[Be sure to click through all the images in the gallery above.]
I blinked twice to refocus, then scanned the glistening surface again. Within seconds, the spectacle I had just witnessed repeated itself. Another hefty grouper, in hot pursuit of a frantic ballyhoo, cleared the water like a trophy largemouth bass before crashing back in a frothy spray. I turned to our guide, Capt. Luis Lieras, for confirmation.
“No señor, you are not going crazy,” he told me with a hearty laugh. “Those are cabrilla, and they are going crazy for the aujeta, or ballyhoo. It’s not unusual. But it happens for only a short time every spring when the conditions are right, like they are now. Let’s get the baits out and catch some.” My host, Mike Merino, and I quickly readied the rods as the blitz continued. We wouldn’t have long to wait.
I had met Merino and his wife, Julie, at the CostaBaja marina the night before. Like me, the Portland, Oregon, couple were exploring La Paz for a few days on a fishing vacation, and had been racking up quality yellowtail and cabrilla with Lieras’ help. When they invited me to join them for their last outing the following day, I gladly accepted.
The next morning, we loaded the couple’s 20-foot Grady-White center console with gear as the sun eased over the mountaintops. After clearing the idle zone, Lieras accelerated for the short run to buy bait from local fishermen. With large scoops of frisky sardines stowed in the livewell, we made our way around the point and ran along the coast. This was my first visit to La Paz, and I was struck by the clear blue-green water and the numerous coves that were hideouts for pirates in earlier times. Today, those coves are gathering spots for spawning ballyhoo, as Lieras explained.