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Fish Tales


Winter Wonderland


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 Point.

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 fish.

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!

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