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Huge amberjack caught near La Paz – Want good corbina and spotfin action away from the perch? Go south.

Bluefin and yellowtail biting early in the year within 3-day range.

Rigoberto Geraldo Lucero of Tortugas sportfishing with his massive 90-pound amberjack caught while fishing out of Ensenada de Los Muertos.
Rigoberto Geraldo Lucero of Tortugas sportfishing with his massive 90-pound amberjack caught while fishing out of Ensenada de Los Muertos.

Dock Totals 2/18 – 2/24: 509 anglers aboard 24 half-day to 3-day trips out of San Diego landings over the past week caught 7 bluefin tuna, 9 bonito, 24 calico bass, 27 lingcod, 45 lobster (153 released), 23 perch, 86 rock crab, 475 rockfish, 755 sand bass, 205 sculpin, 5 sheephead, 14 spider crab, 134 whitefish, and 26 yellowtail.

Saltwater: As I am writing the report for this past week, I should mention a report that is not ‘officially’ in yet concerning my count dates, but I did add it as the fish were caught on the 24th. The Pacific Dawn running south into Mexican waters on their 1.5-day run with 16 anglers aboard reported limits of rockfish and 7 bluefin tuna from 15 to 70-pounds. This is exciting news as the first sport-caught bluefin tuna of the 2024 season by a boat out of the San Diego full-day to 3-day fleet. The first report of bluefin in 2023 was on March 20 by the Polaris Supreme on a 3-day run. 

True that some of the long-range trips to southern Baja have caught a couple and are seeing lots of good signs on their way down, but for our short range trips of up to three days, this is great news. Not only have yellowtail been biting very good early in the year off Colonet and San Quintin, but commercial fleets and spotters are seeing great signs of bluefin further offshore within 50 miles of the coast. This should bode well for the fleet going forward as long as conditions allow the trip out to the grounds. It’s still a bit lumpy out there, but the high spots off Baja are producing well and there have been some excellent calm days, albeit few, between the fronts coming down the coast. 

It seems everything is popping off a bit early this year, as I reported last week, surf perch are in spawn mode on Southern California and Baja California beaches down toward the end of their range. Sand crabs are thick here in San Quintin and the perch are on them. A couple weeks ago, sand crabs were tough to find, and now I see wide swaths of them, many with roe, all along Playa Santa Maria south of San Quintin. Reports from others up the coast indicate the same. Maybe the big south swell with the last front churned them into action, but either way, they are thick here. 

As you go south along the Baja coast, surf perch thin out then completely disappear before one gets to the state line between Baja California and Baja California Sur at Guererro Negro. Oddly, you can still find plenty of sand crabs south of there, California corbina, and spotfin croaker are the main predators once the perch thin out. Spotfin fishing is best north of the Vizcaino Peninsula, specifically near Santa Rosalillita, but great corbina action can be found as far south as La Bocana. We San Diegans are used to all three on our beaches, and targeting the two larger species, spotfin and corbina, often involves trying to get through the pesky perch for the ‘better bite’. 

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So, if you want to catch spotfin or corbina while avoiding perch, head south. I have done some of my best corbina fishing in Bahia Asunción, where there are sand crabs aplenty, normally small surf, and no barred surf perch. I have not tried Santa Rosalillita yet but have several friends who make annual trips there just for the amazing spotfin action. Santa Rosalillita is a small fishing village at about the same latitude as Bahia de Los Angeles. It is the town where the failed ‘Sea Ladder’ project was half completed and abandoned after south swells filled in the new marina. 

The ‘Escalera de Mar’ project goal was to have a marina and haul-out for sailors to be able to trailer boats across the peninsula from the Pacific to the Sea of Cortez at Bahia de Los Angeles, thus shortening the normal around-the-cape-route to the upper crystal-clear waters of the mid and upper Sea of Cortez. The road in from the main highway was paved, and power pulled into town for the Sea Ladder project, so it is an easy place to get to and has better infrastructure compared to most remote coastal villages in Baja. 

Bahia Asunción is about the same, paved all the way, has power and water, plenty of options for digs, and still has that old school non-touristy Baja feel. As things are changing rapidly in Baja, many folks are eschewing the old haunts that are becoming meccas for the new ‘overlanding’ crowd and resort-seekers, and are rather seeking out less popular places. Bahia Asunción and Santa Rosalillita are good options for folks who desire more solitude and less tourist-trappings. Both are also great fisheries for halibut from the beach when spawning, and even occasional bonito and yellowtail can be caught from shore.  

Further south, San Diego’s long-range boats are still getting great yellowfin action along with a smattering of wahoo off the Ridge, while dorado action is hot nearshore and even on the beaches near Cabo San Lucas. That said, the big catch of the week would have to be the 90-pound amberjack boated by Rigoberto Geraldo Lucero of Tortugas sportfishing running out of Ensenada de Los Muertos near La Paz. The huge jack was caught off a high spot using a live bait on a dropper loop while out fishing for yellowtail and sierra. Also known as ‘reef donkeys’, amberjack put up a ferocious fight and even landing a 40-pounder can test gear and an angler’s ability as they tend to run straight into the reef and are very hard to stop. They do get much larger elsewhere (the world record is just over 163-pounds caught off Japan), but for our part of the world, it is a monster. A good friend who lives in the La Paz area used to tell me they were ‘like a yellowtail on steroids.’ 

All in all, it’s been a great post-storm week, and fears of the weather shutting down the yellowtail bite did not come to fruition. 1.5-day boats are starting to run, it is beginning to feel like spring has sprung, and they’re out there, so go get ‘em!

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Rigoberto Geraldo Lucero of Tortugas sportfishing with his massive 90-pound amberjack caught while fishing out of Ensenada de Los Muertos.
Rigoberto Geraldo Lucero of Tortugas sportfishing with his massive 90-pound amberjack caught while fishing out of Ensenada de Los Muertos.

Dock Totals 2/18 – 2/24: 509 anglers aboard 24 half-day to 3-day trips out of San Diego landings over the past week caught 7 bluefin tuna, 9 bonito, 24 calico bass, 27 lingcod, 45 lobster (153 released), 23 perch, 86 rock crab, 475 rockfish, 755 sand bass, 205 sculpin, 5 sheephead, 14 spider crab, 134 whitefish, and 26 yellowtail.

Saltwater: As I am writing the report for this past week, I should mention a report that is not ‘officially’ in yet concerning my count dates, but I did add it as the fish were caught on the 24th. The Pacific Dawn running south into Mexican waters on their 1.5-day run with 16 anglers aboard reported limits of rockfish and 7 bluefin tuna from 15 to 70-pounds. This is exciting news as the first sport-caught bluefin tuna of the 2024 season by a boat out of the San Diego full-day to 3-day fleet. The first report of bluefin in 2023 was on March 20 by the Polaris Supreme on a 3-day run. 

True that some of the long-range trips to southern Baja have caught a couple and are seeing lots of good signs on their way down, but for our short range trips of up to three days, this is great news. Not only have yellowtail been biting very good early in the year off Colonet and San Quintin, but commercial fleets and spotters are seeing great signs of bluefin further offshore within 50 miles of the coast. This should bode well for the fleet going forward as long as conditions allow the trip out to the grounds. It’s still a bit lumpy out there, but the high spots off Baja are producing well and there have been some excellent calm days, albeit few, between the fronts coming down the coast. 

It seems everything is popping off a bit early this year, as I reported last week, surf perch are in spawn mode on Southern California and Baja California beaches down toward the end of their range. Sand crabs are thick here in San Quintin and the perch are on them. A couple weeks ago, sand crabs were tough to find, and now I see wide swaths of them, many with roe, all along Playa Santa Maria south of San Quintin. Reports from others up the coast indicate the same. Maybe the big south swell with the last front churned them into action, but either way, they are thick here. 

As you go south along the Baja coast, surf perch thin out then completely disappear before one gets to the state line between Baja California and Baja California Sur at Guererro Negro. Oddly, you can still find plenty of sand crabs south of there, California corbina, and spotfin croaker are the main predators once the perch thin out. Spotfin fishing is best north of the Vizcaino Peninsula, specifically near Santa Rosalillita, but great corbina action can be found as far south as La Bocana. We San Diegans are used to all three on our beaches, and targeting the two larger species, spotfin and corbina, often involves trying to get through the pesky perch for the ‘better bite’. 

Sponsored
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So, if you want to catch spotfin or corbina while avoiding perch, head south. I have done some of my best corbina fishing in Bahia Asunción, where there are sand crabs aplenty, normally small surf, and no barred surf perch. I have not tried Santa Rosalillita yet but have several friends who make annual trips there just for the amazing spotfin action. Santa Rosalillita is a small fishing village at about the same latitude as Bahia de Los Angeles. It is the town where the failed ‘Sea Ladder’ project was half completed and abandoned after south swells filled in the new marina. 

The ‘Escalera de Mar’ project goal was to have a marina and haul-out for sailors to be able to trailer boats across the peninsula from the Pacific to the Sea of Cortez at Bahia de Los Angeles, thus shortening the normal around-the-cape-route to the upper crystal-clear waters of the mid and upper Sea of Cortez. The road in from the main highway was paved, and power pulled into town for the Sea Ladder project, so it is an easy place to get to and has better infrastructure compared to most remote coastal villages in Baja. 

Bahia Asunción is about the same, paved all the way, has power and water, plenty of options for digs, and still has that old school non-touristy Baja feel. As things are changing rapidly in Baja, many folks are eschewing the old haunts that are becoming meccas for the new ‘overlanding’ crowd and resort-seekers, and are rather seeking out less popular places. Bahia Asunción and Santa Rosalillita are good options for folks who desire more solitude and less tourist-trappings. Both are also great fisheries for halibut from the beach when spawning, and even occasional bonito and yellowtail can be caught from shore.  

Further south, San Diego’s long-range boats are still getting great yellowfin action along with a smattering of wahoo off the Ridge, while dorado action is hot nearshore and even on the beaches near Cabo San Lucas. That said, the big catch of the week would have to be the 90-pound amberjack boated by Rigoberto Geraldo Lucero of Tortugas sportfishing running out of Ensenada de Los Muertos near La Paz. The huge jack was caught off a high spot using a live bait on a dropper loop while out fishing for yellowtail and sierra. Also known as ‘reef donkeys’, amberjack put up a ferocious fight and even landing a 40-pounder can test gear and an angler’s ability as they tend to run straight into the reef and are very hard to stop. They do get much larger elsewhere (the world record is just over 163-pounds caught off Japan), but for our part of the world, it is a monster. A good friend who lives in the La Paz area used to tell me they were ‘like a yellowtail on steroids.’ 

All in all, it’s been a great post-storm week, and fears of the weather shutting down the yellowtail bite did not come to fruition. 1.5-day boats are starting to run, it is beginning to feel like spring has sprung, and they’re out there, so go get ‘em!

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