Deep Sea Fishing in Puerto Vallarta: A Beginner's Guide

Dec 20, 2021 | 8 minute read
Reading Time: 8 minutes

Variety is the spice of life in Mexico’s Puerto Vallarta – especially when it comes to the angling action on offer! This resort town is positioned right on the Bahía da Banderas, with the deeper fishing grounds of the Pacific Ocean lying a short distance offshore. Because of this, you can experience world-class deep sea fishing in Puerto Vallarta by spending a mere six hours on the water.

An aerial view of Puerto Vallarta showing the town and the ocean

And if you’re worried that a deep sea fishing trip means limiting the number of species you’ll target, think again. The sheer variety of fish that lurk in this area’s bluewater battlegrounds means you won’t get bored. Marlin, Sailfish, Mahi Mahi, Wahoo, and Yellowfin Tuna can all be hooked here, among others.

Below, we’ve broken down our top deep sea fishing targets in Puerto Vallarta, as well as some of our favorite fishing locations and techniques. Ready to discover what lies in wait beneath these azure blue waters? Let’s dive in…

Top Deep Sea Fishing Targets in Puerto Vallarta

Marlin

A group of anglers hold a Marlin on board a charter boat in Puerto Vallarta

Puerto Vallarta boasts not one, not two, but three Marlin species. Blue, Black, and Striped varieties all call these waters home. They can be found around Puerto Vallarta during the majority of the year, with the fall and winter months being especially plentiful. Depending on how far you’re willing to travel from shore, November and December are when Grander Blue Marlin tend to make an appearance. These fish weigh at least 1,000 pounds!

So why are Marlin so beloved in Puerto Vallarta? Well, not only do they swarm these waters in large numbers, but they put up an incredible fight. Each variety has something different to offer visiting anglers. If it’s pure size you’re after, then Blue Marlin are the target for you. Craving a need for speed? Black Marlin are the fastest out of this Billfish family. And when it comes to Striped Marlin? Well, they have a reputation for spending more time in the air than the water when hooked!

Sailfish

A group of anglers stand aboard a charter in Puerto Vallarta holding a Sailfish

Marlin aren’t the only Billfish you can encounter, though. The mighty Sailfish also inhabits the waters around Puerto Vallarta, and can be found lurking close to underwater structure. They may be smaller than Marlin and they can tire more easily, but that doesn’t mean they’re not worthy opponents! If you’re still getting to grips with deep sea fishing, what could be better than spotting the Sailfish’s iconic fin slicing through the topwaters just 25 miles from shore?

Around Puerto Vallarta, Sailfish can be found throughout the year. Like Marlin, fall and winter are when they really shine. These fish can outswim most other species in the ocean. They’re capable of taking your line and running with it, so make sure you bring plenty of fighting spirit with you. Fast trolling is one of the best ways to hook them, especially if you’re using natural bait. These fish feed on the water tops and can’t resist mullet or ballyhoo.

Yellowfin Tuna

An angler sitting on a boat, holding a Yellowfin Tuna.

So yes, Puerto Vallarta has an enviable number of Billfish on offer. But these waters also hold some tasty table fare. Top of the list is Yellowfin Tuna. Not only do these fish make for a great dinner option, but they’re also seriously fun to catch. Unlike Billfish, they’re not prone to leaps out of the water. Instead, they’ll take your line and dive deep with it. Combined with their speed and weight, they make for an unforgettable opponent. Visit during the summer and fall, and you’ll have a Tuna bonanza on your hands.

Fishing for Yellowfin Tuna in Puerto Vallarta is also pretty diverse. You can troll for them using artificial lures, as they feed on topwaters. However, as they like lurking in seriously deep waters, you can also try bottom fishing for them. If you’re feeling especially brave, why not ask your captain if you can try both techniques? You’ll get a real workout, and hopefully something to fill your appetite after all that fishing, too!

Mahi Mahi

An angler holds a Mahi Mahi caught while fishing in Puerto Vallarta

If you’re newer to deep sea fishing, then the next fish on our list is the perfect target for you. Mahi Mahi are beloved all over the world for their hard-fighting spirit and photo-friendly colors. Nothing quite beats seeing a flash of yellow and green beneath the water as this fish bites! While they’re feisty fish, they’re also smaller than Marlin or Tuna, which means that they can be easier to reel in when hooked – relatively speaking, of course. This makes them a great catch for new deep sea anglers.

Mahi Mahi aren’t just a fighting fish, though. They also taste amazing, with many anglers ranking them above more famous food fish such as Tuna. In Puerto Vallarta, you can travel a mere 25 miles from shore to target them, which means they’re a likely opponent if you’re opting for a shorter trip. Fall and winter are the most plentiful months for Mahi, but you’ll find them in spring and summer, too.

Wahoo

A man holding a Wahoo on a boat

Wherever you find Mahi Mahi, you’re likely to find Wahoo – and what an excellent combination that is! Wahoo are often overlooked in some parts of the world, known as “a favorite bycatch,” but there are a few reasons why they make for an excellent target. Firstly, they’re one of the fastest fish in the sea, capable of scorching runs that’ll strip your line off your reel before you even know it. They can grow up to impressive sizes and put up a fight akin to a Billfish.

In Puerto Vallarta, you’ll be able to target Wahoo in the same waters as Mahi Mahi, which means they’ll start showing up around 25 miles from shore. Trolling is the most effective way to target them, as they’re attracted to bait speeding along the watertops. Again, fall and winter are the most productive times to target them, and they’re especially active during January.

How can I go deep sea fishing in Puerto Vallarta?

Although Puerto Vallarta boasts direct access to deep sea fishing grounds, you’ll still need a boat to reach the hotspots. Hopping aboard one of the many local charters is by far and away the best way to get the most out of your trip. You’ll be fishing alongside experienced charter captains and crew members who know these waters like the backs of their hands. Here are some of the techniques they may have you trying out…

Trolling lines trail behind a saltwater fishing charter in South Africa

Trolling

Trolling is the most popular deep sea fishing technique in many locations, and Puerto Vallarta is no different. Chances are that, when you board your chosen vessel, it’ll already be decked out with all the necessary trolling equipment. This technique involves setting up rods along the sides and back of the boat so that you can drag multiple lines in the water at once. You can mix up your bait, as well as using outriggers and downriggers to reach different parts of the water.

Then, it’s a waiting game until your target bites. When you see a rod moving, this is when you grab it and the battle begins! Trolling is especially effective with species such as Marlin, Sailfish, Mahi Mahi, and Wahoo, which move up and down the water column in search of prey.

Bottom Fishing

Although trolling is the most common deep sea fishing technique, you could also get to try out some bottom fishing. If you’re targeting Tuna, which lurk towards the bottom of the water, this is a handy technique to know about. You’ll usually drop your line around underwater structure, and then will tempt your target fish into biting by jigging or dragging it through the water.

Bottom fishing is a great hands-on way to experience some angling action and, if you’re fishing in seriously deep waters, you may even get to try out deep dropping, which is a variation on this technique. Using specialized equipment, including electric rods and reels, you’ll get to target bottom-dwelling fish and bring these creatures up from the deep. Again, this is more commonly used when targeting Tuna and Grouper varieties.

Where can I go deep sea fishing in Puerto Vallarta?

An aerial view of Puerto Vallarta looking towards the town from the ocean

Puerto Vallarta itself is a small town, but don’t mistake size for a lack of hotspots! You’ll likely be departing from Marina Vallarta, and some of Mexico’s most fruitful deep sea fishing locations are close within reach, dotted around this part of the Pacific. Here are some of our favorite spots:

  • El Morro: Located just 25 miles from shore, this spot is the perfect “beginner location” for anglers who are new to deep sea fishing. You can spend six hours fishing this location and still experience some excellent angling action. Jagged rocks draw in a variety of species, with Mahi Mahi, Wahoo, and Sailfish being the most common targets.
  • El Faro: Also located only 25 miles out, El Faro is another great beginner’s spot that draws in a variety of species. This ancient lighthouse boasts Mahi Mahi, Wahoo, and Sailfish, and can be quieter than El Morro, making it a great choice for anglers who want the waters to themselves.
  • La Corbeteña: Although this spot lies a mere 10 miles from El Morro (35 miles from the shoreline), the fishing is pretty different. You’ll find Mahi Mahi, Sailfish, and Wahoo here, sure, but they’re joined by all varieties of Marlin, Yellowfin Tuna, and Hammerhead Sharks. Local anglers recommend spending at least 10 hours here, so it’s better suited for those of you that feel comfortable on choppy waters.
  • El Banco: Last but not least, there’s El Banco. Located a whopping 50 miles from shore, this spot is best reserved for anglers who have experience with deep sea fishing. It takes a lot longer to reach this spot and the journey can be rough, but you’ll be rewarded with Grander Blue and Black Marlin, as well as every other deep sea species in Puerto Vallarta.

Anything else I need to know?

An infographic showing text "deep sea fishing in Puerto Vallarta what you need to know" on a blue background with Mexican flag and boat vector

Just the legalities of fishing in Puerto Vallarta, of course. All anglers aged 16 or above need to purchase a valid fishing license to cast a line here if they’re fishing from a boat. Luckily, the majority of charter captains in Puerto Vallarta will cover your license for you.

You should also check up on the latest bag and size limits. Generally, all throughout Mexico, the rule is 10 fish per person – a maximum of five fish from each species, or one big game fish and five smaller fish. However, this is subject to change, and your captain will be able to keep you updated on the latest rules.

Deep Sea Fishing in Puerto Vallarta: Variety is the Spice of Life!

Puerto Vallarta at sunset

If you’re looking to go deep sea fishing your way, Puerto Vallarta is the perfect place to do it. With so many available options, you can customize your trip to suit your skill levels perfectly. Want the chance to battle Mahi and Sailfish within a six hour trip? Puerto Vallarta’s got you covered. Looking to spend a day or more out on the water, trying to reel in that Grander Marlin? Yep, that’s on offer too! Now all you need to do is pack your bags and get ready for battle…

Have you ever been deep sea fishing in Puerto Vallarta? What did you catch? Let us know in the comments. We love hearing from you!

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