Mexico’s Magdalena “Mag” Bay is among the best and most consistent sportfishing experiences in the world. A remote, isolated bay that sits some 120 miles north of Cabo San Lucas, there is not much in this part of the Baja…
Not much, that is, aside from an annual explosion of sardines that attracts mobs of striped marlin, piles of wahoo, hordes of dorado and tuna and more whales, seas lions and bird life than you can keep wrap your mind around.
For much of the past three decades, the productivity of Mag Bay in the fall was perhaps the best kept secret on the West Coast. California boats would make their annual pilgrimages south… boats from Cabo would pile the bow with fuel cans and head north for a week—all intent on catching several hundred striped marlin.
Michael Kusler, president of Kusler Yachts, on a nice Mag Bay striped marlin bite.
That has changed a bit in the last five or six years. These days there are more and more international, traveling operations come down from the East Coast and Costa Rica to get in on the action.
While there exist a few lodges that provide accommodation and there are a handful of charter operations that can put you on the fish here (some based in more populated parts of the Baja, a couple with lodges that fish center consoles based here full time), fishing Mag Bay on your own hull is the ultimate. Kusler Yachts, the West Coast leader in sportfishers and fishing center consoles, has been making this dream a reality for more than a decade.
The Striped Marlin Fishing
The foundation of Mag Bay’s incredible productivity is the explosion of sardines that spills out of the Bay every fall. Fed by plankton blooms, the sardine schools are a magnet that pulls everything together.
The conditions vary year to year. In some years, the fishing heats up as early as August. It may remain good through January and into February.
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Year in, year out, the peak of the fishing is October and November. It is these months when 100 striped marlin days are possible. If you hit it right, it may be angler fatigue—rather than the availability of striped marlin—that limit catch numbers.
The high-line traveling boats that are driven by numbers put up incredible catch statistics. The daily release record stands at 330 striped marlin. It was set by dedicated team of nine anglers fishing aboard the Bad Company in November 2019. The previous record was 308, before that… 189 striped marlin in a day.
Once you get to Mag Bay, the fishery is a pretty straight forward one. You can fill your bait tanks with mackerel—some boats catch them in the anchorage using sabiki rigs. You’re likely to have to refill the stock a couple times during the day.
A nice striped marlin on the leader aboard the Karma.
Using a pair of gyros, you then search for birds working schools of bait. You then position your boat so that anglers can cast live baits into the carnage and hold on.
An Incredible Array of Options
Captain Ryan Donovan runs the 54’ Sculley, Karma. Fishing with boat owner Ray Gannon, Donovan has quite a bit of experience fishing Mag Bay.
“I’ve been to Mag Bay somewhere around two dozen times over the past 15 years,” Donovan begins. “The size of the Bay is really impressive. You have 50 or 60 miles of bay; it can be up to 20 miles wide. Inside of the bay there is an incredible amount of biomass. That’s what brings in the fish.”
“The whales stop there on their way north. You check out some of the whale watching options online. There is whale watching from pangas… moms bring their babies right up to the pangas and you can pet them,” Donovan explains.
“A lot of people don’t know it, but there is great snook fishing in the estuaries. You can also bottom fish for snapper and grouper in side the bay,” he says. “There are also plenty of spots for diving and spearfishing. Spearfishing for tuna and wahoo is becoming a pretty popular thing to do.”
A couple nice wahoo aboard the Karma.
“The banks offshore get all of the attention for the sportfish guys. They have the biggest aggregations of striped marlin anywhere in the world. The bite is incredible. There are times when you have 10 striped marlin chasing lures behind the boat. 100 striped marlin bites a day is not uncommon.”
“There are five or six banks offshore. Each will hold some tuna and wahoo. The marlin move from bank to bank during the season. It’s not uncommon to catch dorado, marlin, wahoo and tuna in the same day,” Captain Ryan describes.
Mag Bay sits about 800 miles south of the US border on the Pacific coast. The bay system stretches about 130 miles, north to south.
It is largely enclosed by barrier islands and provides many protected anchorages and coves. With a bit of local knowledge—and guidance in terms of provisions, it is well situated for making the trip on your own bottom.
The marlin fishing zone stretches from Uncle Sam Bank in the north to a bit south of Punta Tosca in the opposite direction. Between these two points is the ridge—an area marked by intermittent bottom structure.
Kusler Yachts: Mexico Experience
The fishery is driven by the presence of bait. When the sardines are in the north, the fishing can sit on the Uncle Sam Bank. The preferred anchorage under these conditions is Santa Maria Bay.
When the fish are in the middle extent of the bay, the fishing may be located near the main entrance of Magdalena Bay—an area known as la entrada. Here the anchorage lies in front of Puerto Magdalena.
In the southern zone, the fishing may be around Punta Tasco to the edge of Santa Margarita Island. There are anchorages in this zone as well.
When fishing offshore, weather can change quickly. While the barrier islands protect Mag Bay itself, there is not much in Pacific Ocean between Asia and the Baja.
Depending on where you anchor and how long you plan to stay, there are a number of fueling options available. Given the remoteness of the area, these require a bit more planning than calling ahead to the fuel dock at Marina Cabo San Lucas.
The most “Mag Bay” option is refueling via 55-gallon barrels delivered via panga. The rugged charm of this experience makes it part of the adventure.
Working Your Fishing Plans Into Your Boat Purchase
The remoteness of the area and lack of large-scale development means that taking on large amounts of diesel is a relatively slow and difficult process. There are, however, a couple of work arounds.
Kusler Yachts can lead you through the custom boat options— and what that might mean for your Mag Bay plans.
If you know that fishing in Mag Bay will be part of your annual fishing plans, the expert team at Kusler Yachts can help guide your yacht purchase with this in mind. They can provide expert insight in the yacht selection process, but also guidance and fishing recommendations—including how to do Mag Bay on your own boat—over the course of your yacht ownership experience.
“I’ve bought six or seven boats. At first, I was buying Rivieras in Seattle,” explains Ray Gannon, owner of the Karma. “So, I spent a lot of time buying what I didn’t want.”
Gannon purchased the 54 Sculley from Michael Kusler, president of Kusler Yachts, in October. “Then I came across Kusler Yachts. It was nice to buy from Michael Kusler because he’s a fisherman. Most brokers are not. He understands fishing and knew what we wanted out of a boat.”
Ray Gannon and Captain Ryan Donovan.
The first step in fishing Mag Bay on your own boat?