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Playa del Carmen might make you think of ancient Mayan ruins, all-inclusive resorts, and endless nights of partying (as well as the headaches that come with one-too-many shots of tequila!). If you’re an angler, however, you might be clued into the more hidden side of this tourist town. And if you’re not? Don’t worry. We’ll share the secret with you: A Playa del Carmen fishing adventure offers up its own slice of sun-drenched escapism!
So what does fishing in Playa del Carmen have to offer? Well, it used to be a fishing village, for starters. It’s definitely held onto this angling heritage throughout the years. It’s also located right opposite Cozumel, which is a favored hotspot in its own right. What’s truly magical, however, is how this island affects the local waters.
It effectively “channels” the offshore migratory routes of some world-famous big game players right past Playa del Carmen’s shorelines. As well as being an offshore utopia, this town also provides direct access to the Great Mayan Reef. In addition, keen fly fishers can take advantage of ample angling opportunities from the shore.
With so many places to explore, you’re probably ready to start packing your rods and reels right away! Read on and get ready to plan your perfect adventure…
Top Species in Playa del Carmen
A Billfish Bonanza
With pelagic-filled offshore fishing grounds located a mere 5 minutes from the shoreline, it only feels right to start our list with some mighty Billfish species. Playa del Carmen is a mecca for deep sea anglers looking to reel in their very own “Billfish Grand Slam.” This includes a combination of Sailfish, White Marlin, Swordfish, or Blue Marlin.
During May and June, these species infiltrate the waters. It’s the prime time to come test your skills against some big game beasts. However, this isn’t the only time you can battle Billfish – they’re available in these waters year-round.
All of these fish put up an impressive battle at the end of a line. The excitement starts from the moment you begin trolling. There’s nothing quite like spotting the sail of your chosen target slicing through the waters! From there, you’ll likely experience lightning-speed runs, acrobatic leaps, and plenty of rod-bending action.
There’s nothing stopping newbies from testing their skills (and wits) by battling Billfish. If you hop aboard a local charter, your captain will be able to tailor the trip to your needs, and lend a helping hand whenever it’s necessary.
As the journey to the Billfish battlegrounds is so short, even families with little ones can give it a try. After all, what better introduction to fishing is there than hooking one of these bragworthy beasts?
From the most hard-fighting sea creatures to the most vicious, next on our list is the Barracuda. And not just any Barracuda! We’re talking about the Great variety. It lives up to its name not just in size, but in the angling action it provides.
These toothy predators are probably most well-known for their ferocious bites, as well as their sheer speed beneath the waters. In addition to these hard-fighting qualities, something else that makes this species popular in Playa del Carmen is availability. Barracuda fishing is excellent all throughout the year. No matter when you visit, chances are you’ll come across this feisty fish.
Younger, smaller species lurk around the Great Mayan Reef, whereas larger varieties join big game species further offshore. Depending on where you want to fish, you’ll be able to try out a range of techniques, including bottom fishing and trolling.
This sharp-fanged species might seem scary, but don’t let that put you off – especially if you’re in it for the numbers. The sheer abundance of ‘Cudas in these waters means that they’re the perfect target if you want an impressive number of hookups to talk about.
Just make sure you use heavier, braided tackle, especially if you’re going after bigger varieties. You don’t want one of these beasts to chomp through your line as you’re reeling it in!
The underwater canyon just off Playa del Carmen’s coastline might be best-known as a Billfish hotspot. However, t’s also home to another big game player – the Mahi Mahi.
This brightly-colored bedazzling fish is the perfect opponent if you want your angling adventure to include both an impressive fight and tasty table fare. Most local restaurants in Playa del Carmen will happily cook and serve up your Mahi to you, too. It’s he perfect reward after a rod-bending battle!
You’ll first start to come across this species around the Great Mayan Reef. Nothing quite beats spotting the stunning shimmers of your Mahi’s scales beneath the water just before it bites. From there, you’ll be treated to acrobatic leaps, incredibly fast runs, and a real test of your skills and strength.
This doesn’t mean that only hardened anglers can engage in battle with this fish, though. The waters around the Great Mayan Reef are generally calm, and the incredibly short journey out to the Mahi hotspots means that newer anglers can join in on the fun, too. Although you’ll find this fish biting in Playa del Carmen year-round, April through July is the most plentiful season.
It’s not just Barracuda and Mahi that can be found lurking around the Great Mayan Reef. As well as Wahoo and a variety of tasty Snapper and Grouper species, they’re also joined by a fish that’s large, powerful, and provides plenty of awesome game fishing opportunities. Yep, we’re talking about the Amberjack!This fish strikes hard, pulls fast, and will test your arm muscles by engaging in deep and forceful dives to the bottom of the water.
Even better, you’ll get to implement a variety of techniques to battle this beast. Looking to try out some methods other than trolling? This is the way to do it! Jigging is growing more popular in Playa del Carmen, and it’s the perfect way to lure an Amberjack into biting.
This fish also happens to be a voracious feeder, and will chomp at any bait fish you choose to attach to the end of your line. Mackerel is an especially effective lure if you’re plumbing the depths around the Great Mayan Reef. Head out any time between September to March, and you’ll likely be surrounded by an abundance of Amberjacks!
…And Something for Our Fly Fishing Fans!
Looking to target something a little closer to home? As is the case throughout Riviera Maya, the most common way of casting a line in shallow waters here is by fly fishing. So what exactly can you hook?
Because of Playa del Carmen’s overwhelming popularity with tourists, snorkelers, and beachgoers, the best fly fishing opportunities (and fish!) can actually be found on nearby Cozumel island. Head to this island’s northern flats and you’ll find three lagoons, which are home to a yearly supply of Bonefish.
They’re also teeming with Permit and Tarpon, which means one thing. Hook all three, and you’ll earn yourself the bragging rights of an Inshore Grand Slam! If that’s not enough to whet your appetite, you’ll also find Snapper, Triggerfish, and even Snook to try your skills against.
How to Fish in Playa del Carmen
No matter whether you’re looking to troll offshore waters, plumb the depths of the reef, or test your fly fishing skills on the flats, the most popular way to explore Playa del Carmen’s diverse fishing scene is aboard a local charter.
Thanks to its fishing history and bustling tourism scene, there’s an abundance of experienced captains waiting to help you explore these waters – no matter your age or skill level.
Head to the Great Mayan Reef and beyond, and you’ll likely be departing from one of the marinas located on Playa del Carmen’s shoreline. Chances are you’ll be hopping aboard a fully-decked-out sportfishing machine, rigged with all the gear you could possibly need.
Looking to patrol the flats instead? Most captains run trips on skiff or flats boats, which are perfect for navigating these shallow waters – and spotting your target fish, of course!
Love fishing but looking to take things up a notch? You’ll be thrilled to discover that an increasingly popular way of exploring Playa del Carmen’s angling action is by spearfishing.
Often described locally as “hunting underwater,” this method allows you to get back to basics. Explore the habitat of your chosen target up close, and really take matters into your own hands. It’s a must for thrill-seekers and nature lovers alike!
You’ll generally be exploring the Great Mayan Reef, which lies a mere couple of minutes from the town’s shoreline, and is home to a whole host of incredible fish. The species you’ll mainly be targeting include Wahoo, Barracuda, Trevallies, Grouper, and Snapper, as well as other reef dwellers.
You’ll find plenty of guides focusing on this technique, and they cater to a huge range of guests. Something to remember: In Mexico, diving with scuba tanks and air-pressured spearguns is prohibited. Only free-diving is allowed.
A long-standing myth among anglers visiting Playa del Carmen is that it’s impossible to cast a line from the shore. Unless you’re expecting to hook a swimmer, that is! Yes, it’s true that the beaches right near the center of the town are usually brimming with tourists, and in Mexico, it’s illegal to fish within 250 meters of swimmers.
However, if you’re a shore fishing enthusiast, there are ways to experience this type of angling action in Playa del Carmen. It just involves a little bit of exploring, and a willingness to be flexible! For some anglers, the prime shore fishing spots are located 20 minutes south of the town center, along the quieter beaches. For others, rickety-looking local piers hold the answer (but more on that later).
We think the best way to cast a line on foot here is by simple asking around. Local anglers hanging around the town’s many marinas can clue you in on the best spots to visit at any given moment. From there, it’s just a case of setting up your gear and casting to your heart’s content!
Where to Fish in Playa del Carmen
Outlining the top fishing spots in Playa del Carmen is tricky. Not because it’s lacking in them, but because its proximity to Cozumel island and fish-filled offshore waters means that basically, wherever you go, you’ll hit prime fishing grounds in no time. Here are some of the best!
- Cozumel’s northern coast: Covering several kilometers, this section of the island is home to a number of saltwater lagoons, mangrove swamps, and flats, which are home to Bonefish and Permit year-round. Offshore fanatics can cast a line from this side of the island for Mahi Mahi and Sailfish, too.
- Puerto Aventuras: Head around 20 minutes south of Playa del Carmen proper if you’re looking to cast a line from shore. Once you hit Puerto Aventuras, as well as nearby Paamul, the shorelines become a lot quieter and are prime for some top fishing action. Expect Trevallies and smaller Snapper and Grouper varieties.
- Calle 14 pier: Although Playa del Carmen may not be known for its abundance of fishing piers, the wooden walkway at the end of this street is a top local fishing hotspot. Cast your line for Kingfish, Trevallies, Snapper, and Grouper.
- Great Mayan Reef: Does it count as cheating to include an entire reef system on this list? Not when it’s as vast and exciting as the Great Mayan Reef! You can troll or bottom fish the depths of the waters around this structure for Mahi Mahi, Wahoo, Amberjack, and Barracuda.
Rules and Regulations
Fishing from a boat? You’ll usually need a valid Mexican fishing license, but if you’re casting off alongside a charter captain, this will be covered for you. The same goes for spearfishing. In some rare cases, you’ll need to bring your own, but you can easily purchase it online. Anglers fishing on foot don’t require a license.
The daily bag limit on a Playa del Carmen fishing trip is 10 fish per angler, but it gets a bit complicated from there! We’ve done the math for you below:
- You can only keep five fish from a specific family, e.g. Amberjack, Grouper.
- When it comes to Marlin, Sailfish, and Swordfish, you can only keep one fish, and it counts as half of your daily bag limit (five out of the total 10).
- 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 two Mahi Mahi and five Snappers, you’ll have reached your maximum bag limit. Not too complicated after all, eh?
Discover a Whole New Side of Playa del Carmen
So by now, it’s pretty clear that Playa del Carmen’s underwater action is just as hot as its land-based activities. Whether you’re a brand-new angler looking to try out this sport in a sun-drenched locale, want to add some spice to your family vacation, or are looking to reel in that Billfish Grand Slam for some serious bragging rights, there’s something for everyone here.
Grab your rods and reels, pack the sunscreen, and get ready to experience this slice of Mexico as you’ve never seen it before!
Have you ever been fishing in Playa del Carmen? What did you catch? Any local tips and tricks? Let us know in the comments below!