A Kayak-Fishing Adventure in the Central Sea of Cortez

An intrepid group of kayakeros enjoys exhilarating action for billfish, roosters, dorado and more, with the Mexican desert as a magical backdrop

PERFECT KAYAK-FISHING WATERS

saltwater kayak fishing Baja's central Sea of Cortez near Loreto
That's particularly true when the wind's not blowing but even when it is, the many islands around Loreto on the central Sea of Cortez coast of Baja, offer protection for kayakeros, such as Rob Sherman, a resident of the Los Angeles area, shown here. A small group of enthusiasts from Southern California, Louisiana and Florida met up at what would be their HQ for five days of fishing, the venerable Hotel Oasis, there outfitting kayaks and fishing gear. These 30 images offer an idea of how that trip went; look for more complete/detailed information and more photos in the July 2016 issue of Sport Fishing magazine.Doug Olander / Sport Fishing

SURREAL

saltwater kayak fishing Baja's central Sea of Cortez near Loreto
Fast forward to a couple of days later as Sherman pedals his Outback near one of the many surreal rocky landforms typical of islands like Isla Coronado, that — especially in the eerie calm that has settled over the entire sea — make fishing here a unique experience.Doug Olander / Sport Fishing

FLEET: FISHING MACHINES

saltwater kayak fishing Baja's central Sea of Cortez near Loreto
Four Hobie Outback and two Hobie Revolution kayaks sit just outside our rooms at the Hotel Oasis, ready to be wheeled to the beach next morning where waiting pangas will take us to various fishing grounds. Several are equipped with battery-operated livewells and depth sounders.Doug Olander / Sport Fishing

DESERT EVENING

saltwater kayak fishing Baja's central Sea of Cortez near Loreto
After the sun goes down, things cool off and in its lights, the hotel exhibits a special charm.Jeffrey Fortuna / Hobie

FIRST MORNING

saltwater kayak fishing Baja's central Sea of Cortez near Loreto
In a quiet bay on the west side of Isla Carmen, the kayakeros have offloaded six kayaks from two pangas and are gearing up for an initial assault on the Cortez.Jeffrey Fortuna / Hobie

BAD OMEN?

saltwater kayak fishing Baja's central Sea of Cortez near Loreto
Hopefully this trio of turkey vultures on the beach waiting to greet us that first morning is not a harbinger of trouble.Jeffrey Fortuna / Hobie

GOOD START

dolphinfish caught saltwater kayak fishing Baja's central Sea of Cortez near Loreto
Apparently the buzzards were not an omen, since Sherman promptly scores with a nice dorado on a live sardinia.Doug Olander / Sport Fishing

A DORADO DAY

dorado caught saltwater kayak fishing Baja's central Sea of Cortez near Loreto
It seemed to be a dorado day, with Louisiana-based kayak-fishing-writer Chris Holmes landing another of the colorful fish.Doug Olander / Sport Fishing

SHALLOW-WATER BULL

mahi caught saltwater kayak fishing Baja's central Sea of Cortez near Loreto
A bit later, Sherman scores yet again with what later showed as just over 27 pounds on his Rapala Fish Gripper, biggest of the trip. Amazingly, he caught it trolling a live bait just off the beach in perhaps 15 feet of crystal-clear water.Jeffrey Fortuna / Hobie

SEA OF CORTEZ BECKONS

saltwater kayak fishing Baja's central Sea of Cortez near Loreto
The next morning dawns mirror-calm again, as anglers get ready to start loading the yaks. Destination: Isla Coronado, visible in the background.Jeffrey Fortuna / Hobie

TIME TO FISH

saltwater kayak fishing Baja's central Sea of Cortez near Loreto
Sherman grabs two rods and prepares to clamber into his Outback after he and the *pangero *have offloaded itDoug Olander / Sport Fishing

MID-SEA MOMENT

saltwater kayak fishing Baja's central Sea of Cortez near Loreto
Morgan Promnitz, Hobie’s fishing-product manager, has pedaled his Outback miles off the scenic desert slopes of Baja on the flat-calm Gulf of California in search of a marlin, slowly trolling a live caballito (scad).Doug Olander / Sport Fishing

MARLIN ON THE ATTACK

saltwater kayak fishing Baja's central Sea of Cortez near Loreto
But before Morgan can hook up, Gary Graham, who operates the great web site Baja on the Fly, hears the rush of a striped marlin (when the ocean is this flat, and without the noise of an outboard, every sound is audible) and turns as his caballito is being inhaled.Jeffrey Fortuna / Hobie

TAILWALKIN'

jumping striped marlin caught saltwater kayak fishing Baja's central Sea of Cortez near Loreto
At the sting of Graham’s circle hook, the billfish launches into a long and impressive tailwalk.Jeffrey Fortuna / Hobie

BROAD JUMPIN'

jumping striped marlin caught saltwater kayak fishing Baja's central Sea of Cortez near Loreto
The fish continues its show with an amazing horizontal launch. Its tactics paid off since it ultimately broke off before Graham could release the marlin.Jeffrey Fortuna / Hobie

NOT A MARLIN

hammerhead shark caught saltwater kayak fishing Baja's central Sea of Cortez near Loreto
When the line came tight after a good fish ran off with my live cab, I was anticipating more billfish acrobatics, but of course I got no jumps from Mr. Hammerhead. After a good battle, nevertheless, I managed to get the shark boatside to try to remove the circle hook, clearly visible in its jaw.Jeffrey Fortuna / Hobie

ALIEN LIFE FORM

hammerhead shark caught saltwater kayak fishing Baja's central Sea of Cortez near Loreto
Though head-on, it appears like something from another world, the hammerhead is in the process of getting the heck away from the kayak, once unhooked.Jeffrey Fortuna / Hobie

UNDER TOW

striped marlin caught saltwater kayak fishing Baja's central Sea of Cortez near Loreto
Rob Sherman’s rod is the next to go off and he spends the next hour or so working on this stripe, covering many miles in the process.Jeffrey Fortuna / Hobie

READY TO RESUSCITATE

striped marlin caught saltwater kayak fishing Baja's central Sea of Cortez near Loreto
Sherman gets a firm grip on the marlin’s bill, after unhooking it, and prepares to lower its head and begin pedaling to resuscitate it. The hands-free Mirage Drive pedal system allows this — forward movement without having to paddle. Sherman, who caught the biggest dorado, was also the first to land/release a marlin, and from then on was known as Big Fish Rob.Doug Olander / Sport Fishing

RAMPAGING SAIL

Pacific sailfish caught saltwater kayak fishing Baja's central Sea of Cortez near Loreto
A bit later, Promnitz has his hands full with a big Pacific sailfish on the rampage.Doug Olander / Sport Fishing

TROLLING THE CACTUS FIELDS

saltwater kayak fishing Baja's central Sea of Cortez near Loreto
Towering cactus plants aren’t typically what you’d expect to see behind anglers trolling for blue-water pelagics.Doug Olander / Sport Fishing

IN FOR THE LONG HAUL

saltwater kayak fishing Baja's central Sea of Cortez near Loreto
Using a Hobie Trax 2 cart, I trudge up the long beach toward the veranda in front of our Hotel Oasis rooms pulling my Outback after a day of fishing to unload and rinse off tackle and gear.Rob Sherman

A PERFECT EVENING

fishermen relaxing after kayak fishing Baja's central Sea of Cortez near Loreto
A perfect evening to end a perfect day for the group on the patio outside the hotel’s restaurant for the group including (back, in grey shirt) Jeffrey Fortuna, Hobie’s intrepid photographer, responsible for many of the excellent photos in this gallery.Doug Olander / Sport Fishing

LAST SHOT

preparations for saltwater kayak fishing Baja's central Sea of Cortez near Loreto
Skip ahead to the last day, as Holmes (background) and Promnitz prep their kayaks to fish. Promnitz is about drop into place his Mirage Pedal-Drive unit.Jeffrey Fortuna / Hobie

PRIME HABITAT

trolling saltwater kayak fishing Baja's central Sea of Cortez near Loreto
Sherman is hopeful as he trolls a diving plug in the clear waters, loaded with rugged, rocky substrate.Doug Olander / Sport Fishing

ROOSTER RUSH

roosterfish chasing saltwater fishing surface plug lure
With its classic dorsal fin waving, a small rooster rushes Promnitz’ surface plug.Jeffrey Fortuna / Hobie

NEARSHORE TROPHY

roosterfish caught saltwater kayak fishing Baja's central Sea of Cortez near Loreto
Later, Promnitz scores with a live bait on a much larger rooster off the northwestern tip of Isla Monserrate, more than an hour panga run south of Loreto.Jeffrey Fortuna / Hobie

PARGO SURPRISE

barred pargo caught saltwater kayak fishing Baja's central Sea of Cortez near Loreto
A bit later, Promnitz gets a surprise — not a rooster, but a nice barred pargo.Doug Olander / Sport Fishing

PROVERBIAL SLEIGH RIDE

angler hooked up saltwater kayak fishing Baja's central Sea of Cortez near Loreto
But a bit farther out, Big Fish Rob is at it again. He’s hooked a rooster, and while he hasn’t seen it clearly enough to assess its size, it’s pulling him out into the Cortez as a blistering pace; even the trick of putting his feet out to increase drag isn’t slowing him.Doug Olander / Sport Fishing

AN RFP (Rooster of Frightening Proportions)

trophy roosterfish caught saltwater kayak fishing Baja's central Sea of Cortez near Loreto
And that’s a trophy rooster in anyone’s book. How big? Sherman couldn’t possibly have lifted it clear of the water to weigh it, but odds are it would have easily bottomed out the 50-pound scale in any case. For many anglers, the rooster of a lifetime — great from any boat, but from a kayak? Priceless.Doug Olander / Sport Fishing