BY RANDY DOWLER
Bahia de Vizcaino is a large U-shaped bay located halfway down the Baja peninsula along Mexican Highway 1 on the road to Cabo San Lucas.
The mouth of the 60 miles long by 40 miles wide bay is open to the northwest prevailing winds and seas. Although this bay is large, it's very shallow at less than 50 fathoms 300 feet deep.
During winter, thousands of gray whales gather in Bahia Vizcaino and then enter Scammon's Lagoon (Laguna Ojo de Leibre) located at the south end of the bay, adjacent to the town of Guerrero Negro.
It's one of several destinations that are natural breeding grounds for whale populations that annually migrate along the wild rivers coast from Alaska to Mexico.
The bay also acts as a natural garbage dump of the northern Pacific Ocean.
Japanese fishing floats take about two years to make the journey to wash up on the beaches here. Redwood stumps arrive quicker.
The pounding surf of Punta Rosarito located on the northeast side of the Bahia attracts wave riders from all over the world to this surfers paradise. The most rideable wave is called Punta Perfecto, or Perfect Point, which is a direct shot from the northwest swells created by the big winter maverick storms known as Aleutian Juice.
Farther south, Morro Santo Domingo, a small out cropping of land with 50 to 100 foot cliffs, awaits a fly fishermen's paradise in the teeming estuary waters of the mouth of Laguna Manuela.
Few large game fish, except for white seabass, enter this area, but there lots of welterweights. Shore anglers, kayakers and small vessel enthusiasts should come prepared to catch more fish than they can literally shake a stick at.
Laguna Manuela is located about a day drive south of Ensenada and 8 miles west of Mexican Highway 1 at the village of Jesus Maria. It's the greatest natural hatchery for spotted bay bass that I've ever seen.
If you like bass fishing, try these salt waters and you will quickly lose interest in angling for freshwater bass. There are so many spotted bay bass that your arm will wear out long before you run out of strikes.
Fishing for spotted bay bass is so superb that one fish per cast is the norm.
The lagoon is open to the ocean by two separate tidewater channels that are located four miles apart. The shallow estuary bottom is covered with eel grass for miles. While most of Baja is suffering in the throes of sweltering summer heat, its climate mimics Brookings.
Bahia's saltwater temperatures range from 60 degrees in winter to 75 degrees in summer. Air temperatures are always comfortable here, rarely falling below 60 degrees in winter or exceeding 80 degrees in summer.
Found from the surface to 100 feet deep, spotted bay bass (Paralbrax maculatofasciatus) average one to three pounds, 12 to 18 inches in length and do everything freshwater bass do and more.
Spotties are a resident along the sand and cobblestone shorelines of lagoons, bays and channel banks. Spotties can be brown, tan or gray on the backs, which fades to yellow or cream sides peppered with black dots and a square tail.
These fish have a large mouth and small sharp teeth. Sharp spines and gill covers can be nasty, but protect the fish from being feasted upon by predators. A solid strike followed by a good long fight makes these whipper snappers a fishing fun fest.
Locals refer to any bass like fish as andquot;cabrillaandquot; of which there are many different varieties.
Yellow-fin croaker, one to three pounds, offer a fine fight and are very good eating. Shortfin Corvina have big teeth and attack with savage strikes.
Corbina, the queen of the surf, and the best eating, are located in the mouth, and along the sand spit in the surf zone. Halibut are abundant year round in the tidal flows. But during late July to early August, halibut come into the shallows in large schools to spawn just as they do in Pelican Bay. Occasionally, you will hook bonefish, wrasse, jack smelt, pufferfish or spotfin croaker as well.
Of course, rays, skates and small coastal sharks (not man eaters) are found in abundance.
During winter through early spring, a seasonal migrator, white seabass, (Cynoscion nobilis), makes spawning runs into the tidal zone of the Bahia.
White seabass are a beautiful silver salmon look alike with gray-blue backs, silver sides and a white belly having a raised white ridge running along the center.
Spiky teeth line a medium-sized mouth, but the webbing is tender so hooks can easily tear out during a fight. Casting any silver or gold shiny lures such as Krocodiles and Kastmasters into the surf zone and ripped back to shore will entice viscous strikes.
It's best to set up a chum line to attract the entire spawning school to hang out around your beachside location. Otherwise, it's hit or miss as these fish tend to be on the move, quickly making their way back and forth along the sandy beaches of the Bahia.
Beach launching is quite the norm as waters just south of Morro Santo Domingo are almost always calm enough to wade, launch a kayak, small boat or inflatable. You can launch a boat at the mouth of Laguna Manuela next to the commercial fishermen's launch.
Fly rods often attract a locals who are curious to figure out why anyone would want to add a stick to a line with a fish on it.
To locals, fishing amounts to casting a baited line by swinging it around their heads like a cowboy casts a lariat loop over a bull's horns and then jumps out of the saddle, huffing and puffing as he winds it in by hand and pounces upon it with the thrill of victory.
Of course, locals ooh and awe at the exceedingly long casts made by the waving magic wand (fly rod) like a conductor leading an orchestra.
Camping along the shores of Bahia is primitive here in the wide open spaces. The cliffs of the adjacent Morro offer wind protection from the afternoon northwest winds.
A gas station, hotel and restaurant are located 18 miles south at the 28th Parallel Parador and 20 miles farther south at Guerrero Negro.
Bring freshwater because it's a dry and thirsty land.
Please e-mail your comments, suggestions and questions to Randy Dowler at firstname.lastname@example.org.