Mr Marlin's Puerto Vallarta Gamefish Descriptions More gamefish pictures and descriptions to help you identify what you caught, or are hoping to catch, on a saltwater fishing charter in Puerto Vallarta Mexico

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PARGO (Lutjanus campechanus)

OTHER NAMES: North American, Red Snapper, Genuine Red,

RANGE: It is standard bottom-fishing fare, Mexican Deep Waters, Eastern Pacific. Carribean

HABITAT: Pargos are sometimes found in fairly shallow water off the beaches, and even in deep holes of the larger bays like ours.

DESCRIPTION: Overall rosy red. Canine teeth less prominent than those of most other Snappers. Red eye. Anal fin is triangular.

SIZE: Common from a pound or so to about 6 or 8 pounds. Usual maximum is about 20 pounds, although the Red Snapper can rarely run as high as 30 or 40 pounds. World record 50 pounds.

FOOD VALUE: Excellent at all sizes.

GAME QUALITIES: A hard-fighting fish that uses strong, head-shaking tactics rather than long runs.

TACKLE AND BAITS: Some Red Snapper spots in fairly shallow water, say up to 50 or 60 feet, permit the use of light ocean tackle, or even heavy spinning and baitcasting tackle. Much Snapper fishing, however-trips from Panhandle ports requires deep drops in strong currents. This means that only very heavy rods and strong lines of 50- or 80-pound test can handle the heavy weights needed to do the job. As for baits, dead Cigar Minnows, Pilchards or cut fish and squid do well at times, although in heavily fished spots (which most are these days) it will probably be necessary to use live small baitfish to coax bites from Snappers of decent size.

FISHING SYSTEMS: Casting; Drifting; Still Fishing.

ROOSTERFISH (Nemastistius Pectoralis)

OTHER NAMES: Pez gallo, papagallo

RANGE: Pacific Ocean, Sea of Cortez

HABITAT: Surf and Rocky areas offshore. Can also be found near islands and reefs.

DESCRIPTION: Gray back, silver body with two pronounced diagonal stripes. Pectoral fin long and sickle shaped, dorsal fin very elongated and supposedly has a likeness to a rooster's comb, hence the common name. Tail fin is deeply forked as is typical of all members of the jack family.

SIZE: 10 to 30 lb. average, but can reach 100 lb. World and Mexican Record is 114 lb.

FOOD VALUE: Not the best, but certainly not the worst.

GAME QUALITIES: An angler will see the roosterfish come up on and boil on the trolled bait. They will typically circle and whack at the offering before actually crashing on it. A furious fighter with unequaled stamina, unpredictable slashing moves, jumps and long screaming runs.

TACKLE AND BAITS: live bait, with mullet and sardinas their favorite. Rarely taken on lures, but when feeding will hit surface jigs.

FISHING SYSTEMS: Casting; Drifting; Still Fishing.

SAILFISH (Istiophorus platypterus)

OTHER NAMES: Atlantic Sailfish, Spindlebeak, Pez Vela

RANGE: Mexican Coastal Waters, Eastern Pacific, Carribean

HABITAT: Like the other Billfishes, the Sailfish is considered an ocean species, but generally can be found closer to land than the rest, seeming to prefer areas where coral reefs and/or freshwater runoffs mingle with ocean water.

DESCRIPTION: Upper surfaces usually dark blue to black; silvery below; vertical stripes often visible on sides.

SIZE: Averages 30-60 pounds, but many under 30 pounds and a few up to 100 pounds are also taken. World record 221 pounds.

FOOD VALUE: Very good broiled or smoked, and should be kept if inadvertently killed. Protected commercially.

GAME QUALITIES: Unsurpassed in its size range for combined strength and spectacle.

TACKLE AND BAITS: Light ocean trolling or heavy spinning outfits with lines up to 30-pound test; 12- and 20-pound lines are adequate in experienced hands and provide great sport. In Southeast Florida, live-baiting - either by kite fishing or flatline drifting - has become perhaps the most popular approach to sailfishing, with Blue Runners, Goggle-eyes, Pilchards or Pinfish being the common offerings. Historically, most Sailfishing has been done with rigged trolling baits, mainly Ballyhoo and strips of Bonito or other small fish. Many Sailfish have been caught on jigs and on drifted Ballyhoo/jig combinations. Fly casters have also taken them on occasion, but Atlantic sails do not decoy as readily as their Pacific counterparts and so fly fishing for them has not become very popular - despite the fact that science has proclaimed the Sailfish of both oceans to be the same species.

FISHING SYSTEMS: Occasionally Casting; Drifting; Trolling.

SIERRA (Scomberomorus maculatus)

OTHER NAMES: Spanish Mackerel

RANGE: Mexican Deep Waters, Eastern Pacific, Carribean

HABITAT: Largely coastal, but roams offshore at times.

DESCRIPTION: Dark above with silvery sides. Many spots, which are both yellow and brown. The body is proportionately deeper than with juvenile King Mackerel, and the yellow spots appear rounder and brighter, but if in doubt, the only true identifier is the lateral line, which tapers rather gently from front to back with no severe dip.

SIZE: Common at 1-3 pounds; not too unusual at 5-7 pounds; maximum potential over 10 pounds. World record 13 pounds.

FOOD VALUE: If you like rich, rather dark fillets, they are great broiled or skinned and fried. Good smoked, too.

GAME QUALITIES: Outstanding on light tackle; very fast runs.

TACKLE AND BAITS: Spinning, baitcasting and fly outfits. Spinning is often best because the faster retrieve of a spinning reel is sometimes needed to move a lure at a pace that will interest the Mackerel. Best lures are small white nylon jigs and silver spoons, but many others work, including topwater at times. Flies should be small with lots of flash. Best baits are small silvery baitfish, live shrimp and drifted strips.

FISHING SYSTEMS: Drifting; Still Fishing; Trolling.

SNAPPER (Lutjanus buccanella)

OTHER NAMES: Blackspot, Snapper, Bahamas Red, Snapper

RANGE: Mexican Pacific Ocean, Sea of Cortez

HABITAT: Nearly all are caught along outside dropoffs at depths of 200 feet or greater. Roams the deep blue water, but anglers can find them by working dropoffs, seamounts, weedlines and other favorable feeding locations.

DESCRIPTION: Vivid red overall, with black crescent-shaped mark at base of the pectoral fin.

SIZE: Averages 3 or 4 pounds; usual maximum is 10 or so. World record 7 pounds, 3 ounces.

FOOD VALUE: Excellent.

GAME QUALITIES: Strong fighter like other Snappers.

TACKLE AND BAITS: Blackfin Snapper generally stay well beyond the depths of anchoring. Most are caught while drifting and jigging off cliffs and ledges. Blackfin eagerly strike a heavy bucktail or nylon jig.

FISHING SYSTEMS: Drifting; Trolling.

YELLOWFIN TUNA (Thunnus albacres)

OTHER NAMES: Allison Tuna, AhiRANGE: Mexican Coastal Waters, Eastern Pacific, Carribean

HABITAT: The open seas, but frequently near dropoffs.

DESCRIPTION: Distinguishing the Yellowfin Tuna from the Blackfin or Bigeye is sometimes difficult as many visual features are similar. Finlets of the Yellowfin are yellow, trimmed in black. Gold stripe along side. Light underside usually shows spots and/or wavy lines. Second dorsal and anal fins of very large individuals are elongated and lunate - a feature not found on any other Tuna.

SIZE: May run anywhere from a few pounds to more than 200 pounds. Maximum close to 400. World record 388 pounds, 12 ounces; Florida record 230 pounds.

FOOD VALUE: One of the best.

GAME QUALITIES: Second only to Bluefin Tuna, and only because of smaller size.

TACKLE AND BAITS: Heavy outfits are indicated - 50- or 80-pound. But light and medium ocean outfits are often used. Most are probably caught trolling with offshore trolling lures or rigged baits, but in certain areas the best approach is to anchor on a reef near deep blue water and bring in the fish by chumming with Pilchards or similar small baitfish. In that situation they can also be hooked by casting artificial lures with spinning, baitcasting and fly tackle - and landed, if the size is right and luck is with the angler.

FISHING SYSTEMS: Drifting; Still Fishing; Trolling.

WAHOO (Acanthocybium soladri)


RANGE: Pacific Ocean, Sea of Cortez

HABITAT: Roams the deep blue water, but anglers can find them by working dropoffs, seamounts, weedlines and other favorable feeding locations.

DESCRIPTION: Long, slender body marked with zebra-like stripes of white and deep blue or black. Mouth is elongated and narrow, and equipped with razor-sharp teeth - careful!

SIZE: Common at 10-50 pounds; often grows to 80 or 90 pounds; maximum potential about 150 pounds. World record 158 pounds, 8 ounces.

FOOD VALUE: White meat is tasty but rather dry. A good smoking fish.

GAME QUALITIES: May strike a surface bait in spectacular, greyhounding fashion, but seldom jumps after being hooked. Wild fight is characterized by several sizzling runs, usually at or near the surface. One of the fastest of all gamefish.

TACKLE AND BAITS: Many Wahoo are hooked on heavy tackle, incidentally to Billfishing. Best choices, however, are light to medium ocean trolling outfits with lines up to 30-pound test; 50-pound isn't too heavy for good sport with big specimens. A few have been caught by deep jigging or ocean casting with spinning and baitcasting tackle - even fly tackle on rare occasion. Most productive bait is a weighted feather or similar trolling lure, rigged in combination with a whole small baitfish or large strip. Surface trolling is sometimes effective, but deep trolling is much more likely to produce a Wahoo.

FISHING SYSTEMS: Drifting; Trolling.

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