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The "East Cape" sportfishing area of southern Baja California, Mexico, is solid gold water for the large or small boat angler who wants to catch really big fish. The relatively calm seas and very close proximity of glamour fish to shore here make East Cape a very special place where dreams can come true. This is where legends are made, and it is here that many "tin boat" anglers catch that "fish of a lifetime."
Although its northernmost waters are usually accessed by sportfishing boats coming south out of La Paz, from a fishing point of view "East Cape" might be defined as the area between Canal de Cerralvo in the north, to the deep trench that touches the shore at Punta los Frailes in the south. This is the last section of "pure" Sea of Cortez, for south of Los Frailes, the fishing waters begin to show more properties of the open Pacific Ocean, such as surf and swell.
Some well-known East Cape fishing areas visited by the area's multitude of charter cruisers, pangas, and private boats include: El Sargento, Bahia de la Ventana, Isla Cerralvo, Canal de Cerralvo, the "88 bank," Roca Montana, Punta Arena de la Ventana, Punta Perico, Ensenada de los Muertos, El Cardonal, Cerro Verde, Punta Pescadero, "The Pyramids" or "The Slide," Los Barriles, Buena Vista, La Ribera, Punta Arena, Punta Colorada, Cabo Pulmo, Los Frailes, Las Barracas, Las Destiladeras, and sometimes as far south as the Gordo Banks of San Jose del Cabo.
When we fish our way southwards towards the Punta Arena lighthouse and talk about the East Cape's most southerly 15 miles, including the Cabo Pulmo coral reefs outside the marine park boundaires and Punta Los Frailes, we are covering probably the cream of the fishing of Mexico's Sea of Cortez.
Middleweight game fish hug these East Cape inshore waters, while striped marlin, blue marlin, black marlin, sailfish, dorado and tuna prowl the deeper offshore waters. At this special sportfishing location, the deep blue waters meet the inshore waters only two to four miles out! Multitudes of big grouper and sea basses dwell in the labyrinth of caves and crevasses of the reefs.
This stretch of the Sea of Cortez, starting at Punta los Frailes in the south and going north 15 miles to Punta Arena, has the finest combination of big game fish, small game fish, and diving in the Cortez--probably one of the best in the world. This is due to the area’s unique location and its underwater topography.
(The area close to Punta los Frailes and over the coral reefs of Cabo Pulmo is a national marine reserve. Within this bay are the only coral reefs along the western shore of North America. Fishing, spearing, or the removal of sea life is prohibited here. It is recommended that you check with local authorities for current rules, boundaries and enforcement.)
Although famous Cabo San Lucas is traditionally thought of as the dividing line between the Pacific Ocean and the Sea of Cortez, for sportfishing purposes the Cortez really starts at the underwater canyon that reaches the beach along the south end of Punta Los Frailes, 50 miles northeast of Cabo San Lucas.
From this point southwards you will more and more encounter swells and surf effects from the vast Pacific Ocean. North from this point, the Sea of Cortez is more like a very large lake.
Although May and June in the spring, and October and November in the fall, are the peak times for fishing in the East Cape area for most species, the summer fishing season finds large blue marlin and black marlin feeding on dorado just outside the reefs and inside of the 100-fathom curve.
Winter has frequent north winds and the slowest fishing at East Cape, but there are usually some sierra, skipjack, and bonito around to mix with the resident snapper and sea bass types. Jack crevalle, amberjack, ladyfish and barred pargo are often found here right up near shore.
Sierra, ladyfish and giant needlefish can be caught from the beach north of Cabo Pulmo. Cabrilla, snapper, barred pargo, grouper and triggerfish live among the reefs there. Dorado, marlin and school tuna sweep in from the outside to feed--all within three miles of shore!
This beach area also has stone patches sprinkled about that are the home of schools of roosterfish. When the roosters are chasing bait close to shore here, the best lure is a shiny chrome three-and-a-half-inch spoon cast right up onto the sand then retrieved rapidly back into the water. When roosters hit the spoon in really shallow water (we’re only talking about a few inches here) there is an explosion of spray followed by long powerful runs up and down the beach.
East Cape's Punta Arena is the easternmost projection of the Baja California peninsula, and the fishing water here drops off rapidly to over 1,000 feet deep only a mile offshore. Virtually all of the game fish that migrate into the Sea of Cortez must swim past this point. Near shore right at the point are sierra, ladyfish and jack crevalle.