The family of drums and croakers (named for their ability to make frog-like sounds by manipulating their swim bladder), Sciaenidae, is one of the most common and widespread around the world's warm and tropical estuarial and nearshore salt waters. They have tremendous economic importance, and North American anglers target some of the larger species such as red drum and black drum in the Atlantic and Gulf and white sea bass and corvinas in the Pacific. But as far away as Australia and South Africa, major fisheries exist for big mulloway, or "jewies," and kob, respectively.
Part of the growing problems with human/marine mammal interactions stems from many well-intentioned folks who feed them, at least in the Southeast. Porpoises and dolphin quickly learn to see people as a food source, but while it can be fun to coax these sleek cetaceans up to a boat, long-term consequences can be negative. Particularly in the Southeast, dolphin are being turned into "aggressive panhandlers," according to the National Marine Fisheries Service.
Capt. R. T. Trosset's fished Key West for 24 years. Until recently, he often took advantage of clean water and fast fishing for tarpon, permit and cobia right inside the Key West Harbor. But no more, he says. "This year, Key West water has not been fit to swim in. Tarpon fishing in the harbor this year was absolutely gone," Trosset laments. As further evidence of how bad the water quality's gotten, he points out that in years past you could hear the clicking of crustacea in the main ship channel; now it's silent. "It's like a creeping plague" around Key West, Trosset says.
"Late winter is just a good time of year to fish [out of Miami] all the way around!" That's the assessment of Bouncer Smith, one skipper who knows his way around this fishery, having been at it for many years. Smith targets just about everything that swims, depending upon conditions and the preferences of his customers. Besides the first smoker kings moving into shallower, water, "It's the beginning of the season for blackfin tuna," Smith says. "We also get some really big Spanish mackerel." He points out that world-record Spanish have been taken here at this time of year.
If You Caught a World Record Billfish
The weather along British Columbia's west coast is as unpredictable as primary day in New Hampshire. More than once I've been delayed and spent unplanned nights in whatever accommodations were available - once even spending the night on the floor of a small airport. On this trip, we left Vancouver in a conventional prop-jet under mostly sunny skies, but by the time we reached Bella Bella, about two-thirds up the B.C. coast, the ceiling was nil; we landed on instruments in wind and driving rain. So I wasn't too surprised when we ended up milling around the tiny terminal.
I've found that wiggly "limbs" on an otherwise plain plastic tail add to the appeal of a deep bait
Getting there: Many anglers' destinations in Alaska require an additional floatplane hop, but Seward can be reached by car, train or (fixed-wing) aircraft from Anchorage. The daily trip by rail ($86 round trip) can be spectacular, weather permitting. But the 2-1/2-hour drive around Turnagain Arm and south through the Chugach National Forest isn't bad either - when the clouds lift enough to behold the rugged terrain.
Rather than wait until you're in the thick of things, decide before you ever start fishing: Just how much fish do you really want to keep? You will have to make that decision if you spend much time fishing here (often in even one day). The keeping's easy; Captain Jack's Fish Locker at the dock (907-224-8082) will vacuum-pack, flash-freeze, box and store for your flight home all the fish you want and can legally keep. But that could be 200 or more pounds of fillets from salmon, halibut and other bottom fish.
To fish out of Salinas, you'll fly into Guayaquil (pronounced Gwhy-a-keel'), the largest city in Ecuador, with a population of about three million...