Mexico Fishing Report

Puerta Vallarta cows continue to bite, but monster yellowfin will likely not be a new IFGA record

Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo embroiled in a crucial fishing war

BY ROBIN WADE/WON Staff WriterPublished: Feb 02, 2012

IXTAPA-ZIHUATANEJO — Countries such as Costa Rica and Guatemala are very dependent on tourism, just as Mexico is. The difference being they understand the importance of the visiting angler and the money they spend and enacted strict sportfishing laws and enforcement; using only circle hooks and requiring the release of all billfish. Hopefully, the Mexican government is waking up and the sportfishing captains in the Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo area are helping them, although some may pay a price. They have long been working collectively to stop the illegal use of long lines and gill netting and this past week they finally made some headway, as several long line pangas were confiscated!

The biggest news this past week was not about the current sportfishing, but rather the future of sportfishing along the coast here and hopefully the rest of Mexico. After several meetings with authorities and demanding action, sportfishing captains were finally heard and they got some results. This past week the Mexican Navy was sent out to investigate complaints and caught 11 pangas red handed, illegally fishing with simbras (long lines). The boats and all their gear were confiscated.

“There is a lot of anger in the port right now,” fly fishing guide and local IGFA Representative Ed Kunze said. “These long liners have been illegally fishing for years with impunity and they actually feel like they are the victims of a corrupt society now. More than one sportfishing captain now has to sleep on their boat as the probability of retaliation from these families is a reality.”

“The fishing community here is in reality only made up of a few extended families,” Kunze said. “So we are talking about cousins vs. cousins, and brother-in-laws against compadres, etc. We are now facing a very difficult time in the fishing community here, and in fact all of Mexico as the news gets out. It may actually develop into a type of civil war; which will pit family members against family members.”

“Among the sportfishing captains, there is a new awareness regarding the need for conservation because they now understand their resources are limited,” Kunze said. “But, not all the fishermen in Mexico feel the same way, or they have the attitude of, “I better get it now, before somebody else gets it.”

“A long line (simbra) is an indiscriminate killer,” Kunze said. “They kill anything that takes the baited hook, including birds, sea turtles, and billfish. Plus, the Mexican Government legally allows inshore long line permits for sharks in areas where sharks do not exist in a large enough quantity to substantiate commercial interests. So, the main target, although illegal for them, is sailfish from these ‘legal’ simbras. It does not matter to them that the law states they are not allowed to sell billfish commercially, because it is not enforced so they do it anyway. It will be interesting to see how this develops.”

“A long line run off a panga averages between 20 and 30 sailfish a day,” Kunze said. “All of these fish are dead before they are even put in the boat. And, there are several hundred pangeros with long lines on the west coast of Mexico. You do not need to be a rocket scientist to understand how this can deplete a fishery and needs to be stopped.”  

Stay tuned for more on this as news becomes available, but for now, on to the fishing report. Kunze said the 80-degree blue water is still hanging close to the 100-Fathom line between 5 and 6 miles off the beach and earlier in the week fishing for sailfish, dorado and blue marlin was fantastic. “The last few days we have seen a complete turnaround; with only a few boats catching fish, and no reasonable explanation for the lack of fish. The fishing just shut off as if there had been an earthquake or a major drop in the barometer even though neither of these happened. So the fishing should be getting back on track again soon.”

Kunze said earlier in the week Francisco, on the super panga Huntress, went out 9 miles, releasing 4 sailfish and a blue marlin, and was back at the dock by 10:30 a.m. “A few days later, they released a few sails, and lost a huge dorado. Then they went out yesterday and got zip. It was the same story for Cheva on the panga Dos Hermanos. He did excellent earlier in the week, and then had zip late in the week as well.”

Kunze said the inshore fishing for huge jack crevalle and large sierra was still holding and very good.

Larry Edwards of Cortez Yacht Charters said during the early part of the week, the sailfish were being enormously cooperative with anglers. “We had a report from our Wyoming clients, telling us that they had 10 sailfish releases for their three fishing days and added a nice 30-pound dorado to their catch,” Edwards said.  “However, as the week progressed, the fishing shut off and while numerous sleepers were reported throughout the area, they refused to cooperate and ignored the rigged trolling baits. There was an occasional sailfish landed, but it’s a far cry from the weeks before when they were attacking everything presented to them.”  

In other Mexico fishing action:   

— PUERTO VALLARTA:  There were some huge but sadly non-qualifying world record sized yellowfin tuna taken this past week around the north end of the Tres Maria Islands (the north island), but the word from local operators is that anglers from other areas coming to fish for the big tuna need to remember these islands are prison islands and if you do not  adhere to the rules regarding how far you need to stay away from them, you’ll find yourself in big trouble.

There was one boated in the 430-pound range just this last week, but the fish  was reportedly handed off from the deckhand to the angler and therefore is not likely to qualify as an IGFA all-tackle record.  

“Yellowfin tuna have gone into monster mode and this past week saw anglers reeling fish in the 180-pound-plus sizes everywhere around the Marietta Islands,” Stan Gabruk of Master Baiter’s Sportfishing and Tackle said. “There are some local companies now that have long range boats heading out this way but be warned this trip is going to be 80 miles in one direction just to get there. And you can still come in empty handed after the long boat ride.”

“El Banco and Corbeteña are still in the thick of things as well, running yellowfin tuna from 30 pounds and up just before coming to the high spots,” Gabruk said. “Striped marlin, cubera snapper and the odd large dorado are there as well. “It’s a fair distance and like always can leave you scratching your head. Fishing is fishing, and you can always come in empty handed, but you can also always fall back to the Marietta Islands for the afternoon bite.”

“With plenty of live bait, blue water and favorable currents we’re finding blue lures are working well along with whatever local live bait you can put in front of these picky fish,” Gabruk said. “Squid chunking has also been working for those who can afford the bait.”

“From the Marietta Islands to El Morro and a little farther out is still the ‘promised land’ when it comes to producing,” Gabruk said. “Running blue tiger patterned Rapalas is working very well for jack crevalle, roosterfish and dorado in the 25-pound range. Live bait is working on everything else. But for some reason the fish have moved out a little from the islands, so be ready to search for birds. There is even a chance at some bonito, snapper, sierra mackerel and even a shot at a sailfish here.”

Gabruk said he was not hearing much from Punta Mita and points north. “Guyavitos should be running strong with sailfish since this is where they normally hang out for the winter here in PV,” he said. “Dorado and roosterfish are still in the Sayulita area so don’t forget to look into these areas as everyone else is all basically heading in the same direction where the action was hot yesterday.”

— CANCUN TO COZUMEL: While the sailfish bite slowed this past week, the overall variety increased to a 14 species mixed bag catch for the boats and provided some top notch action for the anglers.  

Reporting for the Marina El Cid Sportfishing Fleet at Puerto Morelos, Larry Edwards of Cortez Yacht Charters said it was one of those weeks when the angler never knew what the next fish might be.  

“Our report encompassed a total of 29 charters and included 2 sailfish, 9 dorado 8 Spanish mackerel, 15 Atlantic barracuda, 47 bonito, 2 blackfin tuna, 2 king mackerel, 2 wahoo, 6 snapper, 7 amberjack, 2 banana fish, 6 soapfish, 19 grouper and 7 amberjack,” he said.

— MAZATLAN: Mazatlan was also slow for the offshore fishing this past week and all the good surface indicators from the prior week seemed to evaporate for no apparent reason.  

“It is likely that the fish are now moving in and out of the warmer and cooler waters that were pushed in from the north,” Larry Edwards of Cortez Yacht Charters said. “However, this trend may be on the changing as the offshore waters that the boats typically fish to the south and southwest of the Marina El Cid, are pushing warmer waters back into the area. There is a huge area of 74- to 75-degree water being pushed up against the cooler 70- to 71-degree water, which may bode well for the coming week.”  

The overall fish counts for the 11 offshore fishing charters included 4 stripers and 10 yellowfin tuna. The inshore fishing was also down for the week and included 10 jack crevalle (aka toro), 11 red snapper, 31 white snapper, 45 perch, 2 grouper, 21 barracuda and 6 sierra for seven charters.

— SAN CARLOS (SONORA): Fishing has produced fairly minimal catches at best. A few boats are getting a couple or more 15- to 20-pound yellowtail.

“Some are being caught right out front, some at San Antonio Point, and some up as Isla San Pedro,” Brian Replogle of Team Margarita Sport Fishing said. “The bottom fishing seems to be decent, with a few stories of big grouper lost.”

“The water is around 61 degrees, with fair visibility and we have had a mix of windy and beautiful days,” Replogle said. “We are still waiting for winter vacationers to show up though; the media must still be hard at work.” For more Baja reports visit

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