Cancún Fishing: The Complete Guide (2023)

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Cancún is known around the world as a vacation hotspot, thanks to its incredible beaches and vibrant nightlife. Because of this, you’ll find plenty of locals and visitors alike declaring, “After the sun, it’s time to have fun!” Head out on a Cancún fishing adventure, however, and you’ll soon discover that the on-land action almost pales in comparison to what you’ll find out on the water.

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Located on Mexico’s Riviera Maya, this sun-drenched city is perfectly positioned right along the migratory route of world-famous pelagic fish. It’s also home to the mighty Mesoamerican Reef, as well as a whole host of inshore inlets and lagoons. Cancún’s fishery is truly diverse, so no matter your angling know-how, you’ll find your perfect adventure!

With such a variety of hotspots to explore, it can be difficult to know exactly where to start. Don’t worry. Below, we’ve outlined our favorite species in the area, as well as where and how you can cast a line here. Read on and get ready to discover Cancún and the treasures that lie beneath its waters!

Top Catches in Cancún

With a wealth of angling opportunities to explore, it only makes sense that the sheer number of species you can target in Cancún could well fill a book. Narrowing it down into a handy list is no mean feat, but we’ve done the hard work for you! Read on to discover our “mustn’t-miss” catches in the area…

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It just wouldn’t feel right starting with any other species! This fantastic family of fish boasts world-famous members. There’s Blue Marlin, White Marlin, Sailfish, and Swordfish, all of which can be found lurking beneath Cancún’s waters. Hook yourself all four of these fish, and you’ll have earned yourself the bragging rights of a “Billfish Grand Slam.”

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It might sound like a tough challenge, but battling Billfish is actually so common here that local captains often implement a “Billfish hookup” rule at the dock. Yep, they don’t want you to return from your adventure without coming face-to-gills with at least one of these species!

You’ll generally only have to travel around 15 miles from shore before you start spotting the sails of these fish slicing through the water tops. Stock up on Bonito and Blue Runners for bait and troll waters anywhere up to 35 miles out. Here, you’ll truly be smack-dab in the middle of a Billfish playground.

Even newer fishermen who are still discovering their sea legs can cast a line for these beasts, thanks to the short journey time. What could be better than introducing your kids to the fun of fishing by going after one of the most impressive sea monsters out there?! Just make sure you plan your visit between March and August, when these fish really come out to play.

Mahi Mahi

It’s not just about Billfish when it comes to big game fishing in Cancún, though. You’ll also be able to test your skills against the magnificent Mahi Mahi. This photogenic hard-fighting fish can be found even closer to shore than its Billfish buddies!

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It thrives in the waters around the Mesoamerican Reef, which lies less than a mile from Cancún’s shorelines. This means that you can start trolling for your Dorado mere minutes after departing from the dock.

If you’re looking for the unbeatable combination of rod-bending action and tasty table fare, a Cancún Mahi Mahi fishing adventure has it all. This species is known around the world for its acrobatic leaps and speediness, as well as its delicious flavor. You’ll also get to take in some incredible sights around the reef – bringing along a camera is a must.

This fishery is brimming with Mahi from April through July, and anglers of all ages and skill levels can experience a slice of the action. The waters around the Mesoamerican Reef are calm, and you’ll reach the hotspots within ten minutes of departing the dock.

Rather than the elements, the only battle you’ll have on your hands is against the supersize Mahi that inhabit these fishing grounds!

King Mackerel

This species is more commonly known as “Kingfish” in these parts, and we totally understand why. It’s serious reef royalty. This regal fish rules the Mesoamerican Reef year-round, with Feb–Apr and the late summer months being especially plentiful.

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Not only is it abundant in these waters, but it grows to seriously impressive sizes. We’re talking up to 6 feet in length and 130 pounds in weight!The Kingfish doesn’t just have size going for it, either. It also puts up a pretty exciting battle at the end of a line, with spectacular runs and even the occasional leap out of the water.

You’ll be able to test your skills against this fish from a boat or the shoreline. Even if you’re still discovering your sea legs, you don’t have to miss out on hooking a King. More experience under your belt? A common way of targeting this fish from shore in Cancún is by fly fishing. You’ll definitely feel the action at the end of your line!

Fishing for Kings doesn’t come without a splash of danger, though. This species has some pretty impressive (and sharp!) teeth. Make sure you or your captain handle the catch carefully if you’re looking to bring it on board.

Snapper and Grouper

Where there’s a reef, there’s usually a whole host of Snapper and Grouper species lurking nearby. This is especially true of Cancún’s nearshore waters! The Mesoamerican Reef isn’t just home to huge toothy Kingfish, after all.

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It’s the perfect habitat for delicious bottom dwellers, and you’ll find a variety of Grouper and Snapper waiting to be hooked. All about freezer-filling on your angling adventure? Targeting these fish will make sure that you don’t leave empty handed!

So what varieties of fish are on offer here? Well, there’s the Cubera Snapper, for starters. This voracious feeder likes to chomp on anything from shrimp, to lobster, to Skipjack Tuna. Once it takes the bait, it likes to dive all the way down to bottom structure, providing a surprisingly intense run.

If you’re looking to reel in a beast (we’re talking around 40 pounds!), make sure you invest in some braided tackle to avoid breakage. You’ll come across Mullet and Yellow varieties, too.

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When it comes to Grouper, you’ll have the chance to cast a line for Dusky, Red, and Black varieties. Like Snapper, these fish love to lurk around underwater structure and reefs. Bottom fishing is the name of the game!

The mighty Goliath Grouper also inhabits these waters. Coming across one of these in its natural habitat is something that’ll definitely stick with you for a long time afterwards. Just make sure you pay attention to catch-and-release regulations regarding this monster.


Cancún’s inshore fishing opportunities are often overshadowed slightly by the incredible deep sea action on offer. We’re here to set the record straight! Yes, this locale is the perfect place to begin your beast-battling offshore excursion. However, it’s also a prime hotspot for anglers who prefer their action closer to land. It is home to a host of lagoons, inlets, and island flats, after all.

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There’s one species in particular that makes an inshore fishing trip in Cancún truly unmissable – Bonefish. Beloved for its tough-fighting spirit, this species puts up a serious fight at the end of a line. It’s the real definition of “Small, but mighty.” It’s also regularly accompanied by Tarpon and Permit. Hook all three, and you’ll be in for an Inshore Grand Slam!

If you want to hook Bonefish like the locals do, there’s only one approach to take – fly fishing. There’s nothing quite like poling these azure blue flats with a fly rod in hand, waiting for your target to make an appearance.

Using light tackle is also a popular method, as these fish generally reach about 4–6 pounds in weight. The lighter your tackle, the better you’ll experience the impressive fight this species gives!

How to Fish in Cancún

Charter Fishing

As Cancún’s fishing scene is so diverse, the best way to get the most out of it is by casting off alongside a local captain. Hop aboard a charter vessel, and you’ll be guided to the hottest spots for your target species. This local know-how will save you precious fishing time, and also increase your chances of hooking your dream catch.

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Looking to get that Billfish Grand Slam? Chances are you’ll be departing the dock on a serious fishing machine, decked out with plenty of rods, reels, outriggers, and other first-class fishing aids. It’s also common for captains to combine deep sea fishing with reef fishing. You’ll increase your chances of hooking a wider variety of species on just one trip.

More of an inshore enthusiast? As you’ll be exploring seriously shallow waters, your vessel will likely be a skiff or flats boat. These can easily navigate your chosen fishery without spooking your catch.

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Poling across these calm waters is a totally different experience to roaring off on a high-powered sports fishing vessel! No matter what type of fishing adventure you’re looking for, the sheer amount of charters on offer in Cancún means you’ll be able to experience it your way.

Surf Fishing

Cancún’s white sandy shorelines are the stuff dreams are made of. If your ideal fishing adventure here involves simply wandering down onto the beach and setting up your lines, we don’t blame you! Although it’s not quite that simple, there’s a whole variety of ways you can explore Cancún’s fishing scene without stepping foot on a boat.

Firstly, there are two bridges in the area to discover, Punta Calinda and Punta Nizuc. These are located right along the migratory route of hard-fighters such as Tarpon, Snook, and Snapper species. You’ll find plenty of local angling enthusiasts casting their lines around these locations, so it’s a great way to experience some authentic Cancún fishing, too.

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Looking to fish straight from the beach? Be aware that anglers aren’t allowed to fish within 250 meters of swimmers. As long as you’re willing to be flexible and keep an eye out for stray swimmers, you can pretty much cast a line from all along the shore! As with the bridges, you’ll usually find local anglers here, with the early morning hours being especially popular.

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Where to Fish in Cancún

We’ve sprinkled a few places of interest throughout this blog already, but below you’ll find our definitive list of the best spots to cast a line in Cancún. Without further ado, let’s find out where you should start your adventure…

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  • Isla Blanca and Isla Mujeres: If it’s flats fishing you’re after, head straight to either of these islands! Located around half an hour from Cancún itself, they’re home to species such as Tarpon, Bonefish, Permit, and Jack Crevalle, and are especially beloved by fly fishing enthusiasts.
  • Hotel Zone: Located right along the Nichupté lagoon, this area also provides access to the mighty Caribbean. It’s a prime spot for surf fishers, and you’ll find offshore charters departing from the docks and jetties here, too.
  • Mesoamerican Reef: Okay, so it might seem like we’re cheating by including an entire reef on this list, but how could we not?! Not only is it close to Cancún’s shore, but it’s home to some pretty impressive bottom-dwelling species. Hop aboard a charter from the Hotel Zone, and you’ll be fishing within minutes.

Rules and Regulations

So by now, we’re hoping that you know what species you want to catch and where you want to catch ‘em. All that leaves is one thing – the legalities of casting a line here!

Any angler fishing from a boat will need a valid Mexican fishing license, but if you’re casting off alongside a charter captain, this will usually be covered for you at a small additional cost. If it’s not, you can easily purchase it online from the GOB. If you’re fishing from shore, you don’t need to worry about a license – just grab your rods and reels and get ready to reel ‘em in!

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Some of the species you’ll be targeting are also subject to specific regulations. The daily bag limit on a Cancún fishing trip is 10 fish per angler, but it gets a bit complicated from there.

You can only keep five fish from a specific family, e.g. Bonefish, Snapper, Grouper. When it comes to Marlin, Sailfish, Swordfish, and Shark, you can only keep one fish, and it counts as half of your daily bag limit. You can keep two Mahi Mahi or Tarpon, and these count as half of your daily bag limit, too.

So if you want to keep one Marlin or two Mahi Mahi, and five Grouper varieties, you will have reached your maximum bag limit!

Cancún: The Treasure of the Caribbean

Cancún has many nicknames, and it only makes sense that we finish this blog with our personal favorite: “Cancún, the Treasure of the Caribbean.” After reading a run-down of the incredible angling opportunities on offer here, we’re hard-pressed to see how anyone could possibly disagree!

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From Marlin to Mahi Mahi and Bonefish to Billfish, these waters are filled with a whole treasure trove of underwater gems. All that’s left is to grab your rods and reels and get ready to discover them for yourself!

Have you ever been fishing in Cancún? What did you catch? Any tips or tricks you’d like to share? Let us know in the comments below!


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