What to expect when fishing in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico
One of the biggest questions about deep sea fishing in Cabo San Lucas is what to expect. What will the day be like? What kind of fish will we catch? What types of fishing methods are used? What happens after we catch fish? I thought I would try and answer some of these questions and more, to make sure that everyone understands what happens on a fishing expedition in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico.
Update…Amigos this was written for our guests fishing with Lands End Charters, this does not apply to all fishing fleets in Cabo San Lucas. We hope you choose to fish us, we would be thrilled to have you.
What happens on the morning of our trip when we arrive at the docks?
When you arrive to our location you will be expected. One of our fleet managers will find and greet you and take care of any balances due and make sure you have everything you need to go fishing. They will ask about your fishing goals and don’t be shy about being honest with what you are looking for (an easy day inshore or a hardcore..get me the biggest fish on the planet kinda day). You will be introduced to the crew as you board.
You might need to purchase a fishing license and wait in line to purchase it. This service is provided by the Mexican authorities and we are not involved in the process. Many times, because most charters leave around the same time, there can be a longer than usual wait. To avoid this, ask us about purchasing your license in advance.
Our start times are approximate. Every morning we have people show up early and some show up late. We understand, this might be your first time in Cabo, you might get lost, you might have had 1 too many cervezas the night before, no big deal you are on vacation after all. However, we help people as they arrive, we do our very best to get everyone out as close to the time they requested as possible. Most of the time we are very efficient, but if you are the type of person who likes things to be perfectly timed, let us know, show up a little early and we will do our very best, I promise!
You may also want to get something to eat and drink before heading out, there are convenience stores located near our gate or the captain will take you over to the fuel dock where they sell sandwiches, snacks drinks etc. You are welcomed to bring anything you like with you, the boats have coolers and ice on board. We will wait until you are ready to go, so don’t stress about the start time, we promise the boat won’t leave without you. Crews pack their own lunches amigos.
You may also choose to purchase a boxed lunch from us and it will be waiting for you on board. We do not make the food amigos, please do not hold the quality of your lunch against us 🙂 You may enjoy drinks like Dr. Pepper, Mountain Dew or fancy imported beers, these are not always available at the marina, so please let us know at booking that only Diet Root Beer works for you and we will do our best.
Frequently asked question? Is alcohol allowed on the boats?
Only if you share! Just kidding (sort of) Alcohol of any kind is allowed on your charter. The local convenience stores stock a wide range of beer, spirits and more. ***A little Kahlua and Coffee in the morning is said to attract big fish.
Check out the lowest rates on Cabo Fishing Here
What happens in the case of bad weather?
The Port Captain of Cabo San Lucas is responsible for making sure that you are not placed in dangerous situations while on the water. They determine If it is safe to fish offshore or not. If they feel that it is unsafe to head out they will shut down the port and no fishing charters are able to leave. Unfortunately, we very rarely get any advance warning. You may show up only to be told we won’t be able to fish. If this happens, we will do our best to re-schedule your trip for another day during your stay, or if no other options are available, we will refund 100% of any money paid for your fishing trip.
Good News: We average about 5 days a year when we are unable to fish.
Before heading out to open waters, you will make a stop at the port authority where the mate will hand the authorities your fishing licenses. This is required to keep a log of anyone out on the water and to ensure that you are properly licensed. All passengers over 12 years of age, whether they plan to fish or not, must have a fishing license.
Update: The port authority no longer has staff to check licenses before departing the marina. We are still subject to random inspection and a fishing license is still 100% required. The Port Captain may resume checks at any time.
Your next stop will be at the bait pangas. We do not have a bait farm here and all live bait is caught daily and sold to all the boats heading out to fish. The live bait is included in the cost of your charter. There are times when live bait is gone, especially if you leave late (after 9 AM), other times when there are no specific types of bait like ballyhoo, anchovies for tuna etc… There are other times when the Captain might suggest purchasing more bait, if the fishing is really good and he feels you might need it. There may be times when some or very little of your live bait is used, many times fish will bite on the tackle we use. Live bait is used primarily when we spot fish on the surface or when there are large schools of fish and multiple hook ups are in order. This happens primarily during strong Tuna or Dorado bites. Fish here are often more attracted to the lures, feathers and other tackle we use to catch fish.
The crews will often leave a bait out long after expiring, this is because there is no active fish in the area and killing a live bait doesn’t make sense at that moment. Please trust that your crew is extremely experienced, know what they are doing and want to catch something just as bad if not more than you do…their tips are a big part of their pay amigos.
Frequently asked question? Can we help set up or get involved with the bait prep or rigging process?
Absolutely amigos. If you are an experienced angler, let your mate know that you would like to help or learn whats going on. They are more than happy to show you or let you do your thing. Please let me know when you book that you would like to be hands on, so that I can inform the crew. Tackle is pre-rigged on leaders, but live bait rigging happens live.
Once we leave port the distance we travel to the fishing grounds will be based on a couple of factors. Primarily the length of your fishing trip and fishing conditions. There is a protected area that runs 2 miles along the Pacific Ocean and Sea of Cortez as we leave the marina, so we can’t fish as soon as we leave. Our maximum fishing range in Cabo San Lucas is about 40 miles max from port on a full day trip. This will depend on sea conditions and size of the vessel you charter. Please know that we have a large fleet that goes out everyday. Sometimes the fishing is good close to shore in the morning (especially if you ask for inshore fishing for Dorado, Yellowtail etc..) and we can have lines in the water in as little as 15 minutes, other times, especially if you are after bigger fish or during Tuna season, you might have to travel up to an hour before lines are out. We rely on the fishing reports from the previous days or simply on the crews experience ( Remember our captains average over 20 years fishing experience in Cabo). While you are traveling you might see the mates start to set up the fishing poles, prepare the bait, set up the outriggers etc. This is a good time to get your cameras set, slap on some sunscreen, have a cold one and enjoy the scenery, sunrises can be spectacular here.
Frequently asked question: Why do the captain and mates sit up in the bridge and stay there as we head out or while we are trolling?
The Captain and mate are doing everything they can to gather information. They may be monitoring the radio for reports of good fishing, setting GPS coordinates, checking the fish finders, water temperature or simply scanning the waters for active fish, dolphin, birds etc. The bridge is designed to be higher for spotting fish or other signs of good fishing from long distances, this is the main responsibility of the Captain of a fishing charter, and 2 or 3 sets of eyes are always better than one. He is your guide and while it might seem like he is just driving the boat, he is actively using his experience, crew and fishing knowledge to find fish.
How is the fishing actually done?
If you have never gone deep sea fishing in Cabo, please read this part carefully. 99.9% of the fishing here is done using trolling methods. All of the great pictures of fish you see on our fishing report page have been caught using trolling methods, with a few exceptions. Trolling is simply the boat pulling lines behind it with lures, live bait and teasers to attract fish. Some boats will have as many as 6 lines in the water at a time. Some are very close to the back of the boat, this might seem weird, but it is standard procedure. Some of these lines are trolling teasers or dredges, designed to simply attract fish to the surface so that they will bite on other lines that have live bait or trolling lures. People often think its just the crew being lazy since… what fish would bite that close to the boat? Again..it is standard procedure and designed to simply attract fish.
Many people have fished in other parts of the world or watched shows on TV where the boats are anchored, lines are dropped and fishing happens. This is not the case here for the vast majority of the species that we catch. Even inshore fishing is done the same way, by trolling. This is the most effective way to catch fish here in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. There are times when we “live cast” meaning the mate or even you (If you are experienced and want to give it a shot, just let the mate know) will cast live bait at fish on the surface.
We do not: drop anchors for fishing, unless a pre arranged shark fishing expedition is arranged or there is another really specialized fishing trip planned.
Frequently asked question? What happens if the fish aren’t biting?
I would love to tell you that the fish are always biting….but here is the truth. Our crews are extremely experienced, they have most likely been fishing the same waters, in the same general areas with the same equipment and tackle for days. Because it is working and they are catching fish. It’s kind of like lake fishing, you go out 1 day and your favorite top water lure kills it, then again the second day, but on the third day suddenly it stops producing strikes. How long do you use the lure that worked great 2 days in a row? Do you switch to a diving Rapala? This is why its fishing, you can only do so much based on your experience. What color is the water? What depth are you fishing? What time of day? What moon phase? What is the current…on and on. You might go an hour with no bites and start asking, why isn’t the crew changing tackle? Why haven’t they changed the live bait? Why do we seem to be going in circles?
Answer: The crews often have electronics that tell them that fish are in the area. Sometimes they spot fish, sometimes they see the birds or dolphin, sometimes fish strike the bait or lures and don’t swallow…..SOMETIMES FISH JUST DON’T BITE. I once had a client offer me $5,000.00 if I could guarantee a 200 pound Marlin during the height of Marlin Season. He went out and caught 3, did I take his bet and his $5000.00? Of course not…this is fishing and there are no guarantees (he did buy me a beer).
Fish On! Now what?
When fish bite, you will hear the line scream from the drag on the reel. This will immediately get the crew in motion. The mate will grab the pole and set the hook on the fish with a solid tug (unless circle hooks are being used). They will then hand you the pole and you are one on one with the fish on the line. You may choose to stand and fight or have a seat in the fighting chair. The mate will help you out if you are inexperienced and might say things like “reel” and “pull”. If you plan to fight standing up, ask the crew for a belt or harness, all boats have them on board. It is very hard to tell sometimes what type of fish or size is on the line, the mate might make adjustments to the reel settings to help you land the fish. If you are on with a huge fish (which happens) and you just can’t or don’t want to keep fighting, the crew will be happy to take over or you can hand the pole to another angler. (Please note: In case of record fish, this may disqualify the catch from any IGFA records). Landing a fish is not easy, and fish do get away, it happens. Enjoy the fight, take your time and know that the crew is there to help.
Someone once asked…. Our fish got off the line, why was there was no leader?
Most of our crews use fluorocarbon leaders designed for offshore fishing, they are similar to regular fishing line (translucent) and meant to produce more strikes as opposed to steel leaders that are easier to spot. Tackle is very expensive and some type of leader is always used.
Frequently asked question? Can I set my own hook?
Of course! Just let the crew know that you would like to set your own hooks. The crews set hooks to give you the best chance to land the fish, improper setting of the hook is the #1 reason for losing fish. Even with an experienced mate, fish are lost during or before a fight.
Handling of fish
You landed your fish..congratulations!
So now what to do? Here are your options….
release the fish. This is our recommendation for any fish you don’t plan on eating…especially any bill fish. We wont tell you what to do, its your money and its your fish, but releasing the fish is the best of all options. We can get the fish close, even bring it on board for a quick picture and then safely release it.
You can also keep the fish. If you plan on keeping it, we have a full fillet station back at the docks where your fish can be properly cleaned and filleted. We also have vacuum sealing equipment so that you can take your fish back home with you. Prices vary depending on size and amount of fish from $3.00 per fish to $2.50 a pound for full vacuum sealing. The fleet managers at the docks will be able to help you get your fish processed.
Reminder: Crews fish almost everyday and have freezers full of fish. Please do not keep fish for the crews sake 🙂 We are also strictly prohibited from selling, brokering or making any financial gain from your catch.
You can have your fish mounted. You can release a fish and have a replica made (recommended), you can bring the fish to the docks and have a real skin mount made. We have world class taxidermy shops in Cabo that have representatives at the docks to help. The crew will also help before you get back, if you let them know that you are interested in mounting. Please note: mounting is not cheap and mounting big fish can cost thousands of dollars once you add in shipping, ask us before killing an animal please.
You can choose to have your fresh fish prepared at the marina. There are many great restaurants that will take your fresh catch and prepare a feast for you. This typically costs anywhere from $8.00 to $20.00 per person depending on the place. We recommend our amigos at Mis Suenos restaurant. Your catch is prepared 5 or 6 different ways, blackened, ceviche, grilled, fried etc.. it is a great way to enjoy your catch.
Frequently asked question? What do I need for transporting fish back home?
We have everything you need here amigos. From coolers to vacuum sealers; you can find it in Cabo San Lucas at the marina. Your airline is used to having fish on as cargo, check with your airline for any specific restrictions, but most will allow transport for properly packaged fish. Again, we will be able to help with the process. Be sure to keep your fishing licenses after the trip, Customs agents may ask for them at the airport.
We do our best to greet all of our guests upon your return. Sometimes all boats arrive at the same time which makes this difficult. If you have questions or need help, please ask the crew and there is always someone there that can help. The crew is your best source of information and help.
Frequently asked question? Who do I tip and how much?
The tip is given directly to the captain. He will decide how to distribute the money and will take care of this for you. If you would like to tip a mate a little extra, that is ok too, but please tip the captain first. This is just a customary procedure. The typical tip is 10 to 15% of your charter cost, if you have a great time and want to tip more… that is considered an honor for the crews.
Every morning we watch million dollar fishing yachts, with all the latest electronics, fishing gear, tackle and world class crews leave the marina. We also watch the amigos on the 30 year old wooden pangas held together with duct tape and a few rusted screws leave at the same time. Do you know that sometimes the big fancy fishing machines get out fished by the rusty old taped together panga guys? It happens…its fishing, the very best fishing crews on the very best days can have a bad day.
There are NO guarantees in fishing.
Good news: Cabo San Lucas is known for world class fishing and our fleet averages over a 90% catch rate every year!
I started this company to have fun, share my passion for fishing and enjoy the life I think everyone deserves. I know that we can never be perfect…. but we try really hard, we really care and we want you to catch fish!
Tight Lines amigos!
President, Lands End Charters