Marinas, launch-ramps and boat fleets make Baja a nautical paradise.
by Tom Gatch
The Baja California peninsula offers an incredible opportunity for sailors and boaters who are interested in exploring its diverse and rugged coastline in search of fun and adventure.
La Salina: Baja’s northernmost marina
For those cruising south into Mexican waters from Southern California, the newest and closest of Baja’s marinas is La Salina, is situated between Rosarito Beach and Ensenada just north of the Bajamar golf course. It also offers an excellent place to regroup before heading out in the morning to fish the rich, virtually untapped inshore fishing nearby.
Just before reaching the Port of Ensenada a few miles further south, Hotel Coral with its well conceived marina will remind many stateside boaters of similar facilities in southern California. There is also a new marina at the cruise ship port near the malecon in downtown Ensenada, which offers greater access to restaurants, shops and other urban amenities. But skippers navigating along the Pacific coast south of Ensenada in large sailboats and cruisers should not expect to encounter such luxury again until they reach Cabo San Lucas.
Owners of small car top and trailer boats 18-feet or less in length, however, have even more options. One of them is the launch ramp at the Estero Beach Resort, which can be used for a nominal charge by those who are not hotel guests. There is also a small cement public launch ramp at the Punta Banda Rincon, and beach launch facilities at nearby Campo La Jolla, but access to and from the water in this area can be limited during particularly low tidal swings.
There are also numerous local charter boats and sport-fishers that are available to take passengers on ½ day, ¾ day and full day fishing trips in the outer bay, around nearby Islas Todos Santos and to points beyond. Late summer is the best time in this region to catch one of the tastiest members of the tuna family, the long-finned albacore, as well as other popular gamesters like yellowtail, calico bass, bonito and barracuda.
South of Ensenada
Nonetheless, more adventurous anglers might also want to pay a visit to one of the panga camps south of town in areas such as Punta Banda, Puerto Santo Tomas or Erendira’s Castro’s Camp. These specialized guide services allow their clients to encounter a truly different kind of angling experience; one that removes them from the world of electronic fish finders and GPS waypoints, and briefly whisks them back to the days when those who fished worked much closer to the elements.
San Quintin, northern Baja’s southernmost conventional launch ramp
A little over 100 miles further down the Transpeninsular highway, Bahia San Quintin is Baja Norte’s southernmost area offering a conventional launch ramp along with commercial sportfishing services. During the summer months, migrating yellowfin tuna and dorado join large yellowtail and a host of other offshore species to delight the many anglers that visit from southern California. San Quintin has a decent cement launch ramp capable of handling pangas, skiffs and small cruisers, but the narrow, winding channels inside the entrada can be challenging to those mariners who are unfamiliar with the area.
South of San Quintin
South of San Quintin, the only way to launch from shore is by way of various sandy beaches; a practice that is best undertaken only by those who are extremely experienced in the art, and even then with great caution. In more remote locations, there may very well be no viable medical or rescue facilities within many miles of where you happen to be fishing.
For decades, Baja’s central Pacific coast was considered a remote region most successfully traversed by hardcore, off road enthusiasts in 4-wheel drive vehicles. Even now, some areas can still be challenging to regular passenger cars. Luckily, continued improvements to the roadways combined with a much higher percentage of visitors traveling in SUVs or beefy, industrial strength trucks has opened up out of the way destinations like Bahia Asuncion, Punta Abreojos and Bahia Magdalena. Here, anglers have an opportunity to fish along a pristine shoreline where they can catch a plethora of popular inshore species like halibut, white sea bass and quality grade corvina right off the beach. Smaller private aircraft can also reach a number of these hidden places, since many of the fish camps also have small, dirt runways. There might not be a marina here, but this is still undeniably a nautical paradise!
Just offshore, Cedros Island stretches 24 miles in length, and is characterized by a ruggedly beautiful sloping terrain with a host of native flora and fauna that includes coastal scrub, juniper scrub and sand dune scrub along with dense patches of chaparral and pristine pine forest. Sixteen miles west of Cedros Island lies the San Benitos Island group that is made up of three islands and accounts for nearly 900 hectares. This rich archipelago represents one of the most prolific havens for terrestrial wildlife and marine species this side of the Galapagos Islands off the west coast off South America.
For the recreational angler, Bahía Asunción presents a number of venues for great inshore fishing. If you happen to be a kayak angler with a love of calico bass, you may think that you have died and gone to heaven after fishing for them here. The calicos are not only plentiful, they are big! A 10-pound fish that would be viewed as an incredible catch in Southern California is fairly commonplace in this neck of the woods. Those who enjoy tossing plastics will have a field day, particularly between July and early November. Just a mile off the point, Isla Asunción features exceptional structure for drawing in yellowtail, bonito, and barracuda. During late summer and fall, anglers can even catch a few of the dorado that occasionally breeze through.
By the time you reach the Punta Abreojos region back on the mainland, Campo Rene provides anglers with a hard-packed dirt ramp in a protected venue, which also offers rental palapas and cottages, kayaks and hot, running water showers. Further south, near Bahia Magdalena, there is a launch ramp in the town of San Carlos. But boaters, particularly those with larger craft, should be advised that it is quite narrow by most standards, and at times can be in very poor condition. Fortunately, a virtual oasis is close at hand just to the south in Los Cabos.
Cabo San Lucas: One of the best of Baja’s marinas
Upon arrival in Cabo San Lucas at the tip of the peninsula, a huge marina with a sophisticated network of launching and repair facilities once again becomes available. This area is also often referred to as the “Marlin Capital of the World”, since more marlin are reportedly caught here than any other place on the globe. It also offers a modern, well equipped port where boaters can resupply themselves with anything that might be needed before moving on around the point into the Sea of Cortez.
Once past San Jose del Cabo, the coastline once again becomes sparse and arid with only beach launching available on the East Cape until you reach the beautiful city of La Paz, the jewel of Baja Sur’s eastern coast. This capital city is replete with colorful local history involving missionaries, pirates and a once thriving pearl industry, in addition to having a reputation for offering some of the finest sport-fishing on the entire peninsula. Here, several private and public boat launch facilities are available to choose from.
This is a perfect place to enjoy world-class fishing for wahoo, tuna, dorado, marlin, pargo, cabrilla and more. Visitors can also snorkel in the clear, turquoise waters with playful porpoise and sea lions, or scuba dive with hammerhead sharks and giant manta rays. There are several prominent and highly qualified outfitters who work out of the area, and provide access to the islands nearby.
La Paz and Baja Sur’s Sea of Cortez towns to the north
To the north, on the Sea of Cortez, there is La Paz and its Pichilingue Harbor, as well as several smaller towns such as Loreto, Mulege, Punta Chivato and Santa Rosalia where launching facilities, basic accommodations and boat charters are readily available. These places can also be extremely productive areas to fish during summer, although a few areas can be a bit more difficult to access. This is an ideal realm for trailer boat enthusiasts who enjoy striking out on their own, and fishing off remote coasts and around small islands for a variety of species ranging from dorado and yellowtail to cabrilla and grouper. Many of these same areas also have small, commercial pangas operations that provide service to boat-less anglers.
Bahia de los Angeles, Bahia de Gonzaga and San Felipe on Baja Norte’s Sea of Cortez
Near the southeastern corner of Baja Norte, Bahia de Los Angeles and the adjacent offshore islands offer a more primitive, desert-like venue, which is now much easier to access thanks to the recent renovation of the paved road that leads there from the main highway. Compared to more developed regions, there are only be a smattering of amenities in this out of the way locale, but those who love fishing this area can expect development to expand greatly in coming years. Every month, more anglers and eco-tourists are being attracted to its good fishing and ruggedly spectacular scenery.
A bit further north, at the upper end of Bahia Gonzaga, Las Islas Encantadas lie just off the small poblado of Puertecitos, which also has a small, rather steep launch ramp that allows access to the best fishing around the rocky outcroppings. This area is also a regular stopping point for panga mothership operations that work out of San Felipe and offer multi-day fishing trips in the upper Sea of Cortez.
Up the paved road another 50 miles, the town of San Felipe is a prime destination for the thousands of shrimp lovers who flock there in the fall for the annual festival honoring the popular crustacean. Once known for catches of giant totuava, which were practically made extinct by over-fishing during the middle of the last century, San Felipe is still highly regarded as a point of departure for long range sport-fishing operations. A well made municipal ramp provides access for boats of practically any size. The construction of nearby inshore artificial reefs over the past few decades has greatly enhanced local fishing opportunities for orange-mouth corvina, spotted bay bass, smaller croakers and even white sea bass.
But no matter where you plan to cruise, fish or journey around this magical peninsula, you are bound to encounter an incredibly diverse array of boating and angling options that would be difficult, if not impossible, to duplicate anywhere else in the world.
The Baja Peninsula is truly a nautical paradise! Find out more about Baja at Baja.com.
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