Trip Report San Diego Mako and La Paz Roosters


Active Member
What an incredible trip. What started as an inconvenience having to fly into San Diego a day early to get into SJD in time to catch the van to La Paz, turned into an awesome bonus day of fishing.

WFF member Mems who invited me on the Baja trip was in SD staying with family. When hearing about my travel "dilemma" he invited me to crash at his sister's house and join them for a day of mako shark fly fishing. Well gee, if I have to! If that weren't accommodating enough, his BIL picked me up at the airport then took me to meet everyone for dinner at a Mexican place known for outstanding mole (Si!)... and a thousand or so varieties of tequila. Turns out Don (Mems) is quite the connoisseur ;) .


Next morning we headed out of Dana Landing Marina for some mako fly fishing action.


Screw Seaworld, we were swarmed by dozens of dolphin on the way out.


Our intent was to fly fish but the sharks, or SHARK, had other ideas.


That plan quickly changed when only fish to show in our chum slick was a bit outside our comfort zone with fly gear. In fact, we weren't sure it wasn't a great white at first. Once the mako ID was confirmed we opted for a heavy standup conventional rig with a 2-speed reel and gimbal belts. That's a 32/0 circle hook BTW.


Everett our guide baited it with a chunk cut from a yellowtail carcass and we waited for this sea monster to circle back again. It came in from the aft port corner and calmly inhaled the bait. Watching the whole thing happen less than a fly rod length away seemed to unfurl in slow-mo, and I somehow managed to not wet myself. The fish turned and line was peeling off freely at a fast walking pace as Everett calmly reached over and engaged the lever drag. Even with the drag set it took several minutes for the shark to realize it was hooked. The unstoppable power was then eclipsed by incredible speed. An hour and a half, and several jumps later, four of us tag teaming finally got this beast to the boat for release. Everett and Don both estimated it at around 700lbs.



Another shot taken a moment after the "jaws" pic. This fish still had some energy and was not pleased.


And just before the release. A better pic showing what a beautiful, if scary, creature a mako is.

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Active Member
After the mako experience we had just enough energy to go out for dinner at an excellent sushi place before catching the plane to Cabo early next morning.

Before I get to the fishing here are a few travel notes about going to La Paz. The only way to fly into the La Paz airport is through Mexico City. The preferred route is to fly into Cabo (SJD) and take an hour+ van ride north to La Paz. Actually not bad in a comfortable van with AC. The roads are good and it's scenic for much of the route. Anyway, the point is having ground transportation to LP needs to be arranged in advance. So obviously missing the van would've been expensive and a serious hassle and was the whole reason I had the extra day in San Diego. Something to consider when booking flights.

Travel details aside, we arrived at Hotel Blue in La Paz which was very nice. The hotel was spotless, the AC worked great, and the sunsets from the rooftop bar/restaurant/pool were stunning.


One reservation I had about this trip was that it wasn't beach front, but not having fishing/snorkeling on site turned out to be a non-issue. We were all ready for a siesta by the time we got back from fishing around 2PM every day. For being in town, the location was pretty sweet only 3 blocks from the Malecon (waterfront) with miles of shops, restaurant, bars. And unlike Cabo, NO street vendors hassling you every 10 ten feet. I liked La Paz, it has a very different, relaxed vibe in contrast to the touristy hype of Cabo.


On to the fishing (finally). The van picked us up at 5 every morning and after a quick stop at a family run stand for coffee and pastries we headed to the launch at Muertes Bay.


There was a gorgeous sunrise every morning on the run out to Cerralvo Island, aka "Jacques Cousteau Island", to get live sardinas. Enjoy the cool while it lasts!


Smooth sailing from here on out!


We had 5 pangas for our group of 10 and fished 2 per boat. Day one on the water was Father's Day so Don and his son Luke fished together. I fished with Don's wife Joy and had a blast watching her fight big fish a good chunk of the day. She massively out fished me using live bait while I stubbornly stuck to flies. I enjoy live bait fishing too but spent so much time tying for this trip I couldn't wait to get the flies wet. Joy kicked off the day with a grande rooster close to where we got bait off the east side of Cerralvo Island.


I followed that with a 2lb triggerfish. These things were everywhere, even offshore. The first couple were interesting, and they pull hard for their size but became kind of a nuisance after a while.


Next we headed out to a seamount about a 20 minute run away to find big yellowfin tuna leaving washtub sized boils. My hands were shaking as I grabbed the 13wt with the 700 grain line. My heart was in my throat when I got a grab on my 3rd cast but it was only a 4lb green jack. The tuna boil didn't last long so we started to slow troll. Not long later I saw a bill and dorsal break the surface close to where my fly was dragging, then saw the deep bend in Joy's spin rod. Joy fought the striped marlin for close to an hour before it threw the hook. At one point Don's niece was fighting another marlin in a boat next to us. The girls kicked ass on day one! The troll bite slowed so we headed back to a spot near the boat launch we called "Roosterfish Kindergarden". This beach was swarming with smallish roosters, needlefish and occasionally jack crevalle. I tossed flies and was further schooled in roosterfish pickiness. Joy finally convinced me to throw in the towel and I got my first rooster on a live sardina (using my buff to hide my face in shame ;) ). At least I was finally on the board.


On the way back to the hotel we passed several checkpoints for an offroad Baja race. Judging by the hundreds of people camping out in the 110 degree heat, this is apparently a VERY big deal. That night at dinner on the Malecon we saw a lot of the racers "cruising the gut". Evenings on the waterfront in La Paz are very pleasant, and interesting.


Day two (Monday) I fished with Stuart who was on the trip with his sons Peter and Ola. The four of us rotated as fishing partners for the rest of the week. I remember day two being a tough day but we did catch fish, if not big roosters and the like. I did talk Ramone into trying for dogtooth snapper and he took us to a spot about a half mile off Cerralvo that was a rocky hump about 80' with much deeper surrounding water.


Ramone tossed a few sardinas but nothing at first. Then the water would erupt, and turn red with packs of the big snapper. Some appeared to be well over 40lbs. Big PICKY snapper that rudely ignored my carefully tied sardina flies. We tried for a while but before heading off to the lighthouse to unsuccessfully try for roosters.

Day three (Tues) I fished with Peter. First thing in the morning, and very close to where we got our bait, Peter and I got into a batch of ladyfish. Good sized ones too with some pushing 5-6lbs. I managed 2 or 3 but Peter put on a mini clinic catching at least twice as many. Sorry no pics, the action was fast and furious and stopping to dig out a camera took serious resolve. The lady's were fun but our guide Ramone wanted to get us into some roosters, so we moved a short distance down the east shore of Cerralvo. As usual, it didn't take long for the water to erupt when some live sardinas were tossed. If I recall correctly (the days are all running together now) Peter and I both connected with and lost decent sized roosters. We did however get a couple of jack crevalle to the boat. Mine came off while Ramone had the leader in hand (still counts). This was a fish I had wanted to catch for many years and now know why they are called "toro" (bull) in Mexico.


The memory of the big snapper were still haunting me so we went back to the "snapper" spot. Unfortunately, my casting arm was getting worn out from chucking the 700 grain line trying to get deep for tuna and the big red dogs.

So naturally this was the day I left the 13wt at the hotel and had my one shot at a big tuna. We arrived at the snapper hump and tossed some live sardinas. But instead of the water turning red with big snapper, the water exploded with a mix of 10lb black skipjack, and 100lb yellowfin tuna. This was a dream tuna bite that lasted a half hour. We even got a live bait delivery while it was still going on. I almost coulda kissed those bait guys with these huge fish busting as close as 40 feet from the boat. I felt totally under-gunned with my 12wt rigged with an intermediate line. Unfortunately neither of us connected with the big boys. Several times I dropped flies within inches of where the big tuna were boiling but every time the line came tight it was a skippie. Same for Peter. Awesome fish, would love to catch them any other time, but after hooking and landing 3 they kept me occupied for most of the time we had the big tuna at the boat. I'm sure if I had the heavy line I could have gotten the flies below the skippies and into the ahi zone. But maybe it was just as well. A 100lb yellowfin would've been upwards of 2-3 hours to land on a 12wt. Careful what you wish for!
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Active Member
Three weeks later the days are definitely running together in my memory but for the last half of the week I caught fish learned stuff every day. Except for Wednesday when I holed up at the hotel with a mild case of Montezuma's revenge. Be sure to pack imodium.

Thursday we headed a short distance offshore from the bait boats on the east side of Cerralvo, where a few other boats were on a mix of roosters, jacks, tuna, and snapper. Per the host guide Jay's recommendation, l had a mackerel pattern rigged on the 13 with the heavy line. A few casts later I was ripping the mack up from the depths when I got a solid grab. Not the big dog I was hoping for but a decent yellow snapper that put up a respectable, if brief tussle on the 13.


That bite slowed so we ran to the snapper hump again. No tuna this time but the big dogtooths were up and eating sardinas. This time I did get one grab in one of the dog packs using an all white version of this squid pattern.


Too bad I forgot it was tied on a circle hook because I strip set and felt the hook tick fangs instead seating in the corner. Still kicking myself over that because I've wanted a big dogtooth since I first read about them years ago. Guess I just have to go back.

Next Ramone took us to a spot off the mainland to catch some ladyfish to use for big snapper or rooster baits, but the ladies weren't home. Instead, we picked up a few more sardinas from a floating bait storage barrel and after checking a bouy known to hold dorado (not this day :( ) we ran to a rocky shoreline a few miles south of the launch. Lots of smaller snapper, jacks here with a good chance for roosters and ladyfish. Chartreuse and white clousers were the ticket at this spot. I had a blast with the 8wt catching several of these beautiful (and delicious) "spotted rose snapper" along with a couple of cabrilla, and of course the omnipresent needlefish.


I still wanted to see a big snapper so Ramone took us to one more spot not far from the launch where he got a solid barred pargo on a fly-lined sardina. A respectable fish, but still a baby compared to the red brutes we had been seeing.


After a quick session playing with the small roosters at the "kinder garden" beach we called it a day.

Friday, last day. I was fishing with Ola and we both needed to check roosters on the fly off our lists. So the day was all about pez gallo after getting bait and a quick check for tuna off Cerralvo.

We headed to the lighthouse which is reputedly the best spot on earth to catch a big rooster. From what I saw, I can't argue. We arrived pretty early with only one other boat present. Didn't take long for our sardinas to attract attention in this virtual aquarium. Looking over the side there were jack crevalle, roosters, amberjack, pompano, and big needlefish in annoying numbers.

On the way to the lighthouse I asked Ramone to pick our flies and he pointed to the mullet patterns I tied.


His only complaint was they needed a bit more green. Mine had a touch of green so I gave Ola's a few swipes with a green sharpie.


My mistake was rigging it to my 10wt instead of the 12. We got a good boil going and both had some heart-stopping follows without connecting. Ramone threw another handful of sardinas and the water was already erupting as my fly was in the air. With all the surface commotion, I couldn't see what was underneath, but maybe 5 strips in I came tight to something. Something with a lot of weight that moved really fast. It was clear I was undergunned with the 10wt and my backing was melting away quickly. Ramone fired up the motor and we followed. What ensued was a 40 minute tug of war, in what felt like a sauna with no breeze. Don't think I saw my flyline for the next 20 minutes. The drag on Redington Rise was holding up OK but was under enough pressure that the frame was distorting and causing the spool to grind intermittently. I put as much pressure as I dared before finally getting it near boat, which was a whole new phase of interesting.


After circling the boat, keeping clear of motors, and other chinese firedrill stuff, I was leading the fish to Ramone when the blank exploded just before he grabbed the leader.


I didn't care. This beast bottomed Ramone's scale at 55+ lbs. It was still kicking hard and I was holding on tight! No long arming this thing.


While I was recuperating, Ramone got another boil going and Ola went up front. Didn't take him long to connect with a 30-ish pound rooster which is plenty of fish for a 12wt.


I thought I was done, but by the time he landed his rooster, I had switched the same fly to my 12wt and mustered enough energy to try again. On the first boil I got a follow and saw the eat less than 20 feet from the boat. Another solid 30 pounder like Ola's. What strong fish. I didn't feel under gunned with the 12wt but still a tough fight. Landed that one and called it a day, and a trip.

My final species count, all fly caught was 11 total:

Green Jack: . . . . . . . . . . . . . Carangoides caballus
Roosterfish: . . . . . . . . . . . . . Nematistius pectoralis
Jack Crevalle ("toro"): . . . . Caranx hippos
Needlefish: . . . . . . . . . . . . . Tylosurus crocodiles fodiator
Black Skipjack:. . . . . . . . . . . Euthynnus lineatus
Cornetfish: . . . . . . . . . . . . . Fistularia commersonii
Yellow Snapper: . . . . . . . . . Lutjanus argentiventris
Spotted Rose Snapper: . . . Lutjanus guttatus
Flag Cabrilla: . . . . . . . . . . . . Epinephelus labriformis
Ladyfish: . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Elops affinis
Finescale Triggerfish . . . . . . Balistes polylepis

Other species caught by our group, some only on bait included:

Striped Marlin . . . . . . . . . . . Kajikia audax
Dorado . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Coryphaena hippurus
AfrIcan Pompano . . . . . . . . .Alectis ciliaris
Pacific Sierra . . . . . . . . . . . . .Scomberomorus sierra
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The T.O. Show

Buenos Hatches Ese
Right on! I'm heading back to SD in two weeks to do this again. I went last year in October and it was a blast, but we didn't lock into any grande sharks so we're going back now to try to find the big boys. This gives me confidence!


Active Member
Well Guy where is the rest of the story? Went out yesterday with Ed and my friend Doug. Got 4 mahi some small ahi and aku and had a big ahi on but it shook the hook. Bob got a 130lb ahi and Alex got a 150lb ahi and a 150lb blue marlin. Going back out this week a couple of more times. I will post a picture when we get a gorilla. Don.


Active Member
Well Guy where is the rest of the story? Went out yesterday with Ed and my friend Doug. Got 4 mahi some small ahi and aku and had a big ahi on but it shook the hook. Bob got a 130lb ahi and Alex got a 150lb ahi and a 150lb blue marlin. Going back out this week a couple of more times. I will post a picture when we get a gorilla. Don.
Hey Don, I'm getting to it! Unfortunately I had to go back to work. Unlike some people who have the summer off in Hawai'i with nothing better to do. Well, other than reminding me about the 100lb ahi boil we had going FOR HALF AN HOUR where the effing aku kept intercepting my flies. So thanks buddy for making me relive that. ;).

Nope, I'm still recovering from my first week of nightshift in almost a month. Some welcome back. An hour into my first night we had a thunderstorm with a massive power-bump which took out 90% of the machines in our dept. Spent the rest of the week sorting out corrupted hard drives, re-teaching robots, etc... loads of fun. Today I get to finish grouting backsplash tile! Yippee!

Summer isn't all slavery though. Going to central OR for a few days on the upper Deschutes next week with the in-laws (a good thing). So I'll have to find time to tie up a few EHC's, hares ears, etc... And of course, albacore season should be kicking off any day now.

So keep rubbing it in about big ahi, mahi, marlin, ono, and even aku which would be a blast if they weren't stealing my flies from monster tuna. :)
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Active Member
Geez, don’t get your hand around that ones mouth...
No kidding. The volume of that mouth doesn't come across accurately in the pic. A basketball would bounce freely inside that cavern. Our guide Everett, in spite of having caught mako almost twice that size in the past, looked calm but was actually a bit shaken after the release. Someone offered him something to eat and he calmly said he'd probably throw up if he put something in his stomach. Understandable since we had it next to the boat on it's side, looking directly at us for several minutes. Pretty sure Everett and the shark had solid eye contact going. They aren't a dumb fish and it was probably calculating how much energy it would take to launch out of the water and take his head off.
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Johnathon Quarrell

Active Member
I’m working on a Mako trip myself within the next year. The second I saw the title of this thread I had to remind my wife that trip is coming up at some point soon and to be ready for that one. Then I read the thread and wet my pants a little.

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