San Carlos, Mexico



June 16, 2004, Chuck McReynolds, No Pangas Found For Guaymas, Mexico Fishing:

We didn't think twice about accepting my cousin's invitation to attend his wedding in Guaymas. We'd never been there, had always wanted to go there and this was the perfect opportunity.

Besides the wedding festivities, there was the other reason to attend, a chance to go dorado fishing.

Santa Rosalia in Baja, directly across the sea of Cortez from Guaymas, was having a good early summer dorado bite (around June 10, 2004) and I figured that the water at Guaymas would be equally productive, right? Wrong!

I planned to arrive in Guaymas, find the local panga fleet like they have at Santa Rosalia, Mulege and Loreto, strike a deal with some guide who looked like he wanted to fish, and then go out and catch a half dozen big fat dorado the day after the wedding. Right? Wrong again.

San Carlos is just a few miles South of Guaymas, and that's where most of the sport-fishers leave from. A dive shop came well-recomended and that was my first stop. "I want to hire the best guide and panga you have," I said to a proprietor who seemed to be both knowledgeable and pleasant.

"You fish in Baja, don't you?" he asked. "How did you know that?" I asked. "Because there aren't any pangas in San Carlos or Guaymas." he says.

He explained that the prevailing winds blow from the West and that a panga isn't enough of a boat to succeed in fighting the winds. Baja is protected from the winds by the land-mass of the Baja peninsula. He suggested that I get 6 or 8 others and that together we could rent a larger boat that could handle the blow. For maybe as little as a hundred bucks an hour, or more, depending on how big and powerful a boat I wanted to rent.

He continued to say that we would face a ride out of 30 or thereabouts miles before we'd see a dorado. Worse, within the last 4 weeks permission has been given to Mexican fishermen to go "long-lining" in the same area for sharks..but also tangled in the nets are "incidental" fish which include large numbers of dorado, marlin and other game fish. "They're raping the seas!" he said with disgust.

I can tell he's the kind of guy who'll work with you to provide the kind of a trip you want. Just so long as it isn't a panga.

For those who may be thinking about a trip to Guaymas, here are the highlights:

Distance: From Pasadena to Guaymas, it's not much different from going to Santa Rosalia. Two long days behind the wheel, going either place.

Roads: MUCH better in Mexico than in Baja. It's 4-lane, divided highway (2 lanes in either direction) every inch of the way. No vados. No curva peligrosas. No potholes. Long stretches at 100 clicks per hour maximum. And there ARE Mexican highway patrol cars with radar. I understand that they'll "give" you the same 10 percent over you get in California, but much beyond that is a ticket.

The bureaucratic process: After crossing the border at Nogales, one gets well out of town before reaching a mandatory stopping place. At this "immigration and taxation center" one progresses from one to the next to the next in a series of small buildings. At the first one, you get a visitor's permit. This is identical to the permit one is supposed to have if you go farther into Baja than Ensenada, and is free.

The next building is a tax permit for the car. If you stay in the state of Sonora, which includes Guaymas, you pay NO vehicle tax. But you MUST get a sticker for the windshield and a written agreement which you sign that PROMISES you will return the car, the windshield sticker and the written agreement when you return and you MUST return the same way you arrived, through Nogales.

They don't tell you that the back of the window sticker is covered with super glue and by the time you get to the car to try to stick it on, it has already stuck to the promissory agreement, your fingers and your shirt and refuses to come off any of them. Later, trying to remove it from the windshield so you can return it to them is almost impossible, but it must be done.

They will NOT issue the car sticker unless you have a visitor's permit. They won't let your car leave the parking lot to return to the freeway unless it has a window sticker.

The next two buildings are optional. One is where you can exchange dollars for pesos, the last one is where you can buy car insurance.

It's actually not a bad arrangement, there were plenty of English speaking people at every station, the waits in line were short and everybody behind the counters was pleasant and efficient. Can this be Mexico?

Places: After leaving Nogales, the next town is Magdalena de Kino. It's a charming little town and in the town square is an enclosed room maybe 20 feet square and inside are the remains of father Kino. You can't go into the room which is sealed to the atmosphere, but there are portholes you can look into to see the good padre. I had expected him to be in a fancy coffin, lying on animal skins, dressed in satin robes. Not so. He looked like some lady who was working in her yard had found him and she had taken her trowel and scooped the dirt away from him, all around him. There he was, mostly all bones, lying in the dirt. It didn't seem very dignified. A plaque said the viewing building had been provided by Magdalena's sister city, Temple City, California. That's just the sort of thing we upper class Pasadenans would expect from the low-lifers in Temple City.

Next down the road is Hermosillo. This is a BIG DEAL! Over a hunnert thou residents, many high rise office buildings, fancy hotels, snooty restaurants. The signs of prosperity are everywhere. Not your average Mexican pueblo by any means.

Then it's San Carlos. San Carlos is a little like Cabo, tho' not near as big. Cantinas up and down the main drag, elbow to elbow. It has a magnificent yacht harbor filled with big expensive boats. Just outta town in the rock mountains above the harbor is the same kind of ritzy housing development as there is in Cabo. it's not called the Pedregal, but it's the same idea. San Carlos will soon be the next major destination place for gringos. Mark my words.

Guaymas is down the road 10 miles from San Carlos. It's an old town, mostly a commercial fishing and freight terminal. It has some relatively well-kept neighborhoods, but it's mostly crummy. Not as crummy as Santa Rosalia, but in the same ballpark.

So, I can say I've been to Guaymas. I'm glad I went, but I probably won't go back.

(See "Mexico Fishing News" online for current fishing reports, photos, weather, and water temperatures from San Carlos and other major Mexican sportfishing areas. Vacation travel articles, fishing maps and seasonal calendars, and fishing related information for San Carlos may be found at's main San Carlos page.