The Roosterfish or Pez Gallo is a species endemic to the warm waters of the Eastern Pacific coast from the Baja Peninsula in the North all the way south to Peru and it is a highly prized game fish to target in the surf here in the Baja. They are extremely exciting to catch especially on topwater lures with their distinctive dorsal fin ‘comb’ breaking the surface as they chase schools of bait right up against the shore. Here in Southern Baja, we target the bigger roosterfish in the warmer, summer months when we start seeing schools of mullet and from my experience, I have started catching the bigger ones towards the end of May with June and July being the peak months. Roosterfish are not a good eating fish and should be landed and handled carefully so that they can be released safely which is so important for the future health of this magnificent species.
Dorado or Mahi Mahi
The dorado or mahi mahi is a highly migratory game fish and is found in tropical and subtropical waters all around the world. Here in the Baja, the dorado is a very popular species to target with the offshore sport fishing charter fleets generally all year round. One of the amazing aspects of our local fishery here is that during certain times of the year, we are able to successfully target dorado from the shore with lures which is really not very common with this species. From my experience, this is usually from October through to January here in Southern Baja and hooking up with a dorado from the beach on a lure has to be one of the pinnacles of surf fishing. Dorado are very hard fighting and a very difficult fish to land. They generally tend to jump a number of times during the fight which is usually when they spit the lure so being able to land one successfully is such an exhilarating experience and definitely one you will never forget.
The Jack Crevalle or Toro as referred to locally is a very strong, predatory game fish with a similar distribution to the roosterfish along the Eastern Pacific coast. It is a fish known for its extremely hard fighting ability and for their size, are definitely amongst the strongest fish to target in the surf. They are mainly found in schools but the larger fish tend to be more solitary. Jack crevalle will often be found hunting mullet and other bait fish during the summer months in the Baja and will readily strike surface lures, poppers as well as sinking stickbaits. Jack crevalle are not prized eating fish and are more enjoyed for their strong runs and hard fighting in the surf.
The Yellowtail or Jurel de Castilla is a member of the Jack family and is a magnificent and very hard fighting game fish and catching one from the beach on a lure is every surf fisherman’s dream. Yellowtail can be targeted on both sides of the Baja peninsula but are sensitive to water temperatures and tend to be more plentiful in the northern and middle regions as south as La Paz on the Sea of Cortez side and Magdalena Bay on the Pacific side. Yellowtail are aggressive predators and will strike a variety of different lures from topwater surface plugs to sinking stickbaits and metal jigs. They are known for making very powerful runs and when fishing around structure, will make things difficult by taking advantage of any underwater obstacles to cut you off. Unlike some of the other larger jacks, Yellowtail are highly prized for their excellent eating quality.
The Sierra Mackerel is another predatory game fish found along the Eastern Pacific coast and which frequent our waters during the colder winter months usually from December through to March and April. They are schooling fish that hunt small fish like anchovies and sardines and although they are relatively small in size, they are super fun to catch striking lures aggressively with the bigger specimens capable of making impressive runs. Sierra mackerel usually have a very short bite window early in the morning at first light and a variety of small, metal or chrome plated jigs work best. They have very sharp teeth so be very careful when handling them and rather than using wire leaders, we favor fluorocarbon leaders in the 80lb range which generally holds up pretty well. Sierra mackerel are really good eating and can be prepared in a number of different ways with my personal favorite being smoked because of their flavor and high omega fat content.
Lutjanus novemfasciatus & Lutjanus colorado
Here in the Baja, two common species of snapper that are targeted with lures are the Dogtooth or Cubera and the Colorado snapper with the Colorado being the smaller of the two species. Snapper are usually targeted in the rocks using poppers and stickbaits and are very tough fish to land, requiring lots of experience and a fair bit of good fortune on your side. They are extremely powerful fish and will head straight down into their cave or the rocky reef as soon as they are hooked so you need to be able to exert a lot of pressure and literally give them no room at all which requires very strong tackle and lots of skill. Here in Southern Baja the best months to target these species tend to be in March and April and extra precaution needs to be taken when fishing for snapper from the rocks. During the summer months when there are big schools of bait like mullet along the sandy beaches dogtooth snapper can also be found hunting those schools and are sometimes hooked in those areas that present slightly easier terrain for landing them. Either way, they are no easy adversary!!