At their present rate of attrition, sailfish and marlin will someday certainly disappear from Puerto Vallarta  waters. Some captains and participants have fortunately seen the light and are releasing the fish after they’re hooked in accordance with IFGA (International Fish and Game Association) guidelines.
You can hire a panga (outboard launch) with skipper on the beach in front of several hotels, such as Los Arcos on Playa los Muertos ; the Buenaventura and Sheraton on Playa los Camarones; the Plaza Pelícanos, Las Palmas Resort, and Fiesta Americana Puerto Vallarta on Playa las Glorias; and NH Krystal on Playa de Oro.
Expect to pay about $25/hour for a two- or three-hour trip that might net you and a few friends some jack, bonito, toro, or dorado for dinner. Ask your favorite local-style restaurant to fix you a fish banquet with your catch.
Another good spot for panga rentals is near the Peines (pay-EE-nays) docks, where the fishermen keep their boats. You may be able to negotiate a good price, especially if you speak Spanish.
Access to the Peines is along the dirt road to the left of the Isla Iguana entrance (just adjacent, south, of the fake roadside lighthouse a mile north of the Terminal Maritima). The fisherfolk, a score or so members of the Cooperativa de Deportes Aquaticos Bahía de Banderas, have their boats lined up along the roadside channel to the left, a few hundred yards from the highway.
At the end-of-road dock complex (the actual Peines), behind the entrance gate lie the big-game sportfishing boats that you can reserve only through agents back in town or at the hotels. Agents such as American Express (tel. 322/223-2910, 322/223-2927, or 322/223-2955, fax 322/223-2926) customarily book reservations during high season on the big 40-foot boats.
They go out mornings at 7:30 and return about seven hours later with an average of one big fish per boat. The tariff runs around $100 per person; food and drinks are available but cost extra. Big boats generally have space for 10 passengers, about half of whom can fish at any one time. Most everyone usually gets something, if not a big sailfish or marlin.
Another agency that rents sportfishing boats is the Sociedad Cooperativa Progreso Turístico (north end of the Malecón at 31 de Octubre, across from Hotel Rosita, tel. 322/222-1202), which has four boats, ranging 32–40 feet. Rentals run $350–450 per day for a completely outfitted boat. It’s best to talk to the manager, who is usually there Monday–Saturday 8 a.m.–noon and 4–8 p.m.
A number of local English-speaking captains regularly take parties out on their well-equipped sportfishing boats. Alex Gómez, known as Mr. Marlin (at the Tennis Club Puesta del Sol deli, tel. 322/221-0809, www.mrmarlin.com ), record-holder of the biggest marlin catch in Puerto Vallarta, acts as agent for more than 40 experienced captains. Prices begin at about $300 for a 26-foot boat and $575 for a 35-foot boat, for a full day, including bait, ice, and fishing tackle.
Alternatively, go Fishing with Carolina and Captain Juan (call Candace Caroline Shaw for information and reservations at 322/224-7250, local cell 044-322/292-2953, www.mexonline.com/fishingwithcarolina.htm ), who offer sportfishing, whale-watching, and snorkeling expeditions on their fully equipped diesel boat. Two anglers go all day for $125 per person, three for $350.
Call Mr. Marlin if you’d like to enter the Puerto Vallarta Sailfish Tournament (tel. 322/221-0809, www.fishvallarta.com ); it’s held annually in November (2007 marks the 52nd). The registration fee runs about $1,200 per participant, which includes the welcome dinner and the closing awards dinner. The five grand prizes usually include automobiles. The biggest sailfish caught was a 168-pounder in 1957.
Freshwater bass fishing is also an option, at lovely foothill Cajón de Peñas Reservoir , on your own or with Viva Tours (tel. 322/224-0410 or 322/224-0826, tel./fax 322/224-0182). For about $150 per person, minimum four persons, you get all transportation, breakfast and lunch, fishing license, guide, and gear. The lake record is 13 pounds.