Author Topic: Gonzaga Bay Baja - April 2018  (Read 1139 times)

BenCantrell

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Gonzaga Bay Baja - April 2018
« on: May 02, 2018, 04:09:42 PM »
There's no way to avoid this being long, so here goes!

Thurs 4/26 - the drive down

My friend Gerry flew in from Illinois the night before. We hit the road at 5:30am and met Dave at a Walmart in El Cajon.  Gerry didn't want to use my extra sit-in kayak, so he borrowed a sit-on-top from Dave.  We transferred the kayak to the top of my Subaru and headed east to Calexico to cross the border.  Fifteen minutes later we were in Mexicali with our FMM Visas stamped.  We drove south to San Felipe, which was a good half way point to stretch our legs.

In the San Felipe marina we saw the Sea Shepard, which you'll recognize if you're familiar with the Whale Wars TV show.  It's been patrolling the area around San Felipe for a while now, trying to stop the illegal gill netting of totoaba, the massive croaker with a swim bladder that goes for thousands of dollars on the black market in China.



We fished the jetty rocks for a bit, but there wasn't much action.



Eli had given me some notes about the fish he had caught here, but all I was able to round up was the lone amarillo snapper (#506).



We finished the drive to Gonzaga Bay and checked in at the hotel, Alfonsinas.  It was a nice place, but they lacked a few common features like locks on the doors and electrical outlets in the rooms.  I know it's a remote place, but they should bring in enough revenue to add those two things.  We unpacked the kayaks and fishing gear right away and got on the water before we ran out of daylight.  There was no surf, so the launch was a piece of cake.



There's a rocky point an easy paddle from the hotel, so that's where we went to fish.  I used a 1 oz bucktail jig and hooked into my first fish, a spotted bay bass (which are same species as the ones in SD).



Unfortunately, Gerry found out that the charging port on his camera was open when he went to photograph his first fish.  It wouldn't turn on, so I took photos of his catches for the rest of the night.  He used his phone the next two days.



The wind started to pick up so we worked our way back in even though we hadn't been out long.  On the way back I trolled a pair of Yo-Zuri 3D Crystal Minnows and caught this longjaw leatherjack (#507).  They have poisonous spines on their dorsal and anal fins, so I was glad I had my paddle gloves on.



I also caught a few lizardfish (same species as SD), which turned out to be the annoying species of the trip.  They absolutely loved those Yo-Zuris.



We beached the kayaks and started shore fishing.  To our surprise, it was much more productive than kayak fishing because predators were pushing schools of bait close to shore.  Gerry kicked off the epic session with this corvina.



For the next hour and a half it was wide open lure fishing from shore.  I lost track of how many corvina I caught, and I only photographed the first one, which I'm IDing as gulf corvina (#508) because of it's yellow tail with a straight margin.



Every hit was either a corvina or a lizardfish, and it was easy to tell which one was on the end of your line based on the fight.



However, my last fish felt wrong.  In fact, it didn't even feel like a fish - just some weird wobbles that weren't to the right or left.  Here's what I found attached to my 3/4 oz Megabait: a Pacific cutlassfish (#509).



This might be the weirdest fish I've ever seen.



Dave was having a ball catching corvina as well, and I finally pinned him down for a photo.  He likes to move around so it's no small feat.



Dinner at the hotel was good (I had some sort of halibut or sole in a garlic sauce), and then we promptly fell asleep.

Fri 4/27 - all day kayak fishing

We woke up at sunrise.  Breakfast wasn't served until 8am, so we loaded up on snacks instead so we could get on the water right away.  Trolling out to the rocky point I had a double hookup on lizardfish.



I think most of the lizardfish we caught were California lizardfish, but I IDed the darker one as a lance lizardfish (#510) because of the smaller eye, shorter head, and different color pattern on the scales.



We quickly learned that if you could see vegetation under the kayak, the only fish you would catch were spotted bass.



Once you got to deeper water and the vegetation ended, there was an immediate shift from bass to finescale triggerfish (same as the ones I caught in Acapulco last year).



Unfortunately my fish finder wasn't working, so I had to blind fish the bottom.  It wasn't the most productive way to fish, but I did connect with this big stone scorpionfish (#511).



Gerry and Dave were pretty far off in the distance, so I paddled over to see what the fuss was all about.  Pelicans and gulls were diving into a school of bait that was pushed up near the surface in the middle of the bay.  Gerry said he had fought something big for 45 minutes before it broke his 20 lb leader.  It was the fish that got away. :(  My bucktail had lost its tail due to the triggerfish, so I put a piece of squid on it and dropped it down.  A few seconds later it was slammed by this corvina.



I wanted some shelter from the wind so I headed back to one of the coves while Gerry and Dave stayed with the bait ball.  I trolled the Yo-Zuris close to shore, hoping for some sort of cabrilla, but I was surprised to get this gulf opalaye (#512) instead.



I continued to troll laps around the cove, and shortly after going over a big school of bait my kayak got pulled hard to the right.  For a split second I thought my lure had snagged a rock, but then my reel started singing as the fish on the other end took off!  After a fun sleigh ride I pulled in this gulf sierra (#513).  What a beast!



At this point I was pretty worn out so I took a break in the cove and stretched my legs.  My water supply was about gone, and everyone was getting tired, so when I saw Gerry and Dave we agreed to paddle back in.



Back at the hotel we set up for shore fishing again, but instead of doing lures we fished small pieces of squid on fish finder rigs.  It worked out well for catching a different group of species.  I caught this bullseye puffer (#514).



And also this slender croaker (#515).



After that the juvenile spotted bass showed up and ruined the fun.  We enjoyed another fish dinner in the hotel and then fell asleep more quickly than the night before.

Sat 4/28 - kayak morning, panga afternoon

We had gone to bed early, so it was easy to get up before sunrise.  This was the view from our room.



Gerry and I wanted to catch some smaller species to pad our lifelists, so we rigged up with tiny hooks and light line.  Dave wanted the normal size fish so he continued to use the same tackle as the day before.  Near the rocky parts of shore I was able to catch quite a few small guys starting with this largemouth blenny.



Next up was the savage barred serrano (#516).  They were unbelievably fast at grabbing your bait.



It took a bit more finesse, but eventually I was able to catch my #1 micro target, a Panemic sergeant major (#517).



We wanted to catch a late breakfast at the hotel and rest up before our panga trip.  On the way back I stopped to fish a 1.5 oz pink megabait tipped with squid, still hoping for a cabrilla or small grouper.  Instead I caught 2 triggerfish back to back.



The triggerfish had cleaned off the squid, but I decided to drop the jig down without bait for one more fish before I paddled in.  Something hit it, and the rod bent down HARD.  I thumbed the spool, and the fish on the other end started towing me.  When I was 50 yards from Dave I yelled to him jokingly, "Stay there I'm coming to you!".  A minute later I cruised right past him.  I lifted the rod and cranked as I lowered it, putting line back on the spool.  The fish wore out and I brought it to the side of the kayak.  It was the biggest croaker I had ever seen, and it took me a while to register what it was - a totoaba!!! (#518)



This was the rarest fish I'd ever caught, and I wanted to get it released quickly.  Dave came over and grabbed my camera, and I leaned over the side - almost tipping the kayak - and lifted it out of the water to get a quick photo.  When Dave said he got it, I put the fish back in the water and watched it swim away with a powerful kick of its tail.  Wow... just wow.



After a late breakfast we took a few hours to rest up and re-rig for panga fishing.  We were hoping for grouper, cabrilla, and larger pelagics like yellowtail, so we mostly brought large conventional setups and iron jigs.  The panga operator showed up at 1pm and we jumped in.



We fished a couple bait balls in the same coves that we had kayak fished the day before but didn't catch anything noteworthy.  On the other side of the island we fished bluer water, using the diving birds to locate the bait schools.  I caught my biggest triggerfish underneath one of the schools.  These guys are stupid strong.



Gerry caught a nice sierra shortly after.



We moved from spot to spot a lot, and it felt like we spent more time moving than fishing.  Our boat operator wanted to go to a point that was about an hour away, and we shrugged out shoulders and said ok.  In hindsight we should have insisted on staying closer so our fishing to not-fishing ratio was better.  To make matters worse the wind was really picking up, so we got banged up pretty good as the boat slammed up and down. 



I did manage one more species out at the point though, this goldspotted sand bass (#519), which is a close relative to the 3 bass we have in SD.



I also caught this Panama graysby, but it was one I had caught plenty of in Acapulco.



Back at the hotel we were thoroughly tired out, so we skipped shore fishing and enjoyed the evening instead.  The full moon which lit up the bay.



Sun 4/29 - the drive home

We packed up gear and enjoyed breakfast at 8am before hitting the road at 9am.  The drive back was uneventful, and we stopped in San Felipe again to stretch our legs.



I fished a bit but only caught a pair of tiny spotted bass.  Come on San Felipe, I expected more!



The wait at the border was pretty bad.  It took us two and half hours in line before we reached the checkpoint.  My calves were sore from pulling the car forward one car's length at a time with the manual transmission.  Plus you have the Mexican people tapping on your windows trying to sell you trinkets.  I'm ready to trade in for an automatic.  At the checkpoint they flagged us for additional screening.  They x-rayed the car as we pulled into a side area, and then they made us wait in a chain linked area with benches while a pair officers dug through all our fishing gear.  Eventually they let us go, and after dinner in Calexico we finished our caravan back to SD.

To sum up, I can't wait to go again!  Next time I'd like to camp and do kayaks only - no pangas.  More of the pelagic species show up in fall, so I'd like to save two vacation days for another trip then.  Also, I didn't try for sharks or rays, but I'm sure they're around, so it would be fun to bring down the heavy surf gear as well.

Good job if you made it through the whole report. :D

Latimeria

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Re: Gonzaga Bay Baja - April 2018
« Reply #1 on: May 03, 2018, 05:59:59 AM »
Wow!  That was a hell of a trip Ben!  How the hell did you charge your phones and camera if there was no wall outlets?

In any case, the amount of species was great and the Totoaba and cutlassfish are amazing!  I have to get down there, but I hate that wait at the border also.  Terrible long wait with window knockers the entire time.
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BenCantrell

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Re: Gonzaga Bay Baja - April 2018
« Reply #2 on: May 03, 2018, 06:18:15 AM »
Wow!  That was a hell of a trip Ben!  How the hell did you charge your phones and camera if there was no wall outlets?

In any case, the amount of species was great and the Totoaba and cutlassfish are amazing!  I have to get down there, but I hate that wait at the border also.  Terrible long wait with window knockers the entire time.

There was a lone outlet in the dining area.  I had my phone turned off the entire trip and brought a spare camera battery, so I didn't end up needing it.

Dave has a SENTRI card, and he got through in less than an hour.  Looks like it's $125 for 5 years.  That would definitely be worth it, even if you use it once per year.  That line was soul crushing.

Latimeria

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Re: Gonzaga Bay Baja - April 2018
« Reply #3 on: May 03, 2018, 06:48:23 AM »

Dave has a SENTRI card, and he got through in less than an hour.  Looks like it's $125 for 5 years.  That would definitely be worth it, even if you use it once per year.  That line was soul crushing.

Yep... I heard that about the last time I went down to Castro's Fish Camp.  It seems well worth the $$$ as we waited for 3 hours to get across.
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Donfish

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Re: Gonzaga Bay Baja - April 2018
« Reply #4 on: May 03, 2018, 08:16:58 AM »
Avoid at all costs returning from anywhere people go on a sunday to avoid traffic. Been trying to get to Gonzaga for 35 years

xjchad

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Re: Gonzaga Bay Baja - April 2018
« Reply #5 on: May 03, 2018, 09:13:54 AM »
Wow, what an awesome experience!  Congratulations, and thanks for the great report and pics! SOOOOO RAD!!!!  8) 8) 8)

brew111

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Re: Gonzaga Bay Baja - April 2018
« Reply #6 on: May 03, 2018, 09:34:18 AM »
Great report and pics!  Need another Baja trip soon!

Pinoyfisher

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Re: Gonzaga Bay Baja - April 2018
« Reply #7 on: May 03, 2018, 04:55:25 PM »
What an awesome report Ben!! I wish I was able to go. That totoaba is awesome!!
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Re: Gonzaga Bay Baja - April 2018
« Reply #8 on: May 03, 2018, 07:09:59 PM »
Wow, that was a great report with lots of pics! Sounds like you had no problems with taking your own car down. (Except for the long wait.) Glad to see you added to your life list.

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Latimeria

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Re: Gonzaga Bay Baja - April 2018
« Reply #9 on: May 23, 2018, 06:33:11 AM »
Binh likes pictures.  lol
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BenCantrell

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Re: Gonzaga Bay Baja - April 2018
« Reply #10 on: May 23, 2018, 07:40:43 AM »
Gotta keep it simple with lots of happy pictures to keep the kids entertained.

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Re: Gonzaga Bay Baja - April 2018
« Reply #11 on: June 01, 2018, 01:54:05 PM »
That definitely looks like an awesome trip.

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Re: Gonzaga Bay Baja - April 2018
« Reply #12 on: June 06, 2018, 04:51:14 AM »
Wow, what an awesome experience!  Congratulations, and thanks for the great report and pics! SOOOOO RAD!!!!  8) 8) 8)


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