Travel Destinations

Fishing in heart of the Baja California Sur

A Bounty of Billfish

pacific northwest

Summer's a time for travel, and if you're inclined to plan fishing-oriented vacations but just can't seem to find that one destination that offers a unique blend of near-shore angling opportunities and offshore adventures combined with luxurious resorts known for their first-class service, excellent accommodations, exquisite dining and superb fishing, then look no further than Mexico's East Cape. Approximately 700 miles south of the United States in the heart of the Baja California Sur, you'll find this laid back, quiet locale that's a stark contrast to that of the hustle and bustle found in Cabo San Lucas.

Several resorts dot the area, though among the most elegant and popular with visiting anglers from around the world are those owned by the Van Wormer family, including the magnificent Hotel Palmas De Cortez located on the Sea of Cortez in the tiny town of Los Barriles. With oceanfront and garden view rooms, Hotel Palms De Cortez provides a comfortable homebase for anglers to relax after a long day on the water. There's a beautiful infinity-edged swimming pool, which overlooks the Sea of Cortez, and a swim-up, palapa-roofed cabana bar. Two restaurants can be found on the premises, including Tio Tico's and the elegant Bay View Restaurant, which offers indoor and outdoor dining at the edge of the Sea of Cortez. The chef will also gladly prepare your catch of the day for a nominal fee. Unlike many parts of Mexico where consuming water is not advised, all drinking water from the Van Wormer properties is supplied by mountain springs and is certified for purity. We've consumed water and ice daily during several visits and have had no issues.

The Sea of Cortez is known for its world-class angling and offers excellent fishing every month of the year. While summer days on the water can be hot, the fishing can be equally as warm and offers the best shot at a Grand Slam. Big blue marlin and black marlin as well as sailfish and striped marlin are present in good numbers while dorado, wahoo and big yellowfin tuna are readily available. Should you tire of rod-bending action offshore, look for steady pulls from big amberjack, various species of grouper, jack crevalle, roosterfish, snapper and sierra along the inshore grounds. Catch and release of all billfish has really gained in popularity along the region, and most of the captains will encourage their clients to follow this practice. They will gladly boat any edible species for you to have prepared at the resort or have it smoked or vacuum bagged and frozen for the trip home.

We've all been burned at one time or another by resorts that claim to offer seaworthy boats, quality tackle and experienced crews. That's not the case at Hotel Palmas De Cortez, which offers one of the newest and largest fleets of boats found in the region, including 25' Super Pangas, 28' Deluxe and Standard Cruisers, and their top-of-the-line Super Cruisers, which range from 29' to 32'. All are diesel powered and equipped with quality tackle, necessary electronics, including GPS and VHF radios, and required safety equipment. Most crews speak and understand English, though honing your Mexican fishing terms can make the conversation flow smoothly when the bite is on. A fishing license is required and can be purchased right at the resort. Cost will vary depending on your length of stay. The night before your trip, your boat information will be relayed to you at the fishing office located at the resort, where you'll be informed of departure time and lunch orders can be placed. The following morning anglers will gather at the fishing dock, and the boats will shuffle in to pick up their guests. Once aboard, your crew will inform you of the best fishing opportunities available and ask what you'd prefer to catch. From there it's off to the bait boat where fresh bait, both live and dead, are purchased for a modest fee. Next stop is the cobalt blue fishing grounds, a run of ten to forty miles, depending on the season and species sought. Summer months lack the breeze of spring and fall, so often glass-calm conditions are found regardless of where your day on the water takes you.

Offshore fishing will find you trolling artificial lures and ballyhoo baits in the spread. Billfish are often spotted from the tower as they sun on the surface while looking for an easy meal. Frigate birds circling above are often a dead giveaway that there's a billfish (or more) directly below. The billfish in this region are so plentiful you'll often spot pods of sailfish and pairs, triples and quads of striped marlin on the surface. During a recent trip, as my son was busy battling a hefty striped marlin, a sailfish popped up within pitch bait range of the panga we were fishing aboard. A quick toss of a frisky live bait was all it took to get me hooked up, and we released a father and son double header of billfish just moments apart.

If the fishing action isn't enough to keep you busy during your stay, there's plenty to do ashore. In addition to shopping in the village of Los Barriles, numerous parks, historical and cultural sights can be found. You can take a horseback ride on the beach or rent a jet ski, ATV, or wave runner, go snorkeling or scuba diving to several national parks and numerous coral reefs. Sierra Laguna National Park is a beautiful spot where you can enjoy the lush foliage and admire birdlife around the waterfalls. Guided tours are available to local towns, including Cabo San Lucas, La Paz, Todos Santos, Miraflores and the Santiago Zoo. There's also a 9-hole executive golf course on the property of the resort.It's hard to imagine a more peaceful location that offers so much for the visiting angler, and while Mexico has received a lot of bad press in recent years, here's a vacation destination where you'll find friendly, soft-spoken locals amidst a small town that's safe to visit with your entire family. When you combine the lights-out fishing as well as other land-based activities and a first-class resort, the East Cape and Hotel Palms De Cortez should be on your bucket list!

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