-and-do/boating/private-launching/ for details.

The Kiwanis Club of Santee will host the 2021 Annual Children's Fishing Derby at Santee Lakes 3 and 4 on Saturday, December 4th, from 7 to 11 am. Open to children in 3rd through 8th grades, the derby will give awards and prizes for the first fish, biggest fish, smallest fish, and for the most fish caught. Bring your rod & reel. Bait is provided. Children from 3rd through 8th grades may participate. All participants must have participant forms signed by a parent or guardian. 

Forms may be downloaded at https://www.santeekiwanis.org/childrens-fishing-derby or picked up at the Kiwanis’ booth at Santee Lakes on the morning of the derby. Parents may fish with their child without Santee Lakes permit during the Derby. Preregistration is encouraged and they will hold your child's spot should the event be overbooked. Pre-registrants must appear for final registration within 30 minutes of event start.

Tight Lines and Good Luck!

Fish Plants: 12/2 – Lake Poway, trout (2,000), 12/3 – Santee Lakes, trout (1,500)

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Winter fishing blues? Fat corbinas and empty beaches await along the mid-peninsula Pacific coast of Baja.
Winter fishing blues? Fat corbinas and empty beaches await along the mid-peninsula Pacific coast of Baja.

Dock Totals 11/21 – 11/27: 1,830 anglers aboard 81 half-day to three-day trips out of San Diego landings this past week caught 1,020 bluefin tuna (up to 256 pounds), 1 bocaccio, 58 bonito, 1,182 calico bass (697 released), 12 lingcod, 109 lobster (75 released), 1 mako shark, 5 rock crab, 4,437 rockfish, 61 sand bass, 326 sculpin, 60 sheephead, 1 Spanish jack, 1,019 whitefish, and 152 yellowtail.

Saltwater: The season has turned to winter mode for the fleet. Though bluefin tuna from 40 to over 200 pounds are still active around the Cortez and Tanner banks within 1.5 day-range, yellowfin, yellowtail, and dorado have retreated south to warmer climes and are mostly outside of 3-day range. Long range boats working from south of Cedros Island midway down the Baja peninsula to the high spots south of Cabo San Lucas are reporting very good fishing on large yellowfin tuna and wahoo during 8 to 14 day trips. The Intrepid reported that their first long range trip of the season to the lower banks off the tip of Baja produced 11 yellowfin tuna over 200 pounds, with one fish weighing a whopping 392.5 pounds.

Though they have been slow from the Coronado Islands south to San Quintin, yellowtail fishing along the Baja coast picks up around the Vizcaino Peninsula near Bahia Tortugas, Bahia Asunción, and La Bocana. There, fish in the 15 to 30-pound range are being caught within a couple miles of shore, while further out on the banks, middling-sized 20 to 40-pound yellowfin tuna are showing with a few dorado and wahoo in the mix. That area is known as the Eastern Pacific Transition Zone, where northern cooler currents collide with semi-tropical waters and hosts a varied fishery with kelp beds and San Diego-like inshore fishing, while within 20 miles offshore, warmer currents still hold exotics. Though the inshore and coastal climes are a lot like those here in San Diego, the mid-peninsula fishing seasons are about three months behind southern California’s.

This is the middle of the ‘high season’ along Baja’s mid-peninsula coast, as yellowtail, tuna, and other exotics do not usually start to show until August, and warmer water sets in from September through January. Surf fishing this time of year along the mid-Baja peninsula can be phenomenal. Sand crabs are prolific and easy to find, and while there are few surf perch, corbina and croaker can be thick. Where alongshore cuts develop during hurricane-driven swells in the late summer, shortfin corvina, halibut, and even bonito and smaller yellowtail feed in the winter months. The latter two can be caught on just about any lure you can cast out 50 yards or so when they are crashing on bait just behind the waves.

If a road trip is in order and surf fishing is the goal, I’d suggest avoiding the usual winter snowbird crowds in Loreto and Mulege, and instead head out to the mid-peninsula Pacific coastal towns where the fishing is awesome, tourism is minimal, and you can fish all day on a stretch of beach and not see another soul. With normally tranquil seas, small surf, and moderate warm weather, the Vizcaino stretch of Baja’s Pacific coast is an ideal winter surf fishing destination.

Closer to home, rockfish, sculpin, sheephead, and calico bass will be the main targets for local runs until warmer water returns in late spring. On the beach, surf perch, corbina, and halibut are still being caught on sand crabs (where found), gulp baits, and lures. While there are still a few around, fishing for halibut during low tide can be good with access to cuts not reachable during high tide. Croaker, corbina, and surf perch seem to bite better during the last couple hours on an incoming high tide. This is also the time of year to start looking for spotfin croaker in the bays, as they spawn during late fall and winter months. Bloodworms and clams seem to work best for spotfins when they are in the bays. My favorite spots to catch winter spotfin are in Mission Bay along the southeast side of Fiesta Island near the dog park and ski ramps, and across the bay between the South Shores boat ramp and SeaWorld’s outflow pipe.

Freshwater: San Diego may be the home of the world’s largest live-bait sportfishing fleet and a world-class saltwater fishing destination, but ‘tis the season for trout in many of the county lakes. Lake Poway will be kicking off their trout season opener this Friday with 2,000 pounds of fresh-stocked trout. They will be closed to fishing Wednesday and Thursday to let the trout acclimate before Friday’s opener, otherwise the lake is open for fishing Wednesdays through Sundays from 6am to sunset. There is no state fishing license required, however, Poway fishing permits are required and available for $3 to $7 at the concession stand. For those who would like to get on the water, rental fishing and pedal boats are available. Check boating/fishing details here: https://poway.org/420/Fishing.

New Moon night fishing is back at Lake Jennings this Saturday until 10pm. As the lake is freshly stocked with 3,500 pounds of trout over the past two weeks, the evening bite should be good. Catfish are still around and love to bite after sunset, and bass should also be active in the evening hours just before dark. Be sure to get there before 8pm when the gates are closed for entry. Fishing fees run from $5 to $11, and a California state fishing license is required. Boat rentals are available, and some private boats are allowed. See https://lakejennings.org/see-and-do/boating/private-launching/ for details.

The Kiwanis Club of Santee will host the 2021 Annual Children's Fishing Derby at Santee Lakes 3 and 4 on Saturday, December 4th, from 7 to 11 am. Open to children in 3rd through 8th grades, the derby will give awards and prizes for the first fish, biggest fish, smallest fish, and for the most fish caught. Bring your rod & reel. Bait is provided. Children from 3rd through 8th grades may participate. All participants must have participant forms signed by a parent or guardian. 

Forms may be downloaded at https://www.santeekiwanis.org/childrens-fishing-derby or picked up at the Kiwanis’ booth at Santee Lakes on the morning of the derby. Parents may fish with their child without Santee Lakes permit during the Derby. Preregistration is encouraged and they will hold your child's spot should the event be overbooked. Pre-registrants must appear for final registration within 30 minutes of event start.

Tight Lines and Good Luck!

Fish Plants: 12/2 – Lake Poway, trout (2,000), 12/3 – Santee Lakes, trout (1,500)

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