There was a time, 25 years ago, when we first arrived in Conception Bay, when we could drop an unbaited hook in the water and catch fish. Not today!
The area of Mulege, in Baja California, Mexico was once known as the best fishing place south of the border. This was before it was overfished, and the shrimp boats from mainland Mexico started coming into the bay and dragging the ocean floor for more profits.
Every year, locals would hold a Yellowtail tournament with big money riding on the winning fishermen. The year before last, not one Yellowtail was caught; however, this may have been a blessing which came with Covid.
The number of people who fished the bay and outside the area dropped abruptly. Only a few Canadians came south of the border because they could not drive their RVs across the United States. Fishing guides had to find other work and our usual guide, Alejandro, took up painting houses on the side.
Covid gave the schools of Yellowtail a break to rebuild their numbers, and even though the water is not the right temperature (60 degrees instead of what they like: 65 degrees), the Yellowtail are starting to come north in the Sea of Cortez.
A very important part of catching Yellowtail is being able to catch live bait. Yesterday, as we left the launch ramp at 6 a.m., we went straight to the bait hole and the bait fish of choice, mackerel, practically jumped into the boat.
We were excited as we left the bait area with a full bait tank and a promise of a great day. The sea was wavy, and our boat had to go slow as it went for deep water. About 350 feet is best.
One can imagine our disappointment as we fished one hole after another and did not see one Yellowtail. The fisherman who play poker with us said a group had caught eight Yellowtail just the other day. He also said the very next day, they went out and caught none.
Then we thought we had one. The pole was hard to reel as we worked the fish up from the 350-foot level, fighting all the way.
Alejandro reached over and pushed a button on our reel. Like magic the rod became suddenly much easier to wind. He laughed as if he had played a joke on us and he did.
The very expensive reel had a button which shifted gears making it 10 times easier to wind in. It was slower bringing the fish to the surface, but we were having trouble the other way.
Finally we got the fish close to the boat — and it was not a Yellowtail at all, but a Shark, and we had not hooked it in the mouth, but a side fin.
Still the fight was real, and a fish is a fish. We dropped it back into the water.
Alejandro saw our disappointment in not catching fish, and like all good guides, he knew where there were fish to be had and headed to a hole which had Pinto Bass.
We caught all the Pinto Bass we wanted and then some. Sometimes there were three fish on the line at once and all pretty good size. We caught many more than we could ever eat, and our arms were sore at winding in the reels.
The extra fish would not go to waste as Alejandro’s wife was also the fish vendor in the area and sold fish. We settled for four of the Pinto Bass and gave the rest to the guide, knowing he would know if there were families in need and see they got fish for free.
The day had been a good day. One filled with a lot of laughter, as we told fish stories both coming and going.
Alejandro said the best fishing would be the end of March when the water got to 65 degrees, and he predicted it would be a very good year.