Sportfishing is excellent off Puerto Vallarta, and fisherfolk have landed monster marlin well over 500 pounds. Surf casting from shore nets snook, roosters, and jack crevalles. Hire a panga (skiff) to hunt for Spanish mackerel, sea bass, amberjack, snapper, bonito, and roosterfish on full- or half-day trips within the bay. Pangas can be hired in the traditional fishing villages of Mismaloya and Boca de Tomatlán, just south of town; in the Costalegre towns of La Manzanilla and Barra de Navidad; and in the north, at El Anclote and Nuevo Corral del Risco, Punta Mita.
Yachts are best for big-game fishing: yellowfin tuna; blue, striped, and black marlin; and dorado. Hire them for 4 to 10 hours, or overnight. Catch-and-release of billfish is encouraged. If you don't want to charter a boat, you can also join a party boat. Most sportfishing yachts are based at Marina Vallarta; only a few call home the marina at Paradise Village, in Nuevo Vallarta. The resort hotels of the Costalegre and Punta Mita arrange fishing excursions for their guests. Bass fishing at Cajón de Peña, about 1½ hours south of Vallarta, nets 10-pounders on a good day.
Most captains and crews are thoroughly bilingual, at least when it comes to boating and fishing.
Licenses are required; however, a new set of regulations requires anglers to buy their fishing licenses ahead of time via a super-confusing Internet and bank-deposit system. Since boat owners are the ones (heavily) fined if there are unlicensed anglers aboard, you can leave it to the captain to make the necessary arrangements.
Prices generally hover around $600–$650 for six hours, $600–$800 for eight hours, and $1,000–$1,200 for a 10-hour trip. A longer trip is recommended for chasing the big guys, as it takes you to prime fishing grounds like El Banco and Corbeteña. Pangas (skiffs) usually accommodate up to four clients and yachts, 4 to 10. Party boats start at $140 per person for an eight-hour day. Drinking water is generally included in the price; box lunches and beer or soda may be sold separately or included; sometimes it's BYOB. Pangas and superpangas, the latter with shade and a head of some sort, charge $175–$250 for four hours. You'll obviously save lots of money by going with the local guys in their often fast, but not luxurious, pangas.
CharterDreams. Although most fisherfolk choose to leave around the smack of dawn, you set your own itinerary with this company. Excursions range from trips with one to three people for bass fishing to cruises with up to 12 people aboard luxury yachts. CharterDreams also offers whale-watching and private sailing, sightseeing, or snorkeling tours. Marina Las Palmas II, Locales 1, Marina Vallarta, Puerto Vallarta, 48354. 322/221–0690. www.charterdreams.com..
Gerardo Kosonoy. For fishing excursions in and around Barra de Navidad, at the southern end of the Costalegre, contact Sr. Kosonoy. He speaks excellent English and has low hourly rates. Alternatively, you can round up another fisherman with a panga from one of the two large fishing co-ops on the lagoon side of town. There's usually at least one representative hoping for clients at the water-taxi dock. Gerardo and his compadres charge 400 pesos (just shy of $30 at this writing) per hour for one to four passengers. There's a three-hour minimum. For fishing close to the shore, the price can be split among up to six anglers. Puerto Vallarta. 315/355–5739; 315/354–2251 cell. firstname.lastname@example.org.
Fishing with Carolina. This Canadian expat has been sending out anglers for 25 years. Party-boat fishing is $150. Charter your own four-passenger boat to fish in the bay; $400 covers a four-hour trip, or pay a bargain $600 for eight hours. To access the farthest locations, plan on 12 hours and about $1,000. Terminal Marítima, Los Peines Pier, Marina Vallarta, Puerto Vallarta, 48333. 322/224–7250. www.fishingwithcarolina.com..
Mismaloya Divers. Do you remember the seductive-looking divers in Night of the Iguana? Well, their progeny might be among the local guys of this outfit. Panga trips here go for $175 for four hours, a bit more for longer trips. Road to Mismaloya Beach, Mismaloya, 49421. 322/228–0020.
Vallarta Tour and Travel. Captain Peter Vines can accommodate eight fisherfolk with top-of-the-line equipment, including the latest electronics, sonar, radar, and two radios. Rates are reasonable (four hours $400, six hours $500, eight hours $600, 12 hours $800). Transportation from your hotel is included in the full-day bass-fishing expedition to Cajón de Peña; clients should call a couple weeks ahead to schedule this trip to make sure the bass are running. Marina Las Palmas II, Local 4, in front of Dock B, Marina Vallarta, Puerto Vallarta, 48354. 322/294–6240 cell; 877/301–2058 from U.S. and Canada.
Sailfish and dorado are abundant practically year-round (though dorado drop out a bit in early summer and sailfish dip slightly in spring).
Winter: bonito, dorado, jack crevalle, sailfish, striped marlin, wahoo
Spring: amberjack, jack crevalle, grouper, mackerel, red snapper
Summer: grouper, roosterfish, yellowfin tuna
Fall: black marlin, blue marlin, sailfish, striped marlin, yellowfin tuna, wahoo