The Puerto Vallarta  region offers many excellent fishing opportunities. Sportspeople routinely bring in dozens of species from among the more than 600 that abound in Mexican Pacific waters.
Good fishing beaches away from the immediate resort areas will typically be uncrowded, with only a few local folks (mostly fishing with nets) and fewer visitors. Mexicans do little rod-and-reel sportfishing. Most either make their living from fishing or do none at all. Although some for-sale fishing equipment is available, sportfishing equipment is both expensive and hard to get. Plan to bring your own, including hooks, lures, line, and weights.
A good general information source before you leave home is a local bait-and-tackle shop. Tell the folks there where you’re going, and they’ll often know the best lures and bait to use and what fish you can expect to catch with them.
In any case, the cleaner the water, the more interesting your catch. On a good day, your reward might be one or more sierras, cabrillas, porgies, or pompanos pulled from the Puerto Vallarta surf.
You can’t have everything, however. Foreigners cannot legally take Mexican abalone, coral, lobster, clams, rock bass, sea fans, seashells, shrimp, or turtles. Neither are they supposed to buy them directly from fishermen.
Puerto Vallarta, Barra de Navidad, and San Blas captains operate dozens of excellent big charter boats. Rental generally includes a 30- to 40-foot boat and crew for a full or half day, plus equipment and bait for 2–6 people, not including food or drinks. The charter price depends upon the season. During the high Christmas–New Year’s and before-Easter seasons, reservations are mandatory and a Puerto Vallarta boat can run $400 per day. Off-season rates, which depend strongly on your bargaining ability, can cost as little as half the high-season rate. For high-season charter boat reservations, contact an experienced agency, such as American Express, several weeks before departure.
Those who arrive without a reservation (or who prefer dealing directly with local people) can contact the local fishing-boat cooperative, Sociedad Cooperativa Progreso Turístico, on the Malecón in downtown Puerto Vallarta.
Renting an entire big boat is not your only choice. High-season business is sometimes so brisk at Puerto Vallarta that agencies can fill up boats by booking individuals, who typically pay $70 per person.
Pangas, outboard launches seating 4–6, are available on the beaches for as little as $50, depending on the season. Once in Barra de Navidad, four of my friends went out in a panga all day, had a great time, and came back with a boatload of big tuna, jack, and mackerel. A restaurant cooked them as a banquet for a dozen of us in exchange for the extra fish. I discovered for the first time how heavenly fresh sierra veracruzana can taste.
If you or a friend speaks a bit of Spanish, you can bargain for a panga right on the beach in Puerto Vallarta or at a dozen other seaside villages such as San Blas, Rincón de Guayabitos, Sayulita, Punta Mita, Cruz de Huanacaxtle, Bucerías, Mismaloya, Boca de Tomatlán, Chamela, Careyes, Tenacatita, La Manzanilla, Melaque, and Barra de Navidad.
If you’re going to do lots of fishing, your own boat may be your most flexible and economical option. One big advantage is you can go to the many excellent fishing grounds that the charter boats do not frequent. Keep your boat license up to date, equipment simple, and your eyes peeled and ears open for local regulations and customs, plus tide, wind, and fishing information.
Anyone 16 or older who is either fishing or riding in a fishing boat in Mexico is required to have a fishing license. Although Mexican fishing licenses are obtainable from certain travel and insurance agents or at government fishing offices in Puerto Vallarta, San Blas, and Barra de Navidad, save yourself time and trouble by getting both your fishing licenses and boat permits by mail ahead of time from the Mexican Department of Fisheries (Oficina de Pesca, 2550 5th Ave., Suite 15, San Diego, CA 92103-6622, tel. 619/233-4324, fax 619/233-0344). Call at least a month before departure and ask for applications, which they can supply by mail, fax, or email. Fees are reasonable but depend upon the period of validity and the fluctuating exchange rate. On the application, fill in the names (exactly as they appear on passports) of the people requesting licenses. Include a cashier’s check or a money order for the exact amount, along with a stamped, self-addressed envelope.