Where to Go

Ixtapa-Zihuatenejo

A friend and I were casting surface lures toward a secluded stretch of Mexican beach.

The characteristic plumelike dorsal fin of a roosterfish sliced through the water as the fish chased our lures and struck in a burst of spray. It was the 24th rooster we had caught in three hours, and all weighed between 18 and 35 pounds. When Capt. Arturo Landa motored the panga back to the dock, our arms dangled like fettuccine. Most anglers expect to pay steep prices for action like this, but it's possible to spend four days battling roosterfish, sailfish, and dolphins (dorado) in one of today's best fishing destinations for under $1,000, excluding airfare. Located on the Pacific beneath towering Sierra Madre peaks, the towns of Ixtapa and Zihuatanejo, Mexico, have it all: superb offshore and inshore fishing, knowledgeable local captains with good equipment, comfortable accommodations, and great restaurants. Best of all, they lack the crowds and high prices of more well-developed resorts.

How to Go

You can charter 25-foot pangas at the main fishing pier in Zihuatanejo, an old fishing village with cobblestone streets. Pangas are suitable for two anglers, plus captain and mate, for offshore runs (although it's often just 5 miles out to sailfish action) and inshore trolling, casting, and jigging. Sails, dolphins, and roosters can be caught year-round. Tuna and marlin are available sporadically. The prime times are May through September for roosters, and December through February for sails and dolphins. Last January, the better boats averaged six sailfish hookups a day. It's one of the best places to catch sails on spinning, fly, and lightweight tackle. Just 4 miles away from Zihuatanejo is the smaller, modern resort city of Ixtapa, a tiny haven of waterfront hotels and restaurants.

Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo has an international airport served by assorted airlines, including service from Newark on the East Coast via Mexicana airline and daily service via Aeromexico from JFK. There are even more options from the West Coast. Check with airlines, travel websites, or a travel agency to find the best fares.

Boats

Ixtapa Sportfishing Charters reserves the best pangas available; contact Stan Lushinsky or Susan Richards at 570-688-9466; www.ixtapasportfishing.com.

Eight hours costs $210; 10 hours, $260.

Lodging

A charming place to stay is Bungalows Adelamar in the Madera Beach area of Zihuatanejo. This small, new hotel close to Zihua Bay and within walking distance of the fishing pier has a pool and rooms with efficiency kitchens. Ixtapa Sportfishing Charters can book a room that can be shared among a few anglers for $80 a night (peak season, December through April) or $60 (off-season).

Food
You can eat very cheaply in Ixtapa-Zihuatanejo; dinner at some of the nicer restaurants will only cost $20. Many of them will also cook your fresh catch. A few excellent choices are Arnoldo's on the Las Gatas beach in Zihuatanejo Bay (reserve in advance to dine at the water's edge); Chez Paul in the heart of Zihuatanejo; and Bucanero's at the marina in Ixtapa.