Puerto Vallarta Fishing: Your Complete Guide
Sep 4, 2020 | 9 minute read
Reading Time: 9 minutes

Puerto Vallarta, PV, or simply “Vallarta” is the epitome of Mexico’s sportfishing scene. Looking out onto the Bay of Banderas, this town is finely positioned for inshore and nearshore fishing, with deepwater action on offer in the Pacific Ocean just a few miles out. In short, a Puerto Vallarta fishing adventure is what angling dreams are made of, and families and thrill-seekers alike can indulge in it all!

An aerial view of Puerto Vallarta

But that’s not all! PV was once named as the “friendliest city in the world.” Owing much of its economy to tourism, the whole town is built for your pleasure. Come 365 days a year and soak up the sun on the beaches, take in some natural wonders, and make plenty of new friends while doing it. But don’t forget to get out on the water!

By the time you’re done reading this post, we’re sure you’ll be booking your flights and grabbing your rod to make the most of Puerto Vallarta.

Puerto Vallarta Fish Species

The wide array of fishing grounds on offer out of PV lend themselves, unsurprisingly, to a range of prized creatures. From delicious fish for the BBQ to trophy-sized monsters offshore, there’s something for everyone here. We’ve compiled a shortlist of what we think are the “must-catches” when fishing in Puerto Vallarta.

Roosterfish

Two anglers hold a Roosterfish caught in Puerto Vallarta

Inshore and nearshore fishing all along Central America’s Pacific coast is pretty much synonymous with going after Roosterfish. Whether on shore or on a boat, you’re likely to find these creatures biting. They’ll leave you mesmerized by their beauty, with their spiky fins arching out of their back like a fish/Mohawk crossover!

But these fish are about more than just looks. They promise to put up an almighty fight to come aboard, whizzing away with your line before zig-zagging in different directions to try to escape. Add that to the fact that they grow up to 6 feet, and you’re in for a real battle against these beauties.

Snappers and Groupers

An angler holds a large Cubera Snapper in Puerto Vallarta

If reef fishing is more your thing, then there are plenty of underwater metropolises teeming with dazzling and delicious fish. Two of the most common catches along Puerto Vallarta’s reefs are Snappers and Groupers.

Bottom fishing for these creatures provides fun for the whole family, with smaller ones on offer for beginners, while oversized bulls will keep even the most experienced angler busy. They’ll also make for a tasty treat at the end of the day!

If you’re looking for one of the bigger-sized beasts, head offshore to the deep sea fishing grounds. Both Groupers and Snappers weighing up to 40 pounds call the waters around El Banco and La Corbeteña home, promising a thrilling day out. Beware, though, the smaller fish make for better meat, with 10 lb catches the optimal size.

Mahi Mahi

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

A common offshore catch all over the world, Mahi Mahi is a popular fish wherever. However, there’s something really special about the “Dorado” in Puerto Vallarta.

Year-round, you’ll find Mahi Mahi inhabiting the waters here, with some coming right up to shore! That means that you don’t have to wait for them to come into season to target them, nor will you have to venture far offshore!

Pleasing on the eye, just like the Roosterfish, this green-yellow creature is a real sight for sore eyes. It’s also exciting to take on and do battle with, along with being delicious in equal measure. It’s a real all-round fish! Troll the open waters for the best chance of attracting this critter’s bite, and settle in for an intense fight to earn some ripe rewards.

Marlin

Three anglers hold a large Marlin caught in Puerto Vallarta

Ask any angler worth their salt what’s on the top of their bucket list, and you’ll most likely get the answer “Marlin.” These monstrous beasts are the kings of offshore fishing.

Known for putting on an acrobatic display as they leap out of the water to get off your line, they’re always the star of the show. But what’s so special about them here? Well, you’ll not only have one, nor two, but three species of Marlin to target.

Blue, Black, and Striped Marlin all pass along Mexico’s Pacific during the year. This means that you’ll have a better chance here than in most places around the world to land a trophy. From August through January, chances are there’s a Marlin out there, so come then and tick this prized fish off your list.

And More!

A female angler holds a Trevally 
caught in Puerto Vallarta

These are just some of the hundreds, actually thousands of fish that you can catch on a Puerto Vallarta fishing excursion – but we’re sure you’ll agree that these are the best!

Inshore, you’ll also get to take on Jacks and load the boat with Mackerel. Nearshore, there’s the chance of landing an Amberjack or Barracuda. Meanwhile, an offshore fishing trip could see you target Wahoo, Yellowfin and Skipjack Tuna, along with Sailfish, and more. Whatever you opt for, you’re sure to find something you like.

Puerto Vallarta Fishing: How?

Now you know what you can catch, the next step is finding out the best way to land it. Thankfully, PV was built with the water in mind, so there are plenty of ways for you to get your fish on in and just out of town. Read on to find the pros and cons of the ways we suggest you cast your line here.

Puerto Vallarta Shore Fishing

An angler casts from shore in Puerto Vallarta

Sitting (or standing) by the water all day long with a rod in your hand is usually what springs to mind when you think about fishing. And that can be the case in Puerto Vallarta! The Bay of Banderas’ fruitful waters mean that casting your line from the beach or a jetty can be productive. Go after Needlefish, Jacks, Stingrays, Mackerel, and even some Snappers by just casting your line right out of downtown.

The main advantage of fishing from shore is that it’s budget-friendly. Bring your own gear – or rent some – and that’s it. You don’t even need a license to fish from shore in PV! However, it can be hit and miss if the conditions aren’t right. We suggest that you head out at dawn to make the most of the early bite.

Puerto Vallarta Panga Fishing

A captain navigates a panga fishing boat in Puerto Vallarta

If you’re looking for an authentic Mexican fishing experience, then casting your line from a panga boat is for you. These narrow, wooden vessels are as commonplace as sombreros, tacos, and salsa in this part of the world. And you can buy one, rent your own, or follow a guide aboard one to reach the prime fishing grounds of the bay.

Pangas are a cheaper option than some of the larger sportfishing vessels, but you won’t get to go as far. They can be quite rickety, so they won’t fare well beyond the bay, and can be uncomfortable if the conditions aren’t right. You’ll need a Mexican sportfishing license for everyone on board, although some guides will provide one for you.

Puerto Vallarta Fishing Charters

Anglers relax on the way out to sea from Puerto Vallarta on a fishing charter

Much as we saved the Marlin for last of the fish species, we’re saving the best ‘til last here again. Hands down, the best way to get the most out of your Puerto Vallarta fishing trip is on a charter. From small boats in the bay to monster yacht-like vessels offshore, charters come in all shapes and sizes and promise a productive day on the water.

You’ll find rods, reels, and bait on board, so you can sit back and focus on the fishing. If the fish aren’t biting, your captain will simply turn the engine on and take you to a spot where they are. A fishing charter is also the only way of reaching the sweet spots offshore, and you’ll get to try a range of fishing techniques from bottom fishing, to trolling, to even kite fishing. Yes, they’re a little more pricey, but we think you get your money’s worth. 

Puerto Vallarta Fishing Spots

Whether on foot or on the water, you’ll also want to know where to head to get the biggest bang for your buck. Fortunately, there’s no shortage of productive fishing grounds for you to seek out. From the beaches to the deep waters, here’s our pick of where to go:

  • Playa de Oro: As the river flows to the sea, the brackish waters here make for great shore fishing opportunities. Get your fill of Needlefish, Jacks, and even the odd Roosterfish here.
  • Playa Olas Altas: Due south of downtown, the Rio Cuale flows into the bay near this beach, giving you a great excuse to cast your line and set up camp for the day. Not only that, but there are plenty of restaurants nearby that will cook your catch!
  • Los Arcos: The stunning rocks of Los Arcos lie just a few miles offshore in the Bay of Banderas. Best-known as a prime snorkeling spot, it also offers up some fine bottom fishing action.
  • Islas Marietas: This group of islands at the northern tip of the bay is where big game fishing kicks off. Get your fill of Billfish and more in just a short trip from shore.
  • El Morro: As the bay opens out into the Pacific, El Morro is the first stop on every offshore angling adventure. 24 miles out, this spot is great for scuba diving and fishing for Yellowtails, Mahi Mahi, and Sailfish.
  • La Corbeteña: Possibly one of the best fishing spots in the whole world. Don’t just take our word for it, the 1000 lb Marlin and 400 lb Tuna that have been caught here speak for themselves!
  • El Banco: Another 16 miles beyond La Corbeteña, you’ll need at least two and a half hours to get to El Banco. You’ll come into contact with the same beasts as in La Corbeteña, with even more of them here.

When to Go Fishing in Puerto Vallarta

Decorations hanging from a first-floor balcony in preparation for a festival in Puerto Vallarta

The year-round warm weather makes PV a great holiday destination 365 days a year. Many tourists flock south from the US to escape the winter blues, while Spring Break is another popular time of year. You’re also sure to find something biting whenever you come, thanks to the year-round Roosterfish and Mahi Mahi population, and plenty of different seasonal visitors, too.

Fall through winter is big game season, with all of the Marlin species turning up at one time or another. Sailfish also pass the Pacific Coast at this time of year. Meanwhile, attention in spring turns to Mackerel, Snappers, and Jacks near the river mouths. Summer promises a mixed bag, with anything and everything biting, so there really isn’t a bad time to come!

Puerto Vallarta Events

Of course, there’s nothing the Mexicans enjoy more than to party. We suggest coinciding your trip with a visit to a local fiesta or one of the area’s legendary fishing tournaments. That way, you’re sure to get a real feel for the town, making your vacation stand out. Here are our favorite events: 

  • Restaurant Week: The title actually undersells this fiesta! For a whole month between May and June, Puerto Vallarta offers tourists an unmissable opportunity to indulge in its finest wining and dining opportunities.
  • PV Marlin and Tuna Tournament: Just up the coast in Nuevo Vallarta, every July or August, the offshore waters fill up with anglers and spectators, all hoping to catch or catch a glimpse of a monster fish.
  • PV Marlin and Sailfish Tournament: Since 1955, the town’s most prestigious tournament has taken place in the heart of the Billfish season. Join some of the world’s best anglers in going after Marlin and Sailfish. 
  • Festival Gourmet International: Get a real taste of Mexico and Puerto Vallarta alongside the Billfish bash, as the town comes alive to delight in the area’s rich culinary scene.

Anything else?

A view of the Puerto Vallarta shoreline

We’ve covered when you’ll need to get a Mexican Sportfishing License, and you can get yours online or in some specialized stores downtown. Beware that you need to be at least 250 meters (around 820 feet) from any swimmers or beachgoers when casting a line from shore.

You should also check up on the latest bag and size limits. A good rule of thumb in Mexico is 10 fish per person – a maximum of five fish of each species, or one big game fish and 5 smaller fish.

Other than that, you’re all good to go. A true fishing paradise awaits, with a wealth of hunting grounds unlike almost anywhere else – not to mention perfect weather, golden beaches, and stunning sights. A Puerto Vallarta fishing adventure really has it all, so why don’t you come and see for yourself?

Have you ever been fishing in Puerto Vallarta? How did you find it? Let us know in the comments below!

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