Bahia San Quintin, on northern Baja California’s Pacific coast, provides many good reasons for anglers to pay seasonal visits to this prime recreational paradise. Meandering canals, long, sandy beaches, excellent fishing both inside and outside the bay.
In late summer, the magnificent white sea bass stands out among all other species as the most alluring game fish targeted by both visiting and local anglers. Some of these fish can grow to over 70 pounds, and are also considered gourmet table fare.
White sea bass most often frequent fairly shallow water, preferring depths of less than 30 feet, which this includes areas just outside the surf zone. One of the prime white sea bass grounds in the Bahia San Quintin region lies off Socorro Beach, just a few miles south of the bay. Here, from one quarter to several miles off the isolated shoreline, long strands of golden Pacific kelp and the relatively shallow sandy bottom combine to provide a near perfect habitat for a multitude of forage and predator fish.
While shiny spoons can readily provoke a strike from hungry sea bass, sometimes live bait can be even better. Anchovies and sardines are extremely effective, but sometimes larger sea bass are more likely to attack a live Pacific mackerel. For an especially deadly technique, slow-troll mackerel near the inner edges of kelp beds during dusk or predawn hours. Focus your search in kelp-strewn rocky areas within 100 yards or so of where the structure meets a sandy bottom. Keep an eye out for bird activity and scan the water for dorsal fins of slow cruising sea bass cutting the surface.
Those who want to fish with live bait must catch their own. Conditions just inside the mouth of the Bahia make this job much easier than in most locations. The area generally holds a proliferation of perfectly-sized, 7- to 9-inch mackerel that anglers can catch on multi-hook bait rigs such as a Lucky Joe.
Savvy sea bass anglers know that live squid makes the very best bait for tempting white sea bass. Although many other popular game fish relish cut strips and chunks of this tender cephalopod, sea bass – especially those of trophy size – prefer inhaling whole, live squid. Veteran sea bass anglers can testify that when the squid are in, you can usually forget about enticing these overgrown croakers to strike anything else.
Despite the fact that plenty of white sea bass still seem to be available in northern Baja, only intelligent resource management will keep things that way for the future. It is, hence, vitally important, as it is when taking any gamefish species, to always let your conscience be your guide.