Waterman's Journal

Feb 14, 2022

100 Marlin in a Day – Team PELAGIC Expedition to Mag Bay


100 Marlin in a day – Team PELAGIC Expedition to Mag Bay

Is it possible to catch 100 marlin in a single day?  Watch as Captain Ron and the Crew aboard PELAGIC journey to this sportfishing paradise in search of bait balls, striped marlin, and pure ocean adventure!  Magdalena Bay is arguably one of the best fishing spots on the planet – a magical destination where hard core anglers travel each year to have a chance at catching more than 100 marlins in a single day of fishing. Located approximately 200 miles north of Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, Mag Bay offers a unique marine ecosystem that cannot be found anywhere else on the planet – featuring miles of “bait balls” that attract a huge variety of large pelagic predators like marlin, sailfish, dorado, and wahoo, in addition to whales, dolphins, and sea lions.  Mag Bay is truly one of the ultimate “bucket list” fishing trips, so be sure to put this one on your list!

What is Mag Bay?

Mag Bay (short for Magdalena Bay, or Bahia Magdalena in Spanish) is arguably one of the best fishing spots on the planet – a magical destination where hard core anglers travel each year to have a chance at catching more than 100 marlins in a single day of fishing.

Schools of striped marlin gorge themselves on massive balls of bait being corralled in Mag Bay.

Where is Mag Bay?

Located approximately 200 miles north of Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, Mag Bay offers a unique marine ecosystem that cannot be found anywhere else on the planet.

How do you get to Mag Bay?

If you are serious about fishing, you will need your own boat that is capable of safely making the 200 mile journey to Mag Bay, staying at least one to three nights at anchor, and then make the trip back to Cabo.  If you don’t own such a boat, find a friend with a nice boat and offer to chip in for expenses.

Magdalena Bay (Spanish: Bahía Magdalena), is located about 200 miles north of Cabo San Lucas, Mexico.

Finding a charter boat in Cabo that offers Mag Bay trips is also an option, but just make sure you are going with an experienced crew that is up to date on all current regulations and safety measures.  For our most recent trip, we went on board PELAGIC a 58 foot custom Garlington Sportfisher with three crew and five passengers.  It was a bit cozy with 8 of us living aboard the 58 for three days, but the fishing was so good we really didn’t care.

Another option is to drive a car or take a bus from Cabo or La Paz to the small town of San Carlos, but the “hotels” are definitely not gonna be five-star, and the charter boats are nothing more than a basic open panga in most cases.  The fishing out of San Carlos is definitely still world class, but it’s a pretty long run on a small boat just to get to the mouth of the bay into the open ocean, and if its rough that day you will likely get a little beat up out there.

Why is the fishing so good at Mag Bay?

With Mag Bay, Mother nature has created a unique habitat that provides the basis for a healthy ecosystem from the ground up- beginning with nutrient rich water filled with microorganisms, plankton, and forage fish, then going all the way up the food chain to apex predators such as marlins, sharks, and whales.

Created by a large and fertile mangrove lined estuary, the Bay itself is protected from the Pacific Ocean by the sandy barrier islands of Isla Magdalena and Isla Santa Margarita.  The bay is a veritable cornucopia of life, attracting large schools of sardines, anchovies, shrimp, mackerel, and other small baitfish.

Just outside the bay, there are a variety offshore banks and pinnacles that provide the ideal habitat for large pelagic predators like marlin, sailfish, dorado, and wahoo, in addition to whales, dolphins, and sea lions.  All these creatures are here for one reason – bait balls!  Yes, bait balls are the “meal of the day” for all these creatures, and this is the primary reason why Mag Bay is one of the best fishing spots on the planet.

Bait Balls are everything at Mag Bay!  Two striped marlins, corral a group of sardines into a bait ball, just under the surface.

What is a bait ball? 

Each year the Mag Bay ecosystem comes alive with huge schools of baitfish “balled up” on the ocean’s surface for miles as far as the eye can see.  The bait balls are formed as one of mother natures defense mechanisms when small bait fish are threatened by hungry predators from both above and below the surface of the ocean.  In many cases, predatory sea birds such as gannets, terns, and pelicans attack the bait fish from the sky above, while marlins, tunas, dolphins, sea lions, and whales attack the bait fish from below the surface.  When this double-whammy attack happens, the huge schools of bait fish form tightly packed “bait balls” with the bait fish on the inside of the ball generally protected from hungry predators while the bait fish on the outside edges of the ball get picked off one by one in a magnificent showcase of mother nature’s brutal struggle for survival that has occurred each and every single day on this planet for millions of years.

The beauty and remoteness of Mag Bay adds to the bucklist experience.

When is the best time of year to go to Mag Bay?

Most of the action at Mag Bay takes place from September/October through December/January, but November is widely recognized as the best time of year for finding the bait balls.

What is the primary target Species at Mag Bay?

The target species of the area is the Striped Marlin (Kajikia audax), a species of marlin found in tropical to temperate Indo-Pacific oceans.  Found not far from the surface, they prefer water temperatures ranging from 65 F to 75 F. The Striped Marlin is known for hunting in groups of 3-10 fish, swimming at speeds up to 50 mph, and can easily be identified by its vibrant electric blue stripes that appear when the fish is excited.

Captain Ron holds a striper boat-side for a quick photo before removing the hook and releasing the fish.

What are the best fishing techniques to target striped marlin at Mag Bay?

When the striped marlin are feeding on bait balls at Mag Bay, they are voracious feeders that will attack almost anything from live bait, to dead bait, and also trolled and cast lures.  The number one preferred fishing method at Mag Bay that generally yields the best results is sight casting a live mackerel from the bow of the boat to a “tailing” fish on the surface.  In fact, this is one of the things that makes fishing for striped marlin at Mag Bay so unique and special compared to other parts of the world. 

Imagine running the boat up to a bunch of bait balls that are literally exploding on the surface as they get hammered by birds from above and a variety of pelagic predators from below.  All the while, you can see packs of hungry striped marlins completely lit up with vibrant electric blue colors attacking the bait balls by slashing at them with their bills.  Just as you get the boat within casting range you toss a live mackerel directly in front of a marlin… wait for it…  BOOM!  Your hooked up and now your adrenaline is pumping in overdrive!

Four-way hookup for the anglers aboard Pelagic, a 58 foot custom Garlington.

If you don’t have access to live bait, you can also troll a spread of rigged ballyhoo, just like fishing for sailfish, but leave the ultra-light tackle at home, these are MARLIN NOT SAILS!  As an angler, they will hurt you if you don’t take them seriously.

Both trolled and cast lures also work, but generally not as good as natural bait.  For trolling, try running a 10-12 inch skirted tube lure, pusher, or plunger at 5 to 10 knots depending on ocean conditions.  Personally, I like an 11 inch “Zukers 3.5” in either black over green (mean joe green) or orange over yellow (bleeding mack) color combinations.  For casting lures to striped marlin, try anything flashy like a large chrome/blue Krocodile, or a classic red/white surface popper if you want to see a really explosive bite!

As veteran anglers will tell you when you drop your baits back be prepared for a strike. It is commonplace for a wolfpack of striped marlin to take every bait in your spread and create utter chaos on the deck. This also means skilled anglers have the opportunity to release over 100 marlin in a single day of fishing.

Striped Marlin [Kajikia audax] is an amazingly beautiful and powerful pelagic fish species.

What kind of fishing tackle and gear is needed to catch fish at Mag Bay?

Remember:  Striped marlin are NOT sailfish, they are much more strong and powerful.  If you are trying to catch 100 striped marlin in a single day (which is totally possible) then heres what I recommend as a standard set up for sight casting to striped marlin:

  • 7 foot conventional boat rod with medium to heavy action and good casting capability
  • Strong compact conventional reel like the Shimano Talica 20 or 25 two speed reel
  • 80 to 100 pound braid or spectra backing
  • 30 to 60 pound monofilament mainline
  • 80 to 100 pound fluorocarbon leader (drop down to 50 or 60 if the fish are being picky)
  • 7/0 or 8/0 Owner tournament circle hooks

 What can I do to support ocean conservation while fishing at Mag Bay?

When you catch your first striped marlin, you will instantly gain a tremendous sense of respect for these powerful and beautiful creatures.  Therefore, in order to preserve the resource to share with future generations, it is important to focus on conservation. We strongly recommend catch and release for all the striped marlin you catch while fishing at Mag Bay.  In order to cause less stress on the fish, we try to keep these fish in the water at all times and take the time to swim them alongside of the boat before releasing them so they regain their energy back after a long battle.  Trust me, when you see these majestic fish swimming away after a healthy release, you will feel a great sense of pride and accomplishment.

Team PELAGIC coming tight on a triple header of striped marlin

What is the weather like at Mag Bay?

Typically, during fishing season it gets hot as hell mid-day, but kind of cool in the early mornings and late evenings.  Best bet to bring several pairs of Pelagic fishing shorts, Pelagic sun protection shirts, and a light jacket or wind breaker for the mornings and evenings.  With long days on the water, fishing from sun-up to sun-down, I definitely recommend bringing a bunch of sunscreen unless you want to get burned.  I prefer the Pelagic brand non-greasy, “Reef safe” sunscreen with 50+ SPF rating, in fact, that’s all I ever use when I’m on the water.

Final thoughts on planning the ultimate “bucket list” trip to Mag Bay

Mag Bay is truly one of the wonders of the world when it comes to serious fishermen and women.  However, you need to keep in mind that this is a very remote wild destination out in the middle of nowhere, so careful planning is necessary, and it always pays to have an experienced local guide who not only speaks the language but also truly cares about your safety first and foremost.  Then there is the cost – unfortunately, if you want to experience one of the top “bucket list” fishing trips in the entire world it isn’t gonna be cheap.  If your thinking about chartering a boat from Cabo, your probably looking at $7,500 to $10,000 per person for a 3-day trip on a decent 60 footer.  Even if you opt for the less expensive route – taking the bus and renting a panga – all the various costs will add up and you don’t want to end up washing dishes at the local taco stand just to get your bus fare home!  As the old saying goes, “if you want something bad enough, you will find a way to make it happen!” But to be honest, I recommend making friends with someone who loves fishing and happens to own a really nice boat!

A sport fisher drops anchor after a successful day of fishing.

Ronald “Captain Ron” Kawaja: Captain Ron is the president and founder of Pelagic clothing company and a world-class angler who has travelled the globe for the past 20+ years in search of big fish, exotic fishing destinations, and pure ocean adventure. His voyages have included fishing & competing in the world’s largest and richest sport fishing tournaments; pursuing the elusive “grander” (1,000+ pound marlin or tuna) on rod and reel; and seeking out the world’s ultimate fishing destinations in places like Australia, Africa, Ascension Island, Bahamas, Belize, Brazil, Cabo, Cancun, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Madeira, Nicaragua, Panama, and Puerto Rico (to name a few). Over the years, Captain Ron has won and placed in numerous fishing tournaments around the world, including the prestigious White Marlin Open in Ocean City, MD where he was named “Grand Champion & Top Overall Angler” - to win this title, Kawaja competed against more than 2,000 anglers, and finished in first place. As recently as October 2021, Captain Ron led his team to a first place victory against 189 of the world’s top sport fishing teams at the world famous Bisbee’s Los Cabos Offshore Tournament in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico.  As an angler, he has extensive experience in a diverse range of fishing situations, from fighting giant fish up to 1,000 pounds on stand-up tackle, to chasing light line world records, and he credits 100% of his success to all the pro captains and crews he has fished with and learned from over the years.