Baja California Sur, Mexico
The East Cape of Baja is known for some of the world’s best striped marlin fishing, as well as world-class dorado and yellowfin action. The fishing grounds off the East Cape are very close offshore, in the relatively calm waters of the Sea of Cortez. Occasionally, 15- to 25-mile runs will be needed to reach the bite, but on most days you can hook billfish just a mile or so off the beach where a few deep canyons run adjacent to the coast.
Middleweight game fish hug these East Cape inshore waters, while striped marlin, blue marlin, black marlin, sailfish, dorado and tuna prowl the deeper offshore waters. At this special sportfishing location, the deep blue waters meet the inshore waters only two to four miles out! Multitudes of big grouper and sea basses dwell in the labyrinth of caves and crevasses of the reefs.
Billfish can be caught here year-round, but winter has frequent north winds and the slowest fishing at East Cape. There are usually some sierra, skipjack, and bonito around to mix with the resident snapper and sea bass types. Jack crevalle, amberjack, ladyfish and barred pargo are often found here right up near shore.
In March a showing of striped marlin will get the season in gear. By May their numbers increase to the point that hookups are the rule rather than the exception. Striped marlin here average 100 to 200 pounds, with water temps increasing to the high 70s and low 80s.
By June or July an influx of sailfish arrives. Typical of the Pacific stock, they average 80 to 140 pounds. The months of July through October are considered prime time for blue marlin, which can venture close to this coast in search of their preferred forage of mackerel, skipjack tuna and small yellowfin.
Although May and June in the spring, and October and November in the fall, are the peak times for fishing in the East Cape area for most species, the summer fishing season finds large blue marlin and black marlin feeding on dorado just outside the reefs and inside of the 100-fathom curve. In Bahia Los Frailes, the 100-fathom curve lies merely a few hundred yards offshore, where it’s not uncommon to see billfish chasing bait just beyond the surf line.
East Cape Resorts and Lodges
Fishing International works with many fine resorts from Los Barilles to Punta Colorada in the south for your East Cape fishing adventure. Here’s a short description of each:
Palmas de Cortez
Just north of Buena Vista, at the town of Los Barriles, the Palmas de Cortez remains true to the original sportfishing formula established at the East Cape by owner Bobby Van Wormer and others for years. Here, the nightlife and packaged tourism take a backseat to good old fishing. The Palmas de Cortez offers beautiful views, modern facilties and the extras of a world-class resort.
Playa del Sol
Nearby the Palmas de Cortez, the intimate Playa del Sol, another of Van Wormer’s resorts, offers a slightly more “personal touch” to its visitors. Smaller, with only 26 rooms, it still caters to the angler and operates a sport fleet that provides quick access to the fishing waters of the Sea of Cortez.
Buena Vista Beach Resort
At the heart of the area we know as the “East Cape” today, the venerable Buena Vista stands as one of the first sportfishing resorts established on the Sea of Cortez. The Buena Vista offers the relaxed luxury of Mediterranean style bungalows with private patios. The fleet of 19 well-equipped boats range from 23-foot Super Pangas to 31-foot twin-engine cruisers.
This resort hotel is South of Los Barriles and stands alone on the Beach. The southern area of the Cape is situated to provide short runs to the offshore fishing grounds. The untouched area is known as the “Roosterfish Capital of the World,” due to its shallow sand shelf making it prime waters for this and other inshore species. Look for hospitality, fine accomodations and all the amenities here.
East Cape Fishing Calendar
Getting to the East Cape
The East Cape of Baja can be accessed easily by car or ground transportation from either of the international airports at San Jose del Cabo or La Paz. Travel time from Cabo is approximately 45-50 minutes to the resorts, and from La Paz it will take about 1-1/2 hours.
Fishing International can arrange ground transportation from either airport to any resort we offer.
More about Fishing the East Cape
This stretch of the Sea of Cortez, starting at Punta los Frailes in the south and going north 15 miles to Punta Arena, has the finest combination of big game fish, small game fish, and diving in the Cortez–probably one of the best in the world. This is due to the area’s unique location and its underwater topography.
Sierra, ladyfish and giant needlefish can be caught from the beach north of Cabo Pulmo. Cabrilla, snapper, barred pargo, grouper and triggerfish live among the reefs there. Dorado, marlin and school tuna sweep in from the outside to feed–all within three miles of shore!
This beach area also has stone patches sprinkled about that are the home of schools of roosterfish. When the roosters are chasing bait close to shore here, the best lure is a shiny chrome three-and-a-half-inch spoon cast right up onto the sand then retrieved rapidly back into the water. When roosters hit the spoon in really shallow water (we’re only talking about a few inches here) there is an explosion of spray followed by long powerful runs up and down the beach.
East Cape’s Punta Arena is the easternmost projection of the Baja California peninsula, and the fishing water here drops off rapidly to over 1,000 feet deep only a mile offshore. Virtually all of the game fish that migrate into the Sea of Cortez must swim past this point. Near shore right at the point are sierra, ladyfish and jack crevalle.
FISHING BAHIA DE PALMAS:
With the historic opening of the Rancho Buena Vista sportfishing resort in the 1950s on East Cape’s BahÃa de Palmas, the resort sportfishing business as we know it today began on the Sea of Cortez. Soon, a resort fishing village called Los Barriles sprang up four miles north of Buena Vista where the highway meets the sea. This double village of Los Barriles-Buena Vista is the heart of the fishing area that is thought of as “East Cape” by most people today.
The inshore fishing inside Bahia de Palmas is actually pretty good, much better than the resort people and most visitors think.
Fishing northwards toward high Punta Pescadero, the East Cape shoreline turns to gravel at the mouth of the wide arroyo one mile north of Los Barriles, and the near-shore water is a small shelf of rocks, gravel, sand and a little vegetation over which lots of yellowtail snapper, triggerfish, fileskin (or orangeside) triggerfish and pompano dwell. Some of these fish run to five pounds. A very deep underwater trench drops off at the northern edge of this shelf. This is the famous “tuna canyon” that figures in the offshore fishing here. There isn’t much shoreline fishing action over this trench.
North of this arroyo, the East Cape shore changes to a sheer cliff with a narrow road along its base leading to the Hotel Punta Pescadero, six miles ahead. The shoulder of the road is built on big rocks that continue out into the depths. Fishing along here is only fair, mostly for triggers and leopard grouper.
At the mouth of the next arroyo, which is very wide, the East Cape shoreline again is gray gravel and stones that continues out into the water as a shelf.
Here the fishing action picks up dramatically on barred pargo, snapper, cabrilla and grouper–easy to break your line, rod, or reel here. We weave back and forth across the mouth of this arroyo catching-and-releasing. It’s tough to leave this place.
As you approach the Hotel Punta Pescadero, you find reefs everywhere, with big, smooth gray rocks protruding above the surface here and there. Extending out from the front of the hotel is a marvelous fishing reef that goes at least three-quarters of a mile out, and has a current slick flowing over it.
This large reef is just loaded with fish of many types. Using polarizing sunglasses to look down into the water you see them everywhere swimming to-and-fro over the sand patches between the boulders. They are so fearless here that you can actually see them strike a lure on a short line! This is one of the best snorkeling and diving areas we’ve ever seen. The dominant fish species here are barred pargo, cabrilla, triggerfish, fileskin triggerfish, and a short, very fat gray sea bass type that struck and ran like a big barred pargo but always broke us off in the caves. This reef descends as it continues out a couple of miles before dropping into 3,000-foot depths. This drop off is prime marlin and tuna grounds for East Cape’s many private and charter fishing boats.
FISHING THE SOUTH BAY:
Fishing southwards from Los Barriles, you must avoid the labyrinth of anchored hotel cruisers and private fishing boats. When clear of them we move inshore, zigzagging along, covering all of the near-shore water from almost on the beach to 100 yards out.
South of Los Barriles, and approaching Buena Vista, dark patches will appear here and there on the sandy bottom. Triggerfish and grunts are over these stone piles. Small pompano are wandering around in schools but they don’t seem to hit a lure.
Nine miles south of Los Barriles, the small East Cape town of La Ribera comes into sight, a little inland, with a few pangas on the beach. Half a mile off this town is a dandy fishing reef a quarter-mile wide and one-and-a-half miles long that is only eight to 12 feet deep. It has black rocks and weeds on a sand bottom.
This reef has, by far, the best inshore fishing south of Los Barriles, and you could sink the boat here with snapper, barred pargo, hogfish and big triggers–all fine fighters and the best of eating.
This special East Cape reef is the only place in Baja where we have experienced a wild, continuous surface bite on schooling triggerfish, as they erupted in big boils and jumps all along in front of the town. An unusual sight, to say the least.
The southern half of BahÃa de Palmas and southwards to Punta Arena and Punta Colorada has a shallow sand shelf that is prime roosterfish water.
In shallow water inshore fishing throughout this East Cape area, the seasonal catch would be expected to include: several true cabrillas, jack crevalle and roosterfish, pompano, assorted other jacks, leopard grouper also called “cabrilla,” triggerfish, snappers, sierra, ladyfish, barred pargo, needlefish, ladyfish, and many, many, many other miscellaneous species.
Because of the great depths just offshore and the abundant food, billfish will often come well inside of the 100-fathom curve in the East Cape sportfishing area. Dorado, roosterfish, sierra, bonito, skipjack and other middleweight species come well inside of the 50-fathom curve, almost to the shoreline to keep from becoming bait fish for the large marlin. Fishing of all types takes place closer to shore here than in other places. At East Cape, “inshore fishing” and “offshore fishing” get mixed together. This stretch of the Sea of Cortez sets an almost unbelievable standard of sportfishing quality for the rest of the world.
East Cape, Baja Sept 2011