Mexico Fishing: The Ultimate Guide for 2024

May 14, 2024 | 10 minute read Comments
11
Reading Time: 10 minutes

Surrounded by the Pacific Ocean, Sea of Cortez, Gulf of Mexico, and the Caribbean Sea, Mexico immediately screams “Saltwater action!” These productive bodies of water offer plenty for anglers of all ages and abilities, with inshore, nearshore, and offshore trips possible. But that’s not all that’s in store on a Mexico fishing trip!

A Mexican flag flutters in the wind on the back of a boat heading out to the deep offshore waters

As you’d expect from such a large country, there are plenty of rivers and lakes to explore. From the Rio Grande down to Lake Chapala, back out across the seas to some luscious islands, there’s no getting away from Mexico’s fishing scene. Whether on vacation, living here, or even on business – there’s something to suit your needs.

But knowing where to start can be tricky. And that’s where we come in. In this guide, we’ll break down everything you need to know about casting a line in Mexico. We’ll talk you through the most popular fish species, their seasons, and the best places to catch them. We’ll also let you in on some of the most productive techniques, along with regulations, and more. So when you’re ready, read on!

What are you interested in?

Best Fish to Catch in Mexico

As the fishing is so diverse, the list of species you can catch is almost endless! Some of the world’s favorite fish are available across the country, no matter which waters you’re casting a line in. Here’s our pick of the best:

Top Freshwater Catches

An angler in sunglasses and a baseball cap, holds up a large Largemouth Bass while standing on a boat on a calm lake in Mexico close to sunset on a clear day
Photo courtesy of Nato’s Guide Service

While no freshwater fish made the pick of the bunch above, that doesn’t mean they don’t deserve more than just an honorable mention. Across Mexico’s streams and lakes, there’s a whole host of battle-worthy and delicious fish for you to take on. Here are a few of them:

  • Bass. Everyone’s favorite freshwater fish, Largemouth Bass, is abundant in Mexico. The best spots to cast your line are the lakes in Sinaloa, such as El Salto or Lake Baccarac. Or, head over to the northwest, where Lakes Guerrero and El Cuchillo are your go-to spots. You can explore your chosen lake with a guide or fish from shore. The results will be great, either way.
  • Trout. Fly fishing anglers will love the Trout fishing on offer in Mexico – especially as so few people know about it. Whether up in the Sierra Nevada’s mountain streams or cloud forest lakes across the country, there’s plenty of action to be had by going after a number of exotic Mexican Trout, such as the Piaxta and Acaponeta varieties.
  • Catfish. You probably know that the Rio Grande holds good Catfish opportunities but these creatures inhabit plenty more diverse streams and lakes across the country. Lake Dominguez in Sinaloa is one of the best Catfish lakes in the world, while there’s even a Cafish native to the state of Chiapas! There’s everything from Cats weighing just a couple of pounds up to 50 pounders, so there’s something for everyone.
  • Tilapia. If you’re looking for some meat on your Mexican freshwater fishing trip, then you’ll want to target Tilapia. Now thriving across the country, these delicious creatures are a joy to behold for more reasons than just their taste. They’re fun to target, grow to big sizes, and also provide a challenge to keep on your line, as they have very soft lips. And, in a lot of lakes – especially inland – they’re invasive. By going after them, you’ll be doing the environment a favor!

While these are the stars of the show, there’s a worthy supporting cast that deserves your attention, too. Carp are an often-overlooked fish to target in the US but, left to their own devices in the wilderness, they can grow to seriously impressive sizes. And there are also other interesting species, like Alligator Gar, on offer. All in all, you won’t be lacking for rivals when freshwater fishing in Mexico.

Top Inshore and Nearshore Catches

A young man in a backwards baseball cap, holds a Roosterfish up to the camera on a Mexican fishing charter, with a woman standing next to him and some land in the distance on a cloudy day
Photo courtesy of Marietas Sportfishing

Things really start heating up when you head into the saltwater realm, however. With warm bays and productive reefs on both of Mexico’s coasts, there’s a world of prized fish to target just a short hop from shore.

  • Bonefish. While these creatures may be small, they’re among the best pound-for-pound fighters out there. Fly anglers, in particular, enjoy going after these silvery speedsters in the flats, but spinning gear can also do the trick. Head to the clear inshore waters anywhere on the Yucatan peninsula and you can test your skills against these beauties.
  • Roosterfish. Over to the Pacific, and the Sea of Cortez is where you want to be for some unique fishing opportunities. You can only target the dazzling Roosterfish from Baja California Sur down to Costa Rica, and you don’t want to miss out on the chance to do so. Picture-perfect and tough-fighting to boot, they’re a serious rival. Just make sure to practice catch and release, so these brutes can do battle once more.
  • Tarpon. Speaking of tough fighters, few species in the world put up a battle as strong as Tarpon. And Mexico just happens to offer some of the best fishing grounds in the world for them. Get ready to “bow to the King” on an inshore trip all around the Yucatan Peninsula. Head south of Cancun to Ascension Bay for the biggest creatures, or north to Holbox for juvenile Tarpon. You can also target them in Baja California and Tabasco’s inshore waters.
  • Snappers. Reef fishing almost everywhere in the world is synonymous with Snapper fishing, and Mexico is no different. Whether nearshore in Cabo San Lucas, Puerto Vallarta, Acapulco, or out in the Gulf of Mexico or Caribbean, there’s a Snapper with your name on it. Cubera Snappers are the most common opponent you’ll come up against, but there are 26 Snapper species in total here.
  • Yellowtail Amberjack. If you’re fishing in Mexico’s Pacific waters, there’s a good chance you’ll test your skills against a Yellowtail or two. These dazzling creatures are quick and strong, and you can land them by trolling or bottom fishing. They’re abundant all around Baja California and the Sea of Cortez, and promise a tasty treat for you to enjoy after a solid angling workout.

We could have dedicated an entire article to both inshore and nearshore catches. But you probably understand why we decided to focus on these fish above. We have to mention some of their neighbors, however, with Permit, Jack Crevalle, and Snook on offer inshore, depending on where you are. Hit the reefs and Groupers, Kingfish, Barracuda, Amberjack, and much more could be in the cards. Pretty impressive, right?

Top Offshore Catches

An elderly angler sat on a fishing boat with the famous arch of Cabo San Lucas behind him, with a large Marlin on his lap on a sunny day
Photo courtesy of BlueSea Sportfishing

But if you’re looking for a real bucket-list fishing adventure, you’ll want to head offshore. Whether out in the heart of the Pacific or up in the Gulf or Caribbean, there’s an enviable list of fish to target. Get ready for the battle of a lifetime when you come into contact with the following:

  • Mahi Mahi. Known as “Dorado” in Spanish, these beautiful creatures are also fun to target, and taste delicious. They’re an all-round catch, and you can find them in the Pacific and Atlantic. Try trolling to get their attention before they rush away with your line. They’ll tire after a while, but you’ll still have to work hard to land one aboard.
  • Sailfish. Just like Mahi Mahi, Sailfish are possible on both sides of the country, with the waters off Baja California Sur proving to be particularly fruitful when the season hits. Awe-inspiring with their size and stunning sail (hence their name), they’ll also thrash about in an attempt to break free from your hold. You’d better be prepared for a lengthy battle to reel one in, but the memories you’ll make are sure to last a lifetime.
  • Tuna. If there’s one fish that needs no introduction, it’s Tuna. Beloved all around the world for their quality meat, they’re also a key staple of Mexico’s rich cuisine. Four kinds of Tuna are prominent in Mexico’s waters – Skipjack, Blackfin, Yellowfin, and Bluefin – and they all make for a tasty treat. But don’t discount their game qualities! These fish are cold-blooded, meaning they can dive deep with your line, making you work for every inch of it.
  • Marlin. Only one species can top Tuna for being on every deep sea angler’s bucket list. We’re talking about Marlin, of course. Famous for their acrobatic leaps out of the water, they’re among the toughest fish in the world to land. And, in Mexico, they grow to over 1,000 pounds! Blue, Black, and White Marlin are available depending on where you are, with Blue Marlin in Cabo San Lucas being the largest. Good luck if you encounter one, that’s all we can say!

That list should already have got your pulses racing. If not, there are many more monster fish offshore from both Mexico’s coasts for you to battle. Wahoo swim in the same waters as Mahi Mahi, while the further out you go, Swordfish are also possible. One thing’s for sure, you’re in for a thrilling adventure when offshore fishing in Mexico.

When to Go Fishing in Mexico

Mexico is big. We don’t need to tell you that. And with an ocean on either side, it’s pretty tricky to come up with a definitive guide to fishing seasons for the whole country. Hone in closer with our guides to fishing seasons in Cancun and Cabo for an idea of what you can catch and when at either end of the country. Or, have a look below at what’s biting across the whole of Mexico.

Species Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Bass Fair Good Good Great Great Good Fair Good Great Great Great Good
Bonefish Good Good Great Great Great Great Great Great Good Good Good Good
Kingfish Great Great Good Good Great Great Great Good Good Good Great Great
Mahi Mahi Great Great Good Good Great Great Great Great Great Great Great Great
Marlin Good Good Good Great Great Great Great Great Great Great Great Good
Permit Fair Good Great Great Great Great Great Great Good Good Good Fair
Roosterfish Good Good Good Good Great Great Great Great Good Good Good Good
Snapper Good Good Good Great Great Great Great Great Great Great Great Great
Tarpon Fair Fair Fair Good Good Great Great Great Great Great Good Fair
Trout Good Good Great Great Great Good Fair Fair Good Great Great Great
Tuna Good Good Good Good Great Great Great Great Great Great Great Great
Yellowtail Fair Good Great Great Great Good Fair Fair Fair Fair Fair Fair

With good weather year-round, there’s always something biting – as you can see above. But, each species has its own peak season. For the best chance at a mixed bag, come from spring through fall. However, spring and fall also offer the best freshwater fishing. And, if you’re looking for some winter sun, you can pair your vacation with a fishing trip to make all your dreams come true.

Mexico Fishing Spots

How to Go Fishing in Mexico

No matter where you decide to go for your Mexico fishing adventure, there’ll be a range of techniques to try out. The locals will have their own tried and true methods, and you’re welcome to go about casting a line in whatever way you usually do, too. However, here are some popular methods of landing fish in Mexico to get you started…

  • Fly fishing. From the mountain streams to the backcountry waters of Cozumel, all the way out to the deep waters of the Pacific and Gulf of Mexico, fly fishing is an exhilarating experience. The usual rules apply when it comes to gear. 6–8 wt rods will do the trick on the flats and inland, while you’ll need at least a 14 wt stick if going for the pelagics offshore. As anything from Trout to Bonefish, Tarpon, Tuna, and Billfish is in the cards, depending on where you go, diversity is the name of the game when it comes to your flies.
  • Spearfishing. Wanting to get the pulses racing that little bit more? Spearfishing in Mexico is sure to deliver. From the dazzling reefs to the open bluewaters, there are plenty of opportunities for you to come face-to-gill with some of Mexico’s most prized fish. Just beware that spearing here can be done only by free diving, so there’ll be no tanks allowed. But don’t worry, there are plenty of guides ready to take you to land fish like Grouper, Snapper, Permit, Mahi Mahi, and even Tuna!
  • Deep sea fishing. There are few better places in the world than Mexico to experience deep sea fishing. With two oceans at your disposal, there’s an almost endless list of pelagic fish to target. And, what’s better, Mexico really makes the most of it. All the resort towns, such as Cabo San Lucas and Cancun, boast excellent deep sea angling options, where you can go after Mahi Mahi, Sailfish Tuna, Marlin, and much more. Trust us when we say you’ll be back for more.

Mexico Fishing Trips

You should have already got the memo that fishing in Mexico is diverse. That means that there’s a whole range of trips on offer. You can escape from the hustle and bustle of everyday life with a trek to some mountain streams for some freshwater shore fishing. If you’d like more action, you can head out to the deep ocean waters for multiple nights. And with everything in between catered for, you know there’s something for you.

We suggest that beginners and families try inshore or reef fishing trips that last up to 6 hours, with 8+ hour trips reserved for more advanced anglers. But, with such rich deep sea fishing grounds close to shore, you could even try your hand at a Marlin on a half-day excursion, especially in Baja California Sur.

Mexico Fishing Regulations

In Mexico, persons of all ages (including children) who are on a fishing boat need a sportfishing license, even if they’re not fishing. This goes for freshwater and saltwater fishing. Licenses aren’t difficult to obtain and can be purchased online. The most efficient way (and most convenient if you speak English) is to get it from the BCS government website.

Despite this, many charter captains will offer to purchase licenses for those on board. And, in even better news, fishing from shore or a pier doesn’t require a license at all! Just beware that you’ll need to be at least 250 meters (800 feet) from any swimmers when casting your line.

You should also be aware of bag limits. Every angler can bring up to 10 fish back to shore from saltwater adventures. However, there can only be a maximum of five of each species. One Billfish counts as five fish, and you may only take one back to shore. Freshwater fishing regulations stand at half those of saltwater, so five fish per angler is the limit.

Mexico Fishing FAQs

Author profile picture

Growing up next to a river, Rhys was always on the water. From Carp fishing in his native Wales to trying his hand at offshore fishing when traveling abroad, Rhys has vastly expanded his horizons when it comes to casting a line and continues to test new waters whenever he has the opportunity.

Comments (11)

Blake P

Jan 2, 2024

Hey,

Wondering if you can suggest where in Mexico would offer good offshore fishing in the late Jan / early Feb period? Would like to hook into a big yellowfin tuna but not opposed to targeting other species if it makes sense. Ideally a spot that also has some nightlife and a decent golf course nearby.

Thanks!

Leave a reply
NameRequired *
Your comment Required *

  • Reply icon

    Rhys

    Jan 3, 2024

    Hi Blake,

    Thanks for your good question. For the best Yellowfin Tuna fishing in January and February, you’ll want to head to the southern Pacific coast. States like Oaxaca and Guerrero offer good action, with resort towns like Puerto Escondido and Acapulco popular choices. I hope this helps.

    Tight lines,

    Leave a reply
    NameRequired *
    Your comment Required *

Marc B

Aug 23, 2023

Hi trying to find info on fly fishing native Mexican mountain trout as in a good guide.
I live and fish in the Gila Wilderness area and specialize in remote difficult small stream fishing. Looking for the same experience in Mexico any leads as everything on the internet is commercial sea fishing outfitters?
Thx Marc

Leave a reply
NameRequired *
Your comment Required *

  • Reply icon

    Tanya

    Aug 24, 2023

    Hey Marc,
    Thank you for reading our blog and reaching out.
    It’s true that Mexico is more famous for deep sea fishing. The majority of our charter operators are geared toward big game hunts, too. However, we do have several guides who offer river and lake angling opportunities as well. Some guides from the list are solely freshwater-oriented. While not exclusively specialized in Mexican Native Trout fishing, feel free to reach out to them and consult with them on how to approach your request.
    Hope this helped.
    Let us know how it went.
    Tight lines!

    Leave a reply
    NameRequired *
    Your comment Required *

Monty Hart

Mar 14, 2023

There is no exemption anywhere in the Mexican regulations that exempts children under 16 years of age from having a fishing license when on a boat that carries fishing tackle onboard.

Leave a reply
NameRequired *
Your comment Required *

Chris

Feb 12, 2023

What about fishing from paddleboard or similar near the shore?
Is a license required in this case?

Leave a reply
NameRequired *
Your comment Required *

  • Reply icon

    Tanya

    Feb 13, 2023

    Hi Chris,
    Thanks for reading our blog and reaching out.
    If you plan on wetting your line in Mexico’s water and angling from the paddleboard you’ll need a fishing license.
    You don’t need to obtain a fishing license only if you’re casting from the shore or pier.
    Hope this helps.
    Tight lines!

    Leave a reply
    NameRequired *
    Your comment Required *

Brad

Feb 4, 2023

I’ve seen many Mexico Fishing related websites say that I don’t need a fishing license to surf fish. But I have yet to find an official Mexican regulation that says that. I’d rather not get into a situation where someone wants to hassle me while I’m trying to fish. Do you know where this official information comes from so I can print off a copy to use in my defense? Headed that way in a couple of weeks. Thanks for any help.

Leave a reply
NameRequired *
Your comment Required *

  • Reply icon

    Rhys

    Feb 6, 2023

    Hi Brad,

    Rhys here from FishingBooker. You’re absolutely right that there is no need for a license when fishing from shore in Mexico and I’ve not heard of anyone having any issue with fishing from shore without a license. While my Spanish is a little rusty, so I’ve been unable to cite the exact law, this Mexican insurance company confirms that there is no need for a license. I hope this helps.

    Tight lines,

    Leave a reply
    NameRequired *
    Your comment Required *

  • Reply icon

    Monty Hart

    Mar 14, 2023

    Official Mexican STANDARD NOM-060-SAG/PESC-2016 Sec 4.7 “Sport-recreational fishing in the bodies of continental waters of the Mexican Republic may be carried out by natural persons of Mexican and foreign nationality under the corresponding permits. When this is done from land, a permit will not be required.”

    Leave a reply
    NameRequired *
    Your comment Required *

  • Reply icon

    Andriana

    Mar 14, 2023

    Hello Monty,

    Thank you for pointing this out and for taking the time to comment, I’ll amend the article to better reflect the regulations.

    All the best!

    Leave a reply
    NameRequired *
    Your comment Required *

Leave a reply
NameRequired *
Your comment Required *