Shoals of fish abound in Oaxacan waters. Four billfish species are found in deep-sea grounds several miles offshore: swordfish, sailfish, and blue and black marlin. All are spirited fighters, though the sailfish and marlin are generally the toughest to bring in. The blue marlin is the biggest of the four. Although 10-foot, 1,000-pound (three-meter, 450-kilogram) fish used to be brought in occasionally, four-foot, 200-pound marlin (one-meter, 90-kilogram) and 100-pound (45-kilogram) sailfish are more typical of late. Recognizing the need for conservation, forward-looking captains now encourage victorious anglers to return these magnificent “tigers of the sea” (especially the sinewy, poor-eating sailfish and blue marlin) to the deep after they’ve won the battle.
Billfish are not the only prizes of the sea. Serious fish lovers also seek varieties of tunalike jack, such as yellowtail, Pacific amberjack, pompano, jack crevalle, and the tenacious roosterfish, named for the “comb” atop its head. These and the yellowfin tuna, mackerel, and dorado, which Hawaiians call mahimahi, are among the delicacies sought in Oaxacan waters.
Accessible from small boats offshore and by casting from shoreline rocks are varieties of snapper (huachinango, pargo) and sea bass (cabrilla). Closer to shore, croaker, mullet, and Goliath fish often can be found foraging along sandy bottoms and in rocky crevices.
Sharks and rays inhabit nearly all depths, with smaller fry venturing into beach shallows and lagoons. Sometimes, huge Pacific manta rays appear to be frolicking, their great wings flapping like birds, not far off Oaxacan shores. Just beyond the waves, local fisherfolk bring in hammerhead, thresher, and leopard sharks.
Also common is the stingray, which can inflict a painful wound with its barbed tail. Experienced swimmers and waders avoid injury by both shuffling (rather than stepping) and watching their feet in shallow, sandy bottoms.
Captains from marinas at Santa Cruz de Huatulco, Puerto Ángel, and Salina Cruz routinely pilot big boats equipped for four or five anglers to try for the big marlin, sailfish, and swordfish. Launches (lanchas) and tackle, suitable for smaller but still exciting catches, can be hired at those same marinas, in addition to Puerto Escondido and a number of other beach villages along the Oaxacan coast.
© Bruce Whipperman from Moon Oaxaca, 5th edition