Rosarito Beach Sportfishing, Alive and Well

Halibut: catch of the day at Rosarito, Mexico's Sportfishing Pier.
  • Halibut: catch of the day at Rosarito, Mexico's Sportfishing Pier.

From the standpoint of “petro-tourism,” it very well could be that nearby Baja California peninsula, with its Mediterranean-like coastal climate and uncrowded beaches, is one of the best draws for Southern Californians looking for a quality bargain getaway.

And these days, it’s one that keeps getting better as soon as you drive across the international border. At the current exchange rate, regular gasoline at the state-run Pemex stations runs about $2.97 a gallon, as opposed to over $4.30 a gallon in San Diego and Los Angeles.

Less than 20 miles south of the San Ysidro crossing, Rosarito Beach, with its many shops, restaurants, famous hotel and sportfishing pier, offers a quick opportunity to shed your cares and feel like you’re on vacation in a exotic locale.

Decades ago, Rosarito Beach was a popular surf fishing destination for many Southern California anglers. Those who diligently worked the shoreline could expect to catch a variety of species such as croaker, corbina, perch, sand bass, halibut and several types of rays and sand sharks.

As time progressed, however, Rosarito Beach was targeted by the spring break crowd, and an increasing number of trendy bars and eateries began to pop up along Boulevard Benito Juarez in locals’ attempt to earn their fair share of profits from the increasing flow of weekend and holiday visitors from the north. This is about the time that the vision of Rosarito as a worthwhile place to cast out a line began to fade into the ether.

Luckily, a few years ago Hugo Torres, owner of the Rosarito Beach Hotel, finally realized his long-time dream of building a sportfishing pier near his property. It now stretches over a quarter of a mile out into the ocean and eventually comes to an end at an emergent cluster of large rocks, situated well past the breaking surf.

catch of the day

catch of the day

This natural habitat helps to turn the area near the pier’s furthest extremity into an “all-you-can-eat” buffet for hungry halibut, bass, perch and other seasonal gamefish species. Nonetheless, fishing from the pier much closer to shore with light tackle for quality barred surfperch that are swimming barely beyond the inshore breakers can be extremely productive as well. Access to the pier is available to the general public for a small fee, and is free for hotel guests.

As spring turns into summer, it’s a safe bet that this popular pier will continue to draw throngs of intrepid anglers and other visitors from San Diego, Los Angeles and Orange counties who are looking forward to enjoying a few relaxing days under the warm Baja sun.

Once they’ve arrived, they will be delighted to discover that the legendary hotel’s pier is still flanked by numerous opportunities for shopping, entertainment and upscale dining that have made Rosarito Beach such a popular destination for decades.

Read more about the “Magic Peninsula” at BAJA-4-U: sandiegoreader.com/weblogs/baja-4-u

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Well, that makes for an interesting story -- about the Rosarito pier -- too bad it is just not true. The pier was built so cruise ships could stop at Rosarito. Unfortunately, it was poorly planned. It is next to the outfall of the Rosarito Creek, which dumps large amounts of sand and rock into the ocean when there is a heavy rain. Between the time construction of the pier started and was finished, the sea bottom silted up and lowered the ocean depth.

When the first cruise ship arrived, it was delayed in its departure, as when the tide went out it was stuck on the bottom. The ship had to wait for the tide to come in to depart. Since then, no cruise ship has ever returned to Rosarito. Now it is a very expensive fishing pier. That was not the original plan.

Oh, do you know Hugo Torres? Well, I have known him and have worked together with him for years to bring more tourism to Baja Norte, so I might be in a little better position than you to tell the complete story of the structure’s history.

It was, in fact, true that the original business plan to justify the substantial expenditure necessary to build the pier was initially based upon the erroneous belief that passengers could be successfully ferried from cruise ships to a land based platform that would allow them to spend some shore time in Playas Rosarito.

Nonetheless, the construction of a sportfishing pier near the hotel was something that Hugo has dreamed of since he was a very young man; a place where both serious and occasional anglers would have a chance to take advantage of what is still a productive regional fishery. And prior to the economic downturn on both sides of the border, there has even been a plan in the works to augment the rocky outcroppings at the end of the pier with an artificial reef made of quarry rock and transplanted kelp to further enhance the marine life and adjacent ecosystem. Although that plan is currently on hold until such time when economic conditions will support it, the belief that it is a viable concept has never been abandoned.

As one who has personally fished there often I can assure anyone who is interested in the subject that, at least to the hundreds of kids and families who leave the Rosarito Beach Hotel’s Sportfishing Pier every year with broad smiles on their faces whether they have any fish in their bucket or not, its building was one of the best things that has ever happened in providing a wholesome, highly accessible recreational option for their community.

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