Cabo Sport Fishing

Cabo Sport Fishing

The fishing in Cabo is known around the world.  It has been an excellent place for sport fishermen to vacation and enjoy the numerous types of fish that exist for several decades now.  With the hot water temperatures that exist virtually the entire year, the fishing usually remains very good with very few exceptions.  Another benefit of the increase in popularity of Cabo San Lucas fishing is the increase in English speaking fishing guides.  Most of the natives who work the fishing charter boats speak very good English and they are almost always very helpful.

Fishing Boats

Just like any other sport fishing capital, the selection of fishing boats ranges from small local pangas to luxury sportfisher yachts.  The pangas are the traditional fishing boat from the Baja peninsula and they are usually about 20 feet in length and use an outboard engine which is usually about 65 horse power.  The pangas usually have just one guide who operates the engine and does most of the other work, but sometimes on larger pangas, you might have a second guide as well.  The pangas have a large area for the live bait, and there is also some other areas where you can sit.

photo of panga fishing boat
panga fishing boat

If you are with a large group of people, you might find it more comfortable to look into getting a really big sport fisher boat that may be over 40 feet in length.  Cabo has boats that will meet anybody’s budget, you just need to select which one you want.  On the totally opposite spectrum from the panga would be a multi level fishing yacht.

sport fishing boat
large sport fishing charter boat in Cabo

Cabo Charters

The best way to get started with actually setting up a Cabo Fishing Charter is to walk down to the marina one day early on in your vacation and just start speaking to the boat captains who are down there advertising.  If you want to meat several of them, it is best to do that at about 3:00pm in the afternoon.  You might even go a bit earlier and look at the fish that are being brought back in from the current days fishing charter.  You can usually get a feel from the passengers how the day went, and you might even want to ask some simple questions about the captain and crew to get any recommendations.  The prices to charter a boat for the full day in Cabo vary considerably based on the type of boat and the time of year.  During the off season months, and especially during the summertime, prices can be less than half compared to the regular school year when more vacationers are fishing.  Expect to pay between $300-500 per day for taking out the panga fishing boats.  Fishing charters for a full day on the larger boats can run several thousands of dollars, with a 50 foot sport fisher running around $2,500 per day.  That type of boat will accommodate over 10 passengers, so if you factor in the amount of people, the prices might not be too bad for you.

Marlin Fishing

Most of the excitement when people go fishing in Cabo is geared around the striped and blue marlin.  The marlin fishing in Mexico is considered to be excellent by most people’s accounts, but there are definitely fishing charters on good boats that come back without any bites.  This is often rare, and usually the captain on a boat that is fishing for marlin is up on the deck watching the water all the time with the hopes of seeing a marlin tail.  After the captain spots a marlin, the real excitement happens.  Marlin like to eat live baitfish when possible, but that is not always how they are caught.  The different types of marlin lures that exist and have become popular over the past twenty years are now what most fisherman use.  While you are out trolling and looking for marlin, the lures allow you to move quickly over the water and to cover much more of the ocean compared to if you were dragging live bait.

Tuna Fishing

In some of the winter months, tuna fishing for both yellowfin tuna and a few other types has been excellent in the ocean off Cabo.  The tuna live in very large schools, so often when your fishing rod gets hit with a tuna, there are more to follow.  You should definitely be aware and alert, this type of fishing is very fun and these fish are the fastest fish in the ocean besides wahoo.  When you fish for the tuna in Cabo, you will probably be using live bait and trolling lures, much like you would for marlin.  The main difference though is that once you catch a single tuna, the fishing guides usually will turn off the engine and start throwing live sardines into the water to attract more of the tuna school.  Once you have a school of tuna swimming around your boat, your day of fishing will be filled with many fish caught.  As for tasty fish, tuna in most people’s opinions is the best tasting fish in Cabo.

Mahi Mahi / Dorado Fishing

Besides the marlin, the Mahi Mahi or Dorado as they are called in Mexico is the most well known.  These fish are a great fish to catch, and there are many of them in the waters off Cabo San Lucas.  They can live very close to land as well as several miles off-shore.  These fish are very fast strikers and they will go right after a live sardine or a lure if it seems like a natural bait.  Just like tuna, these fish live in schools, but their schools are often smaller than tuna.  The male dorado is called the “bull dorado” and once you have him caught on the fishing line, the rest of the fish will follow exactly what he is doing.  It is not uncommon to catch the bull dorado and then to catch five or six smaller females at the same time.  Most of the fishing charters that leave Cabo end up coming back with several dorado all year long.  They taste excellent too.

February Fishing In Cabo Mexico

Just had a fishing report delivered from my pops who has been down in Cabo all of last week fishing and unfortunately it did not sound too good.  A few days they weren’t even able to get bait from the bait guys at the Palmila hotel.  That is never a good sign.  But there were several sierra caught, and on one of the days, they landed a nice pair of yellow fin tuna out near Gordo Banks.  The early part of last week was real windy and so come the early afternoon it was all blown over out there with a steady chop all the way back in from wherever they were.

As for the marlin bite, there was not much news on that. Some reports came in about stripped marlin being caught near the Golden Gate Bank around the point of Cabo itself, and others were talking about a few marlin hooked up near the 95 Spot.

All in all, it seems like some people got a few, others not so much.  Here is one picture that was taken last week down in Cabo that surely is a great one.  My dad claims this was taken from a friend of his who is a photographer down in Cabo…

marlin on kayak

How to Catch Marlin in Mexico

Here are the latest ideas on how to get Marlin in the Boat :

Let’s start with a general overview of Marlin fishing.

I am not quite sure the total number of days that my father woke me up down in Cabo San Lucas (actually the Palmilla area is where we stayed which is closer to San Jose Del Cabo) but anyways, we would go down to where the locals were putting in their pangas, and we would get a ride out to our boat. Lets say maybe about 50-75 times over the past 15 years. Anyways, my first goal when we were getting ready to go fishing was to make sure we got to the water early enough to buy some live bait from the bait sellers down there. What would happen most of the time is we would make our way down to the water, and the bait guys would already be done for the day. As the years went on, we actually would start arriving to the water later and later to the point where we would sometimes not be getting into the water until 11:00am or later… So much of my fishing for marlin in Mexican waters has been done exclusively with lures.
But, and I will repeat this as long as I live, if you can get live bait, or even dead bait, GET IT, you will have much better luck in the long run, and the simple fact is that most of the time, when we were running several different lines/lure/bait combinations at the same time, the line that got the strike was usually one with live bait or dead bait on it.
So, the next question is what type of bait to use to catch marlin? Great question, and if you ask five different people, you may as well get five different answers. For me, the best luck I have had with striped and blue marlin has been with what the mexicans call “Caballito” which are basically small mackerel looking fish. They are usually in the 7-11 inch range, and keep relatively well in a nice circulating live bait well.
Also, a good bait to go with is live mackerel themselves.
Squid are alright to use, but they should be a last resort for drift fishing if you have other types of bait that you are using in the waters.
If you are out in search of really large blue or black marlin, small under 10lb tuna will also do the job, but of course that is when you are targeting some really big fish, and most of the time your bait will be dead since its hard to keep these guys alive for a long run.

So, how in the world do you bait the bait’s talked about above?
get your self some nice sized hooks, and try to think of the baits as needing to work themselves through the water as naturally as possible. So this means, that the mouth needs to be closed to produce less drag on the baitfish(this will allow the bait to be usable for a much longer time too.)

So, besides bait, in my mind the next most important thing about marlin fishing is keeping your eyes open at all times. Over 75% of the marlin we hooked into back in the days we saw well before they hit the line. The main reason is quite simple, marlin are big so they stand out quite a bit(especially when the water is very calm and glassy). This is not to say that marlin are always at the surface of the ocean, but when they are, they are easy to spot, since there is usually a nice fin sticking out of the water, and many times you will see two fins on one fish. This is because you are noticing their tail breaking the water and their dorsal fin at the same time.(when I was younger, I always thought it was two different fish). Now, marlin often live with others, so you may be at a luck time when you notice a whole bunch of things sticking up out of the water, we have seen six different marlin together once before. So keep your eyes open and look for the fish at all times, its going to help you spot them.

So now that you see a marlin on the surface
what do you do now?

Here is what I have found works when you see a marlin… if the fish is in back of your boat within your fishing lines, you are in good shape. As these fish are extremely fast swimmers, they can accelerate much faster than any boat can, don’t worry too much about going too fast. My father for example likes to slow the boat down once a fish is behind him. I DO NOT. If I am at the wheel when this is happening, I always speed up the boat in hopes of making the marlin think the bait is trying to get away. This usually has ended up with a strike. There have been times where we play this game with the marlin in back of the boat playing with the lures/bait for over two minutes. It feels like a very long time, but in reality it is not.

Once the fish strikes a lure/bait
now its time to set the hook well with a couple of good hard tugs. Sometimes, if you have the drag set nice and tight, it will do that on its own, and then the fish is usually off on a few minutes of incredible marlin jumps, and quite possibly it may be headed down soon afterwards.

Lures For Catching Marlin
Some of my favorite lures are the Zuker ones. We usually run one with dorado colors, the light aqua green, and also one which is more purplish in color. The purple one has been known to hook into a few wahoo from time to time as well, so be ready for that, that is the best tasting fish out there if you asked me.

Marlin are arguably the most iconic fish in sportfishing circles. Men have been known to shed a tear after an encounter with one and each fish caught is etched in an anglers memory forever.
There are four species of marlin that make up recreational catches; the blue marlin, black marlin, striped marlin and white marlin. All of the marlin species fight extremely hard and the two bigger species (blue and black marlin) can grow well over 1000 lbs!

Marlin Fishing Techniques

Marlin are an aggressive fish that respond well to teasers and plastic skirted lures trolled across the surface of the water. Most anglers consider the action of the lures on the surface far more important than color. Trolling speed is about 7-10 knots and allows the marlin boats to cover a large area.

Marlin anglers also troll natural baits such as striped tuna, bonito and Spanish mackerel. Sometimes natural baits are used in conjunction with a skirted lure to enhance the trolling action.

Marlin are also caught on live baits; either slow trolled, at drift or at anchor. Live baiting usually takes place once the marlin are located with teasers or at an area that marlin are known to frequent such as a FAD.

Marlin Tackle

Marlin are big fish and require quality rods and reels and a lever drag reel is almost essential. Most marlin anglers use a minimum of 24 kg line and 200 lbs monofilament or fluorocarbon leader. Remember that marlin will make light work of any flaw in your tackle, line or knots.

Some Fun Facts about Marlin:
Blue marlin are sexually dimorphic: adult males seldom exceed 150 kg (300 lb) whereas females may reach far larger sizes well in excess of 450 kg (1,000 lb).

The maximum size of blue (and black) marlin is often debated in both sport fishing and scientific circles. The largest sport fishing capture on record is a 1,805 lb Pacific blue marlin caught by a party of anglers in Oahu, Hawaii aboard the charter boat Coreene C skippered by Capt. Cornelius Choy (this fish often referred to as ‘Choy’s Monster’). This fish was found to have a yellowfin tuna of over 155 lbs in weight in its belly. In the Atlantic the heaviest sport fishing capture is Paulo Amorim’s 1,402 lb fish from Vitoria, Brazil.

Commercial fishermen have boated far larger specimens. The largest blue marlin brought into Tsukiji market in Tokyo supposedly weighed a massive 1,106 kg. A number of very large fish have been reported over the years, including a couple of photographs originating from Okinawa in southern Japan and Vanuatu. Commercial and sport fishermen from many other areas, both Pacific and Atlantic, have reported encounters with, and in some instances captures, of marlin thought to be in excess of 2,000 lbs, but obtaining verified weights and dimensions has proved very difficult.

A 1,000 lb (450 kg) fish, a “grander”, has historically been regarded by blue and black marlin anglers as the benchmark for a truly outstanding catch. For most marlin anglers, a 1,000 lb fish represents the fish of a lifetime. Sadly, because of ever-increasing commercial fishing effort across the world’s oceans, it seems unlikely that sport fishermen will ever break the “tonner” (2,000 lb) mark.

Blue marlin are eclectic feeders preying on a wide range of prey species and sizes. Scientific examination of blue marlin stomach contents has yielded organisms as small as miniature filefish. Common food items include tuna-like fishes, particularly skipjack tuna and frigate mackerel (also known as frigate tuna), squid, mackerel, and scad.

Of more interest to sport fishermen is the upper range of blue marlin prey size. A 72-inch white marlin has been recorded as being found in the stomach of a 448 lb blue marlin caught at Walker’s Cay in the Bahamas, and more recently, during the 2005 White Marlin Open a white marlin in the 70 lb class was found in the stomach of one of the money-winning blues. Shortbill spearfish of 30 to 40 lb have been recorded as feed items by Kona blue marlin fishermen. Yellowfin tuna of 100 lb or more have also been found in the stomachs of large blue marlin.

Fishing techniques
Blue marlin are fished for by thousands of crews from literally hundreds of ports worldwide. As may be expected, fishing styles and gear used in the pursuit of blue marlin is very diverse, depending on the size of blue marlin common to the area, the size of fish being targeted, local sea conditions, and often local tradition. However the main methods used for blue marlin can be broken down into fishing with artificial lures, rigged natural baits and live bait fishing.

Artificial lure fishing
Blue marlin are aggressive fish that respond well to the splash, bubble trail and action of a well presented artificial lure.(Just as a side note, caught way more on the live bait than on lures myself…)

Probably the most popular technique used by blue marlin crews worldwide, artificial lure fishing has spread from its Hawaiian origins throughout the world. The earliest marlin lures were carved from wood, cast in drink glasses or made from chrome bath towel pipes and skirted with rubber inner tubes or vinyl upholstery material cut into strips. Today, marlin lures are produced in a huge variety of shapes, sizes and colours, mass-produced by large manufacturers and individually crafted by small-scale custom makers.

A typical marlin lure is a small (7-8 inch), medium (10-12 inch) to large (14 inches or more) artificial with a shaped plastic or metal head to which a plastic skirt is attached. The design of the lure head, particularly its face, gives the lure its individual action when trolled through the water. Lure actions range from an active side-to-side swimming pattern to pushing water aggressively on the surface to, most commonly, tracking along in a straight line with a regular surface pop and bubble trail. Besides the shape, weight and size of the lure head, the length and thickness of skirting, the number and size of hooks and the length and size of the leader used in lure rigging all influence the action of the lure: how actively it will run and how it will respond to different sea conditions. Experienced anglers will fine tune their lures with often subtle variations to yield the desired action.

Lures are normally fished at speeds of between 7.5 to 9 knots; faster speeds in the 10 to 15 knot range are less frequently used, primarily by boats with slower cruising speeds travelling from spot to spot. These speeds allow quite substantial areas to be effectively worked in a day’s fishing. A pattern of four or more lures is trolled at varying distances behind the boat. Lures may be fished either straight from the rod tip (“flat lines”), or from outriggers.

Natural bait fishing
Rigged natural baits have been used by sport fishermen seeking blue marlin since the 1930s and are still popular in many top destinations. Throughout the eastern seaboard of the United States and in the Bahamas and Caribbean, rigged Spanish mackerel and horse ballyhoo are widely used for Atlantic blue marlin.

Rigged natural baits are sometimes combined with an artificial lure or skirt to make “skirted baits” or “bait/lure combinations”.

Live bait fishing
Live bait fishing for blue marlin normally uses small tuna species with skipjack generally considered the best choice. As trolling speed is limited by the fact that baits must be trolled slowly to remain alive, live-baiting is normally chosen where fishing areas are relatively small and easily covered. Much live-baiting in the blue marlin fishery of Kona, Hawaii, for instance, takes place near FAD (Fish Aggregation Device) buoys and in the vicinity of steep underwater ledges.

Below is a nice example of how to make a nice and easy live bait rig for marlin,dorado, tuna, wahoo etc…  Simply hook the baitfish right through the cartillage like stuff near the end of the nose.  This way the hook will hopefully stay there and the bait will be able to be pretty much un-affected while it swims around in the water.

Cabo, Mexico Fishing Reports

Cabo San Lucas Fishing:

3 Different Current Cabo Fishing Reports Directly Below.

I have been fishing down in cabo for about 20 years, and let me tell you, there is nothing better than getting down there in the middle of the summer when its hotter than hell, and being out on a panga with a nice amigo, sipping some Mexican beer, and catching some tuna or dorado with live sardines.  You simply can’t beat it.

y fiancé and I booked a charter to fish with RenegadeMike for 8/9/2009. We were aware that the temperatures in Cabo during the month of August make it a bit difficult to land the same quality of fish during the winter months; however this was the only time we were able to take vacation.

We headed for the marina bright and early (6am) on 8/9 eagerly excited to begin our daylong charter. We were greeted by RenegadeMike in the marina parking lot who immediately made us feel very comfortable. I should mention that he was proudly sporting his BloodyDecks T-shirt. He recommended Senor Sweets (in front of the dock) which had a killer breakfast burrito for $5 USD. As we were eating breakfast, we sat with the locals and discussed our charter itinerary. Everyone, including the other local charters had nothing but great things to say about RenegadeMike. They had said we will “definitely come back with fish” if we were going out with Mike!” I thought to myself, how the heck did this guy build up his reputation after only 2 years in Cabo!!! What a great way to start off the morning, wouldn’t you say?

We boarded RenegadeMike’s 31ft. Bertram and were very impressed with the vessel, the friendliness of the crew, and the quality of tackle he had aboard. All of his trolling gear consisted of Calstar or Seeker trolling rods with Penn International 2-speed reels and a couple of Shimano TLD-2 Speed reels. We made our bait stop to pick up some fresh Caballito and headed out to sea. Mike immediately called me up to sit with him to inform me of the “game plan” for the day. He had said that most boats were staying local within a few miles of shore as the Dorado and Marlin bite had been somewhat consistent in the smaller weight class. Mike had said on his last couple trips he had heard reports of larger tuna (100+ lbs.) had been seen about 30-40 miles offshore. He informed us that these large tuna would be our target for the day. I was thoroughly impressed that he was willing to take us 30-40 miles offshore while other boats were staying closer to shore to conserve fuel and fish the smaller weight class of fish.

We made several stops while Mike was utilizing his electronics as well as visual indicators (porpoise schools) and caught several tuna in the 20-40# class. He made sure that we brought these fish in as quickly as possible therefore we could jump on the next school of fish. Damn, does this guy fish hard or what? I imagine some captains would be happy putting their anglers on a couple of fish then calling it a day. After a couple of these small producing stops, Mike made a split decision to move (10 miles) elsewhere he anticipated the tuna would travel. Boy, did that decision pay off….we ended up getting a several tuna which produced a 60# and 80# Yellowfin Tuna. Mike was even able to get in on the action since we were all hooked up and landed a 120# Yellow Fin Tuna. It was really great to see a long range pro in action! We trolled this same area and had another jig strike which produced a 25# Yellow Fin Tuna that my fiancé was able to tackle. During this jig strike, we tossed out some live bait and managed to land a 150# Yellow Fin Tuna. I was very impressed how Mike’s captain maneuvered the boat during the 45 min. fight to back-down on the fish to assure I was able to bring to the boat. We ended up getting back to the marina about an hour later than a normal 8 hour charter since we were so far offshore. We just couldn’t leave with the hot bite on these good sized Yellow Fin Tuna. Mike’s main concern was getting us on fish, and he accomplished this mission. In total, we caught 8 Yellow Fin Tuna ranging from 20# to 150#.

November 30 – December 6th

WEATHER:  I think that the season’s change is upon us.  This week the low was down to 61 degrees, cold enough for me to be wearing a long-sleeved shirt and a sweater on top of it when we went to the marina in the mornings.  Our daytime highs were up to 89 degrees a couple of days but for the most part remained in the low 80’s.  We had mostly cloudy skies for most of the days this week but there was no rain with the clouds, at least in our area.  We had a couple of days of blustery weather at the end of the week but by Saturday things had really calmed down.

WATER: Surface conditions on both sides of the Cape were very nice most of the week with the exception of the Pacific side on Monday and Tuesday as the wind blew fairly strong in the afternoons on both of those days, and on the Cortez side on Friday as the wind switched direction and came from the southeast.  The swells were not bad anywhere but there was some fair sized surface chop accompanying those winds.  On the surface the water on the Sea of Cortez averaged 80 degrees well offshore and a cooler 78 degrees within 10 miles of the shoreline.  On the Pacific side the water to the north of the San Jaime stayed cool at an average of 76 degrees, while the water on the San Jaime and to the south of there was a warmer 78 degrees.

BAIT:  There was a full moon this week that made it a bit more difficult for the bait boats to catch the Caballito.  There seemed to be plenty of Mackerel around though and all the larger baits were at the normal $3 per bait.  I heard that there were Sardinas at the Palmilla area but can only assume that they were the normal $25 per scoop since I did not buy any myself.


BILLFISH: The high note for the week on the billfish front was the capture (and non-release) of a Blue Marlin that weighed over 850 pounds.  The fish was caught on the Pacific side within a mile of the beach just to the inside of the Golden Gate Bank.  This area had been providing some action the week before on fish to 400 pounds or so.  The amount of bait in the form of young Dorado kept these large fish in the area much longer than normal.  When weighed, this Marlin had two Dorado in the 12-pound class in its stomach.  Other than this one large fish there were few other Blues or Blacks reported this week.  There were plenty of Striped Marlin; however getting them to eat was a problem.  Many boats were seeing groups of a dozen or more feeding on bait balls off of the area known as Los Arcos and were able to get an occasional fish to bite.  A good catch for the week was two or three Striped Marlin released for the day, but most boats were lucky to get one.

YELLOWFIN TUNA:  Once again the Yellowfin action remained slow as the few fish that were found on a regular basis seemed to have been fished so hard that it was difficult to get anything going.  The Gorda Banks bite slowed quite a bit and there were occasional schools of fish moving through directly south of the Cape, mostly in the 20-pound class and associated with Dolphin that provided action once in a while.

DORADO: The water continues to cool down and the bite continues to drop off, not that it has gotten bad, mind you, but not the numbers were had been spoiled with a month ago.  Boats were averaging 4-8 fish per trip with an occasional limit load.  Most of the fish remained in the warmer water on the Pacific side and around the structure of the 95 spot on the Cortez side.  The fish were averaging 12 pounds with a few large fish in the pick, but no big numbers of them.  Live bait seemed to do the trick on them this week, slow trolled in areas where Frigate Birds were seen to be working.

WAHOO: Once again we had a good week for Wahoo.  While never a common fish in our area, the past couple of months have really been good.  The fish have not been large, with an average weight of 20 pounds once again, but there have been many more than normal come in on the boats.  Perhaps one in 10 boats came in flying Wahoo flags this week, about double the norm for this time of year.  Working areas just off the beach around the rocky points in water ranging from 50 to 250 feet in depth with dark colored lures that work below the surface, or with live bait dropped deep and slow trolled on wire leader has provided most of the action.

INSHORE:  Inshore has been a decent mix of Sierra, small Roosterfish and Dorado.  Most of the activity has been taking place on the Pacific side of the Cape and you did not have to go very far to get into the action.

NOTES:  More whales continue to arrive in our area, providing a break from watching lures behind the boat most days.  I am off to the beach with the dog in a few minutes; she needs a few more boogie-board lessons and some exercise (as well as a bath).  This weeks report was written to the Alligator Records 20th Anniversary Collection of blues, released in 1991.  Until next week, tight lines!

August 31- Sept. 6, 2009

WEATHER: Those of you who have been watching our area this past week are already aware that we managed to dodge a bullet once again. Hurricane Jimena was expected to pass almost on top of us, perhaps just a little to the west on Tuesday as a Category 4 Hurricane with winds at 155 mph and higher gusts. With nature and lady luck on our side she shifted just a bit to the west and all we got were three to four days of clouds, about an inch of rain and winds that may have gusted at times as high as 70 mph. It knocked down palm fronds and kicked up some big seas, but it also brought in some cooler weather as well. At the end of the week our nighttime lows were in the low 80’s and our daytime highs had finally gotten back up to the high 90’s, but the humidity at the end of the week was a bit lower than it had been so it did not feel quite as hot as that.