Why We Go to El Salto in May and June

Why We Go to El Salto in May and June

By Pete Robbins – Half Past First Cast

Doubles…just one good reason!

I believe that the first time I ever heard of El Salto was when I was crappie fishing on the California Delta in 2003 with former Bassmaster pro, Kenyon Hill. He mentioned that he’d been to the lake several times, and had absolutely crushed the big fish. I don’t know why, but I assumed that the best time to go was during the winter months when the climate in his home state of Oklahoma was cold as it was near my home in Virginia.

“No,” he said. “We go at the end of May. That’s when the big ones get ganged up.”

I suppose I always kept that in the back of my head, because even though our first trip to the lake was in December 2009, our next one was in May of 2013, and we’ve been back every May or June since then. Actually, Hanna has been back every May or June since then. I scheduled a “work trip” with Keith Combs to Alaska in the summer of 2019 which left me without enough vacation time to go to El Salto as well, so Hanna took Keith’s wife Jennifer instead.

Hanna and the gals get it done!

Friends are often surprised to hear that we go to Mexico during the warmer months. Indeed, there are several prejudices working against making such a trip. First, fishing is good just about everywhere then. The spawn is over in the deep south, but the fish are lined up on a couple of different patterns. In the far north, the seasons are just starting. Where we live in the mid-Atlantic, I consider April through June the best period to catch not just numbers of fish, but also big fish. So yes, you may be giving up a few days of exceptional fishing at home, but in all but a few instances, it’s likely to be better South of the Border. That’s because the water is at its lowest point of the year and the fish are schooled up on textbook offshore structure.

At home, on the local tidal rivers, I rarely fish deeper than 6 feet deep, so the offshore game at El Salto is a special treat. I get to throw lures like swimbaits and Strike King 10XDs and even the dreaded “ball and chain” (Carolina Rig). Even more importantly, I’m throwing them at SCHOOLS of fish, not individual specimens.

Summertime Slaunch!

The next question is, “Isn’t it HOT?”

The truth is that it’s not more than a few degrees warmer than it is at home. The most uncomfortable part of the day is from about 10 am until you go in for lunch at 11. That’s when the temps have warmed up and the wind hasn’t started blowing. By the time you go back out in the afternoon, the wind is usually howling at a pretty good clip. Not only does that make it much more comfortable to be outside, but it also positions the fish. Many of the guides have areas where you can tie up to a tree, make a cast with the wind (be sure to have enough line on your cranking reel), and catch bass after bass after bass with the same lineup.

That mention of the siesta is another key point – it stays light LATE. When we go in December of January, it gets dark early, so if you’re going to get in a decent afternoon session you need to be out on the water by 1:30. After getting in at 11, cleaning up, and eating lunch, that doesn’t leave much time for a siesta. In June, on the other hand, there’s lots of daylight. Take a nap, cool down, and restore your energy for the long evening bite.

If you’re someone who believes that the tilapia nets have an adverse impact on the fishing (note: I am not one of those people) this is also a prime time to go because the tilapia cooperative does not operate in the summertime.

Furthermore, if you want to bring the family, this is a time when you can take the kids without having to pull them out of school. Hanna and I often try to come during Memorial Day week so we have to take one less day of vacation.

Great guides and great bass!

Obviously, my track record of visiting at this time of year should speak for itself, but in the interest of full disclosure, I’ll reveal a few more things:

(1) our best trips have been in May/June, but we’ve also had a couple of clunkers.

(2) if a great topwater bite is your goal, I’d recommend a different time of year. We’ve had some killer days with a Rico and a Whopper Plopper in June, but we’ve also had a couple of otherwise great trips when the surface bite was minimal.

(3) I’ve been to El Salto in October, November, December, and January as well. We’ve had mostly great trips those months, but a couple of tough ones, too. I have several friends who swear by February/March/April, months when I have not been there. I also know several trusted anglers, including TV show host Joe Thomas, who frequently go in July, when the water is still low but you start to get a few overcast days, to extend the shallow bite. My only recommendation, if you do that, would be to skew toward the first half of the month, because in the waning days, you might lose some fishing time to lightning; and

(4) If you want to see different areas every day, go when the water is higher. Because the lake is at its lowest in May and June, the total acreage is also at its smallest footprint. Your guide will likely follow a milk run of proven spots. For some, that’s a negative. For me, it’s a positive, because at some point in the day, you are going to intercept the largest school of bass of your life, and perhaps the largest single bass of your life.

The bottom line is that there’s no “best month.” Anyone who tells you that “this is the best time to catch a 10-pounder” is full of it. Those fish show up every day of the year and they’re caught in a wide variety of ways. Get there when you can, but take into account all of the other factors that make a trip feasible and great for YOU.

If you’d like to learn more about fishing in Mexico, check out our “Ultimate Guide to El Salto and Picachos.” If you’d like to book a trip, email us any time at [email protected].