East Cape, Baja California Sur, Mexico - Hot Nearshore Action!

Phil Simmons

The line on my spinning rod goes tight and instantly begins to pull drag. A split second later, a bright yellow and blue torpedo explodes from the surface of the water, jumping high in the first of several jumps to follow. I’ve barely begun to scream “fish on!” when our guide, Guillermo, knocks the boat out of gear and races to the livewell. As I pump and wind the fish to the boatside quickly as possible, Guillermo peppers the waters around the boat with a handful of sardines. We all stare into the depths, searching for more signs of life. “Dorado!” shouts Guillermo, and below we see the telltale blue outlines of a school of Mahi-Mahi slowly rising to investigate their brother’s location.

This is the crucial point in the game. The schooling Dorado are aggressive feeders and will stay around as long as there is something to chase. I hand off the spinning rod to our guide, and jump to the front deck of the panga boat, where my 10-weight flyrod is waiting, line already stripped out. A short cast is all that’s needed to catch the Dorado’s eye. As I pop my fly across the surface rapidly, she races to cut it off. I feel the flyline tighten, and with a quick sweep of the rod, the hook sticks and I’m quickly clearing line as it races up through the guides. Just another day on the East Cape!

Dorado this size are common nearshore, with larger catches in excess of 50lbs coming in often from the larger boats.

Summertime can provides steady Dorado action for anglers.

The East Cape is located near the Southern end of Baja California, on the Sea of Cortez, or Gulf of California. This location’s waters are very diverse, offering multiple options for multiple species every day. In some sections, 120-foot depths are a mere ¼ mile off the beach, with a sharp drop continuing out. Nearshore reefs as well as natural bottom structure dot the topographical maps. Rocky sections of beach separate long stretches of sand. And the fishing is great!

Year-round fishing for this area includes Black as well as Striped Marlin, Sailfish, Yellowfin Tuna, Roosterfish, Wahoo, and our prime target: Dorado.

While Dorado can be caught year round, the prime months for light tackle and flyfishing here are June and July. During our seven-night stay at Rancho Leonero, our group averaged 8 to 10 Dorado per day (per pair of anglers), with other species mixed in. With the daily boat limit of 10 fish, we were releasing smaller fish on numerous occasions.

While the largest fish tend to be further offshore, out of the range of pangas, the action inshore can be steady enough to leave event the most seasoned anglers sore in the morning. We would typically begin our day trolling skirts for Bonita (Black Skipjack) to use for bait, as well as some of the smallish Yellowfin Tuna that can be found nearshore. Most of the Tuna caught were in the 5-10lb class. Not tackle-busters by any means, but they were excellent prepared as sashimi appetizer before dinner! As the day begins to warm, a short troll along the beach could produce a Roosterfish strike or two, then it was on to the main event: Dorado!

The fleet at Rancho Leonero includes numerous pangas as well as cruisers (sportfishers averaging 35’ and larger) and kayaks. About half of their captains speak English, however, with a few key fishing phrases, any “gringo” can have a successful and enjoyable trip. The resort itself provides a relaxed atmosphere for when you’re not fishing, with a swimming pool and poolside lounge, air-conditioned rooms, and the best damned ceviche you’ll ever have! After dinner, you can stroll down the beach, but bring your fishing rod! Ladyfish and jacks keep the action steady, while numerous other species hide in the rocks just out in front of the resort.

For gear, anglers should bring as a bare minimum:

  • 1 medium spinning outfit - 15 to 20lb test on a 8-17lb rod
  • 1 heavy spinning outfit – 30 to 50lb test on a 20-30lb rod
  • 1 10-weight fly outfit with an intermediate sinking line

Roosterfish cruise in the surf alongside the beaches. This healthy fish posed for a photo before release.

The medium spinner will work well for fishing on the beach, as well as sightfishing from the boat; it’s difficult to have two people flyfishing at one time on a panga, so use that opportunity to have some light tackle action while your partner flyfishes. The heavy outfit will work well as a trolling rod while you are searching for schools of Dorado, and you’ll be thankful for the heavier weight should you hook a large Bonita or Yellowfin tuna. The 10-weight fly outfit is more than enough rod for most of these fish, but the extra weight will allow you to throw large sardine patterns and poppers with fewer false-casts. As with anything, more combos will give you more options, but we found these three rods would get us through a day fishing there. Note that guides do NOT supply tackle or baits, so bring a full tackle box, a good assortment of bluewater flies, and a few dollars for sardines or mackerel.

Cost of the trip is perhaps the best part. While many 6 day fishing trips / 7 night accommodation packages go for $3000 or more these days, this one was about $1500, including rooms, guides, and all meals.

For more information on Rancho Leonero, visit their website.


For more fishing stories, tips, and reports, chech out our Inshore Fishing Forum!

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