Paseo del Pescador, the fishing dock that serves charter boats out of Zihuatanejo and Ixtapa, starts jumping well before sunrise. Thanks to the region's tantalizing variety of inshore and offshore game fish, anglers encounter this frenetic early morning activity at any time of year.
Waiting their turn to board boats at the Paseo, sleepy-eyed tourists find themselves jolted awake by the bustling scene. Women sit on the dock selling bigeye scad and corineros, a small, hardy jack used as trolling bait. Feral cats rest patiently as if trained to wait for the leftovers. Local captains, along with a few gringos, pause at a stall to load up on coffee, burritos and tortillas in preparation for the busy day ahead.
The fleet departs as dawn begins to brighten the Pacific. Boats intent on a day of inshore fishing turn north or south to follow the coastline; those that head due west will run about 10 miles to put out lines in blue water and begin trolling for billfish, dorado and tuna.
I'm pleased to enjoy the rare treat of fishing with my family. Both my husband, David, and daughter, Suzanne, join me for a day of chasing inshore gamesters. We hope to catch roosterfish, a lofty goal this early in the season (we visited in March) since the hefty jacks tend to frequent Ixtapa's breaking surf in early summer.
While trolling less than a mile offshore on a super panga named Dos Hermanos I, Capt. Aldolfo Espinosa, of Ixtapa Sportfishing Charters, tells us we're liable to catch anything. The area's abundant schools of sardines and anchovies attract many species of fish. For several hours, we troll lipped plugs and reel in a dozen or more Spanish mackerel, bonito (little tunny) and skipjack tuna. Had we been there during peak roosterfish season, we would have stayed closer to the beaches and used spinning rods to cast noisy top-waters for roosters and jack crevalle.
Boats in the Ixtapa Sportfishing Charters fleet carry Shimano and Daiwa spinning reels mounted on 8-foot rods for launching lures long distances - and the ability to reach "way out there" with plugs represents a crucial factor, since skippers don't want to get too close to the crashing surf where roosterfish patrol.
Stan Lushinsky, owner of Ixtapa Sportfishing Charters, highly recommends braided fishing line because of its great strength-to-diameter ratio and lack of stretch, two attributes he feels deliver a greater hookup ratio with fewer break-offs. His captains primarily use 30-pound braid for inshore fishing. "Braid's thin diameter allows for longer casts, which is important when prospecting for roosters along the breaking surf," he says.
Ixtapa Sportfishing Charters also offers fly-fishing trips; although fly tackle is available, Lushinsky encourages serious anglers to bring their own gear. A selection of poppers and large streamers, along with a 10-weight outfit, usually proves adequate for fooling and fighting roosterfish, jack crevalle and other inshore game fish. Anglers who would like to challenge sailfish and marlin should pack 12-weight or heavier gear and bring an assortment of billfish flies.