The Baja panga is a sturdy, dory-like boat made from wood and fiberglass, and has been used successfully in most of the small, rural fish Camps located along Baja California’s remote Pacific and Cortez coasts for generations. They measure approximately 22 feet in length and feature a high bow with plenty of freeboard to accommodate the rough water situations in which they must often operate. Intrepid, commercial fishermen have braved the ocean with these tough, seaworthy vessels for decades, and consistently manage to return to port with a surprisingly large bounty for such relatively small craft.
Over time, many of these panga camps have developed the additional enterprise of providing boats and guides for recreational anglers. Those who take the time to enjoy this more primitive method of inshore angling are usually rewarded with better fishing, bigger fish, and a greater degree of personalized service than is generally available on many of the larger, commercial ‘cattle boats’ that work out of Ensenada’s harbor.
This often-overlooked style of sport fishing has been stocking the freezers of happy anglers for well over 40 years, and the time has come to alert those who have yet to try it of the great fun and opportunity that they have been missing. Most of northern Baja’s panga camps are located in areas that lie within 150 miles of the International Border.
Of all the panga camps on Baja’s Pacific coast, Vonny’s Fleet, located in Punta Banda just south of Ensenada, is perhaps one of the best equipped and staffed, as well as one of the closest quality panga operations for visiting anglers. This fleets sturdy pangas launch from the beach at the calm, southern end of Bahia de Todos Santos, and fish the turquoise waters along Punta Banda’s northern shore, and just off the rocky tip of the peninsula near La Bufadora. Vonny’s Fleet primarily focuses on lingcod and other rockfish during the winter months. From spring through fall, however, it is possible to also catch a variety of popular gamefish like yellowtail, calico bass, halibut, sand bass, white seabass and large bonito.
Further down the coast, panga fishing operations at Puerto Santo Tomas, Castro’s Camp at Ejido Erendira and at the northern end of Bahia San Quintin also work hard to carve out a reputation for being able to ‘fill the burlap’ of their clients with a broad array of both inshore and deep water species. While some of these areas may be a bit more remote, they also offer the advantage of receiving less pressure, which sometimes means more and larger fish than in places that are close to larger populations.
But irrespective of the location that you ultimately select for your panga fishing trip, you are bound to encounter a truly different kind of angling experience: one which removes you from the world of electronic fish finders and GPS waypoints, and briefly whisks you back to the days when those who fished were much closer to the elements made their sport worthwhile.