Once winter arrives in SoCal, you may wonder where the marlin go. The answer is Bahia Magdalena, or
"Mag Bay", as it's known. Four/fifths of the way down Baja
California's Pacific side, Mag Bay has long been a favorite
stopping point for those transiting to or from Cabo San Lucas.
It has also developed quite a reputation with the trailer
boat fleet, as you'll see. Many thanks to Chris
Hull for this great report ...
John Thompson and I trailered my 26' Blackman 'Sea Raider'
to San Carlos together with Paul Lepore and his boat 'Baja
Bound'. Mark and Eric Grennan joined the caravan in a smaller
boat. They planned to camp on the beach north of Belchers
The trip was fairly easy as the highway was in very good
condition and we were able to launch the boats Monday morning,
November 4. A 4-wheel drive is required to approach the
launch area through soft sand; however, the launch ramp
has good traction and slope. I launched my Skipjack here
in 1984 or 85 and I was confident we could launch the boat.
John and I got off about 8:00 AM, 2 hours after a very
modest high tide and promptly got stuck on a bar while working
our way toward the channel. A lucky pangero came to our
rescue and towed us to the channel for $10.00 US. The ideal
program for launch and retrieve is to get set up about 2
hours before the high tide, then launch and load your gear.
At high tide leave the lagoon. The high water is needed
to get out to the main channel, not to launch the boat.
We met up with Baja Bound south of Belchers and then decided
to leave the bay for some fishing. The water conditions
were excellent that day with only a modest sea running.
We headed 240 degrees in 75 degree water and caught small
dorado, large skipjack and one very strong marlin under
a batch of frigate birds between 6 to 9 miles. There was
lots of life on the meter, in the air and plenty of surface
bait. We were very optimistic. Mackerel were cooperative
in 20' of water on the beach south of Belchers Point. There
was also good bait fishing north of the pier in the morning.
Tuesday we fished with Paul and his friend Mark. Paul found
a dead whale and we all fished this area for dorado. I slow
trolled a bridled dorado while John fished them on a fly
rod. A nice blue came up on a dorado that Paul was fighting
on light line, but no takers on mine. Later I explored about
10 miles to the south and Paul headed north to Santa Maria
Bay. Tons of bait in the water, lots of dorado and skipjack,
but no concentrations of marlin. Reports from the Thetis
Bank were not encouraging. I elected to head south on Wednesday.
Wednesday brought a serious blow and big seas. Mark planned
to wait it out in the bay, fishing yellowtail and sierra
on the reef, so we took Eric with us. Paul reported cooler
water and no fish at the Thetis and he said he would join
us and spend the night at Punta Tosca, 20 miles south and
fish the Pinnacle Rock area in the morning. As we worked
out way to the south in about 60 or 70 fathoms, big skipjack
and small dodos kept climbing on. The water temp was generally
75.5, and we each had a couple of marlin strikes. Towards
the southern end of Isle Margarita, the water warmed to
78+ and the meter showed little or no life.
The anchorage at Tosca is guarded by a reef to the south
west. We skirted it wide and anchored on hard sand in 20
feet of water behind cliffs. Baja Bound joined us as well
as a party boat from Long Beach called the Islander. In
the morning we stopped to throw a little iron at the reef.
Eric is very good at this and he was rewarded with small
cabrilla, yellowtail and a nice leopard grouper. There was
a fairly strong breeze blowing out of he east.
Pinnacle Rock is about 8 miles or so 190 degrees from the
anchorage. We headed out and in a very short time we could
see the frigate birds stacked up in the binoculars. The
water was 78.5 and skipjack and 15# dorado were working
balls of bait on the surface. Slack water was about noon.
We caught a few smaller fish and about 9:30 a nice big marlin
favored us and John Thompson got a little workout. We tagged
that one and no sooner got reorganized than a small herd
of marlin charged the boat. Two stuck and Eric and I worked
this batch, bow and stern, in record time. Finally we were
getting some real Mag Bay fishing. Paul was doing just fine
too. The east wind had died and the sea was flat, calm glassy.
The frigates were still in the area as well. We turned
on a the closest group, set up our jigs and exchanged some
high fives. A rod went off, Eric went off in excitement
and enthusiasm. The starboard outrigger released and that
rod bent over, then the port outrigger. Holy moly a triple,
still we trolled on ... waiting for number 4. Here he comes.
Pandemonium, four marlin jumping of in four different ways
and three anglers...
Eric and John took their rods to the bow. I set a third
rod in a rod holder on the bridge and climbed back up on
the bridge. John's fish had most of the spool of line. I
turned on John's fish and picked up the rod from the bridge
holder. # 4 was waiting patiently on the transom.
My marlin was hanging close so I pumped him hard from the
bridge. A pod of three whales swam by right in the area
where our fish seemed to be. We thought they might cut us
off. Eric was able to move to the cockpit and crank on both
fish until his first one came off. Soon we were able to
release my fish in good shape. John's fish was came in after
a long battle and was floating belly up in the water. Eric
helped John remove the hook and John grabbed the small,
160#, blue marlin by the bill. We righted him up and towed
the marlin by the bill while following Eric's marlin. John's
marlin started to get some color back and we towed him a
little faster. His tail began to beat slowly at first. Now
John was having trouble holding him. In ten minutes we had
revived this marlin that many would have considered dead.
He swam away strongly and we were ready to release the last
Now it was after 1:00 PM, we needed to be into Belchers
before dark and we were on our fourth day, 50 hours into
170 gallons of fuel. John was sure we were going to run
out so we started working north. Another group of marlin
came right up on the jigs. Two rods went off, but the fish
fell off right away. Then another group, one stuck and we
released him quickly.
Time to go. We left the area and all those marlin to Paul
Lepore and Baja Bound who had an extra 15 gallons of fuel
tied into his bow pulpit. Hasta Luego!