Discovering Hidden Gems

Discovering Hidden Gems

A phrase I have become particularly fond of over the years says; “If you aren’t the one telling the story you are late to the party.”

Discovering fishing destinations that lie off the beaten path have always been of interest to me and I may have just discovered my newest “best” place. A couple years ago while in Cabo San Lucas, good friend Capt. Mike Holliday dropped a hint about a fishing adventure he thought would blow me away. “This place is way low-key, no crazy tourist town or anything like that,” he said. “It’s got amazing fishing and the scenery is off the chart. It’s called Los Barriles and you just gotta go.”

That recommendation pushed my curiosity meter to the top and I soon started doing some research to make it happen. All I can say is that I’m so glad I did.

Our flight from Houston was an easy 2.5 hours into San Jose Del Cabo, Mexico where we boarded a shuttle and took a fifty-minute drive north to Los Barriles. This cool little town is situated on the east side of the Baja Peninsula overlooking the Sea of Cortez and that all fantastic blue-green water. My wife, Leslie, and I stayed at a nice hotel called Palmas De Cortez and it was perfect because it provided the three most important things; clean rooms with good beds and plenty of cold air-conditioning.

Los Barriles is home to the largest sportfishing fleet on the east cape. In fact Palmas De Cortez has about forty boats running right from their hotel. My choice for the time I was there was Los Barriles Sportfishing, operated by Nic Dragomire. LBS runs a great operation with top-notch gear and a super slick 2018 model 26-foot Imemsa panga-styled fishing boat, powered by a very efficient Suzuki 4-stroke. The panga is perfectly suited for chasing everything from billfish to casting plugs to snapper and roosterfish along the shoreline rocks. The Imemsa was tricked out with SeaDek flooring and state of art electronics. Plenty of storage makes it a very versatile ride.

Our first morning, Capt. Carlos Castro slid the panga up on the beach and we jumped in ready for anything and happy about it all. In prior conversations with Nic from LBS, we agreed that increasing the odds for a successful trip would be accomplished by being flexible and open to many options they have available.

“When we have anglers who are willing to take the captains word on what the best bite is, we tend to have a much higher percentage of satisfied customers. I get it when anglers want to chase a certain species but there are times that it’s just not good for that fish and you need to explore other options. We like to be sure our clients get the most out of their trip and we will do everything we possibly can to make that happen,” Dragomire assured me. After doing my share of traveling and fishing I have found it’s always a good practice to trust your guide and be honest and realistic about your expectations.

On the ride south I spoke to Carlos about what the plan was, and we were going to target various species of tuna, I was more than happy to oblige. It didn’t take long for us to track down some fish and start burning some drags. LBS is fully rigged with quality Okuma rods and reels, so I was familiar with most of the gear. I brought along a wide-framed Okuma Citrix baitcaster on a Fishing Tackle Unlimited heavy action travel rod (FTUH 6103). I have caught everything from trout to small tarpon on that outfit and it was perfect for this application as well. We located a school of skipjack tuna that just destroyed any live bait we drifted down to them; they were a handful on the light stuff. We actually chummed them to the surface for a while and caught them on big Yo-Zuri topwater plugs. It was carnage to say the least.

Day 2 saw us making a good run north, up toward Jacques Cousteau Island, where Capt. Carlos chummed up some roosterfish and big jacks. Unfortunately, I never connected on the roosters, but it was amazing to see how aggressively they would attack a stunned live bait. Carlos knew I wanted to throw some plugs, so he headed for a long stretch of shoreline with rocky structure that was full of snapper, grouper and other hard-pulling species – hawkfish, cabrilla, and pargo. I let Carlos pick through my box of plugs, and he quickly grabbed a Yo-Zuri minnow-style jerkbait and we went to work. The Okuma Komodo KDS 364-LX on top of the Okuma PCH-C heavy action rod was perfect; light enough to cast and work plugs yet heavy enough to drag strong fish out of the rocks. This style of fishing was something every Texas angler could relate to and certainly would enjoy, especially when we took some filets back to the Bay View restaurant for an amazing dinner.

Now both days on the water were fantastic, I couldn’t have asked for anything more, but the highlight of the whole trip was renting a Honda Pioneer side-by-side UTV and driving the pristine white sand beaches with my wife. Our UTV outfitter was Quadman ATV Rentals, and they are great to deal with. Most all the travel in and around town is done on ATV or UTV machines, so they are everywhere. A quick stop by the best tackle shop in town, East Cape Tackle, for some information and a few plugs that were recommended put us on our way. We spent a fantastic day just beach hopping with an ice chest filled with cold Pacifico beer and fishing gear.

The water is about as clear as you will find anywhere, and the fish are well within reach of the beach. Stopping at different spots to swim or just hang out was amazing because we never saw another person the entire day – a true pleasure in this day and time. We topped off the day by bringing some pargo filets back to our restaurant where they prepared some unbelievable sashimi and ceviche.

I was almost torn about writing this because the low-key vibe of such a small place will eventually get drowned out as more people learn about it…but it was simply too good not to share. If you decide to try Los Barriles, do yourself a favor and pack some light tackle and a small box of plugs because you will literally have miles of water at your disposal. Do a couple of boat trips and certainly explore the beach because its world class.

Do not go down there looking for party central because there is no nightlife, simply settle in and enjoy the quiet, laidback vibe. I know many will want to ask whether it is safe. According to Nic at LBS they have very little if any crime, so you can feel safe virtually anywhere.

One last tidbit of info, the Texas heat is worse than anything in Los Barriles during summer, and this is considered their low season – fewer visitors, less traffic, and prices are lower. Los Barriles attracts lots of folks in the winter because the pleasant temperatures and winds attract tons of kiteboarders. Keep this in mind when planning a trip.

I can guarantee I will be back in Los Barriles before hunting season kicks off in earnest later this year and I am already refining my fishing travel bag and gear. Los Barriles is definitely worth a look if you are wanting that old school low-key feel where you can seemingly escape the craziness of a tourist trap. I cannot wait.

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