Let’s All Go To Mag Bay!

Oh boy! Beat you to the car!
BY: EDGAR GONZALEZ

Fishing enthusiasts know about Magdalena Bay, because for them it is a place with unending possibilities for year round sport fishing; in the bay, inshore, offshore, and fly fishing, and for a huge variety of species. They fish from a panga, kayak, beach or even wade and beach fish. They catch marlin, dorado, yellow fin tuna, and wahoo, among others.

Magdalena Bay is best known to the general public for being a sanctuary for the humpback whales, with tours taking the curious on a magical journey very close to the sea mammals. The whales arrive after their long annual migration of thousands of miles to this, their home away from home. Between December and March this is the preferred place for the whales to meet and do some hanky panky with their mates. They not only come here to breed, but to give birth too, with the lady whales paying the price for the previous year’s hanky panky. On a good day you can see dozens of whales and calves roaming through the bay, accompanied by a variety of dolphins, turtles, orcas and sea lions among hundreds of other watery creatures. Orca whales eat humpback whales, and each year they nab about a third of the babies.

On to lighter news. An astounding variety of beautiful migrating birds like the peregrine falcon, white ibis, cormorants and pelicans can be seen flapping around the bay. It makes you think of the mythical Garden of Eden.

Mag Bay is the biggest wetland ecosystem on the western side of Baja California and is among the richest and most abundant in the world. This is a 124-mile-long bay from the beautiful Almejas bay at its south end to the Poza Grande in its north and is the largest bay on the peninsula. It is 35 miles south of  Constitucion City and 130 miles north of La Paz, about a four hour drive north from Los Cabos, on the Pacific Ocean side.

This is a very important protected ecological sanctuary with beautiful landscapes where you can see rocky misty islands in front of inhabited beaches with huge rising sand dune walls protecting a labyrinth of mangroves filled with life. The mangroves are so extensive, with canals naturally cutting through them, that a kayaker can get seriously lost.

The great variety of species that you can find here are attracted by several circumstances, like the dry warm climate with year-round rains. Also the nutrient filled waters are a product of the cold currents coming from Alaska clashing with the warm tropical waters. This makes the bay a very productive area for commercial fishing too, with a wide spectrum of species to choose from like shrimp, lobster, clam, abalone and sardines. Unfortunately, we have seen the carcasses of thousands of sharks that have been killed by cutting off their fins. The fins are packed into waiting wooden crates with salt in them, and picked up by Japanese boats. The sharks are left to sink to the bottom and die and you can see them in the shallow clear water. When questioned about this practice, the fishermen clam up and pretend they can’t understand Spanish. Why is there always an ugly side to everything? Well, in this case because we have the ugly Japanese who know full well what is going on, and who take advantage of the subsistence level Mexican fishermen.

 

The ecosystem has three main zones:

the channel zone: with many estuaries, lagoons and channels

the central zone: which is what we usually call Mag Bay connected to the sea by a huge mouth and a channel.

The southeast zone or Almejas bay that connects to open  sea via a shallow mouth. It also connects to the central zone by a channel.

This lagoon system is protected by a series of islands and sand bars parallel to the coast.

There are tours through the lagoons, where you can see red, white and black mangroves that provide shelter and serve as an anchor for the colorful vegetation endemic to the area. These tours can be and afternoon or up to three days long. This is a fabulous bay for kayaking, with miles and miles of narrow passageways, many canopied by thick vegetation.

To get there you can drive north to the tiny towns of Puerto San Carlos or Puerto Mateos and hire a small boat called a panga to scoot around the bay. Bargain tough here, they start out quoting prices they will be happy to cut in half if you counter. From the peninsula highway, about 30 minutes before Constitucion, there is a big left turn at a roundabout, with a statue of some guy at the center. Can’t miss it. It’s a big turn and a big statue. We don’t know who the guy is, but if you send us a picture of you standing in front of it, holding a copy of the paper, we’ll send you a free copy of the paper. You don’t have to tell us the name of the guy, we won’t know him anyway.

Right now and though early March it’s a bit windy, spring and fall are more tranquil. But now is when the whales are there waiting for you to pet them, so tie your hat down and go. October and November are when the water temperatures are 80 to 85 degrees and visibility is up to 80 feet. Right now is a good time to see the desert green and in bloom. Also now the water temperature is in the mid 69’s, brrrr. The air temperature gets into the 80s most days.

After a rainy season you can get a lot of mosquitoes, no-see-ums and gnats, so bring your Bug Off if you go in October or November.  March, April and May are usually bug free.