contact us

About Tom Gatch

For over a decade, Hooked on Baja author, Tom Gatch, has built a solid reputation as one of the foremost writers and columnists focusing on travel and recreational activities in Baja and southern California. His company, El Puerto Creative Consultants provides professional copy writing services and creative support for business entities on both sides of the border.

Captain Hook’s Gallery: Baja’s Bountiful Billfish

Captain Hook’s Gallery: Baja’s Bountiful Billfish

Most striped marlin caught off the Baja peninsula inhabit the waters of Baja Sur, particularly off of Los Cabos and the East Cape. But they can also be successfully targeted by anglers who are fishing off of the Pacific coast of Baja Norte during summer, when they and a bevy of other migrating pelagic gamefish make there way up the coast to briefly visit the seas off of the coastal islands in northern Baja and southern California.

A freshly hooked striped marlin taking to the air off Los Cabos.

In past decades, trolling has been the most commonly employed method for finding and catching marlin, particularly when they are observed meandering around near the surface. On other occasions, trolled lures are pulled through an area in an attempt to provoke a blind strike. Live bait also works well, but it requires a lot more effort since the fish must be visually located before the cast.

When you are fishing for marlin with bait and feel your offering being picked up, it is important to keep your reel in free spool and gently use your thumb to slow the line release while pointing your rod tip in the direction of the fish. As it begins to swim away from the boat, count about 4 to 5 seconds before engaging your drag and setting the hook. Once feeding marlin are located, live bait can be one of your most effective tools in actually catch them.

Fly fishing guide Jeff DeBrown stands in awe watching his client catch the fish of his dreams, an East Cape marlin taken on the fly.

Over the past several years, however, the popularity of fly fishing for marlin has skyrocketed. The flies used for these fish are usually twelve to fourteen inches long, and come in various patterns that have been crafted to represent baits such as squid, mackerel, and small bonito. Don’t get me wrong, marlin will attack much smaller flies than that, but their hooks are almost always far too small for the really big ones.

Nonetheless, trolling is still one of the best ways to find the marlin that you don’t see, but it is always a good idea not to be fishing alone when you intend to go after one. An especially exciting moment for avid Baja angler Bobby Arms occurred when he casually decided to go trolling for dorado offshore just southwest of San Diego.

Bobby Arms with a striped marlin that he hooked and landed all by himself while trolling off the coast of Baja Norte.

During his lone quest to find a quality grade dorado or yellowfin tuna, he decided to troll a pink Zuker jet head lure behind his boat, but little did he know that it would be suddenly inhaled by a roving striped marlin. After a 40 minute battle, both he and the fish were totally exhausted as he grabbed the short leader.

It was apparent that the great fish would not survive their heated battle, so he was eventually able to shove his hand and forearm up under the striper’s gill plate and, after much frustrating effort, managed to wrestle the huge fish onto his deck. This placed him in rather unique company, since only a handful of highly skilled anglers have ever performed an amazing feat of this nature. Back at the dock in San Diego his striped marlin weighed in at just over 110 pounds.

While Baja’s more northerly waters host striped marlin a few months out of the year, they become far more prolific as you proceed south, finally achieving their apex of activity at the southern tip of the peninsula off of Cabo San Lucas and San Jose del Cabo. This area also offers anglers a seasonal opportunity to hook up to the larger and highly coveted blue and black marlin.

Fishing guide Jim Sammons shows his client that you can even catch marlin from a kayak in the billfish rich waters off Baja Sur.

While the appeal of landing a big marlin may be what brings many anglers to Baja, it is important that they remember they are a very valuable resource. And since the food value of marlin is limited, practicing catch & release is highly recommended. In some instances it may be legally required. It is also vital that hooked fish are set free in a manner that will allow them to survive after the encounter. For this reason, it is a good idea to use circle hooks, which tend to catch in the corner of the fish’s mouth rather than hooking it down the gullet as many ‘J’ hooks tend to do.

The marlin is one of the most avidly pursued gamefish on the planet, and Baja has been blessed with a healthy population of them. It is hence the solemn responsibility of everyone who targets them to do so in a manner that will allow this valuable resource to be sustained for generations to come.

 

Baja.com is a comprehensive online source of first-hand travel information for the Baja California Peninsula. We offer Baja travelers expert advice about local restaurantshotelsvacation rentals and activities, as well as guides, maps, complete event calendars and great stories about incredible travel destinations, from Tijuana to Cabo San Lucas.  We also provide free personal travel consulting, planning and booking services in Los Cabos, Todos Santos and La Paz, with prices that match or are below best advertised price. For more information, please call toll-free (US/CAN) 855-BAJA-411 or email us at info@baja.com.

 

Enhanced by Zemanta

Captain Hook’s Gallery: Offshore Fishing Aboard Baja Cruisers

Captain Hook’s Gallery: Offshore Fishing Aboard Baja Cruisers

The panga may very well be the most ubiquitous fishing vessel found around the Baja California peninsula, but major ports like Ensenada, Cabo San Lucas and La Paz have the luxury of modern marinas that can support fleets of larger craft designed for offshore ventures.

To be sure, there are a vast array of fish that can be caught from a panga, but these craft are generally limited to the inshore waters within a few miles of the beach. When it comes to pursuing more glamorous gamefish species such as marlin, wahoo and huge yellowfin tuna, there is nothing more comfortable or effective than a large sportfishing cruiser.

Capt. Louie Prieto, owner of IT’S 4 REELS sportfishing charters in Ensenada, shows off a trophy grade dorado that was taken on one of their offshore fishing charters.

Chartering a vessel of this nature for a fishing trip in southern California during the marlin and tuna season can be an expensive proposition. As an example, at a popular charter operation in Newport Beach, a six-passenger cruiser with captain and mate costs $1525 for inshore fishing between 6 a.m and 4 p.m. Further south in San Diego, a full 12-hour trip of offshore fishing with a top notch outfitter can set you back as much as $2,250 or more.

Fortunately for budget conscious anglers, Baja still represents the best value for getting hooked up with your favorite species, and at prices that can be many times less than those paid to charter stateside cruisers.

Just a little over 70 miles south of the International Border, operating out of Ensenada’s Bahia de Todos Santos, IT’S 4 REELS charters offers a 10-11 hour inshore fishing trip at the productive Santo Tomas Reef several miles down the coast for four passengers in a customized 23-foot Parker for just $525. And a 14-16 hour trip offshore for three passengers targeting tuna, marlin and dorado is only $650.

Punta Colorada

Hotel Punta Colorada is one of the premier East Cape properties offering packages that include lodging and cruiser charters for one low price.

But when it comes to this type of package, it is truly hard to beat the values offered by legendary East Cape fishing resorts like Hotel Buena Vista, Rancho Leonero, Palmas de Cortez and Punta Colorado. This is a region where billfish, dorado, tuna and baitfish as well as many other warm water migratory species of gamefish tend to congregate as they move up and down the coast of the Sea of Cortez.

Rates may vary from property to property, but remain competitive. As an example, four anglers can enjoy a fishing package that includes three nights double occupancy lodging in a standard room, three meals a day, two days days fishing aboard a 28-foot standard cruiser, hotel & boat tax and even hotel gratuity charges for under $500 per person.

marcela1b

The best fishing deals in La Paz are offered by The Cortez Club’s Mosquito Fleet.

In La Paz, even better deals are offered by The Cortez Club‘s Mosquito Fleet, with packages starting at $399 per person for four anglers, which includes two days of fishing, plus five days and four nights at the La Concha Hotel Beach Resort.

At prices like these, along with the opportunity to experience world class sportfishing, it is no wonder why many anglers are beginning to wake up and see the tremendous value they receive when coming to Baja California for their next offshore fishing adventure.   

 
Baja.com is a comprehensive online source of first-hand travel information for the Baja California Peninsula. We offer Baja travelers expert advice about local restaurantshotelsvacation rentals and activities, as well as guides, maps, complete event calendars and great stories about incredible travel destinations, from Tijuana to Cabo San Lucas.  We also provide free personal travel consulting, planning and booking services in Los Cabos, Todos Santos and La Paz, with prices that match or are below best advertised price. For more information, please call toll-free (US/CAN) 855-BAJA-411 or email us at info@baja.com.

 

Related articles

Enhanced by Zemanta

Ringing in the New Year: New Year’s Eve Parties in Baja

Ringing in the New Year: New Year’s Eve Parties in Baja

New Year celebrations have taken place around the globe for centuries, and sometimes even at different times. But today, the most widely accepted international standard remains the Gregorian calendar, also known as the Western calendar and occasionally referred to as the Christian calendar, in which the New Year begins just after midnight on December 31st and continues through the first day of January.

In Baja California, this landmark holiday is celebrated much like it is north of the border: with a wide array of parties and festivities taking place in homes, hotels, restaurants and cantinas. But those who choose to attend events held on hotel properties enjoy the added option of being able to spend the night there, rather than heading out onto the highway on an evening when the chance of getting into an accident may be a bit higher than normal.

New Year's Eve Parties in Baja

The landmark Rosarito Beach Hotel offers a traditional New Year’s Eve celebration.

Heading south from Tijuana on Baja’s coastal toll road, the legendary Rosarito Beach Hotel is your closest resource for finding a great New Year’s Eve party. This famous venue was once the regular haunt of Hollywood celebrities such as Marilyn Monroe, Frank Sinatra and Rita Hayworth half a century ago, and remains one of the most popular and recognizable hotel properties in Baja Norte.

This year, their traditional New Year’s Eve Party features drinks, dinner and dancing as well as an impressive live cultural performance in their Salon Mexicano. For further information and reservations, call (661) 612-1126, or contact them online at: reservation@rosaritobeachhotel.com

Just down the coast a bit in Ensenada, the Coral Hotel & Marina is putting on a special “Asian Fusion” New Year’s Eve Party between 7 p.m. and 2 a.m. on December 31st that features a welcome cocktail, a full 5-course dinner, corkage, an evening of dancing to live music and a bubbly New Year’s toast. For more information call (646) 175-0000 or contact them online at: reservations@hotelcoral.com 

Another great way to enjoy Ensenada on New Year’s is aboard a Carnival Cruise ship, which culminates its 4-day Catalina Island voyage with a port stop at the terminal in Bahia de Todos Santos. To find out more, call them toll free at (888) 227-6482.

New Year's Eve Parties in Baja

Party central in the Los Cabos region, the famed Cabo Wabo Cantina, plans to pull out all the stops this New Year’s Eve.

The southern state of Baja Sur offers even more celebratory New Year’s Eve events, particularly in the Los Cabos region. One of the most festive will take place at the famed cantina, Cabo Wabo, founded by rock guitar superstar and former Van Halen frontman Sammy Hagar. The party will rage on between 8 p.m. and 5 a.m. on the morning of New Year’s Day. Along with lively music in the club, the dining room will offer two seatings for dinner, one at 8 p.m. and the other at 10:30 p.m. For more info & table reservations, please call the restaurant at (624) 143-1188, or contact Carlos Ortega at webmaster@Cabowabocantina.com.

Another popular hot spot in Cabo San Lucas is Nikki Beach, which this year features a Gatsby style theme for its Glitz and Glam New Year’s Eve Party.The event at the hip ME Cabo Hotel will include an exclusive and elegant evening under the stars. Included in the general admission package is live music, champagne, fireworks and much more. For additional info, call (624) 145-7800 or e-mail: reservations.cabo@nikkibeach.com.

New Year's Eve Parties in Baja

Enjoy a Gatsby era theme at the Glitz & Glam New Year’s Eve celebration put on by Nikki Beach.

Right down the road in San Jose del Cabo, the upscale One & Only Palmilla is hosting an elegant Venetian-themed ball complete with live music provided by a 10-piece band and a premium cash bar. Don’t miss out on this one!  To find out more, call (624) 146-7000 or contact them online at: reservations@oneandonlypalmilla.com.

New Year's Eve Parties in Baja

End the evening with a champagne toast, as fireworks light up the skies above Medano Beach.

But no matter what you choose to do on New Year’s Eve in the Los Cabos area, be sure to cap off your evening with a trip to the annual fireworks festival that lights up the skies above picturesque Medano Beach. This spectacular exhibit generally uses up nearly $20,000 (U.S.) worth of pyrotechnics and is easily accessed from a number of popular restaurants and cantinas nearby.

FELIZ NUEVO AÑO 2014!

Baja.com is a comprehensive online source of first-hand travel information for the Baja California Peninsula. We offer Baja travelers expert advice about local restaurantshotelsvacation rentals and activities, as well as guides, maps, complete event calendars and great stories about incredible travel destinations, from Tijuana to Cabo San Lucas.  We also provide free personal travel consulting, planning and booking services in Los Cabos, Todos Santos and La Paz, with prices that match or are below best advertised price. For more information, please call toll-free (US/CAN) 855-BAJA-411 or email us at info@baja.com.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Captain Hook’s Gallery: Seasonal Seafood Recipes in Baja California

Captain Hook’s Gallery: Seasonal Seafood Recipes in Baja California

Baja California may be known around the world for its sunny, warm climate, but it still isn’t exempt from relatively chilly winter weather patterns from the north. Thus, the holiday season is the perfect time to enjoy warming comfort foods that incorporate the peninsula’s abundant bounties from the sea. And whether you buy your primary ingredients at the fish market or catch them yourself, here are a few tasty recipes that should deliver satisfied smiles to the faces of your family and friends during this special time of year.

Seasonal Seafood Recipes

Juicy Pismo clams are a prime ingredient in dishes from Baja Norte’s Pacific coast.

Sopa Siete Mares (Seven Seas Soup)

One of the most basic of these of  seasonal seafood recipes is Sopa Siete Mares, or Seven Seas Soup, and there are probably as many variations as there are poblados in Baja Norte and Baja Sur combined. While this is only one of many great recipes, it is absolutely delicious! Please feel free to adjust ingredients and seasonings to suit your personal taste …everyone else does!

Ingredients (Base):
4 unpeeled garlic cloves
8 medium-large dried guajillo chiles, seeded and stemmed
½ Tbsp. dried whole Mexican oregano
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Large pinch of freshly ground cumin seeds
2 tablespoons Extra Virgin olive oil
½ cup water

Method:

Over medium heat, roast the garlic using a heavy skillet, constantly turning until it is soft and lightly browned. Let the cloves cool, and then peel.  Toast the chiles 1 or 2 at a time using the same skillet, flattening them for a few seconds on each side with a spatula. Cover the toasted chiles with boiling water and steep for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Drain the chiles thoroughly and add them together in a food processor along with the crushed cumin seeds, black pepper, roasted garlic and ½ cup of water. Blend the mixture into a smooth puree, adding more water if necessary. Strain through a medium mesh colander. Heat the olive oil in a large soup pot and add the puree once it has begun to sizzle. Set aside.

Seasonal Seafood Recipes

Freshly made Sopa Siete Mares is a welcome dinner table  sight during the holiday season.

Ingredients (Soup): 

4 quarts fish or shellfish broth
1 large bunch of fresh cilantro
2 teaspoons salt
1 Tbsp brown or raw sugar
14 large (18 medium) shrimp, heads on
5 small potatoes, boiled and diced
2 cups diced chayote squash (zucchini can also be substituted)
4 medium onions, finely minced
1 kilo of fresh, well scrubbed clams, mussels or a combination of both
1 kilo of boneless, skinless white fish fillet such as rock cod, sea bass or halibut

Method:

Combine ingredients and bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes before adding the strained base mixture. Continue to cook over medium heat for 45 minutes while stirring occasionally.  Peel and devein the shrimp, leaving the tails on. Add the potatoes to the hot broth. Simmer uncovered until the potatoes are nearly tender, about 5 minutes. Add the zucchini and cook for 3 minutes. Add the mussels or clams and simmer until the shellfish open, then add the fish cubes before stirring in the shrimp. Cover, remove from heat and let stand for at least 5 minutes before serving.

Garnish with chopped white onions, minced cilantro and lime wedges. Enjoy with fresh, warm tortillas.

 

Seasonal Seafood Recipes

Huachinango in salsa. Image: Thelmadatter

Huachinango en Salsa Verde

Another popular dish that goes great over the holiday season is Huachinango en Salsa Verde; and whether you use true red snapper from the waters of Baja Sur, or the Pacific red snapper from Baja Norte, this toothsome dish truly characterizes the spirit of la cocina Mexicana.

While the true red snapper, known throughout Baja as huachinango, is caught predominantly off of the western coast of Baja Sur and in much of the Sea of Cortez, certain rockfishes along the Pacific coast of Baja Norte are also sometimes referred to as red snapper. Although unrelated, both of these species are white fleshed, delicately flavored and absolutely superb when properly prepared. This special recipe includes a flavorful, long green chile as a delicious wrap for each of the delicate fillets.

Ingredients:

8 fillets of fresh red snapper, pargo or rockcod
1 bunch fresh cilantro, well rinsed and patted dry
1 white onion, coarsely chopped
6 cloves fresh garlic, finely minced
6 peeled, de-ribbed and seeded fresh Anaheim or Hatch green chilis
2 fresh Jalapeño chiles, seeded with stems removed
1 can of whole tomatillos, well rinsed
½ cup clarified butter
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon salt
4 cups of pre-cooked saffron or Mexican-style rice, served hot

Method:

Place onion, garlic, cilantro, tomatillos and jalapeños in a food processor and blend ingredients until they are completely. Cut each Anaheim (California) or Hatch (New Mexico) green chile lengthwise, remove all seeds and membranes and then flatten them out with the inner side facing up and set aside. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Melt butter in a skillet over medium heat. Combine the flour, black pepper and salt in a shallow bowl. Dip the fillets in the flour mixture and sauté them gently in clarified butter, turning once, until each one is lightly golden brown. Wrap each fish fillet in a green chile, arrange wrapped fillets on an ovenproof platter and top with salsa verde. Place in oven until the salsa and chiles are well heated and serve with warm tortillas and rice.

Seasonal Seafood Recipes

Fresh shrimp is plentiful in Baja most of the year, and remains one of the most popular seafood options  for locals and visitors alike.

Fresh Shrimp

Here’s one last dish that incorporates one of Baja’s most popular seafood options, fresh shrimp. And, thanks to the San Felipe shrimp harvest in early November, it is usually in plentiful supply during the holidays. It is a recipe that also includes the rich, earthy flavor of poblano chiles to help spice things up a bit.

One important tip is to always select the best ingredients. When buying fresh shrimp, be sure to insist on purchasing only ones that are firm, and lacking in even the slightest hint of ammonia. In the event that a suitably fresh product is unavailable, try to find frozen shrimp that have been individually quick frozen.

The poblano chile ranges in color from dark green to almost black and have a tempting, rich flavor that can vary from mild to picante. The darkest poblanos generally have the most intense flavor, making them the best candidates for stuffing.  Although grown throughout the U.S. southwest, and readily available in most supermarkets, many epicureans say that the very best tasting chiles are still found in central Mexico.

Ingredients:

½ kilo fresh, unpeeled medium shrimp
8 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 large poblano chile, halved and seeded
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
1 tomato, coarsely chopped
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon dried Mexican oregano
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground cumin seed
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 cup sour cream
8 to 10 freshly made corn tortillas
1 (10-12 ounce) can of tomatillo and green chili based enchilada sauce
1 1/2 cups (6-8 ounces) shredded Manchego or Monterey Jack cheese

Method:

Peel, devein and rinse the shrimp, then set aside. Brush an 11- x- 7-inch baking dish with 2 tablespoons olive oil, set aside. Sauté pepper in remaining oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat until skin looks blistered. Remove from skillet, and chop.

Return chopped chile pepper to skillet. Add onion and next 6 ingredients; sauté 4 minutes. Add shrimp, sauté 1 minute, remove from heat and cool 5 minutes. Stir in sour cream.

Heat tortillas individually on griddle, then spoon the shrimp mixture evenly down center of each tortilla, and carefully roll up. Arrange each enchilada side-by-side, seam side down, in the prepared baking dish. Top them with sauce, sprinkle with cheese (adding a bit more, if you are a cheese lover), and serve. This dish can be covered and refrigerated for a day prior to cooking, if desired. Bake in oven for about 25-30 minutes at 350 degrees. Serves 4.

APROVECHO!

Baja.com is a comprehensive online source of first-hand travel information for the Baja California Peninsula. We offer Baja travelers expert advice about local restaurantshotelsvacation rentals and activities, as well as guides, maps, complete event calendars and great stories about incredible travel destinations, from Tijuana to Cabo San Lucas.  We also provide free personal travel consulting, planning and booking services in Los Cabos, Todos Santos and La Paz, with prices that match or are below best advertised price. For more information, please call toll-free (US/CAN) 855-BAJA-411 or email us at info@baja.com.

 

Enhanced by Zemanta

Captain Hook’s Gallery: Baja’s Golden Gamefish

Captain Hook’s Gallery: Baja’s Golden Gamefish

A happy angler fishing with Tailhunter International in La Paz shows off one of the region’s quality grade dorado.

The dorado (Coryphaena hippurus) is truly one of the golden treasures of saltwater sportfishing. It’s also one of the most pursued fish by anglers off the coasts of Baja California. Known as mahi-mahi in Hawaii and dolphinfish in the southeastern United States, it is perhaps the fastest growing fish species in the ocean, packing on well over 10 additional pounds every year that it is alive. Depending upon the time of year, these acrobatic and tasty fish can be caught off both coasts of the peninsula.

Those who are familiar with the fishing off Cabo San Lucas and the East Cape know that dorado are an important staple of the region’s sportfishing industry during the warmer months. They are prolific, colorful …and are absolutely delectable as table fare. Most of the larger bulls weighing over 40 pounds are taken from just north of Los Cabos on the Pacific side to Loreto in the Sea of Cortez. Through October and part of November,  many East Cape resorts even offer good fishing for smaller dorado in the 8 to 10 pound class just a few hundred yards off the beach at the color break, making them available to those in kayaks and small skiffs.

A freshly hooked, acrobatic dorado takes to the air after attacking a trolled feather lure.

Dorado often congregate under floating debris like flotsam, Sargasso grass, and, in the waters of northern Baja, beneath selected kelp paddies found drifting offshore during late summer. Anglers fishing the more northerly Pacific waters between San Quintin and the border generally enjoy solid dorado action between late summer and fall, with many fish tipping the scales at over 30 pounds. When brought aboard, the dorado flashes brilliantly with vibrant hues of gold, green, and blue.  Unfortunately, these beautiful colors are short lived after the fish expires.     

The more northerly waters of the Pacific between San Quintin and Islas Coronados also offer solid dorado action in late summer and fall.

Dorado are not particularly picky eaters, and will generally take just about any kind of offering when they are hungry. Large bulls, sometimes over 40 pounds, can also be incidentally hooked later in the season by anglers trolling for marlin. Dorado have a reputation for making a series of spectacular leaps after the initial hook up. If your fish decides to jump, it is extremely important to remember to keep your rod tip high and take up any slack in the line, since this is when most dorado are lost.

Want to catch more dorado? One of the best tricks is to leave a hooked fish that has become tired in the water, and then have fellow anglers toss baits or lures nearby.  Dorado are very curious, and other fish in the school will often move in close to see what is going on. This is when multiple hookups are likely to take place. After awhile, the fish may spook and go deep, but if you mark your GPS waypoint, you can always return to the same spot later in the day when there may be more dorado waiting to be caught.

Fresh dorado is delicious prepared a number of ways.  One of the quickest and most popular methods is to simply grill it over glowing, mesquite coals. When using this technique, try marinating the boneless fillets in a mixture of one small can of frozen orange juice concentrate and a ½ cup of brown sugar. This will create a toothsome,”sweet & sour” style glaze that pairs perfectly with the delicate flavor and texture of the fish.

Baja's Golden Gamefish

Fresh dorado fillets on the grill are a seafood lover’s delight.

There is also the “Hawaiian method,” which involves lightly dredging the fillets in seasoned flour, beaten egg, and crushed macadamia nuts. After quickly pan searing on both sides, and finishing in a 450 degree oven for about 7 to 10 minutes, you can enjoy a sumptuous repast that was once considered a treat fit for Hawaiian royalty.             

 

Baja.com is a comprehensive online source of first-hand travel information for the Baja California Peninsula. We offer Baja travelers expert advice about local restaurantshotelsvacation rentals and activities, as well as guides, maps, complete event calendars and great stories about incredible travel destinations, from Tijuana to Cabo San Lucas.  We also provide free personal travel consulting, planning and booking services in Los Cabos, Todos Santos and La Paz, with prices that match or are below best advertised price. For more information, please call toll-free (US/CAN) 855-BAJA-411 or email us at info@baja.com.

 

Photos courtesy of Tailhunter International and K & M Sportfishing in San Quintin.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Captain Hook’s Gallery: The History of Baja Sportfishing

Captain Hook’s Gallery: The History of Baja Sportfishing

At the conclusion of the Mexican-American War in 1848, one of the conditions of the resulting Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo was the surrendering of Mexico’s vast land holdings in Alta California and what is now New Mexico to the government of the United States.

Avid Baja angler Julio Meza shows off one of the reasons why the the Baja California peninsula now draws fishing enthusiasts from around the globe.

The richness of the Pacific coast and the fertile inland valleys nearby were considered obvious assets that served the popular concept of Manifest Destiny. The narrow finger of land just below it that is known today as Baja California, however, was considered to be an arid, cactus covered wasteland populated primarily by rattlesnakes, scorpions, coyotes, and a smattering of indigenous Indian tribes. Had the authors of the treaty realized the wealth of exotic fish and other marine species that flourish in the beautiful azure waters that surround the peninsula, it is likely that Baja would have been annexed as well. But the fact that it was not was to the ultimate benefit of future generations.

Because of its rugged volcanic landscape and previous lack of negotiable travel routes, it took almost a century before people north of the border began to take notice of Baja’s charms. One of the first was the celebrated author John Steinbeck, who had once studied marine biology at Stanford, along with his close friend Dr. Ed Ricketts, who was the inspiration for the character of Doc in his classic novel Cannery Row.  

The History of Baja Sportfishing

Author John Steinbeck and his friend Dr. Ed Ricketts explored Baja and the Sea of Cortez in early 1940. Image: Nobel Foundation

In early 1940, Steinbeck and Ricketts procured a sardine fishing boat named the Western Flyer and a four man crew in Monterey and then headed south, ultimately spending over a month an a half traveling down Baja’s Pacific coast and up through the Gulf of California while collecting biological specimens. Steinbeck found himself astounded by the seemingly endless varieties of fish and invertebrates that they encountered during this voyage. His account of their experience, The Log from the Sea of Cortez, was eventually published in 1951, and helped to generate interest in Baja and the Sea of Cortez.

Other well-known people were also spreading the word about Baja’s great fishing and recreational potential. Earl Stanley Gardner, author of the Perry Mason mystery series, was an avid Bajaphile who often flew to various remote locations on the peninsula in a small private plane. His book, The Hidden Heart of Baja, offered additional impetus for the curious to actually visit Baja themselves.

During the middle part of the 20th century, adventurous anglers from Southern California discovered Baja’s fishing potential while seeking the giant sea bass known as totuava, available near the small poblado of San Felipe at the northern end of the Sea of Cortez. The dirt road down from El Centro and Mexicali was rugged, and the trip from the border may have taken 12 hours or more, but catching a totuava weighing over 200-pounds was a sufficient reward for the ordeal.

The History of Baja Sportfishing

Southern Californian Charlie McGee shows off a sweet pargo perro (dog snapper) that he caught near Isla Cerralvo.

A little over a decade later, a retired military pilot named Ed Tabor, who hosted a local Los Angeles television show called the Flying Fisherman’s Club, converted an old B-25 into a 6-seat passenger aircraft and began flying customers out of L.A. and San Diego down to his Flying Sportsman Lodge in Loreto. Soon, anglers started to return home with enthusiastic tales of effortlessly catching bounties of big dorado, yellowtail, tuna, snapper, and grouper. The cat was now out of the bag; Baja offered fantastic fishing opportunities, but the frustrating reality was that most areas were virtually inaccessible to anyone not traveling by airplane or boat. But that all changed in the mid-1970’s.

Completed in 1973, Mexico’s Highway 1, also known as the Transpeninsular Highway, opened up road access to the entire peninsula between Tijuana and Cabo San Lucas; a distance of over a thousand miles. Since the entire peninsula is barely 100 miles wide in most areas, the new highway created an opportunity for appropriately outfitted vehicles to traverse the small dirt or gravel roads leading to many of Baja’s remote fish camps. This also turned out to be beneficial to many of the local commercial fishermen, who quickly realized the potential financial benefit of catering to visiting sport anglers in search of big fish.

After the construction of Baja’s Transpeninsular Highway, Tom Miller’s Baja Book was the first comprehensive guide to finding the region’s best places to camp and fish.

It is probably fair to say that Southern Californians were the first to benefit directly from the discovery of the exceptional fishing available in Baja California, but once the word got out about how easy it had become to access, anglers started showing up from around the globe.

Shortly thereafter, a procession of outdoor writers began offering up engagingly detailed information on the best ways and places to enjoy a memorable fishing trips in Baja. Perhaps the most prominent publication involved in the promotion of Baja sportfishing has been Western Outdoor News. While legendary Baja writer Ray Cannon may have been their first columnist to tackle the subject, a succession of knowledgeable writers and authors such as Tom Miller, Fred Hoctor, and Gene Kira have helped keep the legacy alive through the years.

A History of Baja Sportfishing

A prize winner from Bisbee’s 32nd Annual Black and Blue Marlin Tournament.

Today, there are literally dozens of easily accessible sportfishing venues around the peninsula that cater to anglers of all skill levels. For those in search of competition, there are a number of tournaments occasionally held at regional hotel properties, as well as the high profile, big money events organized by Bisbee and Western Outdoor News.

When you consider how popular Baja sportfishing has become, along with the fact that the state has still managed to retain its reputation as a bucolic sanctuary for those seeking solace from a nervous world north of the border, it makes sense to give thanks for that extremely fortunate oversight in the framing of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo.

              

 Baja.com is a comprehensive online source of first-hand travel information for the Baja California Peninsula. We offer Baja travelers expert advice about local restaurantshotelsvacation rentals and activities, as well as guides, maps, complete event calendars and great stories about incredible travel destinations, from Tijuana to Cabo San Lucas.  We also provide free personal travel consulting, planning and booking services in Los Cabos, Todos Santos and La Paz, with prices that match or are below best advertised price. For more information, please call toll-free (US/CAN) 855-BAJA-411 or email us at info@baja.com.

 

 

Enhanced by Zemanta

Coveted Crustaceans: Baja’s Shrimp and Lobster Seasons

Coveted Crustaceans: Baja’s Shrimp and Lobster Seasons

If I were asked to pick any one type of cuisine that is characteristic of coastal Mexico and Baja California, it would probably have to be some kind of preparation of fresh, tasty local seafood.

Baja's Shrimp and Lobster Seasons

The abalone is a large, univalve mollusk that has become a favorite of seafood gourmets around the globe.

The waters surrounding Baja are particularly rich with such oceanic treasures, many of which command high prices in the international marketplace.  One of these, the abalone, can only be found in a few places on the globe, and commercial operations in and around Isla Cedros on Baja’s central Pacific coast are responsible for covering a good portion of the worldwide demand for this popular univalve mollusk. Sea urchins and various species of small sea snail also constitute a solid percentage of the region’s annual seafood production for export. A typical Puerto Nuevo lobster dinner generally includes the main course, and all the rice, beans, tortillas and salsa you can eat.

Baja's Shrimp and Lobster Seasons

A typical Puerto Nuevo lobster dinner generally includes the main course, and all the rice, beans, tortillas and salsa you can eat.

But for many, it is the vision of a big, charcoal grilled spiny lobster split in half and served with plenty of melted butter, or perhaps a pile of large, succulent gulf shrimp prepared al mojo de ajo that really whets their appetite. Happily, Baja California is a premier producer of both of these highly coveted crustaceans.

Baja's Shrimp and Lobster Seasons

The Baja spiny lobster is a highly coveted crustacean.

The rugged and often rocky Pacific coast between the International Border and Bahia Magdalena offer a near perfect venue for the California spiny lobster.  A substantial number of residents of small coastal towns south of Ensenada are involved in the commercial lobster industry, which is the only way that lobster can legally be taken in Mexico, as opposed to southern California and Florida, U.S. states which allow the spiny lobster to be a seasonally available to sport anglers.

Baja's Shrimp and Lobster Seasons

The small seaside poblado of Puerto Nuevo on Baja Norte’s Pacific coast has become famous for offering countless visitors their first taste of Baja lobster.

For many decades, one of Baja’s most popular destinations for lobster lovers has been the small, seaside poblado known as Puerto Nuevo. Located only a few miles south of Rosarito Beach, it is readily available to tourists and day trippers from north of the border who are in search of a quick, yet exotic getaway. In the early 1950’s it was basically just another community of local fishermen, until a few local families began opening up their casas to hungry travelers with a hankering for their deliciously sweet local lobster. Ortega’s, one of the originals, is still around today along with a couple others who have all grown into popular restaurants that now intersperse the rows of small shops that festoon the narrow byways. Lobster is always available, but if you want a truly local product you must visit during lobster season, which starts at the beginning of October and extends until the end of February.
 
On the other side of the peninsula, the northern portion of the Sea of Cortez is a prime fishery for incredibly large shrimp that are renowned for their rich flavor and delicate tenderness. Despite heavy fishing pressure, the region remains one of the world’s most reliable resources for both blue and white shrimp of exceptional quality.
Baja's Shrimp and Lobster Seasons

San Felipe’s annual Shrimp Festival is an extremely popular event that draws attendees from both sides of the border.

San Felipe has always been a central location for shrimping operations, and their annual Shrimp Festival has always celebrated this fact. Held in early November, visitors arrive from far and wide to take part in the delightful debauchery of consuming as many shrimp and related preparations as possible under the warm desert sun of fall. Many of those who attend are also generally equipped with a large ice chest that will allow them to purchase several kilos of fresh shrimp to take home with them and enjoy later. But no matter where or when you decide to feast on a mouthwatering meal of fresh seafood taken from the waters of Baja, it is bound to leave you with a satisfied smile on your face.

Planning a visit during Baja’s shrimp and lobster seasons? Talk to a travel agent at Baja.com!

Baja.com is a comprehensive online source of first-hand travel information for the Baja California Peninsula. We offer Baja travelers expert advice about local restaurants, hotels, vacation rentals and activities, as well as guides, maps, complete event calendars and great stories about incredible travel destinations, from Tijuana to Cabo San Lucas.  We also provide free personal travel consulting, planning and booking services in Los Cabos, Todos Santos and La Paz, with prices that match or are below best advertised price. For more information, please call toll-free (US/CAN) 855-BAJA-411 or email us at info@baja.com.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Captain Hook’s Gallery: The Story of the Humboldt Squid

Captain Hook’s Gallery: The Story of the Humboldt Squid

Visions of malevolent giant squid were first created in the minds of readers well over 100 years ago by Jules Verne in his classic novel, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. Today, one thing is certain: there are far more giant Humboldt squid along both sides of Baja California and the California coastline than ever before noted in recorded history. Could this unusual situation be the ultimate realization of Verne’s literary dream of a time when giant squid would take over the seas? Over the past decade, the incredible proliferation of huge Humboldt squid in the waters surrounding the Baja peninsula might cause some observers to wonder.

While the smaller Pacific squid, Loligo opalescens, is the most prevalent species of Cephalopod found along the Pacific Coast, the giant Humboldt squid, Dosidicus gigas, is an entirely different character altogether; it is a tenacious brute with an extremely wicked reputation. The species can reach a length of over six feet, and is known for its aggressive, predatory nature. The Humboldt squid has incredibly powerful tentacles and excellent underwater vision, as well as a razor-sharp beak that can easily tear through the flesh of its prey …or that of an unsuspecting angler!

Humboldt Squid

Giant squid have been a staple of adventure fiction, most notably in Jules Verne’s 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.

Since the Humboldt squid is also a prized food resource, there are some who don’t view the increasing numbers of the species as a negative event. Each year, hundreds of Baja’s commercial fishermen work in rough seas on small pangas to fish for these big squid. It’s no easy task, especially since the catch is very heavy and each squid must be caught on a hand line. The entire economy of many Baja fishing poblados, such as Santa Rosalia, depend upon the squid, with fishing and packing operations providing the majority of local jobs.

A few years ago, a team of scientists led by Dr. William F. Gilly, from Stanford University’s Hopkins Marine Station, left on a 73-foot fishing boat to retrace the historic expedition made by the famous writer John Steinbeck and his good friend Dr. Ed Ricketts back in 1940. The boat originally used, called The Western Flyer, was a 76-foot purse seiner which carried Ricketts, Steinbeck, his wife Carol, and their crew on a voyage that none of them would ever forget. The trip was chronicled in Steinbeck’s subsequent book, The Log of the Sea of Cortez.

Jon Christensen, a science writer and Steinbeck Fellow at San Jose State University, traveled on the latest expedition to document the journey Steinbeck had taken over 60 years prior. Although over half a century separated the two voyages, aside from a progressive decrease in numbers, most of the various marine species that both exploratory groups observed were very much the same.

There was, however, one glaring difference. At absolutely no point in Steinbeck’s detailed account of his trip did he ever mention the giant Humboldt squid. On the other hand, Christensen recently noted that these large Cephalopods are now extremely common in the Sea of Cortez. As a matter of fact, they are at times so prolific that they have become pests to anglers who are trying to target other species.

Squid_2

Luckily, recreational anglers in Baja have also discovered the sport and table value of this monster-like creature, albeit usually as an alternative catch to more conventional and popular species. Those who target Humboldt squid generally do so during the dark of night. Multiple, premounted 300 to 500-watt lamps, preferably halogen, are used to draw the marauding beasts toward the boat. Once they have arrived, steadily chumming with chunks of mackerel or squid will usually keep them hanging around.

Although they can sometimes be caught with bait or on various fishing lures, serious ocean hunters who specifically target these nasty boys know that they need special equipment to get the job done most effectively. In addition to a 3 to 6 foot length of multistrand, 150+ pound test wire leader to prevent the Humboldt’s sharp beak from quickly separating the terminal tackle from the main line, a specially designed squid jig is also used. These lures have numerous pin-like prongs running up and down the body, which ensnare the tentacles of the giant squid as soon as they wrap around the artificial bait. They come in different sizes. The large ones to descend down to deeper squid and smaller ones work well when they are herding near the surface.

Squid_3

Nothing likes being ‘hooked’, and the giant Humboldt squid is no exception …but it has a lot more weight to throw around than most of the fish that you might commonly catch. It also possesses a large sack of ink that should be allowed to discharge boat-side prior to gaffing the squid and hoisting it over the rail. Once it hits the deck, cut away and discard its head and tentacles and then place the body on ice to maintain its quality. Please, however, observe this important word of caution; you should avoid all contact with the large beak at the center of the tentacles. Mangled or severed fingers are often the steep price that is paid by those who fail to do so!

On the other side of the coin, anglers who successfully fish for Humboldt squid are often happily rewarded with several pounds of gourmet calamari steak for the dinner table after the trip is over. For those who find themselves in this enviable situation but are not familiar with ways to prepare the delicacy, allow me to offer the following suggestion: first and foremost, do NOT overcook it! Overcooking squid and most seafood will result in it becoming tough, rubbery and inedible.

Squid_4

To enjoy a wonderful calamari dinner, simply dip a thick fillet into beaten egg and then dredge it in Japanese panko-style breadcrumbs. Lightly sauté the steak in a mixture of butter, extra virgin olive oil and minced garlic, turning only once, until both sides are golden brown. Serve with lemon wedges, your favorite fresh vegetable and rice or pasta on the side. It’s that easy.

I’m no marine biologist, but when it comes to figuring out the reason why the west coast of North American is seeing such a proliferation of giant Humboldt squid, I suppose that you don’t have to be one to realize that the ‘experts’ still don’t fully understand good ol’ Mother Earth. But, for all of our sakes, I certainly hope that sometime in the near future they do.

Planning a trip to Baja California? Talk to a travel agent at Baja.com.

Baja.com is a comprehensive online source of first-hand travel information for the Baja California Peninsula, supported by a full-service tour operator staffed by Baja locals (our “Baja Travel Savants”). We offer Baja travelers expert advice about local restaurantshotels and vacation rentals, as well as guides, maps and articles about events, sports and activities. We provide bilingual customer support, information and sales seven days a week, 365 days a year.  For more information, please call toll-free (US/CAN) 855-BAJA-411 or email us at info@baja.com.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Captain Hook’s Gallery: Fishing for California Sheephead

Captain Hook’s Gallery: Fishing for California Sheephead

For many years, the California sheephead was considered to be a marginally desirable species and, at times, even a bit of a pest by sport anglers in pursuit of more glamorous quarry. But that was before people started to realize how easily its alabaster white fillets could be turned into gourmet table fare. 

A huge 29-pound California sheephead caught from a panga off the tip of Punta Banda

I remember the first occasion that this fact was vividly brought to my attention.  It was on a sunny, summer day in the early 1960’s while my dad and I were happily slamming calico bass aboard a sportfisher working the kelp just off the coast of Ensenada.   After inadvertently hooking a colorful California sheephead, I loudly exclaimed “Damn GOAT!!” mimicking the response that I had observed so many times while watching older anglers and deckhands during many fishing trips on southern California cattle boats.

Moments after it hit the deck, I drew back my foot as if to kick the fish, but was quickly stopped by a nearby deckhand.  “Oh, NO, my friend!” He offered encouragingly, placing his hand on my shoulder.  “This fish is no ‘chivo’ …and if you throw it away, you will be making a BEEEG mistake!”  He winked at us in a friendly, knowing manner.  “Do you like crab?”  He queried.

“Who doesn’t?” I quipped with a touch of adolescent sarcasm.

“Well this is how you can turn your ‘goat’ into crabmeat …or, at least something that tastes a LOT like it!”  He then proceeded to explain how to cut off the thick fillets with the skin side on, and then steam, chill, and flake the delicate meat into a large bowl.  Our knowing deckhand then suggested adding some finely chopped green onions, cilantro, celery, chunky salsa and several shrimp to create a batch of seafood cocktails that we would never forget.

Our sheephead went immediately into the sack, and we followed his instructions to the letter after we got back home.  Luckily, there were some cocktail shrimp in the freezer, and we had nearly everything else on hand that he had mentioned.  The resulting cocktail was a toothsome masterpiece, and the deckhand’s recipe has now been in our family cookbook for decades.

Avid Baja angler, Jay Johnson, with a brace of nice sheephead

The California sheephead, Semicossyphus pulcher, is a hermaphrodite.  It begins life as a female, and then becomes male later in its development.  This fish also happens to be the largest member of the Wrasse family in our hemisphere, with record specimens that weigh in at well over 30 pounds.  Sheepshead are generally found in rocky, kelp-filled inshore waters between 20 and 100 feet in depth, although they have been caught at depths of nearly 200 feet.

Although this species is found from Cabo San Lucas north to California’s Monterey Bay, it is uncommon north of Point Conception.  There is also an isolated population of these bucktoothed fish inside the Gulf of California.  Their diet is comprised primarily of crabs, mussels, squid, sea cucumbers and urchins.  They use large canine-like teeth to pry food from reefs and rocks, while a special plate in their throat crushes the shells into small pieces for easy digestion.

Sheephead will take a variety of live and cut baits, such as anchovy or squid that is fished on or near the bottom.  Giant sheephead have been known to eat live, baited mackerel, but one of the truly hot baits are the live, freshwater crayfish sold in many bait & tackle stores to largemouth bass anglers.  Another exceptional bait for California sheephead, as well as for many members of the rockfish family, is the run of the mill garden snail.

Once, while on a panga near Santo Tomas, I witnessed an angler that was fishing with common garden snails practically get laughed off the boat by his two buddies who were using strip squid and artificials.  By the end of the trip, he ended up with more fish than the combined catch of his duo of tormentors; they remained silent all the way back to the dock.

Baja.com is a comprehensive online source of first-hand travel information for the Baja California Peninsula, supported by a full-service tour operator staffed by Baja locals (our “Baja Travel Savants”). We offer Baja travelers expert advice about local restaurantshotels and vacation rentals, as well as guides, maps and articles about events, sports and activities. We provide bilingual customer support, information and sales seven days a week, 365 days a year.  For more information, please call toll-free (US/CAN) 855-BAJA-411 or email us at info@baja.com.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Captain Hook’s Gallery: Fishing for Baja Norte’s Giant Croaker

Captain Hook’s Gallery: Fishing for Baja Norte’s Giant Croaker

White sea bass 1

One of the most highly prized gamefish in Baja Norte, the white sea bass (Atractoscion nobilis), is not a true bass at all but actually the largest member of the drum family on the Pacific coast. It is a croaker that, at full maturity, is second in size only to the potentially gigantic and protected totuava, Cynoscion macdonaldi, found in the northern Sea of Cortez. White sea bass can range from Alaska to southern Baja, but are most common south of Point Conception on the central coast of California

Live squid are probably the best overall bait for catching white sea bass, but large anchovies and sardines are also very effective. At times, larger specimens are more likely to bite on a live Pacific mackerel. This particular bait can be especially deadly when trolled slowly near the inner edges of kelp beds during dusk or predawn hours.

White sea bass - plated

Seafood lovers consider the fresh fillets of white sea bass to be a gourmet delicacy, which can be prepared in a number of delicious ways. One quick and simple technique is to slather a thick chunk of sea bass in melted garlic butter and toss it onto a hot, smoky, mesquite grill for several minutes. Baste the uncooked top once more, then turn and baste again until the fish flakes when probed with a fork. Finish off with a squeeze of lemon or lime, and get ready for a little bite of heaven.

Although white sea bass are usually pursued using live bait, they will also attack a fast trolled spoon, or a candy bar-style iron with a whole squid pinned to the hook. White seems to be one of the most effective colors, no matter what type of lure is being used.

Along the Baja coast of the northern Sea of Cortez, white sea bass are generally caught during the summer months. Inshore anglers out of San Felipe and Laguna Percibu usually have good luck adjacent to one of the several small artificial reefs in the area, while those preferring to fish near offshore structure will often gravitate toward Consag Rock in the north, and Las Islas Encantadas off of Puertecitos, about 60 miles to the south. They are also taken regularly during summer and fall at various points around Bahia de Los Angeles in the midriff islands region.

White sea bass 2

Capt. Kelly Catian is a fortunate man. He and his family are able to live their lives next to the rich, picturesque waters of Bahia San Quintin on northern Baja California’s Pacific coast. This famous bay provides many good reasons for both anglers and hunters to pay a seasonal visit to what has become a prime recreational paradise. Meandering canals, long sandy beaches, excellent fishing both inside and outside the Bahia and the yearly migration of black brant combine to offer practically endless opportunities for outdoor adventure.

Recreational angling can be enjoyed on a year-round basis in this mild, Mediterranean-like climate. Fishing for Pacific red snapper, lingcod and other bottom species takes place throughout the winter, with calico bass, yellowtail and other inshore surface biters beginning to show by late spring and visiting pelagic fishes like yellowfin tuna, dorado and albacore making their seasonal appearance by late summer and often remaining in the region through late October. But perhaps one of the most alluring species that is targeted by anglers in-the-know is the magnificent white sea bass, which can grow to over 75-pounds and is most prolifically available during the months of August, September and sometimes even into October.

Says Catian, “Back when we first started out, there were no fish-finders and no GPS units …I learned to navigate using a compass mounted on half a foam buoy and a wristwatch, that was it!” He adds, “It wasn’t easy. There were some rough years where we lived pretty much off of the ocean. We didn’t have many clients then, maybe three a month. The rest of the time I had to do commercial fishing and diving to make ends meet.”

Luckily, Capt. Catian’s innate talent for finding fish, along with his dogged tenacity, eventually earned him a reputation with many visiting anglers as ‘the guy to go out fishing with in San Quintin. But, after joining forces with his new partner, things really began to take off as they acquired their collection of sleek, pilothouse equipped Parker cruisers that were capable of getting further offshore much quicker than their local competition, which was limited by their markedly slower conventional pangas. Over the years, he has had many exciting days out on the water, but says that there is one trip that is particularly well etched into his memory.

Kelly Catian recalls, “It was in late October. We had been booking back to back charters all summer long, and we finally got the chance to take a few days off to go out and have some fun late in the month. There was supposed to by a nice swell coming in from a hurricane way down south, and my son, Oscar, and his buddy, Charky, were already down off Socorro Beach a few miles south of the entrada getting in on the action with their surfboards.”

“It was one of those classic Baja mornings; a clear sunny sky, and warm deep-blue water. We tore out of the mouth of the bay over glassy seas, and finally pulled up outside the reef where Oscar and Charky were busily riding waves. My partner, Monte, was also onboard along with K&M crew members, Dave Brown and Chris Pierce.”

“I remember that it was only about 19 feet deep at the edge of the reef where we were sitting when I grabbed one of our surfboards and was getting ready to jump into the water to catch a few waves. Suddenly, a huge, dark shadow passed under the boat, then another …and another. For a split second, I stood there stunned by the fact that I was looking down at a school of some of the biggest white sea bass that I had ever seen before; most of the fish appeared to be well over 50 pounds …then the screaming started!”

Catian continued, “Everyone was scrambling over the surfboards trying to grab their fishing pole and get a jig tied on. Dave Brown was the first to get hit, and wasn’t even able to get ‘I’m ON!’ completely out of his mouth before line started rapidly peeling off his reel. It was pandemonium.”

White sea bass 3

“We were all scurrying around trying to follow our line and land the freshest fish we had on while stepping over the ones between 50 and 70 pounds that had already hit the deck. After an almost timeless interlude of this frenzied action, the tide had risen and the fish were suddenly gone, but so was the big surf. Our bountiful catch would later yield us a couple hundred pounds of gourmet quality fillets after being cleaned and processed back at the dock.”

Despite the fact that there seem to be plenty of white sea bass available in Baja at the present time, intelligent resource management will be required to keep it that way in the future. As an example, there was a time in the middle of the last century when the population of white sea bass off of southern California was thought by many local anglers to be a virtually inexhaustible commodity. Unfortunately, a bitter lesson was in the offing, as stocks in following decades began plummeting to the point where, today, having even one or two legal white sea bass of 28 inches or more in the fish count of a local ½ day or ¾ day sportfishing boat is considered a bonus.

Fortunately, in 1983 the Ocean Resources Enhancement Hatchery Program was implemented by a team of marine biologists from Hubbs-SeaWorld Research Institute in San Diego. This program gained additional support from many other groups and by 1995 an experimental white sea bass hatchery had been built in Carlsbad, California. It has since become a successful husbandry program that has gradually increased the depleted stocks of white sea bass, and has also increased our knowledge of this valuable species and its life history.

White sea bass - Hubbs-Sea World

Once a farm-raised white sea bass reaches the fingerling size of 3 to 4 inches, it is tagged and taken in group to one of the twelve grow-out facilities that are located up and down the California coast. The juvenile fish are then allowed to grow until they reach a size of 8 to 12 inches, at which point they are released into the open ocean. Each of these white sea bass has been tagged electronically with a small, coded wire that is inserted into their cheek muscle. Later, when a tag is recovered from a sport caught fish, biologists can determine where and when the fish was raised and released, and how far it had traveled. Once it has been freed into the ocean, it is virtually impossible to visually tell the difference between a wild white sea bass, and one that was raised within a husbandry program.

Only time will tell whether Baja California will end up needing to use similar biological techniques to bolster their populations of white sea bass at some point in the future as well; the answer to that question is being shaped by the way that recreational and commercial interests handle this fragile resource today. With diligent oversight by these factions, however, there is little reason to doubt that these potentially giant members of the drum family will continue to freely swim and be caught along both coasts of Baja Norte for many generations to come.

Baja.com is a comprehensive online source of first-hand travel information for the Baja California Peninsula, supported by a full-service tour operator staffed by Baja locals (our “Baja Travel Savants”). We offer Baja travelers expert advice about local restaurantshotels and vacation rentals, as well as guides, maps and articles about events, sports and activities. We provide bilingual customer support, information and sales seven days a week, 365 days a year.  For more information, please call toll-free (US/CAN) 855-BAJA-411 or email us at info@baja.com.

Enhanced by Zemanta