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Surf perch bonanza in San Quintin

Like the days of John Wayne, John Ford

Huge 3-pound barred surf perch caught while fishing the beach south of San Quintin near Cielito Lindo Motel, Baja California.
Huge 3-pound barred surf perch caught while fishing the beach south of San Quintin near Cielito Lindo Motel, Baja California.

Dock Totals 7/3 – 7/9: 3,950 anglers aboard 162 half-day to 3-day trips out of San Diego landings this past week caught 961 barracuda, 83 bluefin tuna (to 70 pounds), 676 bonito, 2,625 calico bass, 273 dorado, 8 halibut, 16 lingcod, 2 rock sole, 1,954 rockfish, 113 sand bass, 1 sanddab, 111 sculpin, 113 sheephead, 4 treefish, 44 triggerfish, 248 whitefish, 5 white seabass, 241 yellowfin tuna, and 3,048 yellowtail.

Saltwater: Spring was highlighted by a phenomenal bluefin bite that moved slowly north until within range of full-day boats but the bite tapered off rapidly. Most of the tuna caught were under 100 pounds. Two weeks ago, the weekly count of bluefin dropped from the thousands to a couple hundred as the fish moved north and offshore, following the cooler water they prefer. Though a few bluefin are still being caught, the season seems to have turned for the fleet fishing south of the border.

Calico bass, white seabass, barracuda, and bonito are biting well along coastal and island kelp beds. In spite of the lethargic bluefin bite after a wild spring, summer is looking good for the fleet.

The past couple weeks have been very good for anglers fishing the beaches and bays on foot, kayak and small boats, with halibut and spotted bay bass biting well inside San Diego and Mission bays, and surf perch and corbina are feeding in the surf zone. Inspired by the turning season and after months away from the ocean, I decided it was time for a surf-fishing trip south with my wingman Flash Gordon. The beaches of San Quintin were once a mecca for anglers targeting barred surf perch, and the rustic hide-away motel Cielito Lindo just south of San Quintin was our destination.

Cielito Lindo was built in the late 1960s by Hollywood producer Mark Armistead as a get-away for him and his friends five years before the highway was paved. There was a small airstrip for access, and visitors included John Wayne, John Ford and other notables who would fly down to a fan- and paparazzi-less freedom they could not find if fishing any southern California beach. Here, they would party and fish, catching pan-sized surf perch and drive dune buggies. The Hollywood crowd bailed when the highway was paved in 1973 and throngs of gringos began venturing south of Ensenada.

I stumbled across Cielito Lindo while searching for a place to spend some time fishing and writing in early 2015. I wanted to find a location that offered access to good surf, kayak, inshore, and offshore fishing. The San Quintin area has all that, and being mostly a farming community, the fishing is underrated. The main fishing attraction here is centered at Molino Viejo, located on the eastern side of the upper San Quintin Bay. From there, several fishing operations take clients out to fish high spots and San Martin Island. It is notable for its white seabass fishery, but is also very good for yellowtail, rockfish, calico bass, and halibut. In the summer, tuna often move into an area that includes the 240, a popular high spot with the San Diego long range fleet about 160 miles south of the border and about 20 miles out of San Quintin Bay.

Since I caught my personal best white seabass at 55 pounds and personal best halibut at 44 pounds – both by kayak within 200 yards of the launch at the bay mouth – the fishery is special to me. But I didn’t do much surf fishing. What little I did do produced decent perch and corbina, but according to the old timers, it just wasn’t anything like its heyday in the latter half of the 20th century. Saturday, July 9, I got a taste of the old-school surf perch fishing.

Using thumb-sized sand crabs dug from the swash, I caught over a dozen perch in a couple hours. By itself, that’s no big deal, but they were all very large perch by SoCal surf fishing standards. I can now add another personal best to my San Quintin list; a 3-pound, 17-inch behemoth barred surf perch. Every perch I caught was three-quarters of a pound and up, with a couple just over two-pounds, and the big one. If this is what it was like that in the ‘golden years’ here, I can see why the Hollywood crowd liked their hideaway.

Anglers have many options in San Quintin; corbina, grouper, bass, halibut, and even bonefish can be caught in the bay, and surf fishing can be great. White seabass at San Martin Island just off the coast, world-class calico bass, and yellowtail and tuna offshore are all accessible for excellent rates by the captains that run out of the sportfishing operations that line the road leading into Molino Viejo. At just 4 or 5 hours south, San Quintin is an excellent destination or stay over when considering a Baja adventure. I may be partial to this place, as my wingman was born here a little over 7 years ago, and I have now caught three of my personal best catches here. It is not a tropical touristy spot like those found in Baja Sur, but it is a fantastic San Diego-esque fishery relatively close and budget friendly.

They're out there, so go get ‘em!

Notable catches this past week:

7/3 – 29 anglers aboard the Liberty 1.5-day run returned to the dock with 95 yellowtail, 2 dorado, and 1 yellowfin tuna.

7/4 – The Aztec called in from their 3-day run with 20 anglers aboard with 148 yellowtail, 10 dorado, and 24 bluefin in the hold.

7/5 – The New Lo-An reported 44 dorado, 16 bonito, 41 yellowfin tuna, and 6 yellowtail caught by the 24 anglers aboard their 1.75-day trip.

7/6 – Great full-day fishing for 32 anglers aboard the San Diego, with 124 calico bass, 54 barracuda, 3 white seabass, and 1 yellowtail reported caught.

7/8 – Limits of 12 dorado and 30 yellowtail rewarded the 6 anglers fishing aboard the Daiwa Pacific 1.5-day run.

7/9 – 23 anglers aboard the Producer overnight run caught 105 yellowtail and 12 bonito.

Fish Plants: 7/15 - Santee Lakes, catfish (1,500)

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Huge 3-pound barred surf perch caught while fishing the beach south of San Quintin near Cielito Lindo Motel, Baja California.
Huge 3-pound barred surf perch caught while fishing the beach south of San Quintin near Cielito Lindo Motel, Baja California.

Dock Totals 7/3 – 7/9: 3,950 anglers aboard 162 half-day to 3-day trips out of San Diego landings this past week caught 961 barracuda, 83 bluefin tuna (to 70 pounds), 676 bonito, 2,625 calico bass, 273 dorado, 8 halibut, 16 lingcod, 2 rock sole, 1,954 rockfish, 113 sand bass, 1 sanddab, 111 sculpin, 113 sheephead, 4 treefish, 44 triggerfish, 248 whitefish, 5 white seabass, 241 yellowfin tuna, and 3,048 yellowtail.

Saltwater: Spring was highlighted by a phenomenal bluefin bite that moved slowly north until within range of full-day boats but the bite tapered off rapidly. Most of the tuna caught were under 100 pounds. Two weeks ago, the weekly count of bluefin dropped from the thousands to a couple hundred as the fish moved north and offshore, following the cooler water they prefer. Though a few bluefin are still being caught, the season seems to have turned for the fleet fishing south of the border.

Calico bass, white seabass, barracuda, and bonito are biting well along coastal and island kelp beds. In spite of the lethargic bluefin bite after a wild spring, summer is looking good for the fleet.

The past couple weeks have been very good for anglers fishing the beaches and bays on foot, kayak and small boats, with halibut and spotted bay bass biting well inside San Diego and Mission bays, and surf perch and corbina are feeding in the surf zone. Inspired by the turning season and after months away from the ocean, I decided it was time for a surf-fishing trip south with my wingman Flash Gordon. The beaches of San Quintin were once a mecca for anglers targeting barred surf perch, and the rustic hide-away motel Cielito Lindo just south of San Quintin was our destination.

Cielito Lindo was built in the late 1960s by Hollywood producer Mark Armistead as a get-away for him and his friends five years before the highway was paved. There was a small airstrip for access, and visitors included John Wayne, John Ford and other notables who would fly down to a fan- and paparazzi-less freedom they could not find if fishing any southern California beach. Here, they would party and fish, catching pan-sized surf perch and drive dune buggies. The Hollywood crowd bailed when the highway was paved in 1973 and throngs of gringos began venturing south of Ensenada.

I stumbled across Cielito Lindo while searching for a place to spend some time fishing and writing in early 2015. I wanted to find a location that offered access to good surf, kayak, inshore, and offshore fishing. The San Quintin area has all that, and being mostly a farming community, the fishing is underrated. The main fishing attraction here is centered at Molino Viejo, located on the eastern side of the upper San Quintin Bay. From there, several fishing operations take clients out to fish high spots and San Martin Island. It is notable for its white seabass fishery, but is also very good for yellowtail, rockfish, calico bass, and halibut. In the summer, tuna often move into an area that includes the 240, a popular high spot with the San Diego long range fleet about 160 miles south of the border and about 20 miles out of San Quintin Bay.

Since I caught my personal best white seabass at 55 pounds and personal best halibut at 44 pounds – both by kayak within 200 yards of the launch at the bay mouth – the fishery is special to me. But I didn’t do much surf fishing. What little I did do produced decent perch and corbina, but according to the old timers, it just wasn’t anything like its heyday in the latter half of the 20th century. Saturday, July 9, I got a taste of the old-school surf perch fishing.

Using thumb-sized sand crabs dug from the swash, I caught over a dozen perch in a couple hours. By itself, that’s no big deal, but they were all very large perch by SoCal surf fishing standards. I can now add another personal best to my San Quintin list; a 3-pound, 17-inch behemoth barred surf perch. Every perch I caught was three-quarters of a pound and up, with a couple just over two-pounds, and the big one. If this is what it was like that in the ‘golden years’ here, I can see why the Hollywood crowd liked their hideaway.

Anglers have many options in San Quintin; corbina, grouper, bass, halibut, and even bonefish can be caught in the bay, and surf fishing can be great. White seabass at San Martin Island just off the coast, world-class calico bass, and yellowtail and tuna offshore are all accessible for excellent rates by the captains that run out of the sportfishing operations that line the road leading into Molino Viejo. At just 4 or 5 hours south, San Quintin is an excellent destination or stay over when considering a Baja adventure. I may be partial to this place, as my wingman was born here a little over 7 years ago, and I have now caught three of my personal best catches here. It is not a tropical touristy spot like those found in Baja Sur, but it is a fantastic San Diego-esque fishery relatively close and budget friendly.

They're out there, so go get ‘em!

Notable catches this past week:

7/3 – 29 anglers aboard the Liberty 1.5-day run returned to the dock with 95 yellowtail, 2 dorado, and 1 yellowfin tuna.

7/4 – The Aztec called in from their 3-day run with 20 anglers aboard with 148 yellowtail, 10 dorado, and 24 bluefin in the hold.

7/5 – The New Lo-An reported 44 dorado, 16 bonito, 41 yellowfin tuna, and 6 yellowtail caught by the 24 anglers aboard their 1.75-day trip.

7/6 – Great full-day fishing for 32 anglers aboard the San Diego, with 124 calico bass, 54 barracuda, 3 white seabass, and 1 yellowtail reported caught.

7/8 – Limits of 12 dorado and 30 yellowtail rewarded the 6 anglers fishing aboard the Daiwa Pacific 1.5-day run.

7/9 – 23 anglers aboard the Producer overnight run caught 105 yellowtail and 12 bonito.

Fish Plants: 7/15 - Santee Lakes, catfish (1,500)

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