When most people hear about fishing in Los Cabos, they think about deep sea fishing for sport fish like Marlin, Tuna and Dorado. When we built our house on the beach in Zacatitos and since it has become clear that fishing is much more than just sport fishing. Early in the morning and at the end of the day, we would often see the workers down on the beach casting into the surf for fish. They also would dive in front of the house for lobster and clams or mussels. Every morning, we would see the pangas and other boats out on water fishing on the Gordo Banks out in front of our beach. More recently, we have watched Lisa Ferrier as she enters the water and comes out after spear fishing. It seems appropriate to write about all of the kinds of fishing experiences that are available in Los Cabos.
Surf fishing (casting from the beach to catch fish) is very popular in Los Cabos and no license is required. All that you need is an interest and the right equipment and you can fish on most of the beaches on both the Pacific Ocean and the Sea of Cortez. There are lots of types of fish caught regularly from the beach. One of the most popular is the Roosterfish (named because of the rooster tail fin behind its head), also called Pez Gordo. This fish can range from 15 to 30 pounds and is most often caught by casting when you see it in the water while feeding off of smaller fish. Los Frailes just south of Cabo Pulmo is considered Rooster Alley. There have also been pictures in Facebook of people catching Roosterfish. Sierra Mackerel is another fishermen’s favorite as there are lots of them and they are not too big. They feed on sardines and stick to the shoreline. They are especially abundant in the winter when the water is a little cooler. They can often be spotted because of the bait fish jumping out of the water to avoid them. As they have very sharp teeth a wire leader is required or you will lose your lure. There are lots of different types of Snapper (fresh at most restaurants in Los Cabos) – red, dogtooth, Cubera, Hogfish – and the max out at about 20 pounds. Snapper are most likely to be found in rocky areas. Grouper (another popular fish in local restaurants) can be found near the beach.
Articles about surf fishing in Los Cabos suggest that you fish early in the morning just after dawn. Using the right equipment is also important – a long surfcasting rod and a spinning reel and the right lures. Although locals have often been seen with hard lines and fresh crab or bait fish when they fish. It is a great idea to ask the locals where the good spots are for fishing along the beach. The right equipment is available at Jansen Inshore Tackle (www.jansen.mx) in both Cabo San Lucas and Puerto Los Cabos. There are also several companies like Baja Anglers that offer day surf casting tours with a guide (www.baja-anglers.com). You can also find a calendar at www.cabofishing-net that tells the best times of the year to catch all of the different fish in Los Cabos.
For the last little while we have watched a women walk backwards into the water on our beach in Zacatitos with a big orange float. Later on, she would come out of the water with a big fish. Curious, I decided to do a little research on spearfishing in Los Cabos. Clearly a skill that has been around for centuries, people can go out from the beach to free dive (or with scuba) to use a spear gun or pole spear to get the fish and the float is used as a catch bag for beach entry. Spearfishers from the beach are looking for headlands with 5 to 25 meters of water to search for the fish. Spearfishers can also enter the water off of boats, which allows them to go to deeper water is search of very specific types of fish. One of the most popular places is Gordo Banks, which is right out from Zacatitos on the East Cape. The most popular are Blue Fin Tuna, Dorado, Snapper and Wahoo. For a good overview of spearfishing in Baja visit https://spearoscout.com/best-spearfishing-spots-in-baja-me…/
I wondered how large the fish were that you could catch with a spear gun and had assumed that it might be 30 to 50 pounds, otherwise the fish could just take off and the spearfisher would be dragged along behind. Rocky Rafkin has been spearfishing for 50 years. Rocky explained to me that spearfishing is more like hunting than it is like fishing. He said, "You have to find the refrigerator. Sooner or later everyone ends up at the refrigerator to get something to each." In other words, spearfishing involves searching out where the bait is that your chosen fish is interested in. You can't chase the fish, they have to come to you. Also, he indicated that he and his friends had caught tuna as big as 300 lbs. I wondered how. Rocky said, rather than a single float, they use multiple floats connected with line that acts as leverage on the fish (as if using multiple pulleys) and allows much bigger fish to be caught. His wife, Lisa Ferrier who is relatively new to spearfishing (3 years) holds eight women’s world record for Spearfishing at the age of 56. So, you are never too old to try it (with a skilled guide). Companies like Spearfishing Cabo (www.spearfishingbaja.mx) are available to help beginners to experts.
Deep Sea Fishing
Sportfishing is clearly what Los Cabos is known for worldwide. With some of the biggest fishing tournaments in the world, fishermen flock to Los Cabos to try their luck either on vacation or in a tournament. I had my first experience with Sportfishing in November of 1999. Four of us (myself, Robert Ruyg, Steve Harris and Tisno Onggara) went out early one morning from the marina in Cabo San Lucas. I learned that this was not all play and fun but could be hard work. I was the first one in the chair and fought for 48 minutes to bring in 110 lb. striped marlin. But the skill of the captain and crew (not me) is what made it happen. With one crew member coaching me and the captain backing up the boat as fast as possible to take pressure off the fishing line, I was able to catch the marlin. Later, Tisno caught a larger marlin that was released. After the marlin was cut up, Sharon (Robert’s wife) prepared marlin for us three different ways, with different salsas that night for dinner.
Many fisherman come to compete in one of the many tournaments including: the Triple Crown of Fishing Cabo Summer Slam; Bisbee’s East Cape Tournament; Los Cabos Bill Fish Tournament; Bisbee’s Los Cabos Offshore tournament; Bisbee Black & Blue Marlin Tournament; Los Cabos Tuna Jackpot; Los Cabos Big Game Charter Boat Classic. These deep-sea fishing tournaments are after Tuna, Wahoo, Marlin and Dorado. Several of these tournaments begin with a shotgun start where all boats leave at the same time and must be back by a specified deadline. The Bisbee Black and Blue Marlin tournament offers the biggest prize package in the world – with over $4,000,000 awarded.
However, it is not necessary to be part of a tournament or pay a fortune to have a deep-sea fishing experience. Charters from Cabo San Lucas, Puerto Los Cabos and Los Barriles with experience fishing captain start from as low as $300 or $400 for a 5 or 6-hour trip. Clearly, it can be much more depending on the size of the boat that is selected and the number in the fishing parties. But you can even have a great experience on a panga out of Puerto Los Cabos going to the inner or outer area of Gordo Banks on the East Cape. There are great recommendations and reviews on Trip Advisor or Viator to lead you to the captain for the type of experience that you would like.
Until the late 1980s, the only thing that Los Cabos was known for was fishing. The primary source of tourists was people who were coming to Cabo San Lucas in search of Marlin and other sportfish. Rocky Rafkin, a PGA pro, who frequently visited Baja from the mid 70s, said that he was driving along the beach in the mid 80s and saw a few people with shovels working out in the field not far from the beach. He told his friend who was driving the car to stop – that’s a golf course. He walked over to the workers who had shovels, a donkey and a plow and most importantly – no power tools or machines and met another PGA pro who was supervising the workers. This would become the San Jose del Cabo Municipal 9-hole golf course that opened in 1987. It was all built by hand with 32 bunkers and a lake – a 3,153-yard flat course with a par 35. The next step in the history of golf was made when Don Koll, the owner of Palmilla invited Jack Nicklaus to visit. He also invited the then president of Mexico to visit and to meet Nicklaus. The result was a commitment to expand the San Jose del Cabo airport, run better water mains to Cabo San Lucas and the construction of the first Jack Nicklaus course in Los Cabos, which opened in 1990. The Palmilla course is now three 18-hole courses – Mountain (7,036 years, par 72), Ocean (6,771 yards, par 72) and the Arroyo (6,939 yards, par 72). There are now 21 golf courses in Los Cabos and another two planned in the next several years. An amazing number of these courses are listed among the top 100 courses in the world and have been the host to PGA tournaments.
Not all of the golf courses in Los Cabos are open to the public. In fact, ten of the 21 current courses are private and require either being a resident in the community or the guest at a hotel. The newest private course is the Ocean Course at Cabo del Sol. This Jack Nicklaus course has just been updated and recently reopened as part of the private Cove Club. It originally opened as a public course and every fairway has views of the Sea of Cortez and there are four holes that follow the beach. One of the newest private courses is the Twin Dolphins Golf Club available to owners and guests of the Montage Hotel and Resorts and the MaraVilla Condominiums. This one of a kind 19-hole course was designed by Fred Couples (his first in Mexico) and winds through the nature of Los Cabos with stunning views of the mountains and the Sea of Cortez. Greg Norman also entered the hospitality business with a golf course and residences in Rancho Los Cabos along the Pacific Ocean between Cabo San Lucas and Todos Santos. As either an owner of a residence or a guest at one of the Solmar resorts, you can have access to this 7,210-yard, par 72 course. Tom Fazio designed the Chileno Bay golf course which winds its way through arroyos with magnificent views of the Sea of Cortez and the Los Cabos mountains open recently and is also private for homeowners in Chileno Bay or guests of the Auberge Chileno Resort. The Quivira Golf Course along the Pacific Ocean opened in 2014 and is also private. To play this 7,085-yard, par 72, you need to either be a homeowner or a guest at one of the Pueblo Bonito resort properties in Cabo San Lucas. The green fees range from $233 - $380, depending on the season and time of day. In 2009, several courses opened in the Pacific side community of Diamante, just north of Cabo San Lucas. Davis Love designed the Dunes course (7,160 yards, par 72) with views of the Pacific Ocean and Tiger Woods designed his first course ever at Diamante. The El Cardonal course opened in 2014 and was followed by the Oasis short course (12 holes) in 2016. The Oasis course is a par three that winds around over 400 palm trees. Both of these courses have views of the Pacific Ocean. All three courses require that you are either an owner or a guest in Diamante. Although a few tee times each day are allocated to the Nobu Hotel and the Hard Rock Hotel that are on the beach adjacent Diamante. The first Tom Fazio course in Los Cabos, which opened in 2000 was in Querencia, a private residential community just south of San Jose del Cabo and north of Palmilla along the main highway. This is a par 72 course that also has a driving range.
Not currently private, the Jack Nicklaus course in Puerto Los Cabos will become private when the second nine holes of the adjacent Greg Norman course is completed. But don’t worry, if you want world class golf, you don’t need to own in Los Cabos or stay in a luxury hotel. There are lots of additional hotels. As indicated, both courses (27 holes) of golf in Puerto Los Cabos are now public. Currently, the 18-hole Nicklaus course has 7.191 yards, par 72 and the Greg Norman course with 9 holes completed is 3,590 yards with a par 36. Both of these courses feature a palapa rest stop that is included in the green fees, where golfers can enjoy beverages and taco of their own choosing. The first 18 holes of these courses opened in 2008 with the second Nicklaus 9 opening in 2019. The oldest public course in Los Cabos was opened as the San Jose del Cabo Municipal Course in 1987 and was sold to Vidanta in 2012. The second oldest course is Palmilla with 27 holes that opened in 1990 (described in the introduction above). One of the early courses to open in Los Cabos is the Robert Trent Jones II course at Cabo Real. This is a 6,848-yard course with a par 71 that depending on the season and time of day has green fees that range from $140 - $240. The Cabo San Lucas Country Club, just outside of Cabo San Lucas was opened in 1994 following Tropical Storm Lydia has seven brand new holes and offers a 7,220-yard, par 72 course that was designed by Roy Dye. It is also the only club in Los Cabos to have a lighted driving range, allowing players to practice at night. In 2007, Club Campestre was opened in a community just on the western edge of San Jose del Cabo. This Jack Nicklaus course has 6,966 holes and a par 71 with views of the Sea of Cortez and the Los Cabos mountains. Other than the Vidanta 9-hole course, this is one of the least expensive in Los Cabos with green fees ranging from $99 to $195, depending on the season and time of day. It is one of four courses owned by Questro Golf – Cabo Real, Club Campestre and the two courses in Puerto Los Cabos. The most recent opening Los Cabos was the Robert Trent Jones II designed course at Costa Palmas (7,000 yards, par 72), up the East Cape. This is part of the overall Four Seasons Resort development that includes a hotel, residences and a yacht harbor.
Two new resorts planned on the East Cape – the Vidanta Mayan Palace just north of Zacatitos and Punta Playa just south of Zacatitos – plan 18-hole golf courses. The Vidanta property is currently under construction with a 2021 or 2022 opening. The Punta Playa property has not yet been started.
While fishing is still the most popular draw for tourists to Los Cabos, the world-class golf and even more world-class views from these courses has truly made the area a year round destination for tourists.