For decades, Bahia San Quintin in Baja California Norte has attracted a large number of anglers during the winter months because of its reputation as an excellent venue for catching quality rock cod, lingcod, bank perch, salmon grouper and other tasty bottom species. This laid back, bucolic venue lies just over 200 miles south of the International Border at San Ysidro, making it a popular weekend getaway for a host of visiting saltwater anglers from southern California and beyond.
Unfortunately, over the past few years many stateside media outlets have saturated the airways and the Internet with sensationalist reports warning U.S. citizens to avoid traveling to Mexico. What they do not report is that a vast majority of the problems they allude to have taken place far away on the Mexican mainland and not in Baja California, which has remained infinitely safer by comparison.
Travelers can be assured that the Mexican military and the Federal Police, as well as their regional counterparts, are working together in a combined effort to discourage acts that adversely affect tourism. The effects of their endeavors are already becoming apparent as reports of negative events continue to drop sharply.
Nonetheless, most hardcore Baja anglers are quick to put aside these alarmist perceptions that have kept others from taking advantage of the great winter bottom fishing that the Pacific coast of Baja Norte has to offer.
Those who would like to visit Bahia San Quintin with their own boats will find the local cement launch ramp to be nearly perfect for small craft, but be aware that it is extremely shallow in many areas. One suggestion; boaters who are new to this area might want to follow one of the commercial pangas out of the bay on the first few trips in order to avoid running aground.
If you don’t have a boat, no problem! You can always charter one to take you out to the fishing grounds. A couple of the most popular operations are Kelly Catian’s K&M Sportfishing, Tiburon Pangas, Capt. Juan Cook Pangas and Pedro’s Pangas. A majority of prominent sportfishing services working out of Bahia San Quintin are well managed, but it is always an angler’s responsibility to make sure every member of their fishing party has a valid Mexican fishing license in their possession. It is important to remember that simply following the rules goes a long way in making sure that your trip out on the water is a pleasant one, no matter which side of the border you happen to be fishing on.
Most of the bottom species are found around one of San Quintin’s deep offshore banks, rocky depressions or nearby San Martin Island respond well to a standard dropper loop rigs with several ounces of weight at the terminal end, and one or two hooks up the line a distance of 12 to 16 inches from each other. A good ‘hole’ will also often yield several other species of rockfish. Smaller fish such as blue, canary and starry rockfish are usually found in the same areas as much larger ‘reds’ and other bottom species.
While these fish will quickly inhale sardines and anchovies, it is often a good idea to use tough bait that is difficult to steal, such as cut octopus, squid or mackerel. Bigger specimens, such as lingcod, will also attack colored and chrome-plated conventional or jointed iron jigs that have been enhanced by a strip of squid pinned to the hook.
To many, one of the most rewarding parts of a bottom fishing trip is returning home with a cooler full of the delicate white fillets rendered by these species, which are considered gourmet table fare and can be prepared in a wide variety of ways.
All you have to do is drop ‘er down and hang on!