Species Bashing in Magdalena Bay Baja

by | Mar 6, 2018 | fly fishing Magdalena Bay Baja | 2 comments

If there’s one new fish species I hoped to add to my list this week down here in Baja it’s one of the Pacific snook.  Here they have the black snook and the white.  Somehow both have eluded me despite numerous trips since 1996.  But today, I was able to knock off the white.


My friends Sammy Vigneri, Grant Hartman and I arrived at the north end of Magdalena Bay late last night.  It was a seven-hour drive after they picked me up from the Los Cabos Airport.  It was a cold crisp evening when we checked into our hotel.  We were all exhausted.


We awoke to an even colder morning.  Everyone thinks of Mexico as hot all the time however on the Pacific side of Baja it can be quite cold in winter.  Our morning temperature was around 55°.   After a nice breakfast of huevos rancheros our boatman Jose met us in front of our hotel.  Grant arranged Jose in advance.


We literally hopped in Jose’s boat at the hotel.  Right there on the street.  Then Jose drove to the bay and launched.  We never moved a muscle.  Soon we were on our way and within minutes surrounded by gray whales.  Its whale watching season on the Pacific side of Baja and this big female had a baby near.


After viewing several whales up so close we could’ve touched them, we motored to the north end of the bay.  The area more resembles a Caribbean lagoon surrounded by mangroves.  I fished my 9-weight with a Sonar 300-grain and the usual prospecting fly for saltwater, a size 2/0 chartreuse and white Clouser minnow.


It didn’t take long to get into fish.  We dropped our flies as close to the mangroves as possible then let them sink.  It’s a risky cast and presentation because there are snags everywhere but the closer and deeper you get your fly the better.  Instantly we were into heaps of these cute little spotted bay bass.


Other species joined in the attack of our flies as well.  The longjaw leatherjack (Oligoplites altus) looks like a miniature version of the huge queenfish I catch in Dubai.  The difference however is this is about as big as this guy gets and they have two nasty spines both on the bottom and the top.  As usual when I mess with these I get stabbed and it takes a good hour for the nasty toxins that enter to wear off.


After an hour of fun with more spotted bay bass then we could deal with we moved.  It was a 30-minute run to the north end of Magdalena Bay and entrance to the Pacific.  There were some commercial fishermen handline fishing so I knew there must be fish.  On my second cast I landed my first Pacific snook.  When they’re tiny like this one it’s hard to tell whether it’s a black snook or a white snook but Grant was quick to say it was the white and after some internet study tonight I believe he is correct.


We’d spend the rest of our day in this area.  There was strong current bringing the tide in when we arrived and Jose maneuvered us along the mangroves so we could cast in.  It wasn’t much different than working a bank at home for trout.


We caught all kinds of fish, most of which I’ve caught before.  But there were two odd ones.  First of all, Sammy landed not one but two bonefish which is a surprise because we were blind casting.  These tiny bones aren’t the usual ones but rather, Pacific shafted bonefish (Albula pacifica).  They don’t get much bigger than this and they aren’t that commonly caught.  I’ve never got one before and unfortunately, I didn’t luck into one today.


I did however stumble into this character.  It’s a sheepshead grunt (Orthopristis cantharinus).  Not only have I never caught one but in more than 30 years of guiding these waters Grant has never seen one.  I ended up catching two of these.   Fishing can be so strange sometimes.


Though we didn’t catch any big fish, any day where your line stays tight most of the day is a ton of fun.  Furthermore, I not only added my first of the Pacific snook to my species list, I knocked off second species today, the sheepshead grunt.  And the sheepshead grunt is a fish I was totally unaware existed.


Here are the other species of fish we landed today.

Pacific cubera also known as Pacific dog snapper

Shortfin corvina

Broomtail grouper

California lizardfish

We’ll be back at it tomorrow only instead of fishing in the bay we plan to hunt of yellowfin tuna in the Pacific.

Jeff Currier Global Fly Fishing


  1. Gary Boyer

    Sweet lizardfish, I once caught one that was smaller than the fly. Good job on the new species. Those would both be new to me ad well. I have caught bonefish down at LaRibera, not sure if it’s that A. pacifica. Next year I’ll spend time in Mag Bay, maybe we can fish together

  2. Jeff

    I knew you would love this blog Gary. Heck of a day out there. After researching the bonefish thoroughly I’ll guess yours was also the shafted bonefish. More good blogs and new species to come. Take er easy!

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I started fly fishing at age 7 in the lakes and ponds of New England cutting my teeth on various sunfish, bass, crappie and stocked trout. I went to Northland College in Ashland, Wisconsin, where I graduated with a Naturalist Degree while I discovered new fishing opportunities for pike, muskellunge, walleyes and various salmonids found in Lake Superior and its tributaries.

From there I headed west to work a few years in the Yellowstone region to simply work as much as most people fish and fish as much as most people work. I did just that, only it lasted over 20 years working at the Jack Dennis Fly Shop in Jackson, WY where I departed in 2009. Now it’s time to work for "The Man", working for myself that is.

I pursue my love to paint fish, lecture on every aspect of fly fishing you can imagine and host a few trips to some of the most exotic places you can think of. My ultimate goal is to catch as many species of fish on fly possible from freshwater to saltwater, throughout the world. I presently have taken over 440 species from over 60 countries!