Saturday, August 1, 2009

Talkin’ Trash

Ladyfish often called sabalo by the locals and a ‘poor man’s tarpon’ by some Baja visitors, is a species that is usually found along almost any sandy beach in southern Baja.

This isn’t about exotics or bragging rights…it is about having a bend in your rod. To paraphrase a country western song, “they like their fish just a little on the trashy side”. You know, kinda’ like the fish caught and recorded in the miscellaneous column on a party boat tally sheet.

Even when the fishing is off the charts and everyone has limited out when the boat returns to the dock, believe it or not there are some hardcore anglers who, after pausing for a cold one and a dip in the pool, are ready for more fishing.
To the extreme, I have walked out on a moonlit beach in front of a hotel after a late dinner and found a handful of enthusiastic fishermen behaving like they were in the middle of an East Coast striped bass frenzy…running up and down the beach whooping and hollering while flinging their lures into the froth of “trash” fish - in short having fun.

Ladyfish, often called sabalo by the locals and a ‘poor man’s tarpon’ by some Baja visitors, is a species that is usually found along almost any sandy beach in southern Baja. They can provide countless hours of entertainment for an avid angler.

What is there not to like? They charge a lure ravenously, strike with reckless abandon, go airborne like a rocket, and perform acrobatics like their larger cousins, the tarpon. They are, indeed a perfect, willing candidate for your light tackle of choice, including a light weight bass outfit, spinning tackle or even an 8 weight fly rod.

In the lure department, small one-ounce shiny lures are appropriate, and for the fly guys weighted Clouser minnows are good for starters. If the lure that you are using has a treble hook, cut off two of the hooks to improve your hookup ratio. If the bites don’t come, begin experimenting with different lures.
Working the beach for the “trash” is not a ‘stand in one place and cast until you get tired’ kind of thing. Keep moving. It is the old cast 1…2...3, step 1…2…3 until you get a bite. Like someone once said to me “they’ve got tails, keep moving”!

After you have made your cast, keep the line tight and let the lure or fly sink for a few seconds. Try a five count. If that doesn’t work, try a little longer. If you don’t get a bite, sweep the rod to bring the lure or fly near the surface and then let it sink again. If there are any ladies around, they can seldom resist this presentation.

Once hooked, ladyfish are usually airborne the instant the hook is felt and you need to be prepared. When you feel the bite, set the hook immediately and stick the rod tip into the water. The purpose of this maneuver is to have as much wetted surface on your line as possible so that when the lady goes ballistic, the friction of the water on the line will hold the hook firmly in its mouth. They are strong fighters and they require steady pressure; they will not settle down and will still be leaping at your feet when you release them.

Like most trash fish, they seem to feed both day and night. Once you locate a school of ladyfish you can expect to have some non-stop action. In daylight hours, watch for the telltale black tails of schools swimming close to the surface. At night listen and watch for the telltale splashes when they are feeding.

If you consider yourself a 24/7 kind of fisherman and are looking for more fishing and less sitting when you visit Baja, the Baja beach may satisfy that need with its long list of species which includes ladies, triggerfish, Cortez grunts, needlefish, cornet fish and many more that are a little on the trashy side.