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Mexico Surf Fishing Licenses



By Gene Kira, November 17, 2003, as published in Western Outdoor News:

My recent column about "Mexican fishing license games" seems to have stirred up a hornet's nest of email angst in the outer reaches of Mexico's sportfishing areas.

Some sport fishing operations wrote to express a fervent "muchas gracias" for pointing out that some of their competitors either don't charge for licenses, or they charge for them but pocket the money, and thus have an unfair advantage.

Some were also gratified--off the record--that mention was made of crooked Conapesca officials who extract steady mordida from sport fishing operators by making life difficult for them, or threatening to do so. These officials can make life very difficult indeed, by suddenly deciding, for instance, that some poor S.O.B.'s panga needs a legal "matricula" number, even though it hasn't had one for the past twenty years and nobody else has ever had one either.

This kind of mordida-inspired abuse is rarely exposed, because local people are afraid to speak out, so the victims simply pay and suffer in silence.

A couple of operations, however, were more than a bit ticked off that anyone would mention their "cooperation" with the local Conapesca official, who was doing everybody a great service, they said, by basically doing nothing at all and staying out of the way.

But the loudest email hue and cry was from people irate or confused over my comment about fishing licenses for surf fishing.

Amigos, please note: I did not say you are legally required to have a Mexican license for surf fishing, even though I strongly recommend that you do have one. Here's what the column said:

"...anyone who fishes in Mexico should have a genuine license, and that includes fishing from shore..."

As far as I know, a fishing license is not legally required for sport fishing "from land" in Mexico.

So why recommend one?

The simple reason is that you never know what the local Conapesca official--or somebody posing as such--is going to do. As I said in the aforementioned column, Conapesca's enforcement of fishing regulations in Mexico is "wildly unpredictable."

As clear proof of this, consider the daily "limit" on dorado in Baja Sur, which has been quoted to me as 2, 3, 5, 10, or a "reasonable" number of fish, depending on whom you ask. (In case you're wondering, the correct answer is "2.")

Twice, I have been asked to show a license when shore fishing in remote areas of Baja, and both times it was quite clear that mordida was the objective. For me, having a Mexican fishing license in my wallet neutralized the situation immediately, but others have reported forking over the cash, or in one case, an ice chest full of fish.

Yes, it is true that you could make an issue of it, and probably prevail, with various levels of delay and hassle, but really, I prefer always to have my annual license in possession and be done with it cleanly and on the spot.

With U.S. officials now sometimes asking to see Mexican licenses at the border, this is another reason to take the simple way out. If questions were asked, I don't know if "shore fishing" would be an acceptable justification for returning to the U.S. with a nice ice chest of white seabass, snapper, sierra, jacks, or whatever--but no Mexican fishing license. Frankly, I really don't care, either. It's easier to just have a license, ain't it?

So, to be clear, once and for all, the most current Mexican sport fishing regulations I've seen say that no license is required when fishing from land. However, regardless of what the regulations say, and whether or not it is legally required, I still think it is a very good idea to always carry a license, when fishing by any means in Mexico, due to unpredictable enforcement and a possible need to show a license upon return to the U.S.

And that, as Forrest Gump once said, is all I have to say about that.

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