Tucked away at the southern tip of Mexico's Baja California peninsula, the region of Los Cabos is a true angler's paradise. This unique area where the Pacific Ocean meets the Sea of Cortez offers some of the most legendary big-game fishing grounds in the world. With abundant marine life, great fishing season weather, and a well-developed sports fishing industry, Los Cabos has rightly earned a reputation as a prime destination for fishing enthusiasts globally.

The twin towns of Cabo San Lucas and San Jose del Cabo provide an idyllic home base for fishing adventures. Dramatic rocky outcroppings, pristine golden beaches, and the iconic El Arco rock formation create a picturesque backdrop as fishing boats depart the marinas each morning. On a typical day at sea, anglers have the surreal experience of casting lines just miles from the chic resorts and lively downtowns. Many people move here for just that privilege.

Fishing in Los Cabos at sunrise

Whether you’re a seasoned billfish angler or a curious newbie, here we answer a few questions about Cabo’s world-class sportfishing tradition, hooking you up with answers about the history of fishing in Los Cabos, what kind of fish you can catch, where to get a fishing license, how to book a fishing charter, where the best places to fish are, where to find restaurants that cook your catch, and when the best fishing season is. 

What is the history of fishing in Los Cabos?

While the sun-soaked resort towns of Los Cabos have risen to global fame for world-class golf, beaches, and luxury living in recent decades, the true heart and soul of this region lies in its incredibly rich fishing heritage stretching back centuries. It’s where the Los Cabos fishing charters of today first began.

Long before the first luxury hotel or residential development, the story of sportfishing in Los Cabos begins with the indigenous Pericú people of the Southern Baja peninsula. Using materials like sea turtle shells, wood, and cactus fibers painstakingly woven together, they created advanced traps, hooks, lines and even early boat designs specifically evolved for the region's currents and conditions.

Old fishing in Baja California Sur

After the Spanish explorer Hernan Cortez's ships first arrived in 1535 and dubbed the region "Las Californias," word quickly spread of the marine wealth surrounding the pristine capes and inlets. Inspired by reports of calm bays teeming with whales, pearls and schools of fish "so dense they stumbled the ships," colonists and missionaries soon began establishing California's earliest European settlements in Los Cabos. 

From newly erected missions like San Jose del Cabo (1730), these outposts offered Spain's galleon trade routes supplies and fresh water while also pioneering commercial fishing, whaling and pearling industries that kickstarted global economies around the cape's riches.

 

While subsistence needs initially drove fishing interests, curious anglers soon became captivated by the sheer size, strength and aerobatics of the large pelagic species concentrated in Los Cabos' waters. Tales of anglers hooking what they called "pez toros" or "bull fish" too massive to reel in began fueling a worldwide sporting obsession with big game fishing. 

During the mid-20th century Golden Age of sportfishing Los Cabos solidified itself as the mecca of big game fishing, drawing the era's greatest innovators, obsessives and high-rolling celebrities. 

Old Cabo San Lucas, Mexico

Names like Ernest Hemingway, John Wayne, Bing Crosby and Desi Arnez pioneered putting the sport on the celebrity map by hosting lavish events from Cabo's rugged outposts such as Rancho Las Cruces near La Paz, Rancho Buena Vista on the East Cape near Los Barriles, and San Jose’s Hotel Palmilla. This was long before a paved road down the peninsula existed, so anglers often flew into primitive airstrips on fishing safaris, embarking on daring adventures in the hopes of hooking into the region’s legendary billfish, tuna and other abundant species. 

In Cabo San Lucas you can still see the vestiges of a former tuna cannery from days past when commercial fishing drove the area’s economy. Many longtime residents worked in the cannery which operated from 1927 through 1980. That was when the  Mexican government began focusing on sportfishing rather than commercial fishing to attract tourism to the remote destination. 

 

What fish can you catch in Los Cabos?

The fishing in these waters is as diverse as it is rewarding. From light tackle and fly fishing to extreme battles with massive heavyweight species, fishing in  Los Cabos has you covered.

Billfish are understandably the crown jewel. The warm and nutrient-rich waters are a prime migratory path for multiple marlin species. Blue, black, and striped marlin all take seasonal residence offshore during peak seasons. Skilled anglers have clashed with true monsters over 1,000 lbs here. But even a run at a feisty striped marlin in the 150-300 lb class is enough to get the heart racing.

Los Cabos Fish types

Sailfish are also a huge draw, although less common than marlin. These sleek and speedy predators are pursued around inshore and offshore banks mainly during the winter sportfishing season. Their explosive surface strikes and long powerful runs make sailfish an immense challenge on light lines. Snap a quick photo and return these beauties to the sea for another run.

While billfish reign supreme for big-game hunters, there's plenty more to angle for. Dorado (mahi mahi) are a beautiful and hard-fighting fish found year-round. Their brilliant hues and lightning runs make them a delight to tussle with. Yellowfin tuna are another prized catch, with their brawn and stamina frequently testing the fortitude of anglers to the limit. Look for boils of baitfish, circling birds and schools of dolphins in order to find your tuna school.

 

Wahoo, roosterfish, and various trevally species also lurk in the waters and provide blistering action. Wahoo especially are a coveted species. Lightning-fast and with razor-sharp teeth they are a challenge to land but one of the most delicious of Los Cabos’ game fish. Legally, restaurants are prohibited from serving sportfish species, so to sample wahoo you’ll need to catch your own. 

 

Do you need a fishing license in Los Cabos?

If you are chartering a boat or just going along for the ride while others fish, you need to have a valid fishing license. Sometimes the charter company will provide them for anglers, other times you need to get your own. If not available dockside, licenses for periods ranging from one day to one year can be purchased online for a modest fee.

 

How do you book a fishing charter? 

Much of fishing in Los Cabos’s appeal stems from the excellent infrastructure and full-service fishing operations based here. With dozens of professional charter outfits to choose from, anglers have virtually limitless options, including luxury sportfishing yachts equipped for extended offshore excursions.

Baja Fishing Team

The captains and crews take immense pride in their local fishing knowledge and put visiting anglers on fish year after year. The boats are usually modern, maintained to the highest standards, and equipped with top-of-the-line gear, fish-finding electronics, and all the needed amenities.

Many charters include an experienced deck crew to assist with baiting, landing fish, advice, photography, and pretty much everything else so the anglers can focus solely on catching. At the end of each trip, professional fish filet services make sure anglers can take fileted, vacuum-sealed catches back home, although check with your airline about regulations on flying with fish. Oftentimes you’ll need to transport your fish in a hard-sided cooler..

 

You can also charter smaller boats, like pangas, which lack some of the amenities of more expensive options, but get you out on the water and onto the fish with equal success. 

Pangas have no restrooms or other creature comforts, although most have a shade structure. Their smaller fiberglass bodies powered by outboards can make for an at times bumpy ride, but for many this only adds to the adventure a full day on the water brings. Often panga captains have been fishing these waters for generations.

Head down to the marina in Cabo San Lucas or Puerto Los Cabos and ask around, or do your research online when choosing a charter company. Trips are typically six hours or more and usually leave the harbor at first light, so be prepared to be on the water at the crack of dawn. Sunrises from a boat are simply epic.

Fishing boat

Whatever you do, don’t bring a banana on board. Fishermen are notoriously superstitious and bananas are thought to bring bad luck. It’s not uncommon for a captain to refuse to leave the dock if a banana is brought aboard.

Be prepared to tip your boat crew in cash, and make sure you’re clear on what is covered in the price of a charter. Sometimes bait and the fileting of your catch is at an extra charge. 

What is the big fishing tournament in Los Cabos?

Every October, the picturesque marinas of Los Cabos, Mexico come alive as the world's premier marlin tournament takes center stage - the legendary Bisbee's Black & Blue. This "main event" of sportfishing draws hundreds of the most elite teams from across the globe to compete for millions in prize money.

Bisbee Tournament in Los Cabos

Now over 40 years running, the Black & Blue has grown into an extravagant festival celebrating the supreme challenge of big-game marlin fishing as much as the sport itself. The tournament's frenzy plays out each fall with a lively energy electrifying the air at the bustling marinas. Massive luxury sportfishing yachts begin converging from near and far, meticulously prepared for the ultimate showdown against the hefty denizens lurking offshore.

Over the years, there have been numerous monumental catches cementing the Black & Blue's legendary status. In 1988, Bobby Brown's 1,223-pound black marlin obliterated the existing tournament record and remains one of the most epic big-game catches of all time. In 2006, the Black & Blue had its biggest overall cash payout of $4,165,960. In 2022, Bisbee’s handed out three checks of more than $1 million each, making for a total of $11,651,300 in prize money awarded that year, shattering an international tournament record.

The electric energy surrounding the Black & Blue builds for weeks leading up to the main event with an entire tournament series happening throughout October. The billfishing action and energy reaches a fever pitch during the highly-anticipated Black & Blue days themselves, although the other two tournaments, the East Cape Offshore Tournament in Buenavista near Los Barriles, and the Los Cabos Offshore Tournament, or “Little Bisbee’s.”

Lots of fish in Los Cabos

Spectators pack the marina to catch glimpses of the monster marlins being hauled up to the scales amidst roaring cheers. After the scales finally close and gigantic checks are dispersed, the tournament transitions into a full-on Mexican celebration. This is when award ceremonies, music, dancing and often plentiful beverages take over for nights of unbridled revelry and carousing. Anglers work hard and play even harder.

The Black & Blue also has an important legacy as a pioneer in marlin conservation. It established standards for safe catch-and-release tactics while educating others about responsible big-game angling. Teams adhering to stringent principles can earn major "release" bonuses by choosing not to harvest their prized marlins. Many teams have walked away winners while promoting preservation as well.

Where are the best places to fish in Los Cabos?

The Cabo San Lucas marina is a hub of activity midday, with throngs of onlookers gathered to admire the day’s catch. Knowledgeable locals will proudly tell you every detail about a prized marlin brought to the scales that day and where it was caught. “San Jaime Bank,” “Golden Gate,” “Cabo Falso” and “Santa Maria Bank” are often fruitful spots depending on the season and ocean temperatures. 

 

Puerto Los Cabos is also a world-class marina located in the traditional fishing village of La Playita just across the bridge from San Jose del Cabo. Both mega yachts and local fishing fleets call Puerto Los Cabos home, and it offers closer proximity to prime spots such as “1150,” “Iman” and “Gordo Banks.”

Will local restaurants cook the fish I catch?

In Cabo San Lucas, world-famous restaurants like Edith's, Baja Cantina, and Hacienda Cocina y Cantina serve up the day's freshest catches in every style from traditional Mexican preparations to exquisite fusion twists. 

Cook your fish

Local restaurants in the tiny port town at Puerto Los Cabos in San Jose are also happy to cook what you hook for a modest fee, and you can choose how you would like your fish prepared. From sashimi to al mojo de ajo, there’s nothing better than dining on your own catch.

 

 

When is the best fishing season?

While the weather in Los Cabos is amenable all year round, there are defined peak fishing seasons that savvy anglers try to plan around. These tend to align with major migratory patterns and optimal water conditions.

Summer (July - September) is considered a shoulder season when good action for species like tuna, dorado, wahoo, and inshore species can still be had. But it's also low season for tourism which means more availability and better pricing. The heat can be relentless so dress sparingly and accordingly and don’t forget the sunscreen.

 

Come October, things really start ramping up. The kick-off of the world-renowned Bisbee’s Black & Blue tournament sees elite teams descending to capitalize on the spectacular marlin action and multi-million-dollar prizes. Peak marlin and tuna bite continues right through the winter until March or April.

January through March are particularly popular and productive times. The winter climate is perfect, and full conservation measures are in effect for carefully managed catch-and-release of sailfish and other billfish. Los Cabos regularly ranks among the best destinations worldwide for the number of billfish caught and released during this season when dynamite bite windows happen almost daily offshore.

 

April through June offer a final window for great fishing for migratory species before the slower summer period hits. Tournaments featuring species like tuna, dorado, and wahoo take place. Toward July, the waters begin quieting down as the fish follow food sources and cooler temps northward. But this cycle starts all over again come October with the peak seasons.

 

Whether it's battling a 700-lb beast offshore or seeing who can boat the most tuna in a day, the pursuit of fish on these fertile Los Cabos waters is never short of exhilarating. 

With prime fishing grounds, a deep-rooted fishing culture, and phenomenal hospitality and infrastructure - it's no surprise the area has become hallowed ground for anglers from around the globe. Those who experience the adrenaline-packed action are forever spoiled, hooked on fishing and keep coming back for more. Picturing the electric moment of an epic striper detonating on a rigged ballyhoo instantly explains the obsession with fishing in Los Cabos.