A while back we shared what we knew about getting a first-time Mexican sportfishing license before crossing the border. Well, if you stay down here a spell, you'll need to renew that license. Which if you do it in Mexico may range from piece-o'-cake E-Z to a clusterfark of epic proportion. Our own experience with our recent renewal hopped along several points of that spectrum.
Conapesca has its applications for sportfishing licenses online - renewals are treated the same as new applications. The form is in Spanish but with a bit of searching you can find an English translation. Alternatively, Conapesca's San Diego office has a different application form in English. Either way you go, the information the form seeks is quite straightforward. Try working through the Spanish form - it's good practice, and a bit of fun if you're not too hurried. A Spanish-English dictionary helps.
Our first approach was to use the new online application process. Because everybody's going paperless these days, don'tcha know. And because as far as I know even Conapesca no longer provides a place to get licenses in person. If all goes smoothly, the online application process is really no big deal. You complete the fishing-license application online (we did the Spanish version), and save/ register it online to get a registration number. You print out the completed form with your new registration number, and take it with your money to pay the fee at a local bank (any bank, according to the instructions). The bank prints two receipts for each of the two payments you make that together comprise the total fee. (For GB's application for a year's license, the 482-peso fee (roughly, US $48.20) was apportioned into one payment of 447 pesos and a second payment of 35 pesos.) After the bank takes your money and gives you your two stamped receipts for each payment portion, you trot back to your computer to record the operation numbers and payment key numbers from each of the two receipts on your online application. You can then enter the starting date for your fishing license, and print out the official license which automatically calculates an ending date from the starting date you chose. You are then authorized to go fishing. The best part of this process is that the bank that takes your fees is very likely to have kick-a$$ air conditioning.
In practice, however, there can be irregularities.
For us, the first glitch occurred when we took our initial application form to the local Santander bank. The cashier didn't even touch the form - saw me take it out of my bag from about 15 feet away, and said something to the effect of, "Oh no. Wrong. Not that. Wrong form. No. Never. Go away ."
I was baffled, so we decided to let the El Cid harbormasters deal with it, because (1) we assumed we were doing something wrong; (2) the El Cid harbormasters are authorized to issue fishing licenses - for an additional US $10 handling fee- because they run a sportfishing fleet and get fishing licenses all the time for their charter-boat customers; and (3) I had to suddenly leave for 2 weeks to assist with a family medical emergency back in the US so was unavailable to work on the license problem. GB, though, spent a lot of time working on it with the El Cid harbormasters, but long story short, after 2 weeks even the harbormasters had given up - they told GB that the Conapesca website was down. We learned that was not entirely accurate.
The website, I think, wasn't "down" so much as the online license application form appeared to have some bugs. Dock mates of ours related a variety of problems to us that they'd recently had with the online forms that had nothing to do with a language barrier or user error. When I returned to the boat from the US we got a little further with the online application the next time we tried it. Plus, on the advice of one of our dock mates we went to a different bank to pay the fees - Banjercito, the bank that the federal employees use themselves. The logic being, that the federal employees' bank would surely have experience with federal agencies' payment forms. Sure enough, Banjercito didn't blink at our fishing application form, took our money, gave us receipts too legit to quit, and smiled as they waved goodbye to us. They even held the door open for us as we left. This part of the process took about 45 minutes including walking to and from the bank. Sweet. And their air conditioning was terrific.
So back at the boat I hop back online, right, and enter the required operation and payment key numbers in the appropriate fields on the application form. I select November 1, 2008, as the start date for the license, so the automatically-calculated ending date should be October 31, 2009. And when I print out the official license, which cannot be altered further, what to my wondering eyes doth appear on the official license but a start date of May 30, 2005, and an ending date of May 29, 2006.
This online application form wasn't even released to the public until January 2008. So again, I assert, WTF?!?! No way was this user error - too many numbers had gone wrong, when I had correctly entered so many other, longer, strings of numbers on the dang form.
Time had run out by this point on completing the fishing license process - it has a 20-day shelf life from start to finish, and we were now on Day 20. I was fresh out of patience and calm, having just come off of that 2-week family medical emergency in the US. I was a donkey on the edge. I was Kiefer Sutherland working against the clock, man.
So after spending 10 minutes swearing, and using more information from a dock neighbor, GB and I taxied ourselves to Mazatlan's Conapesca office at 3:30 pm to throw ourselves on the mercy of the Great Mexican Fishing Bureaucracy to somehow fix the dates on the fishing license. Except Date-Fixing Dude was elsewhere the whole afternoon. Except his very polite colleagues would not be so rude as to say so, so they told us to wait for him to come back to the office. So we hung around for a couple of hours, and they finally realized we weren't getting the cultural clue and wouldn't go away. We wore them down, man, so eventually they sat down with us, reviewed the problem, did not appear the least bit surprised that the online form had some problems in it, discussed our predicament amongst themselves in very rapid and incomprehensible Spanish, and told us they'd try to work on it. They told us they'd call us the next morning but if we received no call we should come back the next afternoon. It was now 6:00 pm and my happy hour was in jeopardy.
We left the problem in Conapesca's hands and dragged back to the boat to pound martinis. And wouldn't you know - 30 minutes later, Conapesca called and told us the problem was fixed; we could go online immediately and print out our official license with corrected starting and ending dates. We did, and it was glorious. Thanks to the efforts of 3 bureaucrats at Conapesca, they worked through the problems with their online form and solved a gringo's problem within 3 hours of the gringo's appearance on their doorstep, and about half an hour after official close of business. Now, THAT'S government work at its best.
Thanks, Conapesca Mazatlan!