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May 13, 2013

Fishing La Paz, Baja California Sur, Mexico

Head to La Paz for a sizzling cabrilla bite with surprises.

Once we “matched the hatch,” the bite turned on again. We had boated a few more grouper when I heard a telltale click on the aft starboard rod. I grabbed the Senator 114/Sabre rod combo only to have it almost yanked out of my hands. I set the hook and the fight was on. Pure brute strength telegraphed up the line as my opponent stayed down, concealing its identity. Finally, the ­unmistakable ­serrated dorsal fin broke the surface, and I realized I was tight to my biggest roosterfish yet. It wasn’t ready to ­surrender though, and matched the 80-pound-test line pound for pound. Twenty minutes later, based on its overall size and the massive girth of its tail, we let the estimated 80-pounder swim away. A cold celebratory cerveza helped soothe my aching biceps.

“The roosters like the aujeta too,” Lieras said, laughing. “And when the ballyhoo come into the shallows to spawn, the ­yellowtail and sierra mackerel will come in to feed on them also.” Lieras looks for depths of 30 feet or less with the rocky bottom that anchors the vegetation growing toward the surface. With numerous coves and protected shorelines only a short distance from La Paz, the area is ideally suited for midsize boats and pangas. Aside from local marinas, there are several places to launch from the beach with a four-wheel-drive tow vehicle, a prospect that intrigues the Merinos.

“We’ve quickly fallen in love with La Paz,” Mike told me on the ride back, as Julie soaked up the rays. “CostaBaja has everything a visiting boater needs: ramp, modern marina and service, all the amenities. The city still has the charm of Old Baja. And best of all, the fishing is great. It’s the perfect spot for a spring-fishing fling. We’ll be back for sure.” 

So will I.

La Paz, Baja California Sur, Mexico Tackle Box

While the inshore fishing on the spawning ballyhoo is primarily a live-bait fishery, there’s plenty of opportunity for casting lures when the predators are blitzing the ballyhoo schools. A selection of lures is easier to carry along than to find once you are there. Effective casting lures include diving plugs, such as Rapala Magnum CD-14/18, diamond jigs, Luhr Jensen Crippled Herring or casting spoons. 

  • Rods: 61⁄2- to 7-foot ­medium-heavy conventional or spinning with limber tip and stout butt section 
  • Reels: Avet or Penn Senator conventional; Daiwa Saltist or Fin-Nor Offshore spinning in 5000- to 7000-class sizes
  • Lines: 30- to 50-pound-test monofilament or braid up to 80-pound-test
  • Leader: Two feet of ­60-pound-test fluorocarbon connected to the main line with a blood knot or double uni-knot
  • Lures: Rapala Magnum ­CD-14/18 diving plugs, Mold Craft and ­Williamson ballyhoo, 6- to 8-ounce metal casting jigs 
  • Baits: Live ballyhoo and sardines, readily available locally

Trip Planner

  • What: Grouper, roosterfish, ­yellowtail, snapper
  • When: January to June
  • Where: La Paz, Baja California Sur
  • Who: CostaBaja resort, 888-866-9394,

CostaBaja is a 550-acre residential community with hotel, beach club, golf course, and marina with restaurants, shops, and galleries, five minutes from downtown La Paz overlooking the Sea of Cortez. The modern marina has 250 slips for yachts up to 225 feet; built-in pump-out stations, television and Internet access, 24-hour security, the largest fuel dock in the area, potable desalinated water, and complete boat services. With an abundance of accessible fishing and modern facilities, La Paz has long been a popular destination for trailer boaters who undertake the 950-mile drive from San Diego.

Charters and Captains