Sportfishing by Boat in US and Mexico

Downwind Cruising Guide Pages. 28 & 29

San Diego, CA

Sportfishing by Boat in US and Mexico

This Guide gives special thanks to the Sport Fishing Association of California (SAC), FONMAR Trust of Baja CA Sur, and Mexico Marina Association (AMMT) for significant help in providing the 2023 Mexican Fishing Regulations: Note that boaters visiting Mexico must comply with documentation requirements on both sides of the border when bringing fish from Mexico into the United States. Please take the time needed to carefully review the following information – plus, visit the links below to keep current with regulation changes prior to your fishing activities. The hyper-links provided in this Guide should automatically update themselves with current information, but it’s advisable to verify current date within the info links found in this guide.

In California, Fishing Licenses are required for anglers 16 years and older. The Department of Fish and Wildlife (DFW) is the enforcement agency for protecting California’s marine resources. In the link provided here, DFW details
all current California Ocean Sportfishing Regulations, including legal seasons, restricted areas, legal take of species and direct purchase options for valid fishing permits. Also note that California recently enacted a series of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs). It is important that anglers know their current location as well as relevant regulations and restrictions in these MPAs. For current maps and information regarding how to properly visit a Marine Protected Area in California, please visit this site: California Marine Protected Areas.

In Mexico, Fishing Licenses are required by ALL persons aboard a vessel fishing in Mexican waters regardless of age or interest in fishing. Visitors aboard vessels traveling in Mexican waters are subject to all
fishing regulations established by CONAPESCA for the Mexican government. CONAPESCA develops and publishes the Mexican Official Standards for the regulation of all fisheries in Mexico. FONMAR is a trust of the government of
Baja California Sur, created to ease the process of obtaining Sport Fishing licenses in Mexico, and provide regulations to supervise fishing that maintains and enriches the wonderful and unique sea life found in these waters. Follow this link Sportfishing in Mexico to FONMAR’s website for information on these important regulations. Also read page 2 of the 2023 AMMT Visitors’ Brochure for more info on catch limits and gear regulations, including rules for spearfishing.

PURCHASE ONLINE – Visit Fonmar’s website at for a secure and easy way to obtain your permit to fish in Mexico. All you need to do is enter your name(s), license term and start date and you will be directed to a secure banking site to add your credit card information — once transaction is complete, you’ll receive email confirmation with receipt, and a popup link to download and print your permits. Be aware that having any fishing gear aboard indicates to the inspecting officials that folks aboard intend to fish. Although since 2008, boat permits are no longer required for vessels fishing in Mexican waters, the individual’s fishing permit is still required on any private boat engaged in fishing — with boat being defined as ANY floating platform, to include dinghies, kayaks and paddle boards, etc. Play it safe or you may be seriously delayed and/or cited and fined. Either make sure there is NO fishing gear aboard your vessel in Mexican waters OR, if you have the gear, then make sure that everyone onboard is personally licensed to fish in Mexico and prepare for inspection. Further note that Tuna Pen Aquaculture is the farming of fish by enclosing tuna in man-made pens. These pens are cages that consist of large diameter flotation pipes that hold heavy-duty nets. There are over 60 tuna pens located in northern Baja waters. It has been discovered that the tuna pens often attract wild tuna, and this appears to be a good opportunity for anglers to take catch tuna! However, CONAPESCA reminds all captains, anglers, and vessel owners that Mexico’s Sport Fishing Norm (NOM-017-PESC-1994) prohibits any recreational fishing activities within 250 meters (820 feet) from commercial fishing vessels, and fixed or floating fishing tackle in Mexican waters. This does include tuna pens. Violations will result in legal action taken against the vessel.

In addition you must have permits for all on board if you want to visit any of Mexico’s National Parks that one can visit by boat, including any of the 1400+ protected island areas. PURCHASE ONLINE – Visit this link for Mexico’s National Parks Pass for easy online purchase of the Pasaporte de La Conservación that provides access to all protected areas it designates, INCLUDING more than 1400 islands and 52 protected reef and other coastal marine environs. For detailed information on Mexico’s protected Areas
(Áreas Naturales Protegidas or ANP), from islands and wetlands to mountains and jungles visit Discover ANP. Vessel inspections involving sportfishing issues and national park visitation are often conducted by the Mexican Fisheries or Environmental agencies like CONAPESCA, CONANP, and PROFEPA. However the Mexican Navy routinely reinforces the fishing regulations and all government regulations applicable to foreign visitors and their vessels by randomly boarding vessels for inspection in Mexican waters. A copy of the inspection report will be provided to the vessel upon request. Always welcome inspectors aboard and have YOUR documentation ready for their review.

Please note further: ANY person fishing in Mexico from shore or pier is NOT required to possess a fishing license. Besides being fun, catching great-eating fish is terrific in Mexico. Even if you think you will only fish from shore, think ahead and perhaps get fishing licenses for you and crew for the duration of your stay in Mexico – you never know when you might have the great opportunity to hit a wild tuna bite while underway offshore – or best yet, to fish for dinner from your dinghy before sunset in and around your pristine anchorage – pure bliss! Fishing licenses in MX are now issued by the State (i.e. Baja CA Sur) as well as by the Mexican Fisheries (CONAPESCA – Comisión Nacional de Acuacultura y Pesca) and can be easily purchased throughout Baja and the Mainland, including most marinas, plus tourist Kiosks in many shopping malls.

Sportfishing licenses are purchased in MX-pesos as printed on each license application. Note: that amount is often subject to change; more variable however is the daily currency exchange rate used to calculate the same application fees to $USD as found listed below. Fees listed below are based on the verified 0.057 exchange rate for $1-USD = $17.54-MXP on Sept 27, 2023. But it’s better to just understand that a year’s MX-sportfishing license has routinely cost @$50USD for the past 20 years. The Mexican License to fish in Sept-2023 costs $1004-MXP (or $57.23-USD).
Current License Fees in $USD (Sept 2023): $16.07/day $31.52/week $44.40/month $57.23/year (Best Deal!)
ALSO NOTE: A 1-year license is good for 12-months from purchase date – i.e. it’s not issued for the calendar year.

Current Mexican Sport Fishing Info:
It’s great fishing in Mexican waters, both offshore and in anchorages – get licensed – BUY ONLINE !!

Current ANNUAL Fee for Mexico’s Conservation Passport / National Parks Pass: $100-USD/per person. (i.e. on 9/27/2023 Mexico’s Annual Conservation Passport cost $1736-MXP x 0.057 (or $99.67-USD.) Visit the phenomenal CONANP Website and realize the great YEAR’S value of the Pasaporte de La Conservación! Option 2 – Purchase a Day Pass (Conservation Bracelet) per person at most individual ANPs – details on website.
Secure your Adventure for an entire year with Pasaporte de La Conservación!! BUY ONLINE !!

Mexican-Gov Requirements for Foreign Crew and Boat Traveling in Mexican Waters

Even if traveling by private boat in Mexican waters ONLY – just to enjoy specific water activities like fishing, diving, whale watching, etc. with NO intention of the boat or any crew to make landing at a port or beach in Mexico – there are still requirements for boat and crew that must be observed, with confirmed documentation ready for presentation to authorities at all times. Plan to collect and/or acquire all documentation required and maintain ready for inspection.

Crew Documentation Required:

FMM Electronic Receipt – Each foreign visitor traveling by boat in Mexican waters is required to carry an FMM Entry Permit Receipt, along with a valid Passport Book or Passport Card (at minimum a Passport Card is allowed when the
individual makes NO land entry into Mexico); documents must be valid for the duration of travel in Mexican waters. (For more on FMM see page 18).
Notarized Permission Letter – An original, notarized letter signed by both parents that allows permission for children who are minors to be aboard if they are not accompanied by both of their parents. Vessel Crew List – Documentation of completed spreadsheet as required by INM with information of the vessel and its passengers/crew (read page 4, Step Two on immigration requirements in the 2023 AMMT Visitors’ Brochure.)

Vessel Documentation Required:

Current Vessel Registry – Every US vessel entering Mexico must carry its ORIGINAL, current copy of vessel registry that proves ownership (i.e. valid USCG Certificate of Documentation or valid State Registration). Foreign flag vessels
from Canada, Australia, United Kingdom, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Republic of Marshall Islands, Japan, etc., are each required to carry a current Certificate of Registry from their Country of Origin.
Authorization Letter of Representation – All vessels registered under a Corporation or LLC, or whenever the legal owner is not on board, are required to have an original notarized-letter onboard authorizing the Master or Representative aboard to operate the vessel.
Proof of Competency – Boat Captain or Master must present proof of competency for recreational boaters. (Examples: Captain’s License, State Boating Card or International Certificate for Operators of Pleasure Craft (ICC).
TIP for Vessel – All vessels larger than 4.5m (15ft) are required to have a valid Temporary Import Permit (TIP) when in Mexico. The ORIGINAL TIP must ALWAYS be on board the vessel. (For more on TIP see page 26).
Insurance – All vessels in Mexican waters are required to show proof of valid Liability Insurance. CHECK YOUR POLICY to make sure your vessel is covered in the areas you will be cruising and visiting.

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