These fleets include Pangas. These are smaller 18 to 20-feet open craft, usually US designed centre console boats, with big V4 outboards that cruise down to the inshore grounds at high speed. They are ideal for two guys to fish from and have tarp covers if needed to shield you from the sun if the fishing is slow, though that's highly unlikely. You can hire Pangas for around US $230 or about £175. Split that between two of you and you're getting top class game fishing for around £80 Sterling a day. Sounds a lot of money, I know, but in game fishing circles that's cheap.
The Panga captains are highly knowledgeable about the fish holding areas, understand the prime feeding times for the different species, and are well versed on modern tackle and technique. The language barrier does exist and can cause minor misunderstandings regarding how to fish for certain species, but don't let it worry you. A rudimentary smattering of Spanish helps, though the universal angling language using words like marlin, roosterfish, bonito and dorado speak volumes and are instantly understood.
You'll need fresh bait. This is available as you get on board the Pangas from bait netters who carry live sardines and sell three scoops worth for around US $20. Again it sounds expensive, but you get an awful lot of bait for your dosh.
Bonito show most of the year and tend to be a search-by-sight capture. The skipper will usually see the fish surface feeding well before you do. The bonito push small baitfish up on to the surface and thrash the water to white foam as they feed. You motor up to these feeding frenzies and the skipper will throw a few live sardines in to the water just to get them going even more. You then cast a sardine bait on spinning gear, or throw a fly at them. Both methods work well. If you fly fish, use a double handed stripping action as the bonito like a bait to move fast. They fight first by running, and then by swimming in powerful tight circles under and around the boat. They average between 4 and 10lbs or so and can take anything from 30 minutes to over an hour to subdue on light gear.
Sometimes the frenzy will produce a jack crevalle. These are called "Torro" or bull. The nickname comes from their massive fighting strength and stubborn nature. I hit a 15lb crevalle on 12lb gear and it took the best part of an hour fighting hard right to the end. Also expect big pompano - these are basically a crevalle with teeth, but they hit plugs and sardines and go on line scorching runs.
Dorado you troll for at about 6-knots. You can either troll small lures on the 20lb gear, or better still troll a Mac fly on the fly rod. The dorado hit the flies hard and fights by leaping across the surface and making fast surface runs. Even a 5lb dorado on a 9-weight fly rod goes like hell. You pick up more dorado if you put a couple of bonito on strings, cut big slashes through the body and have these over the side in the water as you troll. The bonito blood in the water increases the chances of finding dorado.
The same fly trolling tactic picks up big 6lb plus needlefish. These are almost identical to UK garfish, but have teeth and are much bigger, and they leap high in the air during the fight. Set the drag on the fly reel just hard enough to stop the line paying out as the boat trolls. The fish hit the fly hard enough to hook themselves, but make sure the hooks are sharp.
Moving tight inshore, and I mean tight, just 40-yards off the beach puts you into roosterfish territory. They get the name rooster because the dorsal fin looks similar to the comb on a cockerel's head. These are hard scrappers fished for with live sardine baits. You let out about 30-yards of line and the boat slowly trolls the baits behind over the sand banks. Use a fixed-spool reel and keep the bale-arm open but your finger holding the line. You can see the roosterfish charging all over the surface chasing the sardine down. When you see the rooster, keep the line tight. As you feel the rooster take the bait, release a few yards of line and then lift in to the fish. If you hit the fish early it will just cut the bait in two and miss the hook. Rooster's fight by running until they tire a little then are stubborn just hanging in the water or swimming round the boat. Some roosters jump too.
Trolling these sardines tight inshore also accounts for lizardfish, sierra's with a mouth full of sharp teeth, corbina and cabrilla, high leaping ladyfish, plus the occasional amberjack when over any rocky ground.
The Pangas often work much further offshore, at least up to 20 miles and account for striped marlin to 220lbs, sharks, big yellowfin tuna and dorado, plus occasional blue marlin to 500lbs. Not bad for a 20ft boat!
The Pangas have good gear available for a hire charge of $10 a day. These include Penn Senator multipliers for the medium to big stuff, but they have no light gear aboard.
I'd suggest taking your own lightweight 20lb outfit for the yellowfin tuna and bigger dorado, and you might consider a lighter 12lb outfit for the school bonito and skipjack. My 12lb class gear was a light 9-ft spinning rod, fixed spool reel and 12lb line. This proved ideal for bonito and average roosterfish, but a 15lb rooster will really work this gear over and it is on its limit hooked up to fish of this quality.
You could consider something like a bass rod or light uptider. These have the power to hit the bigger fish hard if used with a reel loaded with 18lb line, but the soft tip retains the fun with the smaller fish.
Most of the fishing is freelining sardines, so the use of lead weights is minimal if at all. Carry plenty of hooks in the size 2 to 4/0 range such as Mustad O'Shaughnessy or Mustad Suicide patterns. These have the strength to hold the big fish and stand up well to hard crushing jaws filled with teeth.
If you want to target Marlin take a 30lb test outfit for pure thrills. Fighting fish from a small boat works in favour of light tackle and is a barrel of fun. The boat gear, though good, tends to be 50lb class and a touch heavy if you're used to fighting big fish.
FLY FISHING TACKLE
It depends what you really want to target. A 9 or 10-weight fly rod, something like a System 2 10/11 reel loaded with a weight-forward line and 300-yards of braided 50lb backing (I use Mitchell Fusion) will cover even big roosterfish that can run off a good hundred yards of line in the first go. This outfit is also ideal for school bonito, skipjack, average sized dorado, roosterfish and needlefish. Fish Fluorocarbon tippets 20lb strength. The top fly is the Mac fly, though anything with blue, silver and white in it scores well. I also found yellow and green flies good too. Also try all black with a hint of silver tinsel in if the day is overcast.
FLY PHOTO HERE
A large arbor fly reel can be an advantage as regards improved retrieve speed. Don't try to strip line in by hand when fighting these fish. If they run off at speed again and you get line tangled in the bottom of the boat, then it's bye-bye fish. Much safer to have the line neat and tidy on the reel.
BEST TIME OF YEAR
Basically, the fishing is pretty hot compared to what we Europeans are used to and it's all year round. That said, ideally you need to fish the Cape area from late April through to late June, then again from September through to November.
Set all your different sets of gear up on the way out to the fishing grounds. You need an instant response time as opportunities for bonito, crevalle and dorado can happen anywhere, anytime.
Service your reels fully before you travel. Pay special attention to fixed-spool bale-arm rollers, which need to be fully free. These Mexican fish will give your gear the best workout it's ever likely to have.
Make sure multiplier drag washers have been fully cleaned and give line freely without snatching.
Carry plenty of spare line with you. I kid you not, you can easily hit something that can spool you here.
Some short 6-inch and 12-inch 30lb wire traces are useful to have to hand if sierras or other toothy beasts are encountered.
When fly fishing, wear either no shoes or slip-on type deck shoes. Loose fly line can easily catch in shoelaces and cause a lost fish if the fly line can't run freely at speed.
Unless the fishing is unusually quiet, eat your lunch when the boat is travelling looking for another species or to a chosen area. You won't have time to eat when the fish are feeding.
THINGS TO LOOK FOR
At certain times of year you'll see massive manta rays leaping clear of the water in huge packs. It's an awesome sight! Whales too can be frequently seen making their way southward. You can also encounter big hammerhead sharks working the shallows early in the morning.