Fishing in Ensenada: A Complete Guide
Sep 9, 2020 | 10 minute read
Reading Time: 10 minutes

Just 60 miles south of the border, Ensenada feels like a completely different world to SoCal. Far enough into the country to feel like real Mexico, the city is also close enough to explore on a day trip. To make the most of it, however, you’ll want to come fishing in Ensenada. From the All Saints Bay to the deep waters of the Pacific, there’s no shortage of angling opportunities to keep you entertained.

A view of Ensenada from the river with plenty of boats anchored in the harbor

Known as the “Cinderella of the Pacific,” Ensenada offers charm in abundance. It’s come a long way from its time as a hedonistic getaway spot for Hollywood’s rich and elite, and now caters to tourists of all kinds. Explore award-winning vineyards, golden beaches, and crystal clear waters, or even hop aboard one of the luxury yachts that fill the harbor. The list of things to do here is endless! 

But we’re here to tell you about what we think is the best thing to do in Ensenada – going fishing. So let’s see what it’s all about.

What can I catch in Ensenada?

With the All Saints Bay and the Pacific Ocean at your mercy, it’s no surprise that there are plenty of fish calling your name. Wherever you cast your line, chances are there’s something biting. From bottom-dwellers to pelagic monsters, here’s our pick of the top species to target in Ensenada.

Rockfish

Two anglers hold four Rockfish caught inshore fishing in Ensenada

If you’re familiar with fishing in SoCal, then you’ll know what’s in store just across the border. Just 80 miles south of San Diego, Ensenada lends itself to many of the same bottom-dwelling creatures that you can find in “America’s Finest City.” Rockfish come in all shapes and sizes and offer plenty of fun and delicious rewards for anglers. Keep your eye out for the local favorite – Boccaccio. Also known as “Salmon Grouper,” this Ensenada delicacy hides in the kelp beds along with another much-loved creature – Calico Bass.

You can find these beauties all across the All Saints Bay, with plenty of fun to be had while trying to hook your dinner. Bottom fish the kelp beds for the best rewards, and you may even attract a California Sheephead, Seabass, or Corvina. There’s something biting pretty much year-round, with only the depths of winter proving to be barren. So get ready for a thrilling adventure whenever you come!

Yellowtail Amberjack

Two anglers hold a Yellowtail Amberjack caught nearshore in Ensenada

In 1950, Ensenada declared itself the “Yellowtail Capital of the World,” so there’s no prizes for guessing what the next critter on our list is. Unless you count the reward of landing this exciting and delicious fish, that is! Yellowtail are a favorite all along the California coast and are a staple of the fishing scene and diet, here. You’ll find thousands of these creatures near the coast and further out, pretty much anytime you come. 

Spring and fall see two peak seasons for these tough-fighting monsters, but they’re also popular catches through summer. Winter may get a little quiet, but never rule out the chance of landing one. Try trolling the open waters or bottom fishing in the shallows, and it doesn’t matter which bait you have – these hungry beasts will gobble up anything! Get ready for an intense battle as they run away with your line to the deep, making you sweat to land some tasty meat. 

Mahi Mahi

An angler holds a very green Mahi Mahi caught fishing in Ensenada while his friend gives the thumbs up

“Dorado,” as this fish is known in Spanish, is a worldwide favorite for offshore angling enthusiasts. This yellow-green creature is dazzling, exciting, and delicious in equal measure, making it an all-round fish. But what makes it so special in Ensenada? The good news about Dorado fishing here is that you don’t need to venture far. Just a few miles from shore, you’ll find plenty of hungry Mahi, ready to take your bait. 

If you’re coming on summer vacation, chances are you’ll see a Mahi – or, at the very least, try one in a beachside restaurant! Coming for Spring Break? You’re also in with a chance. These creatures show up in spring and stay through fall, so you’ll have a large window within which to get your fish on. While these fish are renowned for their fight, there are so many of them in the Pacific, that even a beginner can try reeling one in. Let the trolling lines entice the bite, and you can focus on reeling one aboard. 

Tuna

Two Anglers hold a Tuna caught fishing in Ensenada

One fish takes the crown of most sought-after fish in Ensenada, however. Or should that be four fish? That’s right, you can find four kinds of Tuna off the Baja California coastline, meaning that you’re always in with a chance of landing some serious meat. Skipjack, Albacore, Yellowfin, and monstrous Bluefin Tuna make their way past Ensenada during summer, and all anglers – commercial and recreational – want a piece of the action.

Tuna fishing isn’t for the faint-hearted, though. It takes something really special to land a monster Bluefin, while Yellowfin can also reach incredible sizes. Albacore and Skipjack, although smaller, will also put up a fierce fight to get off your line. Be prepared to use all your strength to reel ‘em in after they dive deep with your bait! Whatever you target, get ready for an adrenaline-pumping experience with plenty of delicious rewards. 

How to Go Fishing in Ensenada

Now you know what you want to catch, but what about the best way to go about it? As a town that revolves around the water, Ensenada has plenty of options to help you get your fish on. Here, we’ll weigh up the pros and cons of each. 

Ensenada Surf Fishing

Three fishermen standing and fishing in the surf

When most people think of fishing, their mind immediately turns to the image of a long day spent by the water with a cooler full of food and an ice box for the fish. Well, you can indulge in that scene in Ensenada! All along the coast, there are plenty of quiet spots where you can cast your line for some of the prized creatures that call the All Saints Bay home.

From the downtown beaches to some more secluded spots where you’ll need a 4×4, there are plenty of fishing grounds to explore. Beware that you’ll need to be 250 meters (around 820 feet) from swimmers and beachgoers. But that shouldn’t limit your options. 

Corvina, Sand Bass, and Manta Rays are popular catches from the surf, with Halibut also not uncommon. Use clams or anchovies as bait for the best results, and you could be reeling in buckets full of tasty fish. 

What’s the downside, you ask? Well, you’re definitely beholden to the weather when surf fishing. Heading out on your own means that you’ll be limited to the fishing grounds you can explore too, especially on foot. If the fish aren’t biting, then you’re out of luck. You’ll also need to bring your own gear, but that shouldn’t hinder any experienced angler. And, in fact, catching a fish with your own equipment can be part of the fun!

Ensenada Panga Fishing

Four panga boats lie docked in the nearshore waters out of Ensenada

If you’ve chosen to cross the border for your fishing adventure, you’re probably looking for something exotic. What better way to experience Mexico’s sportfishing opportunities than by doing it like a local? A panga is a traditional Mexican fishing boat, used from Tijuana to Cabo, to Cancun!

Light and agile, this vessel promises to whizz you away to the productive fishing grounds in no time, as they rely on a simple outboard motor. They’re cheap to run and you can hire one, follow a guide, or even buy your own!

Step aboard whichever way suits you best and explore the rich waters of the All Saints Bay. Unfortunately, these boats aren’t quite as stable as some of the larger sportfishing vessels, so they’re not as suited to going offshore. You’ll also want to keep an eye on the weather and tides, especially in winter.

These wooden boats are exposed to the elements, and won’t make for a pleasant experience if it’s choppy. You may also need to bring your own gear. But despite all this, it’s the number one authentic fishing experience on offer in Ensenada. 

Ensenada Fishing Charters

An offshore fishing boat makes its way towards Ensenada harbor

All over the world, you’ll find that charter fishing is regarded as the best way to get the most out on your fishing adventure. It’s a little more pricey than the aforementioned methods, but it’s a sure-fire way to success. Charter fishing is the only way to experience Ensenada’s deep sea fishing scene, and is also effective in getting you to the sweet spots of the bay. In all honesty, it’s the cream of the crop. 

Why? Well, it seems as though Ensenada fishing charter operators have taken a few tips from the luxury yachts and cruise ships that dock nearby. Most trips are run aboard impressive offshore sportfishing vessels that come fitted with the latest luxury amenities, for you to enjoy your day at sea. 

All the necessary equipment will be provided and you’ll have the added benefit of a professional guide to take you to the fishing grounds. If the fish aren’t biting, the captain will just turn on the engine and find you a more productive spot. You can chase whatever you want, and can even mix it up between inshore and offshore fishing! In short, a charter promises to get you the most out of fishing in Ensenada, and that’s worth every penny.

Where to Go Fishing in Ensenada

Whether heading out on foot or by boat, on your own or with a guide, you’ll want to know exactly where to go to land that dream fish. Thankfully, Ensenada boasts plenty of prime fishing spots just waiting to be explored. Here’s our pick of the best:

  • Estero Beach: A few miles south of downtown, this beach is home to some exclusive residences. It also offers access to the protected inshore fishing grounds of Baja Cove – a prime shore fishing spot. Target Calico and Sand Bass, and even Halibut here. 
  • Kelp Beds: If you’re looking for the most productive inshore fishing grounds, then the kelp beds of the bay take some beating. Croakers, Calico Bass, Rockfish, and even Barracuda come to feed here, so there’s always something biting.
  • Las Islas de Todos Santos: Literally “All Saints Islands,” this collection of islands just 5 miles offshore offers up incredible nearshore fishing, whether from shore or a boat. Cubera Snapper and Lingcod are year-round favorites, along with plenty of other delicious species.
  • Punta Banda Peninsula: The rugged coastline south of Ensenada jots out into the Pacific, giving shore fishing enthusiasts access to some deep waters. Offshore creatures come close by, with Yellowfins a particularly popular catch against the stunning coastal backdrop. 
  • Continental Shelf: Around 60 miles offshore, the waters get seriously deep, and this is where you’ll find the best big game action. Not only will you get to test your strength against four kinds of Tuna, but Billfish may also latch onto your bait.

When to Go Fishing in Ensenada

A Mexican flag flutters in the wind looking towards the coastline as a boat sails off into the sea

While Ensenada may not offer the year-round heat that Baja California Sur and Los Cabos do, it’s still a great place to vacation from January through December. Mild winters see temperatures in the mid-60s, with clear skies most days. The waters can get a bit choppy, so an offshore adventure is not best advised, but that’s just a short blip in an otherwise spotless season.

Peak term hits Ensenada in summer when the temperature reaches the 90s and the widest range of fish is on offer. Offshore fishing comes to life with the warm waters, while inshore fishing is also better than ever before. Spring can be a great time to come and warm up for peak season, while the fishing goes on through fall. Get ready for an inshore fiesta whenever you come, with something even biting from December through February. 

Speaking of “fiestas,” there’s nothing the Mexicans like more than to party. Throughout the year, Ensenada plays home to plenty of festivals. Combine your trip with a visit to one of these events and you’ll see Mexico and Ensenada in all their glory! We recommend the following times, in particular:

  • February: Carnival lights up most of Latin America, but Ensenada takes this festival even more seriously. Expect six days of events and street parties to lighten up your visit.
  • April and May: Food and drink is the name of the game, as the award-winning wines and incredible seafood take center stage. Visit the Festival de Los Conchos y el Vino in Nuevo Ensenada to get an even better taste of Mexico.
  • August: “Fiestas de la Vendimia: Muestra del Vino” showcases the best wines of the Ensenada region, to spice up your night after a day on the water.

Anything else?

A shop outside a fishing shop advertising bait, tackle, and fishing licenses

Before you embark on your Ensenada fishing adventure, there are some rules and regulations you’ll want to get familiar with. First, all anglers over the age of 16 need a Mexican sportfishing license. Some charters may provide this for you, but you should check before you go. Head out on your own, and you’ll definitely need one. Grab one online before going or in one of the numerous bayside stores. They cost anywhere between $11 and $37 depending on how long you want one for.

When it comes to bag and size limits, you should also know that you can harvest a maximum of 10 fish. Each big game species counts as five, and you can only keep five of any smaller species, too. Come prepared to land a mixed bag, and you’re sure to have plenty of fish to stick on the BBQ or in one of the beachside hook and cook restaurants!

And That’s It! 

Rocks stick out of the water in the All Saints Bay looking towards Ensenada

You should be all set to go to the ball! The “Cinderella of the Pacific” is waiting to welcome you, whether you’re on a day hop from SoCal or making a vacation of it. Great fishing, incredible food and drink, and plenty of culture await you, and you’re sure to love it. Come and discover what fishing in Ensenada is all about and make your angling dreams come true!

Have you ever been fishing in Ensenada? How was your experience? Let us know in the comments below! 

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