San Jose del Cabo Fishing: The Complete Guide for 2024

Apr 25, 2024 | 9 minute read
Reading Time: 9 minutes

The tip of Baja California is the stuff sportfishing legends are made of. It may be Cabo San Lucas that draws the crowds but anyone who’s experienced San Jose del Cabo fishing knows that the quieter side of Los Cabos has just as much going for it. 

San Jose del Cabo sits alongside the largest estuary in the region, but it’s the Sea of Cortez that attracts anglers. Jacques Cousteau once called these clear waters “the world’s aquarium,” so you can see why anglers flock here! Game fish, whales, dolphins, and rays migrate past these shores throughout the year. And some of their favorite stopping points are just a few miles from town. 

So although you might visit San Jose’s colonial-era streets for a peaceful break from Cabo San Lucas, prepare yourself for an adrenalin-pumping voyage. Fishing in San Jose del Cabo will put both you and your tackle to the test.

Types of Fish in San Jose del Cabo

Scientists have found over 900 species of fish in the Sea of Cortez alone. And a couple dozen of these could appear on any given fishing trip. The productive waters start right off the beaches and, no matter how far you travel, you never know what you’ll find at the end of your line. Here’s a taste of what’s in store.

Roosterfish

A man in a fluorescent green shirt holding a Roosterfish in front of his face aboard a fishing charter in San Jose Del Cabo on a sunny day with water visible behind him
Photo courtesy of Cabo Sportfishing Crew – Blue Tail

Forget everything you know about roosters – “Pez Gallos” act more like raging bulls. Part of the Jack family, these inshore predators can reach up to 100 pounds. But they’re no couch potatoes. They patrol the rocks and shorelines in search of their favorite dish – mullet. And when they find them, they’ll stop at nothing to catch their prey.

It’s no wonder that Roosterfish top many anglers’ bucket lists. Spotting one practically beaching itself as it herds bait – and then feeling its awesome strength on the end of a fishing line – is like nothing else. The entire Baja Peninsula earned a reputation for the species when a 114 lb monster broke the all-tackle record up the coast in La Paz. Behemoths like that don’t come around often, but it’s quite common to catch fish in the 30–70-pound range here. 

Roosterfish usually migrate to San Jose del Cabo from June through October but the exact timing depends on the bait they’re following. Once they arrive, local charters target them by trolling live bait close to shore or by casting bait and lures around rocks and structure.

Mahi Mahi

A shirtless man wearing sunglasses standing on a fishing boat out of San Jose Del Cabo on a sunnt day and holding a Mahi Mahi witht he wake of the boat visible in the deep blue waters behind him
Photo courtesy of Split Decision II – Luxurious 38′

Looking for a fish that’s just as good to eat as it is to catch? Take a boat beyond the beaches. Dorado, as they’re known locally, are a real delicacy and they’re common catches around San Jose del Cabo from summer through fall. They swim anywhere from the bay to the offshore fishing grounds, and you can’t miss them. Look out for streaks of gold in the water and you could catch a real sportfishing treasure. 

Mahi Mahi often swim in large schools, so once you hook one you’re likely to have your hands full. A common technique around here is trolling or drifting their favorite bait, live sardines. Some captains will suggest that you keep the first fish you catch in the water. This will attract the rest of the school, which you can cast to with lighter tackle. 

Yellowfin Tuna

The same sardines that attract Mahi Mahi to San Jose del Cabo also draw another predator. This one can reach even larger sizes. Yellowfin Tuna usually range from around 40 to 100 pounds in these parts, but they can grow much bigger. The world record Yellowfin was caught out of Cabo San Lucas in 2012 and weighed a rod-busting 427 pounds!

San Jose del Cabo is a short boat ride from one of the top Yellowfin Tuna hotspots in Los Cabos – the Gordo Banks. Drift bait such as sardines, strips of squid, or small skipjacks around here and you could hook into a monster. Yellowfin Tuna are usually in town from July through early December – just in time for tournament season. 

Billfish

Three anglers sitting on the deck of an offshore sportfishing charter in San Jose Del Cabo on a sunny day with a large Striped Marlin across their laps
Photo courtesy of Determined Sportfishing – 60 Hatteras

As if that wasn’t enough, you can also catch not one, but five species of Billfish out of San Jose del Cabo. Striped Marlin is the star of the show, swimming these waters all year round and stacking up in droves in late fall and winter. Blue Marlin, Black Marlin, Sailfish and Swordfish all join them at some point or another. 

There’s something special about Striped Marlin, though. They’re especially agile and, if you hook one, you need to have your wits about you. Jumping, leaping, and tail-walking, they don’t give in easy. In fact, people say they’re like a bigger, stronger Sailfish – which you can also catch here in summer and early fall. 

Striped Marlin come close to the shore in San Jose del Cabo and it’s quite common to catch them from a traditional panga boat. But if you’re set on a Blue or a Black Marlin, you’ll need to travel further. The Golden Gate and San Jaime Bank are popular spots for them from summer through fall. Your go-to technique for these monsters is trolling, usually with bait but occasionally with some lures thrown into the mix.

What else?

Remember Cousteau’s quote about the aquarium? If you could see beneath San Jose del Cabo’s waves, you’d glimpse an incredible a variety of species. Jack Crevalle, Sierra Mackerel, and Cubera Snappers terrorize bait along the town’s coastline. At the same time, huge Snook glide around the estuary, while predators like Wahoo, Yellowtail Amberjack, and Hammerhead Sharks are hot on other pelagics’ heels offshore. All this makes for a 12-month-long fishing season that will rival any Cabo all-nighter for a good time. 

How to Fish in San Jose del Cabo

With all these fish, it’s no surprise that the area is well-equipped for you to catch them. The fleet of San Jose del Cabo fishing charters offers anglers everything from panga rides to full-blown big game fishing adventures. But if you prefer to keep your feet on the ground, you have several options with your own or rented gear. We’ll walk you through the most popular choices in this corner of Mexico.

Deep Sea Fishing in San Jose del Cabo

A view of a man helping another man sat in a fighting chair on the back of an offshore sportfishing boat in San Jose Del Cabo as he tries to battle it out with whatever is on the end of his heavy-duty line with two other people standing near the edge of the boat behind him
Photo courtesy of Determined Sportfishing – 60 Hatteras

You don’t have to travel far from San Jose del Cabo to be in big game territory. Mahi Mahi and even Marlin swim within an hour of the dock, making this one of the few locations where you can experience true deep sea fishing on a half day trip. As always, though, the longer the trip, the better your chances. Full day trips will take you to less crowded fishing grounds that might hold the fish of a lifetime. 

These sportfishing trips involve trolling and drift fishing as you mimic the schools of bait that feed the ocean’s largest predators. You can’t guarantee anything, but it’s no coincidence that many anglers end the trip by saying “No mas!” There are just too many fish to reel in!

Panga Fishing in San Jose del Cabo

While deep sea fishing usually takes place on a fancy sportfishing yacht, panga fishing is more relaxed. Pangas are small center consoles that typically hold up to four anglers. They’re a cost-effective way to explore the local coastlines with a seasoned crew. 

Most panga fishing trips take you a few miles off the coastline to fish for anything from Roosterfish to Mahi Mahi and Striped Marlin. The fish don’t care how small the boat is, nor how basic the amenities are. But if you’re fishing in the middle of summer, be prepared. Pangas have limited shade and AC is unheard of! 

Shore Fishing in San Jose del Cabo 

A view from behind of a lone angler fishing from the beach in Baja California Sur at sunset

Look towards San Jose del Cabo’s shoreline and you’ll notice the spume blowing from the crashing surf. The waters here are rough and the waves can catch you off guard. So fishing the surf requires preparation.

Walk to the shoreline in front of the estuary or towards the Cabo Surf Hotel, and you’ll probably see people surf fishing with very long rods and spinning reels. Locals stand away from the waterline and cast into the surf, hoping to catch one of the area’s beachside predators. Roosterfish, Sierra Mackerel, Needlefish, and Jack Crevalle all respond to this technique. Just be sure to keep an eye on the waves. Get too close, and they can be dangerous. 

Fly Fishing in San Jose del Cabo

A back view of an angler casting the line while fly fishing offshore from a charter boat

Saltwater fly fishing is well-established in Los Cabos and a few tippet-class records have already been set here. This gives fly fishers plenty of options – both from shore and from a boat.

Because the surf is so treacherous, anyone fly fishing from shore needs to be extra cautious. Look for protected areas and consider fishing around rocks for a little extra security. But whatever you do, keep an eye on the waves and only fly fish from shore on calm days. When it works out, this can be awesome – think 12–13 lb Roosterfish, Jacks, Snappers, and Groupers, all on the fly!

Given the challenging conditions from shore, though, you might prefer to hire a boat. Utilize Pacific Sardina flies to match the area’s most popular bait fish. Then, take at least a 10 wt rod so you can battle the surf’s ultimate catch – Roosterfish. 

Where to Go Fishing in San Jose del Cabo

A view of a large offshore sportfishing boat in front of the famous Los Arcos near Cabo San Lucas, with the arch visible to the left of the image
Photo courtesy of Determined Sportfishing – 60 Hatteras

Most trips in San Jose del Cabo start at Marina Puerto Los Cabos or at the boat ramps by the marina’s entrance. This area is only a couple of miles from town, but finding it – and parking – can be complicated, especially first thing in the morning. Take a cab to the boat from your hotel and then set off towards any of these hotspots:

  • Gordo Banks. One of the most famous fishing spots off the Baja Peninsula is just a couple of miles offshore from San Jose del Cabo. Locally called the “Wahoo Banks,” these attract a whole range of fish including Marlin, Tuna, and Mahi Mahi. The best thing? You can fish the banks all year round. They provide some of the best winter fishing in the area.
  • The 1150 Bank. Go a little further offshore towards Cabo San Lucas, and you’ll find even more variety. The 1150 lies about 20–25 miles off the coast and attracts bait and predators from the Sea of Cortez and the Pacific Ocean alike. This famous Marlin and Tuna spot is connected to the Gordo Banks by the Santa Maria Canyon – yet another fishing ground to explore while you’re in the area.
  • Vinorama Canyon. Or travel northeast out of San Jose del Cabo. This will take you to one of the most productive fishing grounds in the Sea of Cortez. The Vinorama Canyon generally gets less fishing pressure than spots like the Gordo Banks and the 1150 – but it’s just as attractive to big game. Book a full day trip and you’ll be all set to target Yellowtail Amberjack, Mahi Mahi, or Tuna depending on the time of year. This is also an excellent reef fishing spot, full of delicious Snappers and Groupers. 
  • Cabrillo Seamount. Due southeast from San Jose del Cabo is the edge of the continental shelf. The Cabrillo Seamount rises 3,000 feet from the very bottom of the Pacific. This creates a surge of nutrients from the deep seas, attracting all sorts of fish. Although this incredibly productive fishing ground is east of town, the conditions make it more like fishing the Pacific Ocean than the Sea of Cortez.

San Jose del Cabo Fishing Regulations

An infographic featuring the flag of Mexico followed by text that says "San Jose del Cabo Fishing Regulations What You Need to Know" along with the FishingBooker logo against a blue background

Everyone fishing from a boat out of San Jose del Cabo needs a fishing license. However, you don’t need a license for shore fishing. 

You can usually purchase a fishing license from your charter captain. This usually isn’t included in the price of the trip, but check in advance. You’ll usually need to bring around $20 per person in cash – but don’t forget to tip on top of that!

There’s a limit to the number of each fish species you can catch per day. These regulations are subject to change, so it’s best to check with your captain if you have a particular catch in mind. You’re allowed to keep one Billfish per day, but we recommend releasing these amazing fish so they can live to fight again.

Get Hooked on Los Cabos’s Quieter Side

An aerial view of two sportfishing boats making their way back into the harbor between two jetty walls in San Jose Del Cabo on a clear day

San Jose del Cabo’s peaceful streets and colonial-era buildings make it the perfect getaway from the frenzy of Cabo San Lucas. But its access to spots like the Gordo Banks makes it at least as attractive to anglers. So don’t mind the hype about San Jose’s flashier cousin. You might well find that this is the place that sportfishing – and vacation – dreams are made of. 

Where’s your favorite place to fish in Los Cabos? Do you prefer fishing out of Cabo San Lucas or San Jose del Cabo? Or do you have another must-visit big game fishing spot you’d like to tell us about? Let us know below!

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Cat Tyack spends almost every spare moment she has outside. Whether it's hiking, horseback riding or fishing, she's always looking for her next adventure in the great outdoors. Having been fishing on several continents, her most memorable fishing moment was casting poppers to Mahi Mahi in the shadow of enormous oil barges in the Arabian Sea.

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