Mexico's Best Kept Secret

Photos and text by Mary Smiley

Although it has become better known in the last decade or so, Loreto, Baja California Sur is still one of the best bargain basement deals for fishermen looking to exercise their fishing tackle with some of the hottest saltwater sportfish around. I'm talking specifically, dorado know also as mahi-mahi or dolphin fish (no relation to Flipper), striped marlin and sailfish. These are the main targets for our flies and we catch them every year with remarkable success. The place is Loreto, a sleepy little fishing village about halfway down the Baja and the Sea of Cortez, the home to these dynamic ocean gamefish.

Bruce and Dorado Loreto is easy to get to, just a short flight from Los Angeles accompanied by a few margarita's and you're there. On arrival at the airport, you're met by the ground transfer service and hisked away to the hotel to get settled in. The Hotel Oasis is the hotel of choice, situated right on the beach of the Sea of Cortez, enabling fishing from the shore for reef species and perhaps even an occasional roosterfish or trumpet fish. The rooms are air-conditioned and spacious which is nice because the time of year when the dorado are "in" is summer and it's hot. Not to worry though; the days start early here. A knock on your door followed by a breakfast buffet and you're on your way with your cooler full of cold drinks for the day and your fly tackle in hand; you simply walk down to the beach and hop into your panga, (usually two anglers per boat). First thing you need to do is fill up your live bait well.

Now, you're thinking "bait"? What's that for? Simply put, it's to keep the attention of the fish while you chuck a fly at him, (live chum). Next comes a quick boat ride down to the local marina with a bait casting net to wait for the sun to rise. As it gradually gets lighter, the baitfish or sardinas start to become active jumping all around the velvety smooth water surface like silver rain. The Pangero throws the net like a Frisbee and hauls in a net full of live sardines. Once the well is full, you are off for your adventure of the day. Depending specifically on the species you are targeting for the day, will determine the direction you will take to the sea. Dorado like to congregate around some sort of structure or anything that floats, like Sargassum grass or buoys, providing shade from the intense sunlight and heat.

With that in mind, the guides go looking at their favorite spots producing shade. Often the dorado will be found there actively feeding. It doesn't take long to throw the dorado into a feeding frenzy by throwing just a few live sardines into the water close to the boat. When they come shooting like torpedoes for the bait, cast your fly into the water for interception. They are such aggressive feeders, they will readily take the fly if there are not too many live baitfish swimming around it.

It is crucial not to throw in too many as they have very keen eyesight and will not mistake your lure for the live fish unless there are other fish about and they feel the need to be more aggressive. Dorado quickly will learn the difference between the fly and the real thing and it will become increasingly harder to get them to take the fly. When this starts to occur, it's time to start making casts farther away from the boat back behind them to the others that are not yet as savvy. When you finally do hook into one of these wild and acrobatic fish hold onto your rod, you're in for a wild ride.

They are extremely strong for their size and will give your tackle not to mention arms, an extreme workout. When a dorado is hooked and there are other schoolies around, the other fish will hang close to the hooked fish, either out of curiosity or most likely out of not wanting to miss out on any feeding opportunities. This is a good time for the other angler in the boat to hook up as well. It is not uncommon to have double hook ups.

Although dorado are the prime calling card to this destination, there are other great species for the taking, such as striped marlin, sailfish, bonito and skipjack. There have been years in Loreto when there were sailfish in abundance for the taking. It is best to cut the engine when a sailfish is spotted and try to get up as close to it as possible without spooking it. Sometimes you will see them just lying on the surface floating with their fins sticking up out of the water. If you can coerce the sailfish to take one of your live sardines then you have an excellent chance at casting a popper to one and having him eat it and turn and head for Alaska. An unforgettable experience, trust me!

Gary and Roosterfish

A common practice while looking for actively feeding fish, is to troll your flies behind the boat. There are many instances when the fish could not be seen and something that felt like a whale came up and hit your fly and often got hooked. This is a productive method for hooking marlin and often bonito and tuna species. Even dorado will go for a trolled fly. I've caught 40-pound dorado using this method. This obviously is not the preferred method of fishing but is simply used while searching for fish you can cast to. Along the shorelines are other species for the taking such as roosterfish, ladyfish, rockfish, snapper etc. All are lots of fun on the fly rod.

The fishing day ends around 1:00 PM or so, when the sun is high in the sky and the heat and intensity becomes a bit much to handle. At this point it's time to head in for lunch and perhaps a siesta, since you've been up since before dawn. When your panga arrives back at the beach, for those of you who want to bring a few fish back for the table, there are people available to fillet your catch. It is not an uncommon practice to bring a small schoolie size dorado back to be prepared for your supper. The cooks at the hotel will gladly do this for a small fee. Lunch is served on the patio and ready at your convenience. There is a bar to quench your thirst most hours of the day and night and it is just a short walk into the small town, where you can visit the first mission in the California chain, the Mission de Loreto or go to the store for items of a personal nature. This is the most fun you can have without breaking the law or breaking the bank!

Annette's Dorado

Angler's Passport will be leading a group to Loreto's Hotel Oasis this coming June 24 - July 1, 2000. There are a limited number of spaces still available, so if you would like to join the group, the details are as follows: 7 Nights double air-conditioned accommodation/ 6 days guided fishing, all meals (3 per day), taxes and transfers to and from airport for a mere $995.00 per person based on double occupancy. Airfare from LA is not included but runs around $230. RT. If you are interested, please contact Mary Smiley at Angler's Passport 1-800-440-2699 for details or to receive a brochure about the trip. Availability is limited and filling fast, so don't wait too long!

Tackle choices include nine foot 10 weight up to 12 weight rods with ample back bone to turn the head of a big bull dorado, marlin or tuna. Reels need to have room for 200 yards of 30 pound backing and have a good drag. An anti-reverse reel is not necessary, but is nice to have when that handle whips around and smacks your fingers. At least a palming rim is necessary if you go with single action. These days the rapid retrieve reels are popular and make it easier to get the fish on the spool. Shooting heads are nice to have, so that you can change the density of the sink rate for different conditions, however, they are not essential. A good floating line will work just fine.

I personally like to use an intermediate sinking line. The leaders should be constructed of hard nylon like Mason. Use a standard saltwater leader that incorporates bimini twists. There should be at least 15 inches between knots. The leader butt section should be 30 - 40 pound test, tied to the end of your shooting head or fly line.

Recommended flies include deceivers in varying colors like blue/silver/ white, yellow/green, gray/white/mauve, white/green, white/red to mimick sardines and mackerel in 1/0 to 3/0 up to 5" long on some. I like to use flies about 3-4 inches for dorado. The Butorac sailfish and dorado poppers work very well especially in the yellow/green combinations. Other good flies include the Seaducer, Chico's Bent Back and the Sarl-Mul-Mac tied on 3/0 and of course don't leave home without a selection of Clouser Minnows for casting from shore. ~ Mary Smiley


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