Saturday, September 4, 2010

The "Morning After" season

About the same time, the bubba-sized roosters arrived early along the East Cape beaches in quantity, impervious to the north wind.
July 13, 2010

Unless you watch the reports every week, it’s easy to overlook the subtle nuances of fishing, as days become weeks and weeks become months that ultimately become the season.

In January, 2010, in my column, "The Endless Season", I recounted the great catches of 2009, most of which could be attributed to the El Nino. Because the 2009 season was extraordinarily good, everyone was optimistic about the 2010 prospects.

The new year began normally enough, with the tin-boaters daily putt-putting along the shores of East Cape before the north wind cranked up mid-morning…scoring enough sierra and small dorado to keep the cerviche bowl full for the weekend football games.

Locals and visitors alike commented on the pleasant weather and water temperatures that remained in the mid-seventies. There were weeks, bookended by north winds, when a few boats found not only quality dorado to 35 pounds, but sailfish and marlin as well. But the expected striped marlin bite off Cabo that had occurred for the past several years just never happened.

In February, the windy weeks overshadowed the good ones; a few anglers traveled to Magdalena Bay in search of better conditions. Most weren’t disappointed with the results. There were limits of snook and Lance Peterson had the good fortune to land a broomtail grouper on a fly. (This was recently approved as a new IGFA world record).

By March, it became clear that the Baja season had veered from the normal path to one distinctly colored yellow, as in yellowtail. Mossback-sized yellowtail became common in the reports from East Cape, past Loreto and up into the Bay of Los Angeles. On the Pacific side, from Magdalena Bay to the Viscaino Peninsula, yellowtail were everywhere and quality white sea bass was found at Magdalena. About the same time, the bubba-sized roosters arrived early along the East Cape beaches in quantity, impervious to the north wind.

By April, the sardina, a fundamental part of Baja's food chain, disappeared and offshore fishing remained tough. On the Pacific side at Magdalena Bay, the yellowtail and white seabass snap gained momentum, producing fish in the 20 to 30 pound class. But in spite of ideal conditions at Cabo, the striped marlin were still not showing and the yellowfin tuna were few and far between.

In May, a month that is normally considered the heart of the season, the turnaround that locals swore would materialize, failed to materialize. Offshore action was practically non-existent forcing many boats in the fleet to focus on the inshore where an incredible show of large roosterfish was waiting. Black snook were also featured in back-to-back weekly reports. One 27-pounder was caught in a landlocked lagoon at East Cape.

The lack of sardine, coupled with the cooler water temperatures, had a severe negative impact on the annual dorado season in Loreto. After several false starts, literally overnight during a full moon in June, the Sea of Cortez yielded large tuna schools with fish up to 200 pounds offshore beneath the breezing porpoise. Billfish began to show and at Gordo Bank a few swordfish were found. Though not a bonanza, enough dorado were being caught. And at Magdalena Bay, striped marlin, along with schools of dorado and tuna, arrived early.

Over the 4th of July, the Sea of Cortez erupted! The delayed season the locals insisted would arrive…finally did. There were few sardina, lots of tuna…big tuna, (as well as some football sized) with some as close as the green water line a few hundred yards off the East Cape shore. Dorado action increased; a huge 104-pound wahoo was caught off La Ribera and enough billfish showed to give the Bisbee Tournament gang hope later this month. Oh, and one more oddity…currently there are bluefin tuna being caught within a few miles of the beach at Magdalena Bay.

So the season following the 2009 El Nino that some had dubbed the ‘odd season’ arrived a few months late with an unusual cast of characters as a prelude to what is now being hailed as the ‘Morning After’ season.

As in football the game is made up of two halves; it will be fun to watch and see if we have another strong post half-time finish rivaling the one in 2009.