Experts agree that the Oaxaca coast is a world-class deep-sea and surf fishing ground. Sportfishing enthusiasts routinely bring in dozens of species from among the several hundred that have been identified in Oaxaca waters.
Most good fishing beaches away from the immediate resort areas will typically have only a few locals (mostly with nets) and fewer visitors. Oaxacans do little sportfishing. Most either make their living from fishing or do none at all. Some local folks catch fish for supper with nets. Consequently, few Oaxaca shops sell fishing equipment. Plan to bring your own, including hooks, lures, line, and weights.
In any case, the cleaner the water, the more interesting your catch. On a good day, your reward might be sierras, cabrillas, porgies, or pompanos pulled from the Oaxaca surf.
You can’t have everything, however. Foreigners cannot legally take Mexican abalone, clams, coral, lobster, rock bass, sea fans, seashells, shrimp, or turtles. Nor are they supposed to buy them directly from fishermen.
A deep-sea boat charter generally includes the boat and crew for a full or half day, plus equipment and bait for 2–6 persons, not including food or drinks. The full-day price depends upon the season. Around Christmas and New Year’s and before Easter (when reservations will be mandatory), a boat can run $400 at Huatulco , less during low season and at the other spots.
Renting an entire big boat is not the only choice. Pangas, outboard launches seating up to six passengers, are available for as little as $40, depending on the season. Once, six of my friends hired a panga for $50, had a great time, and came back with a boatload of big tuna, jack, and mackerel. A restaurant cooked them up as a banquet for a dozen of us in exchange for the extra fish, and I discovered for the first time how heavenly fresh sierra veracruzana can taste.
If you’re going to be doing 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 the charter boats do not frequent. Keep your equipment simple, scout around, and keep your eyes peeled and ears open for local regulations and customs, plus tide, wind, and fish-edibility information.
Anyone, regardless of age, 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 bait and tackle stores and car insurance agents or at government fishing offices everywhere along the coast, 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. Call at least a month before departure (U.S. tel. 619/233-4324, fax 619/233-0344) and ask for (preferably faxed) applications and the fees (which are reasonably priced, 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. Address the application to the Mexican Department of Fisheries (Oficina de Pesca), 2550 5th Ave., Suite 15, San Diego, CA 92103-6622.
Oaxaca has four large reservoirs: Yosocuta, in the Mixteca near Huajuapan de León; Cerro de Oro and Miguel Alemán, in the north near Tuxtepec; and Benito Juárez Reservoir, in the Isthmus not far from Tehuántepec. Their shorelines are scenic and easily accessible, and their waters are home to several varieties, mostly mojarra (bass), plentiful enough for local folks to a make living cooking fish dinners.