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Hot week of fishing – big bonito, big bluefin, and lots of calico bass

Rockfish have been getting a bit of a break

Fishing in the cool of the night produces bloody decks and large bluefin aboard the Legend 3-day run to the grounds.
Fishing in the cool of the night produces bloody decks and large bluefin aboard the Legend 3-day run to the grounds.

Dock Totals 6/30 – 7/6: 4591 anglers aboard 164 half-day to 3-day trips out of San Diego landings over the past week caught 51 barracuda, 1954 bluefin tuna (up to 228 pounds), 3 bocaccio, 365 bonito, 2 cabezon, 5311 calico bass, 4 halibut, 3 lingcod, 1 mako shark, 1796 rockfish, 243 sand bass, 23 sanddab, 46 sculpin, 59 sheephead, 190 whitefish, 9 white seabass, 1 yellowfin tuna, and 426 yellowtail.

Saltwater: The holiday weekend brought excessive heat to the southwestern US, and great fishing along the coast and on the offshore banks. Just outside the kelp beds, smallish barracuda are showing up in good numbers, but the number of legal fish caught over 28-inches is very low and most of those caught need be released. Conversely, bonito have been showing in the jumbo size to well over 8-pounds just outside and near the Coronado Islands. Yellowtail have been biting on kelp paddies southwest of the Coronados, with many of those fish over 20-pounds, and a few pushing the 40-pound mark. 

Calico bass are being caught in huge numbers off the local kelp beds and those along the coast south of the border, with many anglers getting solid limits. White seabass have been showing just outside the kelp beds, with at least one out of every three caught being keepers. Like barracuda, white seabass must be 28-inches when caught in California waters. The fish are also biting well south of the border along the cool water trend that runs just offshore from Punta Banda to El Rosario. With all the great surface action inshore and offshore, rockfish have been getting a bit of a break, as is reflected in the counts.

To complement all that great inshore action, bluefin tuna are continuing to bite well further offshore. Though most of the fish have come from the area centering on the Corner south to the 371 Bank, a few large bluefin were caught just outside the tuna pens off Ensenada. Pangeros working out of Punta Banda are reporting lots of large bonito along with bluefin and a solid bite of kelp paddy yellowtail. 

Further south and along another cool water trend that runs from Punta Eugenia on the Vizcaino Peninsula down toward La Bocana, yellowtail have begun showing early in the season there. That inshore region where we often see yellows crashing on bait right up to the beach usually doesn’t start heating up until the end of July. The fishery along that stretch of coast centering on Bahai Asuncion is akin to that off San Diego, with calico bass and sheephead near the kelp beds and yellowtail cruising the coast, though the season there is about three months behind that of San Diego on normal years…whatever "normal" is anymore. 

The main difference between the two fisheries is the lack of rockfish off the Vizcaino Peninsula. Lingcod and vermillion rockfish are not common at all, but rather starry grouper and baqueta are the more common catches when dropping deep. When surf fishing that stretch, I have noticed it is also similar to San Diego surf fishing, except there are no barred surf perch in spite of there being plenty of sand crabs. There are, however, plenty of yellowfin croaker, California corbina, occasional spawning halibut, and even bonito and yellowtail to challenge surf anglers. 

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There may be no surf perch to stifle the bite when targeting corbina along the Vizcaino coast, but bullseye pufferfish are an annoyance when fishing bait, and in spite of toxicity, they are often eaten south of the border. Bullseye pufferfish are low in toxicity compared to other puffers found in warmer climes. In Mexico, they are commercially fished exported to the tune of 600 tons per year. Still, the toxicity may vary by region, and there have been 37 deaths in the past 50 years due to consuming bullseye puffers. 

I have tried pufferfish before, though a bit trepidatiously. They are very good eating, with firm flesh, but do not consume them unless prepared by someone who knows exactly how to do so. Though they have a slight amount of toxins in their skin, the majority of what can harm you is found in their entrails. Most folks here in Mexico that do eat them will cut from just behind the head to just past the anal vent, thus avoiding disturbing the stomach cavity where most of the toxins are found. Then they are skinned, washed, and prepared usually in batter and fried. 

The most exciting fish to catch from the shore for me is yellowtail. It is a rare thing in California, but the further south one goes, the odds improve of hooking up on them from the sand or rocks. There are a few spots around Ensenada where anglers do pretty well casting from rocky points out at the campos on Punta Banda, but my favorite areas for targeting the powerful and tasty jacks is along the Vizcaino coast and further south outside of La Paz. I have caught them fairly often in both locations seasonally up to 20-pounds, with most being around half that size. 

Local youngster with Paul Camacho’s 58-pound yellowtail caught from shore in Bahia Asuncion.


Though there was a 45-pounder caught off the Mission Beach Jetty in 2014, the largest land-based yellowtail caught that I have heard of was back in the late 1980s in Bahia Asuncion. Paul Camacho, now in his mid-90s, was tossing a lure from the rocks near where Shari Bondy’s La Bufadora Inn now sits and hooked into a 58-pound beast. That he managed to land it is in itself miraculous, and the photo is still on the wall of the little tienda on the road to the point that sells some tackle and lures. When I lived there on the edge of town, old Paul would often stop by on his morning walks and spin yarns, and like some of us who are graying, he would often recite the same tales. I never tired of them, though, and my favorite was the story of that big yellowtail. Wherever you wet your line, they’re out there, so go get ‘em!

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Fishing in the cool of the night produces bloody decks and large bluefin aboard the Legend 3-day run to the grounds.
Fishing in the cool of the night produces bloody decks and large bluefin aboard the Legend 3-day run to the grounds.

Dock Totals 6/30 – 7/6: 4591 anglers aboard 164 half-day to 3-day trips out of San Diego landings over the past week caught 51 barracuda, 1954 bluefin tuna (up to 228 pounds), 3 bocaccio, 365 bonito, 2 cabezon, 5311 calico bass, 4 halibut, 3 lingcod, 1 mako shark, 1796 rockfish, 243 sand bass, 23 sanddab, 46 sculpin, 59 sheephead, 190 whitefish, 9 white seabass, 1 yellowfin tuna, and 426 yellowtail.

Saltwater: The holiday weekend brought excessive heat to the southwestern US, and great fishing along the coast and on the offshore banks. Just outside the kelp beds, smallish barracuda are showing up in good numbers, but the number of legal fish caught over 28-inches is very low and most of those caught need be released. Conversely, bonito have been showing in the jumbo size to well over 8-pounds just outside and near the Coronado Islands. Yellowtail have been biting on kelp paddies southwest of the Coronados, with many of those fish over 20-pounds, and a few pushing the 40-pound mark. 

Calico bass are being caught in huge numbers off the local kelp beds and those along the coast south of the border, with many anglers getting solid limits. White seabass have been showing just outside the kelp beds, with at least one out of every three caught being keepers. Like barracuda, white seabass must be 28-inches when caught in California waters. The fish are also biting well south of the border along the cool water trend that runs just offshore from Punta Banda to El Rosario. With all the great surface action inshore and offshore, rockfish have been getting a bit of a break, as is reflected in the counts.

To complement all that great inshore action, bluefin tuna are continuing to bite well further offshore. Though most of the fish have come from the area centering on the Corner south to the 371 Bank, a few large bluefin were caught just outside the tuna pens off Ensenada. Pangeros working out of Punta Banda are reporting lots of large bonito along with bluefin and a solid bite of kelp paddy yellowtail. 

Further south and along another cool water trend that runs from Punta Eugenia on the Vizcaino Peninsula down toward La Bocana, yellowtail have begun showing early in the season there. That inshore region where we often see yellows crashing on bait right up to the beach usually doesn’t start heating up until the end of July. The fishery along that stretch of coast centering on Bahai Asuncion is akin to that off San Diego, with calico bass and sheephead near the kelp beds and yellowtail cruising the coast, though the season there is about three months behind that of San Diego on normal years…whatever "normal" is anymore. 

The main difference between the two fisheries is the lack of rockfish off the Vizcaino Peninsula. Lingcod and vermillion rockfish are not common at all, but rather starry grouper and baqueta are the more common catches when dropping deep. When surf fishing that stretch, I have noticed it is also similar to San Diego surf fishing, except there are no barred surf perch in spite of there being plenty of sand crabs. There are, however, plenty of yellowfin croaker, California corbina, occasional spawning halibut, and even bonito and yellowtail to challenge surf anglers. 

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There may be no surf perch to stifle the bite when targeting corbina along the Vizcaino coast, but bullseye pufferfish are an annoyance when fishing bait, and in spite of toxicity, they are often eaten south of the border. Bullseye pufferfish are low in toxicity compared to other puffers found in warmer climes. In Mexico, they are commercially fished exported to the tune of 600 tons per year. Still, the toxicity may vary by region, and there have been 37 deaths in the past 50 years due to consuming bullseye puffers. 

I have tried pufferfish before, though a bit trepidatiously. They are very good eating, with firm flesh, but do not consume them unless prepared by someone who knows exactly how to do so. Though they have a slight amount of toxins in their skin, the majority of what can harm you is found in their entrails. Most folks here in Mexico that do eat them will cut from just behind the head to just past the anal vent, thus avoiding disturbing the stomach cavity where most of the toxins are found. Then they are skinned, washed, and prepared usually in batter and fried. 

The most exciting fish to catch from the shore for me is yellowtail. It is a rare thing in California, but the further south one goes, the odds improve of hooking up on them from the sand or rocks. There are a few spots around Ensenada where anglers do pretty well casting from rocky points out at the campos on Punta Banda, but my favorite areas for targeting the powerful and tasty jacks is along the Vizcaino coast and further south outside of La Paz. I have caught them fairly often in both locations seasonally up to 20-pounds, with most being around half that size. 

Local youngster with Paul Camacho’s 58-pound yellowtail caught from shore in Bahia Asuncion.


Though there was a 45-pounder caught off the Mission Beach Jetty in 2014, the largest land-based yellowtail caught that I have heard of was back in the late 1980s in Bahia Asuncion. Paul Camacho, now in his mid-90s, was tossing a lure from the rocks near where Shari Bondy’s La Bufadora Inn now sits and hooked into a 58-pound beast. That he managed to land it is in itself miraculous, and the photo is still on the wall of the little tienda on the road to the point that sells some tackle and lures. When I lived there on the edge of town, old Paul would often stop by on his morning walks and spin yarns, and like some of us who are graying, he would often recite the same tales. I never tired of them, though, and my favorite was the story of that big yellowtail. Wherever you wet your line, they’re out there, so go get ‘em!

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