Baja’s tourism industry was largely built by the will and frontier spirit of the traveling anglers. Baja offers an unparalleled variety of species and fishing styles. Whether it’s blue-water billfishing, fly-fishing for roosterfish, or spearing wahoo, the fisheries of Baja still have more fish and fewer crowds than just about anywhere other than Alaska. If you plan to freelance your way through fishing in Baja, pick up a copy of the longtime bible of Baja fishing, Baja Catch, or the newer Angler’s Guide to Trailer-Boating.
There are endless ways to fish in Baja, but if you have never fished here before, one of the best ways to get started is to hire a panga for the morning. Prices vary depending on location and season, but the captain should have extensive knowledge of the hotspots as well as where the bite was on in the days leading up to your trip.
If you decide to fish while on a trip, you can buy a surf-casting rod and some tackle and fish from shore without a license. Corvina, sierra mackerel, and snapper can all be caught in the surf.
If you are targeting trophy billfish, you will want to visit the Los Cabos  or East Cape  region of Southern Baja. Loreto , Los Barriles , San José del Cabo , Cabo San Lucas , and La Paz  all host numerous sportfishing fleets for hire.
The ebb and flow of the various fish populations in Baja are difficult to generalize in a simple calendar. The Angler’s Guide to Baja California has a calendar for each of 10 fishing zones, but you should always check with the locals before getting your heart set on a certain species. As a rule of thumb, April–October offer the warmest water and the greatest variety of fish, but there are year-round species, including yellowtail and rockfish.
A good selection of high-quality tackle is increasingly available in the larger Baja fishing towns, but you are better off assembling your gear before your trip, since supplies can still vary. Given the variety of species, there is no single ideal Baja rod. Since airlines currently allow up to four rods as “personal gear,” consider packing two trolling rods with 60-pound test, one shore rod with 25-pound monofilament, and a light six-foot rod for bait fishing. Remember that you are only allowed to fish with one rod at a time.
It’s worth noting up front that even if you have fished for years in Baja without ever hearing anyone mention a fishing license, the times have changed. There have been numerous reports of poles and coolers of fish being confiscated at the airport from travelers without a license. The best practice today is to obtain a Mexican fishing license before going on your trip and to keep it until you get back home.
A fishing license is required for anyone over 16 years old fishing from a boat. Anyone on a boat that is equipped for fishing (whether or not you intend to fish) is required to have a license, but as of January 2008, a boat permit is no longer required. Single-day fishing licenses are often sold at marinas and sometimes by the fishing guide. At last check, a one-day license was US$9, US$22 for a week, US$34 for a month, and US$45 for the year.
The easiest way to obtain your license is through the mail before you leave for your trip. You can send in your request to the Mexico Department of Fisheries (PESCA) (2550 Fifth Ave., Suite 101, San Diego, CA 92103-6622, U.S. tel. 619/233-4324). You can also buy one at the Mexican insurance companies near the border, from some outfitters, or in some tackle shops in Baja.
For the most recent fishing regulations for Mexico and an online license request form, check www.conapescasandiego.org  before going on your trip. The daily limit is 10 fish per person, including no more than 5 of any one species. Some species have lower limits, but they also count toward the 10-fish limit: The big game species—including marlin, sailfish, and swordfish—are limited to one per day, and it should be noted that most anglers release these fish unless it’s obvious the fish will not survive. Dorado, roosterfish, halibut, shad, and tarpon are limited to two fish per day per person.
You can only have 30 fish in possession on a multiday fishing trip, and you cannot filet the fish while you are on the boat.
The same limits apply to spearfishing. Spearfishing is limited to free diving, so tanks and hookahs are strictly off-limits. Gas-powered spear guns and powerheads are also prohibited.
Although the harvesting of any species of shellfish by a noncitizen of Mexico is officially prohibited, very few people would consider it a citable offense if a tourist were to dig up a few clams. That does not apply to abalone or lobsters.
Taking live fish for your tank at home is also strictly prohibited, and you shouldn’t try to sell anything you catch.
Keep your Mexican fishing license or the receipt if you’ve purchased seafood. U.S. regulations mirror the Mexican bag limits, but make sure to keep the species of the fish the filet comes from identifiable by leaving the skin on. For more information, contact the California Department of Fish and Game (1416 9th St., Sacramento, CA 95814, U.S. tel. 916/445-0411, www.dfg.ca.gov ).