Book Report

Baja Catch, a fishing, travel, and remote camping Manual for Baja California

Baja Catch, a fishing, travel, and remote camping Manual for Baja California, 2nd edition. Completely revised. 1988, 1993. By Neil Kelly and Gene Kira. Apples & Oranges Inc Valley Center California 246 pp. collectable and pricey.

I recently wrote a review of another of Gene Kira’s books for Gringo Gazette; King of the Moon. I wondered if a book of fishing maps and tips could possibly have that same magic as his novel did. I purchased a used copy of the Baja Catch with its colorful dorado on the cover, and proceeded to do research. I will leave to readers, my question about magic!

Change is inevitable, and conditions were different between the first and second editions, and the authors do see further changes coming, and they quote Churchill as seeing, “the end of the beginning.”

The fishing paradise described by them then, as the best in the world, is still fantastic, “5 to 20 fish per hour of more than 50 species,” is the way they describe it. However, the untouched paradise written about by Steinbeck, Cannon, and enjoyed by movie stars like Desi Arnez and John Wayne, who flew into what is now Cabo is no more and not even then. There has been progress and many changes in the years since these books have been written. Some changes, however, are not influenced by humans but is just inevitable.

This book is dedicated by Neil and Gene to salt water anglers everywhere. The authors have ample experience, catching and releasing over 30,000 Baja game fish in their many journeys to Baja. There are 22 chapters, after an introduction giving hints to anglers on how best to use the book. This chapter is written in an easy and reader friendly format, which is also the style of the rest of the book.

This book gives much information that is timeless, although there are those inevitable changes since the publishing of this manual. Basic information, the 57 fishing maps, tips on each camp, beach launching, the fish identification, and camping lists have changed little.

The first six chapters focus on Baja primitive camping, survival on Mexico Highway 1, and survival in the boonies, expert fishing techniques, and gold, silver & bronze, an honest grading of Baja’s fishing waters.

The next 11 chapters describe fishing areas, north to south along the Sea of Cortez, and back up the Pacific coast, writing about the geology (the long, narrow trench in the Sea of Cortez, that is 4000 to 10,000 feet deep), villages, roads, access, and accommodations, (may or may not have changed, yours to guess), with maps and black and white photos. The language here is as friendly as one fisherman to another.

The last four chapters are equally valid: a rogue’s gallery, with descriptions and detailed drawings of fish, papers, and permits to get. A chapter of Spanish for fishing conversations is helpful, and would be useful to anyone visiting the Baja. (The Spanish is Mexican Spanish and not strictly correct textbook Spanish). The last chapter (22) is for fun, like hey, I thought you brought the toilet paper. This comes with extensive lists of items needed, in case they are not available locally.

As a complete fishing and camping novice, I found this book to be an easy read, chock full of useful information, and magical in the clear descriptions of the Baja we all love. I felt a sense of loss that I did not experience the Baja of those early years, and the strong hope that we appreciate and protect the wealth of nature that is Baja.

Baja Catch, by Neil Kelly, and Gene Kira is out of print, and available at for prices ranging according to condition and edition. Prices range from $37 to hundreds of dollars.