Sailfish: We get a large influx of sailfish here in November through January, and maybe a couple of weeks into February. They are the year round bread and butter game fish of the sport fishing fleet. In most any of the other months, other than the winter months, you can expect a per boat average of two fish a day caught, tagged and released. The winter months can yield our year round average, or up to 10 to 12 fish a day. A 6 to 8 fish day is not at all unusual.
Often overlooked is the great month we usually have for sailfish in July. Whether the fish are returning from their migration, or it is a whole different set of fish is not clear, but there can be excellent fishing for sails in July.
In any month, we have decent fishing right up and until the full moon, but it tapers off on the second day, until about 6 to 8 days after.
Fly fishing is best when you can get the most shots, which means most fly fishermen come during the dark of the moon through to the date of the last quarter moon periods of the winter months November, December, January, and February.
Marlin: The blue and black marlin start showing as soon as the water starts cooling in the fall. November can be an outstanding month. Depending on the current, it may take as late as early Jan. to get the desired 78º water. April will have many marlin, but you may have to pay a fuel premium and travel 35 to 45 miles to find the blue water (see below).
Our favorite months would be after the first week of May, until the middle of June. This is when the water is cooler, yet the blue water current is close. The fish are within 2 to 20 miles. A few years ago, on May 6, 2002, my client released an estimated 700 pound blue less than 4 miles off the beach.
Striped marlin, like they have in abundance in Cabo San Lucas, are not common here. They are a cooler water species. However, we have been seeing a lot more juvinille striped marlin this last couple of years.
Besides the April current, another reason to hold off on making a trip down here until after the first week of May is the 30 years plus sailfish tournament held in Zihuatanejo on the 1st weekend of each May. This annual 120 to 160 boat tournament really flogs the water and the game fish need a few days to settle down.
April: We get an annual cold green water current here in April. Sometimes the current can come about the middle of March and sometimes it will linger through the first week of May. By the second week of May it is always gone.
This green water current shoves the blue water out to 25 to 45 miles. The big tuna and the marlin are here, but in the blue water. To go after them takes a fuel surcharge that varies with each boat.
The Full Moon Period: The full moon period, from the day after the full moon, to almost the first quarter affects several species of game fish here. Most people think it is because they are able to see and feed at night. This may be true to some extent, especially being most game fish are opportunistic feeders. But I am more inclined to believe it is something else.
Sailfish are a plegic species, meaning highly migratory. They migrate about 5,000 miles a year. It makes sense they go from one historical feeding area to another, which may be several hundred miles from each other. Zihuatanejo is definitly one of these feeding areas.
The full moon period, due to gravitational pull, is when the tides are the highest, so I believe this is when the migratory bell goes off and they take off for a new area using the moon and the strong gravitational pull as a sort of guiding beacon. Once new fish have moved into the area and get settled down, they start actively feeding again.
Yellowfin Tuna: The big tuna (200 to 350 pounds) basically follow the same pattern as the marlin. Smaller tuna (to 60 pounds) are here year round. Live bait is the best method for getting them. Slow trolling a large mackerel or a 3 pound bonito will get a 200 pound plus tuna almost every time you can locate the school. Tuna is the one species that seems to be very active during the full moon period.
Roosterfish: The roosterfish here are huge. I have rarely caught a fish under 20 pounds. The average seems to be between 30 and 40 pounds. Several fish are caught each week at 50 pounds and a couple every year go 75 and 80 pounds.
The best times for rooster is late May through late December. However, they are here year round, because they are not a highly migratory species like yellowfin tuna or bill fish. Find the concentrations of fish, and you will get fish in any month. If I had to pick the slowest time of the year, I would say it would be March and April, whereas June, July, and November are probably the three best months of the year. The months of August through October can be hit hard with monsoon type rains. The debris carried out of the rivers, which are all up and down our coast, can reduce the clarity of the water, making for very tough conditions to catch a rooster.
Fly fishing is a real challenge because you generally get only one shot at a rooster. A sailfish can be brought back to the boat several times, but a rooster hits the bait once, and takes off. However, combine the hot jack crevalle action we get into while looking for the right rooster, and you can have a great day on the water.
Jack Crevalle: One of the most exciting types of fishing here on the central coast of Mexico is chasing these hard fighting fish. March, April and May are probably the best months of the year to find them. It does not matter whether you are using a fly rod or conventional gear. The excitement of the chase, the adrenalin rush when approaching a school of hard crashing jacks, the arm wrenching hookup, and the prolonged fight of a fish that does not know when to quit, makes for an incredible experience.
Jack Crevalle are a school fish. You find one, and the whole school will find you. They are incredibly aggressive when feeding, and it is not uncommon to have 5 or six at a time fighting to take your offering. Jacks are also experts at cornering bait fish against the beach or rock pinnacles. The mayhem that ensues is a spectacle you will not forget. Usually, the bait fish are driven into the shallow water against the beach. By taking away two dimensions of escape from their prey, the jacks charge in. And, the water will literally turn to white foam from the absolute furry of these feeding frenzies.
|Jack Crevalle action can also be excellent |
when fishing from the shore at Barra Potosi,
La Barrita, or Purto Vicente Guerrero
Supply of the live bait is very good, and only determined by the full moon or hard rains at night. They use gas lamps at night to attract the bait, and with a full moon, the bait becomes too scattered to catch efficiently. A hard rain and wind makes it too dangerous to go out after them.
Every panga has a live well, which holds about 2 dozen bait, so getting large quantities of sardines to use for chum is not an option. Most cruisers do not have a live well, and usually only troll dead bait. But, if you request a live well in advance, they can hook up a barrel and pump.
Dorado: Year round. They are most abundant in the heavy rain months of August and September (and often into October and November) because the weeds, trees, etc. are washed out of the rivers. This gives the dorado structure to identify with and will concentrate the smaller school sized fish.
In the other months of the year, the dorado are an incidental catch while trolling for sailfish. They are mature fish and travel as individuals or mating pairs. They will still identify to floating structure, such as a wooden pallet which has fallen off a ship. Having live bait on board is always the best ticket for these types of situations. But, normally they are free swimming and searching, just like the sailfish, and will readily take the same trolled baits the sailfish does.
November through June seem to be the best months for catching these larger adult fish. The average is between 20 and 25 pounds, but several fish are caught each week tipping the scales in the 45 to 55 pound range.
|Barracuda caught at night in December by Gord Roberts|
|Noe, on the panga Porpy|
Barracuda: Barracuda is a night fishing situation, and only under the full moon when the warm water is here. I have never seen a barracuda caught in the daytime. You usually leave the municipal pier about 6:00 in the evening and return about 2:00 in the morning. The barracuda are caught while trolling cut bait (usually a small sierra) with wire and a double hook setup. Most all the rock pinnacles in front of Ixtapa and the white rocks in front of Barra Potosi produce well.
Plus, with no contamination by corral, the greater barracuda we have here are outstanding eating. I compare them closely to wahoo.
The best times of the year are under the full moon of June through December. However, even in those months, if the water temperature is less than 80°, don’t waste your time or lose a good night’s sleep. They won’t be there.
Sierras: Sierras are Spanish mackerel. They do not fight as hard as the other inshore species like jack crevalle or black skipjack tuna, but are a blast on spin gear. Plus, the jacks and skipjacks are not considered to be table fare north of the border, but sierras are excellent eating. They are truly universal as far as ways to prepare them as they can be smoked, cooked as a fillet, cooked whole in garlic and butter, or eaten as ceviche.
They prefer cooler water so the best months for sierras are November through May.
Bottom Fishing: Within 25 miles in each direction of Zihuatanejo Bay, bottom fishing is not a very good option. There are so many hotels and restaurants; the demand for fresh fish is incredible. There is a day fleet of about 25 pangas, fishing at least 6 days a week, and another 30 panga night fleet. The close in areas have simply been fished out.
Other sights to see: From December through March we get humpback whales here to feed on the abundant shrimp in the inshore waters. They calve here, and when the calves are big enough, the whales then head back up to the Bearing Sea in Alaska to spend the summer months.
We have several species of sea turtles, which are seen on the open ocean year round. But, they are most predominant during the breeding season as they prepare to move onto our local beaches from May through October.
Sea snakes are also an unusual sight, but are quite common when the grasses and plants are swept out of the rivers in the summer months from the hard rains. They are almost always seen wherever there is floating organic debris.
Porpoise are seen all year round and from the inshore, to way out in the blue water. When you get into a huge pod of traveling porpoise, there well may be over a thousand of them. Spinner dolphin are also incredible to watch, and are usually encountered when chasing yellowfin tuna.