IF IT WORKS DON’T LAUGH!
Originally Published the Week of Sept. 6, 2o11 in Western Outdoor News
I am often amazed at what catches fish down here. Of course, us gringos are always looking for “live bait” like caballitos, mackerel, sardines and the like. Plus we have all the “latest and greatest” technology has to offer in the way of lures, plugs and feathers.
But, over the years, having worked with so many captains in so many areas of Baja, I’ve come across some pretty incredible things that have been used for bait…and they work!
BELLIES & STRIPS – Long ago when I lived in Los Frailes, the owner of the hotel turned me onto taking the oily juicy strips of belly meat from dorado and bonito and pinning them on the hooks of my feathers and jigs, especially my marlin lures. Strips of squid also work. They add scent and flavor to your lures. I also think gamefish tend to hold onto them more when there’s some “taste” to the lure.
Actually, even without the feather or jig, one of the most effective methods of attracting game fish is to simply pin a nice long strip of these species to a hook and leader (make sure you have a swivel) and drag it slowly behind your boat. Bigger fish can’t seem to resist it. Even large dorado will jump on dorado strips!
If you happen to get into a bite of the giant squid, give some thought to taking the whole head and sending it down deep. I’ve gotten some monster tuna on 5-pound chunks of head. Smaller giant squid worked when trolled and long-rangers will tell you that a big squid bounced on the waves from a kite are deadly.
It’s also productive to chop the squid legs (arms?) into chunks and just tossing handfuls into the ocean as chum then taking another big chunk and hook it, letting it all drift down to the game fish. Often, even when the fish won’t take live bait, they WILL eat the chummed bait.
WHOLE FISH - As much as we tend to hate needlefish down here as the scourge of fishermen, a smaller needlefish slow-trolled in the rocky areas will sometimes really get nailed by a big pargo, snapper or cabrilla.
Sent down deep, this can be deadly for a big grouper around the islands…or even using a small bonito! Cut off a fin and score a few knife cuts into the flesh to get it bleeding then send it down with a heavy weight and see what happens! If it’s live, you better hold into your socks!
One of the strangest baits I have ever used was small puffer fish. I often noticed that when we cleaned dorado we would find whole puffer fish in the stomachs of bull dorado. (Maybe I can see eating one, but the thought of passing one of the spikey guys out the backside raises some eyebrows).
Anyway, I asked one of my captains and he said he often saw dorado eat floating puffer fish and that the smaller ones make good bait. So we caught some floaters and put them in the bait tank. When we got into a dorado bite we tossed some into the fray…like surface poppers and sure enough…WHAM! WHAM! WHAM! Puffers were hit faster than sardines! It worked! Small barracuda work also or larger ballyhood.
OK…here’s some of the crazier stuff I have seen work…
1. Strips of tortilla cut like a “pig-and-jig” fork-tail and thrown into feeding dorado and bonito.
2. Strips of white rubber liner like the kind you put on the bottom of your kitchen sink so that your dishes have a cushion. Slow trolled or cut like the back end of a small bait fish…twitched along the reefs, you’d be surprised what comes out to chase it! It’s a cheap swim bait!
3. A mop head! Old Mexican fishermen will tell you that they used to troll old mop heads without a hook. The abrasive bill of sailfish and marlin are like a rasp. They would hit the trolled mop head and it would wrap around their bills like velcro! Hook up! I’ve seen it used one time and it blew me away!
4. Orange Crush bottle – I once saw commercial fishermen leave some orange soda in a bottle; put crushed tinfoil in it and re-cap it. They tied it behind a panga and trolled it in the wake like a teaser! I saw it raise several sailfish like this!
If it works, don’t laugh!
Jonathan Roldan has been writing the Baja Column in Western Outdoor News since 2004. Along with his wife, Jill, they own and run the Tailhunter International Fishing Fleet in La Paz, Baja, Mexico www.tailhunter-international.com. They also run their Tailhunter Restaurant Bar on the famous La Paz malecon waterfront. If you’d like to contact him directly, his e-mail is firstname.lastname@example.org or drop by the restaurant to say hi!
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