Guatemala Fishing: The Complete Guide for 2024

Feb 20, 2024 | 9 minute read
Reading Time: 9 minutes

If you’re ready to talk about fish fishing in Guatemala, the first thing you need to know is that this place is off-the-hook fantastic. The country is home to the “Sailfish Capital of The World,” after all! Guatemala is a big, blue playground where the fish don’t just bite, but practically jump onto your boat. It’s where history dives deep, too – from the ancient Mayan culture to your next big catch.

A view from a hill towards the famous Atitlán lake, with towering mountains visible on the right of the image on a clear day

It may sound fanciful but we’re being honest. When casting a line in Guatemala, you’ll be exploring waters where records aren’t just set, they’re smashed. We’re talking about legendary stuff – take the boat that released 166 Sailfish in just three days! Amid impressive ruins, there are jaw-dropping lakes like Atitlán, too. The country boasts fishing tales that’ll make your buddies back home green with envy. And that’s everyday business here!

So, what has this guide got in store for you? We’re diving headfirst into the best spots, the top catches, and more. Let’s make some fishing stories worth bragging about!

Best Fish to Catch in Guatemala

Dive into Guatemala’s waters, and you’ll enter a world where the fish are big and strong. From acrobatic Billfish to the elusive Bonefish, each species brings its own flavor to the fishing game. Get ready to learn about the heavy hitters of Guatemala’s coasts:

Billfish

Two men struggle to hold a large Sailfish aboard a fishing charter in Guatemala on a clear day, with trolling rods visible to the left of the image
Photo courtesy of Mad Marlin Sport Fishing Lodge

Guatemala’s Pacific Coast is a renowned hotspot for Billfish, especially Sailfish and Marlin. Sailfish here average 90–120 pounds and are celebrated for their agility and spectacular acrobatics. They’re not just abundant, though, they’re one of the most desired game species around.

What sets Guatemala’s sailfishing opportunities apart is the thrilling opportunity to target these majestic fish on the fly. Imagine going head-to-head with a 100 lb Sailfish on a 16 wt rod! Of course, traditional trolling trips are equally popular and accessible, thanks to local captains with years of experience in these waters. 

Marlin, however, take the game to another level. Weighing up to 600 pounds, these monsters are the ultimate challenge for any angler. The waters around Iztapa, in particular, are famed for their Marlin population, offering thrilling battles for those daring enough to take them on.

Mahi Mahi

A man and a woman sit on the back of a fishing charter in Guatemala on a clear day while holding a large Mahi Mahi, with the wake of the boat visible behind them
Photo courtesy of Mad Marlin Sport Fishing Lodge

Mahi Mahi – or Dorado, as they’re known in Spanish – are the show-offs of Guatemala’s Pacific Coast. Weighing in at around 20–50 pounds, these fish are as strong as they are stunning. With their color changes and aerial displays, Mahis will turn a Guatemala fishing trip into a visual spectacle – and then some.

The best time to target Mahi Mahi is from May to September. Trolling with brightly colored lures or ballyhoo is the go-to method for enticing these gorgeous creatures. Again, the waters around the Iztapa region are teeming with them. When you hook a Mahi Mahi, get ready for a high-energy fight. Dorado are known for their endurance and promise to give you a run for your money.

Yellowfin Tuna

Two men stood on a fishing charter, both wearing sunglasses and baseball caps, while holding a Yellowfin Tuna on a clear day
Photo courtesy of Silver Fish Lodge

Yellowfin Tuna are the muscle cars of Guatemala’s Pacific waters. They’re sleek, powerful, and built for speed. Averaging 40–200 pounds, Yellowfins are a true test of your strength and skill. If you have enough luck, put a hard-pulling fight onto your to-do list and head out for a serious offshore challenge.

The prime time to chase after Yellowfin is during the summer, when techniques like trolling and popping come into play. Mastering these methods and carrying the right gear is essential to land these powerful fish. The experience of battling a Yellowfin Tuna is a mix of excitement and endurance, requiring the teamwork of the crew and a strategic approach. 

Booking a Guatemala Tuna fishing charter is never a bad idea – you already know what’s in store if you come out victorious… 

Roosterfish

A woman holding a Roosterfish aboard a fishing boat while looking shocked on a clear day with calm waters and blue skies visible behind her
Photo courtesy of Omar’s Sportfishing & Tours

Roosterfish are true daredevils in Guatemala, famous for their mohawk-like dorsal fins and feisty nature. These fish, typically ranging from 20 to 60 pounds, boast a blend of beauty and brawn. Roosterfish fight like Tuna and strike like Mahis, but much closer to shore. That means even those who struggle with seasickness can get their hands on one! 

To target these inshore bruisers, locals often rely on live baiting and trolling along the coastal waters where Roosterfish thrive. The thrill of hooking a Roosterfish lies in its initial burst of power and the fight that follows. Coastal areas near rocky points and beaches are perfect places to start, especially in regions where the water churns up bait fish. 

Bonefish

A closeup of a Bonefish being held by a fish, as he crouches down near the flats on a clear day
Photo courtesy of Bonefish Paradise Fishing Services

Moving to Guatemala’s Caribbean Coast, Bonefish offer a different yet equally exhilarating fishing experience. Known as the “Ghosts of the Flats,” these elusive fish are a fly fisher’s dream. Usually weighing between 3 and 5 pounds, Bonefish provide a stealthy fishing challenge no matter where you look for them, and Guatemala is no exception.

The flats around Livingston are prime Bonefish territory, with crystal-clear waters ideal for sight fishing. This technique requires stealth, accuracy, and patience. Bonefish aren’t challenging due to their size or fight but don’t disregard their knack for disappearing in shallow waters. That’s what makes them a prized catch! Any angler who succeeds in landing one on the fly deserves all the plaudits they get.

How to Go Fishing in Guatemala

In Guatemala, fishing is a way of life with its own set of rules, tools, and thrilling tales. Here, each method brings a unique flavor to the table, whether you’re skimming the coast or venturing into the deep blue. Let’s break down the types of fishing that make this place a haven for anglers…

Guatemala Inshore Fishing

A view from behind of two anglers wading into the flats of Central America on a clear day
Photo courtesy of Bonefish Paradise Fishing Services

Inshore fishing in Guatemala is where the action starts, with a variety of species and techniques to keep any fisherman on their toes. We’re talking about feisty Roosterfish, elusive Snook, and acrobatic Jacks, to name a few. 

Light tackle is the way to go, with a mixture of live bait and lures being your best bet to entice these inshore warriors. The coastal waters, especially around rocky points and estuaries, are where you’ll find the action heating up. It’s a test of skill and patience. But hooking one of these inshore beasts? That’s a story worth sharing.

Guatemala Deep Sea Fishing

A view from behind of an angler struggling with his hands to reel in a Billfish leaping out of the water on a clear day
Photo courtesy of Makina Sportfishing

Deep sea fishing off Guatemala’s Pacific Coast means stepping into the major leagues. Here, it’s all about the big game like Sailfish, Marlin, Mahi Mahi, and Tuna. You’ll need heavy-duty gear for these ocean giants. Think high-test lines, sturdy rods, and large reels. 

Trolling with artificial lures or live bait is the game plan out here in the deep waters. Head out to sea, and you’re in a world where every cast has the potential to hook a trophy. The thrill of battling a Sailfish or a Marlin in Guatemala’s deep blue is an adrenaline rush unlike any other.

Guatemala Fishing Charters

A view across the water towards an offshore sportfishing boat getting ready to go out from the calm waters on a clear day in Guatemala
Photo courtesy of The Hook Fishing & Accommodation

Booking a Guatemala fishing charter is like having a backstage pass to the best fishing spots in the country – and even the world! Professional charters come equipped with all the gear you’ll need, along with heaps of local knowledge thanks to the expertise of your guide. 

Whether you’re after inshore game or big fish offshore, local charters can tailor the experience to your liking. Your captain and their crew can handle the technicalities, so you can focus on the fight. With a seasoned captain at the helm, you’re not just fishing, but learning the secrets of Guatemala’s waters!

Guatemala Fishing Lodges

A view of a swimming pool and traditional Central American lodge behind it on a clear day
Photo courtesy of Makina Sportfishing

For the full angling experience, setting up camp in a Guatemalan fishing lodge is the way to go. These lodges offer not only a place to stay but also a comprehensive fishing adventure. From on-site experts to guided fishing trips, everything is geared towards making your fishing trip successful and memorable. 

Plus, these lodges often sit in prime locations, giving you easy access to the best fishing spots. After a long day on the water, what’s better than swapping tales with fellow anglers over a cold drink – and some tasty fish?!

Guatemala Fishing Spots

In Guatemala, every fishing spot has its own charm, whether you’re skimming the Pacific Coast or exploring the Caribbean. Let’s cast into some of the top locations where the fish are always ready for a showdown.

Pacific Coast Spots

A view from shore towards the sun setting across the water as the waves crash towards the beach

The fishing is world-class on Guatemala’s Pacific coast, it’s as simple as that. This 250-mile stretch is where the biggest fishing tales come to life, thanks to the swarms of bait fish making it a year-round paradise. And we mean big, with oversized Billfish hookups in Iztapa and Puerto San José on an hourly basis! And let’s not forget the inshore action with Roosterfish so eager, they practically jump onto your hook. 

  • Iztapa. The heart of Guatemala’s Pacific fishing scene is a Sailfish enthusiast’s heaven. Here, the abundance of bait fish in deeper waters ensures excellent fishing year-round. It’s a place where fly fishing takes on a new dimension, with anglers targeting 100 lb Sailfish using 16 wt rods. Trolling trips are also popular, with experienced captains who know these waters inside out. 
  • Puerto San José. Close to Iztapa, this spot is equally good for an inshore adventure targeting Roosterfish or an offshore expedition for Sailfish and Tuna. The waters are so rich that it’s common to land a fish within minutes of setting off.
  • Buena Vista. A lesser-known gem along the Pacific Coast, this charming spot offers an escape from the more frequented spots mentioned above. Its waters are abundant with Mahi Mahi and Tuna, and, during the right season, Sailfish. 

Caribbean Coast Spots

A view across the calm Caribbean waters of Livingston, Guatemala towards a small marina and some seafront buildings on a clear day

Tucked away in the northeastern corner of Guatemala, the country boasts access to the Caribbean Sea, sharing the picturesque Amatique Bay with southern Belize. The main hub here is Puerto Barrios, where you can easily charter a boat for some prime inshore fishing. While the Pacific Coast may boast the best offshore action, the Caribbean side offers a more laid-back vibe, perfect for family-friendly fishing trips.

  • Livingston. At the mouth of the Rio Dulce, this is a prime spot for targeting Bonefish, Permit, and Tarpon. The clear flats and calm waters make it perfect for fly fishing. 
  • Rio Dulce. This river is a haven for Tarpon and Snook, thanks to its unique ecosystem. The mangroves and backwater areas are particularly productive, offering a different kind of fishing adventure. 
  • Punta de Manabique. For those seeking a more remote and adventurous angling experience, Punta de Manabique is the place to be. Accessible only by boat, this area is teeming with Tarpon, Permit, and Bonefish. 

When to Go Fishing in Guatemala

A view across the choppy waters towards a mountain on a cloudy and blustery day, with a boat in the middle of the image

Fishing is a year-round sport in Guatemala. Let’s start with the dry season, the prime-time TV of fishing in Guatemala. From November to May, the Pacific Coast is teeming with Billfish. This is when the Sailfish are in full party mode, showing up in large numbers. The weather is also on your side, while Marlin, Mahi Mahi, and Yellowfin Tuna also join the bash. 

Don’t write off the wet season, though. The seas do get a bit more spirited, but this is when big Yellowfin Tuna and Mahi Mahi come out to play. The waters might be more challenging, but that’s part of the thrill, right? On the Caribbean side, the wet season means inshore fishing hits its stride with Bonefish and Permit in the spotlight.

If you’re aiming for that trophy catch, timing is everything. For the best Sailfish action, set your sights on the peak months of March and April. 

Guatemala Fishing Tournaments

Guatemala’s fishing tournaments are like the Olympics of the fishing world, especially on the Pacific Coast. The most famous of these is the Swordfish International in Iztapa, where the who’s who of the fishing world converge. Fishing events are typically held during the dry season, capitalizing on the abundance of Sailfish and Marlin. For official dates and details, keep an eye on local websites like the Guatemala Tourism Board.

Guatemala Fishing Regulations

An infographic featuring the flag of Guatemala, a vector of a boat, and the FishingBooker logo, along with text stating "Guatemala Fishing Regulations: What You Need to Know" against a blue background

Knowing the rules is as important as knowing where to cast your line, if not more so. First off, every angler needs a valid fishing license. You can apply for them in person at the Guatemalan Institute of Fisheries and Aquaculture (INGAPESCA) or National Council of Protected Areas (CONAP). However, if you’re fishing with a licensed saltwater captain, all your permits will be covered. 

Guatemala is big on conservation, so they’ve set several bag and size limits to keep the fish populations thriving. These limits can vary by species and region, so it’s crucial to check the latest regulations before you head out. And remember, some areas – especially around marine reserves – are off-limits for fishing. 

Fishing Guatemala: The Sailfish Capital Awaits

Two colorful traditional boats make their way across some calm water on a clear day, with a tree-lined shore visible in the distance

Wrapping up our dive into Guatemala fishing, it’s clear this place is more than just a spot on the map. Whether you’re battling legendary Sailfish off the Pacific Coast or chasing elusive Bonefish in the Caribbean, every cast in Guatemala is a chance for something epic. So, why wait? Book your fishing adventure in Guatemala today!

Have you ever been on a Guatemala fishing trip? Did Sailfish make you fall in love with the local angling scene? Share your stories in the comments below! 

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Lisa traded the lecture hall for the vast expanse of the world's waters, transforming her love of teaching into an insatiable passion for angling and storytelling. She would sail through oceans, lakes, and rivers, reeling in the world’s fish stories one catch at a time.

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