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Baja Fish Bag Limit Number Games



By Gene Kira, May 3, 2004, as orginally published in Western Outdoor News:

In this job, you read a whole bunch of Baja and Mexico fish counts and fish reports every week, and I’m often in a dither about how to react to some of the numbers that come in, when compared to official Mexican fish bag limits.

For example: “...12 dorado for two fishermen,” “...15 dorado and one marlin for three fishermen,” 10 dorado for two fishermen,” etc.

These particular counts happen to come from two well-known Baja fleets, and the point is that nobody--including the clients, captains, or owners--seemed to know and/or care that the daily Mexican sportfishing bag limit for dorado is two (2) fish.

So many of these excessive reports have been coming in lately, I decided to take a sneaky little survey last week, just to see how much we Baja fish folks are paying attention to any kind of numbers.

In the very first sentence of last week’s column, I blatantly inserted the innocent-looking phrase: “...the little five-letter word ‘ganion.’” Since the word “ganion” actually has six letters (go ahead, count ’em), not five, I figured that would surely generate plenty of emails from Western Outdoor News’ many alert readers, who are normally so quick to point out the slightest misplaced dot.

Well...out of more than 100,000 weekly readers of Western Outdoor News, I received a grand total of only one complaint (Thank you! Barry Woodward of Yuma, Ariz.!).

Okay, okay, that don’t prove nuthin, right?

True, but in the interest of those .001 percent of readers who do pay attention to numbers, here are some possibly interesting ones related to your Baja fishing activities and to Mexico fishing in general:

Zero--The number of times I have had my fish counted by a Sagarpa official.

Zero--The number of giant squid you are officially allowed to take in Mexico.

Zero--The amount of live bait you are officially allowed to use (unless you are fishing in a tournament with a special permit).

Two--The number of very fast-growing dorado you are allowed to keep per day.

(But) Five--The number of very slow-growing and now quite rare giant black sea bass you are allowed per day.

Four--The maximum number of hooks allowed on a Lucky Joe rig, or any other multi-hook rig.

One--The number of lines in the water allowed per angler.

Two--The number of licenses you may need at Cabo San Lucas (if you already own an annual license, you still need to buy another one with a “local stamp” on it, whatever that is, according to a few locals).

Unknown--The number of fish a licensed sportfishing captain is legally allowed to catch, if any, in addition to his client’s.

Unlimited--The number of fish a Mexican sport angler is allowed to catch (according to some Mexicans, hah!).

Very Important Note: Some of these numbers actually come from the printed regulations, and others come from local anecdotes only. All numbers are usually ignored anyway, but it should be remembered that they may nevertheless be subject to sudden, Gestapo-like enforcement, at a moment’s notice. As a safe practice, I always have my annual fishing license, I always stay within the printed bag limits, and I almost always follow the other printed regulations (although I’ve never been such a stickler as to cut hooks off a Lucky Joe rig, and I neither would I troll with only one rod when fishing solo).

Unfortunately, many of these bag limit numbers--and a plethora of others related to sport fishing in Mexico--are so nonsensical, nobody, not even Sagarpa, pays any attention to them. After many inquiries, I have yet to receive any explanation from Sagarpa about such things as the logic of dorado versus black sea bass limits, the almost universal use of live bait, and fish limits for Mexican sport fishing captains.

Really, you get the distinct impression that nobody at Sagarpa knows anything at all about sportfishing, and maybe that’s why we get such crazy, crazy numbers out of Mexico City.

(Related Baja California, Mexico, articles and reports may be found at's main Baja California information page. See weekly fishing news, photos, and reports from the major sportfishing vacation areas of Mexico including the Baja California area in "Mexico Fishing News.")