Fishing In Guatemala: The Legendary Pacific Ocean Sailfish Hotspot

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Guatemala is a prime offshore fishing location in the heart of Central America, with Mexico to the north and Costa Rica to the south. Based on the migratory routes of pelagics, Guatemala has some of the best offshore fishing in the world. And it definitely does!

Guatemala wasn’t really on the offshore fishing world’s radar for many years. Destinations like Mexico and Costa Rica were the front runners for catching billfish, but once the abundance of fish in Guatemalan waters was discovered, this all changed, and it was named one of the top offshore fishing destinations on the planet. 

There aren’t many offshore species you can’t catch in the country, but to have a successful trip there, you’ll need more info from “those in the know.”

So join me as we take a dive into the great fishing Guatemala has to offer, from the amazing fish to catch to when, where, and who to catch them with. 

Top Fish To Catch In Guatemala 

Pacific coast offshore fishing for Sailfish is Guatemala’s biggest draw

Pretty much every trophy offshore fish species one could hope to catch in the world is abundant on the Pacific coast of Guatemala. Take a look at the list below:

  • Blue Marlin 
  • Black Marlin 
  • Striped Marlin 
  • Sailfish 
  • Yellowfin Tuna
  • Dorado 
  • Roosterfish 
  • Cubera Snapper 

While all these fish species are found in Guatemalan waters, Guatemala is famous for being the sailfish capital of the world. The area sees more numbers of pacific sailfish, and big ones at that, than pretty much any other fishing destination in the world. 

The average size of the sailfish ranges from 80 to 120 lbs, so these are big sailfish, and you are pretty much guaranteed to see a lot of them. Charter boats in Guatemala often return to port with well over a dozen sailfish caught and released in a single day. 

If your dream has been to catch a sailfish on a fly rod, then Guatemala is the place to do it. The number of fish you’ll be able to cast a fly at means you can fail a few times before landing your first sailfish on fly. 

In addition to the amazing sailfish fishing, marlin are also a common sighting and are seen every three days throughout the year-round, and that’s out of season. Just imagine what it might be like during marlin season – I get goose bumps at just the thought! 

Where To Go Fishing In Guatemala 

Guatemala’s Pacific coastline runs for nearly 250 miles, and while there is a lot of coastline to explore, all the fishing operations are in one part of it, Port San Jose. 

Port San Jose is on the southeastern end of the coastline, and the waters offshore are blessed with seafloor features that billfish, particularly sailfish, love. 

At Port San Jose, you’ll find a fleet of top-class offshore fishing boats with some of the best captains and crews in the world who are waiting to make your dreams come true. The captains are all locals who have grown up fishing the waters off Port San Jose, and they know it like the back of their hand.

Not only will you find great boats and skippers, but the fishing lodges around Port San Jose are world-class. Their service is beautifully run, and everything from the fishing to the food, accommodations, and transfers couldn’t be better. 

When To Go Fishing In Guatemala 

blue marlin
Local charter captains are very experienced

Now, most fishing destinations worldwide have a particular time of year that is best for fishing for a certain species. While this is true for most of the species in Guatemala, it doesn’t seem to be the case for the sailfish. 

The sailfish fishing is pretty much an all-year-round event in Guatemala, so if it’s sailfish you’re after, then you can literally fish there at any time of year. But there are more sailfish in Guatemalan waters between October and August. This is when you’re likely to see over 20 fish in a day and could experience the thrill of hooking three sailfish at once. 

If it’s Blue Marlin you’re after, the best time of year to fish in Guatemala is between April and August. That said, the boats in Guatemala tend to see a marlin every three days during the year, so they are always around, but April to August is prime time. 

Black Marlin come through Guatemalan waters between December and March, and they are between 250-450 lbs on average, as are the Blue Marlin. It’s the perfect size for anyone who’s never caught a marlin, but Guatemala isn’t the place if you’re looking for a 1000 lb-er. For massive black marlin, check out Cairns and Port Stephens in Australia, which are the most renowned locations.

Striped Marlin are found in great numbers in Guatemala between November and February, and they average out at around 120 lbs. 

When Is The Best Time To Catch Billfish In Guatemala? 

Guatemala is an offshore destination where you have a chance of catching a grand slam – a blue marlin, a black marlin, a striped marlin, and a sailfish all in one day, but you have to be a little lucky, and timing is important too. 

If there is one month during Guatemala’s fishing season where all the species will be available to catch, it’s most likely March. March is the tail end of the black marlin and striped marlin season, the beginning of the blue marlin season, and the sailfish will be there in force. 

Catching a grand slam isn’t easy, and it takes some offshore anglers years of trying, but it’s worth giving it a go in Guatemala. 

Best Methods For Catching Fish In Guatemala

When it comes to targeting the billfish of Guatemala, you’ll be on a sportfishing boat and fishing using one of three methods, which is dependent on what you prefer and what the captain recommends. 


Trolling with lures and bait is a common option. This involves fishing five rods with offshore lures that have either strip-bait or ballyhoo rigger inside them. The lures are then trolled in a spread behind the boat at 5-6 knots, and you wait for the billfish to come upon them. 

Tease & Switch 

Teasing and switching is another method involving trolling lures with bait but no hooks. Once the fish are on the lure (considered a teaser without hooks), the teaser is wound in to annoy the fish and make it very aggressive.

Once the fish has been teased, you’ll drop back a bait, usually in the form of a dead fish, for it to eat. This is an incredibly visual and connected way to catch billfish, and I highly recommend it. 

Fly Fishing 

Fly fishing for billfish is the last and best option, in my opinion. It’s exactly like teasing and switching, except instead of dropping a bait back to a teased and angry billfish, you will be casting a fly to it. Stripping a fly and seeing and feeling an angry billfish eat it is a feeling I can not describe; it’s just the best experience! 

How To Book Your Fishing Trip To Guatemala

Casa Vieja Lodge
The Casa Vieja Lodge – what a superb place to stay!

One of the greatest things about booking a fishing trip to Guatemala is its affordability and convenience. 

You’re paying a lot less for a day fishing in any of the top-class lodges than in most other offshore fishing destinations, and to get to the fishing spot from the main international airport is just a 2-hour drive. 

If you want to go on a fishing trip to Guatemala, these are the lodges to fish and stay with. 

Casa Vieja Lodge 

Casa Vieja Lodge sits around 5 minutes from the harbor in Port San Jose, where their fleet of nine sport fishers, captains, and crew awaits you to make your fishing dreams come true.

Casa Vieja has wonderful rooms and great food, and they will organize everything for you from the moment you land at La Aurora International Airport until you drop your bags off at check-in for your flight home again. 

Pacific Fins Lodge 

Just down the road from Casa Vieja Lodge is Pacific Fins Lodge, which offers a package very similar to Casa Vieja. You’ll find fantastic lodgings, great food, excellent service, and a world-class fleet of sport fishing vessels with excellent captains and crew. 

Their prices are pretty much exactly the same as Casa Vieja’s, so you have to choose which one you prefer. However, waitlists and bookings can be difficult during high season, so book well in advance if possible.

The Fishing Regulations In Guatemala

Guatemala’s fishing regulations state that you need a license to fish in Guatemala, whether on a licensed boat or when going shore fishing. Luckily, both the lodges above will arrange your fishing license so that you aren’t breaking any rules while you’re there. 

If you want to get your own fishing license, you must go to the Guatemalan Institute of Fisheries and Aquaculture (INGAPESCA) with your passport, completed forms, and some cash. It’s a lengthy process to apply; queues can be long, and things aren’t very efficient in Guatemala, so I recommend getting the lodge to do it. 

Teasing Out 

Thanks very much for reading my article; I hope you enjoyed it. Offshore fishing in Guatemala is some of the best in the world and some of the most affordable, too. It’s somewhere every fisherman has to go once in their life, and once you have been, chances are you’ll be back every year. 

You can read more of my articles on worldwide fishing destinations, such as the nearby countries of Belize, and the dual coastlines of Costa Rica!

Jamie Melvin