Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Magdalena Bay – a tangy taste of ‘old baja’

Be aware that both ramps have issues when the tide is low

The outstanding offshore fishing in front of Magdalena Bay has taken on almost mythical proportions over the years. From October through December the schools of marlin, wahoo, tuna and dorado are consistently the largest found anywhere in Baja; conversely, the number of boats fishing here is minimal compared to other Baja destinations. With its old Mexico charm still unblemished by tourism and North American influence, Mag Bay has become the topic of many discussions and my email has been filled with questions about this area.

With its popularity growing, each year the number of local boats large enough to access the offshore action comfortably has grown and many yachts traveling to and from Cabo plan their trips each year to take advantage of the outstanding billfish fishery off Magdalena Bay.

Trailer boat access has improved tremendously, attracting more anglers who want to captain their own boats. Both Lopez Mateos and Puerto San Carlos have added new cement ramps which will accommodate larger trailer boats. The recently completed launch ramp and pier in Lopez Mateos is on the southwest side of town (25°11'19.20"N 112°07'00.60"W. In Puerto San Carlos the ramp is located on the southeast side of town (24"47'05.21"N 112"05'37.53"W). Be aware that both have issues when the tide is low.

From Lopez Mateos access to the Pacific through the Boca de Soledad is only five miles from town. However, departing and returning through the Boca (mouth) is not for the faint of heart. It would be wise to either follow another boat through the first few times or hire a local panguero to lead you out.

The channels between the barrier islands are like saltwater rivers and allow everything from tiny baitfish to giant whales to travel in and out of the bay. For those who do not have their sights on offshore fish, inside the bay and the esteros are spotted bay bass, grouper, corvina, sierra, jacks, mangrove snapper, pargo, pompano, halibut and snook.

Ed and Emilia Brennan’s hotel, Hotel Brennan, is the newest hotel in Puerto San Carlos. They offer clean rooms and good service. They will even arrange whale watching or sportfishing for their guests.

Steve Warren’s, Mag Bay Tours, began as a primitive surf camp on Magdalena Island fifteen years ago. In addition to the surfing, whale watching, bay fishing, and eco-tour camps, Steve provides support services for trailer boats visiting the bay. His services include food, fuel, water and lodging.

Bob and Diana Hoyt’s, Magdalena Bay Outfitters, based out of Lopez Mateos, offers rental houses, several boats, including a 26’ catamaran and a 28’ Boston Whaler, for day trips offshore and additional pangas for bay or estero trips. The Hoyts also own Whales Tale Inn, located on the shore of Santa Maria Bay on Mag Bay Island, a five cabin complex providing one of the few places in Baja where you can still ride ATVs to explore the miles of beaches or to fish for roosterfish and other near shore species. These cabins also serve as a jumping off place for faster access to the offshore fishing grounds. They also offer fuel and support services for visiting trailer boats and they have formed partnerships with several larger sportfishing boats for clients who want multi-day charters.

Jeff Petersen’s, Lopez Sportsman‘s Lodge in Lopez Mateos, offers a rental house and pangas, as well as a 28’ aluminum catamaran landing craft for offshore or estero trips.

A welcome addition in Lopez Mateos is the availability of Mexican fishing licenses near the new launch ramp.

On the heels of Olaf and Patricia, this year the marlin season has not yet begun; baitballs which are usually common thus far are missing. The tuna, dorado and skipjack have produced in typical outstanding fashion beginning 8 to 10 miles outside the Boca’s. Fish inside the Esteros, have been easy to come by using the live shrimp purchased from the local commercial panga fleet, but landing the bigger fish is more difficult. Don’t forget the fluorocarbon leader!

For those of you who think that the Baja you originally discovered has vanished, Magdalena Bay will provide you with the tangy taste of ‘old Baja’ that is as intoxicating as an icy margarita.