Beach Fishing in Cabo

BY CAM RENAUD

beachfishing.jpg

Cabo means cape, cape means it’s surrounded by water, warm salt water that’s home to all kinds of great fish. If you like fishing, the Baja has some of the best salt fishing in the world, bar none.

Many visitors to Baja have never been saltwater fishing before and may not understand fishing saltwater is nothing like freshwater fishing. Although the full salt experience is best by boat, Cabo has great beach fishing at dusk and dawn if you know where to go and have the right gear.

Local tackle stores in Cabo like Minerva or Jansen’s can outfit you or, better yet, hook you up with an expert to take and teach you the proper way to do it to increase your chances of being successful.

A guide can also provide the gear so you don’t need to shell out an extra $250 USD per person just to get started for what might be a one-time trip.  Don’t even think about buying equipment and taking it back home for freshwater fishing; the reel would work for big Lakers or Muskie but the rod will be too long to use on a boat and even if used with a shorter rod you’d want to swap out the 15lb line in favour of 20 lb.

Like anything else, success is a lot easier with the right tools: generally a 10-foot rod (I’ve used from 9’ to 13’), a fully-loaded salt grade spinning reel with a full spool of 15 lb test casting line (more limp than regular line), clear mono please (none of that bright pink or even green stuff), 8 feet of fluorocarbon leader, and a nice 3-4 ounce silvery Crocodile spoon will get you into the game. Also, it’s wise to wrap your index finger with duct tape or a small piece of stretchy bandage to avoid losing your finger tip when whip casting.

If you are like most fishermen you want to watch the weather, the moon, the tides and especially the wind. I like to fish the Sea of Cortez side at dawn because the wind is typically offshore, and I can cast with it. The wind can make the difference and it’s seasonal in the Baja. January through to April has more windy days due to winter weather systems moving off the Pacific and hitting North America and down to Mexico.

Check out www.windy.com to get a handle on what to expect. There are forecast tabs at the bottom of the home page to click on specific future dates. At East Cape along the Sea of Cortez where I fish the daily wind pattern is fairly predictable. The breeze is offshore at daybreak, it drops to flat around 9 a.m. after the sun starts heating the desert, becomes onshore light until about 1 p.m., picks up to 12-15 mph (20 -25 km/h) then drops back down to calm at dusk when the sun goes down.

Now, down to fishing. Look for birds circling and any surface action like small schools of shiners jumping to escape something feeding on them. Then cast as far as you can, reel as fast as you can, and you stand a chance of getting a bite. It’s best to have a few lures because Needlefish or Sierra are really toothy and you’ll get bitten off and not even feel it. It can be frustrating as salt fish are fast, have lots of teeth and are visual, meaning they hunt by sight vs many freshwater fish that hunt by smell.

If you use a wire leader, they see it and you won’t get a bite. Using fluorocarbon, which they can’t see, can still be bitten off hence the need to reel as fast as you can to get the fish excited to charge the bait and bite the lure and miss the leader. Don’t worry about reeling so fast the fish won’t catch it, they can swim a lot faster than you can reel. 

Casting is not the only way to beach fish; I’ve had some success with bait.  You can get small pieces of squid cut from the large white slabs of calamari at the fish counter at La Comer or Walmart. Tackle stores also carry packages of small snelled hooks and 2-3 oz sand weights. The snelled hooks have little barbs up the shank to hold the bait on and the sand weights are either triangular or have little feet on them to grip into the sand when you tighten up your line to raise the bait off the bottom so the fish can see it. I use 3 baited hooks up the line, starting the first one about 3 feet up the line and spacing the other hooks a foot apart.  Launch the rig as far as you can and get comfortable. Pieces of 2” diameter PVC pipe cut 3‘ long and angle cut on one end work well as rod holders pushed into the sand to keep the rod straight and the line tight so you can see the bites.

As an avid fisherman (or woman) you also may have engaged your imagination in the past while fishing – vs catching – on how to improve the chances of catching. As the hours melt away hoping for a bite, true genius gets stirred and out pops a great idea. Well, I’ve had a couple and will share one with you.

Seeing the offshore breeze several mornings at 12- 15 mph I had the bright idea of using a 12” balloon as a float that, theoretically, the wind would push way offshore and get me out where the fish might be. I tied the balloon onto the line and put on a 6’ fluorocarbon leader with a chunk of squid and launched it out as best I could. The problem I learned was the balloon had too much air drag and I couldn’t cast it out past the breaking surf; it just tumbled in the waves. Adding more balloons didn’t work as that caused more wind drag and adding more weight didn’t work because then I needed more balloons to keep the rig floating. OK, back to the drawing board, I gave the balloons to the little kids next door and got big smiles and thank you: solace enough for my great idea-Fail.

Oh, one last thing before I forget, you’re supposed to get a fishing license in Mexico. I always get an annual license because, as a snowbird, I’ll be fishing for 5 months, however, daily or multi-day are available too. The annuals run around 800 pesos and if you plan on going boat fishing a license is essential. Read my next article on boat fishing to find out how that’s enforced.

The disclaimer: it’s best to stay legal, get the licence and don’t take the risk. Good luck fishing!