Fishing the Riviera Maya: a complete guide

So you’ve decided to travel to the Riviera Maya for your next holidays. Sounds great! The sheer amount of fish and species at the Riviera Maya is outstanding. Team the amazing fishing in the Riviera Maya with one of the outstanding hotels in Cancun, Playa del Carmen, Tulum or Cozumel and you will find yourself in a World-class sport fishing resort. From offshore fishing for Marlin and Sailfish to inshore fishing for Permit, Snapper and Grouper, the Riviera Maya is a true fishing paradise.


The Tulum ruins are some of the most visited archaeological sites in Mexico

Which species can I catch?

The waters of the Riviera Maya are rich because they receive a lot of nutrients from the Gulf Stream. The deep-water channel off the Yucatan Coast squeezes the Gulf Stream as it passes by on its journey northward. This “funnel” effect causes an upwelling and an abundance of bait fish. Both pelagic fish and reef fish love it out here because there’s plenty of prey fish for them to feed on. Here are the most sought after fish species in the Riviera Maya.

Marlin & Sailfish

Keen M Fishing Charter in Isla Mujeres

Keen M Fishing Charter in Isla Mujeres – Sailfish experts

The waters of the Riviera Maya are home to the Blue Marlin and the White Marlin. The Swordfish and the Sailfish inhabit the tropical waters off Cancun, Cozumel, Playa del Carmen, Puerto Aventuras and Tulum. The great thing about big game fishing in Riviera Maya you don’t have to go too far out to reach the fishing grounds.

Beautiful Sailfish caught on the Wasabi Loco

Beautiful Sailfish caught on the Wasabi Loco

The Mexican Caribbean Sea is productive all year long, but the best time for marlin fishing is between February-March and August.

Yellowfin Tuna, Wahoo & Mahi Mahi

Wahoo caught trolling on Wasabi Loco

Wahoo caught trolling on Wasabi Loco

The other three pelagic species we didn’t want to miss are the Yellowfin Tuna, the Wahoo and the Mahi Mahi. During your Riviera Maya Big Game Fishing tour, one of these two species are very likely to hit the one of the lures. Wahoo are around all year round, whereas the Tuna and the Mahi Mahi are here between March and end July.


Bonefish fishing in Riviera Maya

Bonefish fishing in Riviera Maya

The Bonefish is one of the most iconic species in the flats of the Riviera Maya. You can catch them wading the northern flats of Cozumel and south of Tulum. A Boca Paila Peninsula or a Sian Kaan Biosphere Reserve bonefish fly fishing expedition will be one to remember. An 8wt fly rod and reel will do the job.

Bonefish fishing in the Riviera Maya is possible all year round.

Permit, Tarpon & Jack Crevalle

Jack Crevalle fishing in the flats

Jack Crevalle fishing in the flats

Jack Crevalle, Permit and Tarpon are the other famous Riviera Maya species you can find inshore. Great places to fish for them are the lagoons of Cozumel (Rio de la Plata lagoon, Paso Balem lagoon, and Monte Cristo) and the mangroves of Boca Paila and the Sian Kaan Biosphere Reserve.

The prime season in the Riviera Maya for Tarpon is during May, June, and July. Jack Crevalle fishing is great from september to January, whereas Permit are around from March to August.

Cubera Snapper & Grouper

If you’re thinking of doing a bottom fishing trip to one of the beautiful reefs off the Riviera Maya, you most probably might run into Cubera Snapper, Grouper, Sea Bream, Cabrilla, Red Hind, Jack, Triggerfish or Yellowtail Snapper for example. Bottom fishing often yields higher catch numbers than deep sea fishing, but the fish are generally much smaller. Bottom fishing trips are great for family trips or just to maximise your chances or reeling something in.

Around these reefs and close to drop-offs and wrecks you can target amberjack jigging or with live bait. The best time to fish for these aggressive fighters is from October to March.

Bonito, Kingfish and Barracuda are also numerous in these waters. Inshore trolling you can always hit one of these species too.

How to Fish the Riviera Maya

The Yucatán Peninsula is a unique geographic zone which has access to both the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico, creating the perfect conditions for non-stop deep water sport fishing and out-of-this-world flats fishing. Here’s some extra information on fishing charters, shore fishing, fishing licenses and bag limits.

Fishing charters in the Riviera Maya

Going out on a fishing charter might be one of the best ways to enjoy the Caribbean waters of the Riviera Maya. Depending on the fishing technique you prefer, you can book one captain or another. You’ll find highly professional fishing guides and captains in Cancun, Cozumel, Playa del Carmen, Puerto Aventuras and Tulum.

Shore Fishing

If you don’t want to go out fishing in a boat, you can go shore fishing. Fishing licenses aren’t required for shore fishing in the Riviera Maya. Make sure you don’t fish near swimmer (you should be at least 250 meters away) and in general fishing in front or near hotels isn’t allowed.

Top Fishing Charters in Riviera Maya


Fishing license for the Riviera Maya

If you are fishing from the shore, you will not need a fishing license. But you should be at least 250 meters away from swimmers. However, Mexico has strict fishing regulations for fishing from boats. Essentially, every person aboard a boat that has fishing equipment on board is required to have a license.

You can purchase a daily, weekly, monthly, or yearly fishing license through CONAPESCA’s.

You can find more information on their website, Conapesca.

Most charter boats include fishing licenses in the cost of the charter, but to be sure it is best to ask when booking your trip.

Daily Bag Limits for the Riviera Maya

You can take up to ten fish home per day, with no more than five fish of any one species. And, anglers are subject to the following limits: No more than one billfish. No more than two tarpon or dorado. Fish that are in the one fish or two fish categories count as five fish of the total ten fish daily bag limit. The maximum daily bag limit for spearfishing or freshwater fishing is five fish.

Will you be flying to the Riviera Maya soon? Have you every fished here before? Let us know your thoughts. Also if you have questions we’ll be happy to answer them!