Fishing-Vacation Bargains | Sport Fishing Magazine

Fishing-Vacation Bargains

Nine fishing adventures around North/Central America and beyond that you can book at seasonally discounted rates

Anytime is a good time to go on a fishing vacation, but some times are better than others, with various factors in play in the timing decision. For a lot of us, among those factors are costs — costs within our budget to embark on a big adventure for the year, or perhaps costs that allow us to squeeze in a second trip somewhere.

Some fishing operations (resorts and/or charters) offer discounted rates part of the year, most often during what could be termed their “offseason.”

All anglers hooked up!

This hot bite in Mexican waters is the sort of action anglers hope for on a great fishing vacation.

Doug Olander / Sport Fishing

Considering that, I found nine such operations, in prime fishing grounds in the United States and abroad, that do offer bargains part of the year. In some cases, the discount is modest; in others, it’s substantial (e.g. $700 per day for boat and crew versus $1,200 per day during peak season).

Where in the World: Location of Nine Fishing Operations in this Article

Map of fishing destinations

1 — Casa Vieja Lodge, Iztapa, Guatemala
2 — Crackerjack Charters, Seward, Alaska
3 — Crocodile Bay Resort, Osa Peninsula, Costa Rica
4 — Hawks Cay Resort, Duck Key, Florida
5 — Keen M International, Isla Mujeres, Mexico
6 — Kingfisher Charters and Lodge, Sitka, Alaska
7 — No Boundaries Oman, Salalah, Oman
8 — Tropic Star Lodge, Piñas Bay, Panama
9 — The Zancudo Lodge, Playa Zancudo, Costa Rica

Sport Fishing magazine

As you might figure, there are reasons for reduced rates, often less-certain weather conditions or the scarcity of some prime game-fish species. But in most cases, there also advantages to visiting in the offseason, some that might surprise trip planners. I found that many fishing operations offer no discounted rates, and some feel strongly against that practice. But at the same time, there are a great many more resorts/charters than listed that offer offseason bargains.

The following are listed alphabetically.


1. Casa Vieja Lodge (Iztapa, Guatemala)

The operation: Casa Vieja is a premier lodge with nine boats taking anglers out to experience the famed Pacific sailfish fishery here. The nine lodge boats (40-foot sport-fishers and 35-foot Contenders) have recorded days with a year-round average of 15 shots at 80- to 120-pound sails. Blue, black and striped marlin all show up on the grounds as well. Casa Vieja boasts of five-star service and gourmet dining.

Fishing for sailfish off Guatemala

The Pacific is often calm off Guatemala, where boats troll for billfish from 10 to 30 miles out.

Courtesy Capt. Chris Sheeder / Casa Vieja Lodge

The deal: May — 15 percent off fishing packages. That would mean, for example, $3,017 per angler for a three-day/four-night package (all-inclusive with VIP transfers at airport, food, alcohol and laundry) based on two anglers versus the normal rate of $3,550.

Tagging a sailfish off Guatemala

Few places in the world offer more shots at billfish on the average day than Guatemala.

Doug Olander / Sport Fishing

The upsides: Flat seas are typical at this time. Marlin can be excellent and mahi numerous now. The resort is less busy.
The downsides: None, really. Discount is to offset many resort patrons who spend their summer months fishing back home on their own boats. Despite what many assume, the rainy season here doesn’t begin until September, so weather is not an issue.

Leaping salifish off Guatemala

A magnificent Pacific sailfish leaps off Guatemala.

Courtesy Capt. Chris Sheeder / Casa Vieja Lodge

Note: The resort is closed June through October.


2. Crackerjack Charters (Seward Alaska)

The operation: Crackerjack Charters has been a mainstay of Seward sport fishing for many years, with a 31-foot Farallon (for up to six anglers) and a 43-foot aluminum boat, custom-built for these waters (for up to 14 anglers). Trips range from half-day salmon fishing in Resurrection Bay to multiday outings in remote waters of the Gulf of Alaska. The silver (coho) salmon, for which Seward is particularly known, are popular targets in July and August. But big halibut, lingcod and rockfish can be caught most of the time.

An aerial view of Seward, Alaska

Tucked in at the end of Resurrection Bay, seward is surrounded by mountains and glaciers.

Courtesy Cindy Clock / Seward.com

The deal: May, early June and September — discounted day rate of $250 per person (available by calling and booking with Crackerjack directly), which is $100 off the peak-season day rate of $350.

Capt. Andy Mezirow to release a huge halibut at the boat

May and June can be a good time to hook the 200-plus-pound barndoor halibut that are feeding in the Gulf of Alaska. Capt. Andy Mezirow is about to release a fish that size.

Doug Olander / Sport Fishing

The upsides: Unlike during peak season, space on short notice is often available. Halibut enthusiasts often find some of the year’s best fishing during this “offseason.” The run to the fishing grounds is often shorter now than during peak season. Finally, Seward is far less crowded than mid-June through August, making it much easier to find reservations for accommodations and restaurants.
The downsides: The weather is certainly more unpredictable in May and, particularly, September. Along with beautiful days are likely to be windy, rough days. Fishing for silver salmon (which aren’t much around in June) and lingcod (closed through June) isn’t available until July.

2016 Seward Halibut Derby winner

Crackerjack Charters' "Captain T" (Francisca Barnett) with the 2016 Seward Halibut Derby winner caught on the charter Voyager.

Courtesy Crackerjack Charters

Note:Crackerjack Charters closes from October through mid-April. May is a good month to take advantage of a Crackerjack Charters fishing/hotel combo; during June, you can take part in the annual Seward Halibut Derby.


3. Crocodile Bay Resort (Osa Peninsula, Costa Rica)

The operation: A fishing operation and a whole lot more, Crocodile Bay Resort bills itself as a premier sport-fishing and eco-tour resort. Located near the bottom of the Osa Peninsula in the southern part of the country, it’s particularly known for roosterfish, sailfish and blue marlin, plus yellowfin tuna, among other species. The lodge is located on 44 acres of manicured rainforest jungle. For fishing nearshore and offshore, Crocodile Bay offers a fleet of 33- and 35-foot tower express boats and 24- and 25-foot center console Boston Whalers.

An aerial view of Crocodile Bay Resort in Costa Rica

Crocodile Bay resort is located inside Costa Rica's jungle-covered Osa Peninsula.

Courtesy Crocodile Bay Resort

The Deal: April 16 through December 14 — 13.5 percent less than peak season, so a three-day standard fishing package with transfers will be $4,796 for two anglers versus $5,540 during peak season.

Yellowfin tuna comes aboard a Crocodile Bay Resort boat

While many anglers in the summer are focused on blue marlin, there's a good chance for yellowfin action as well.

Doug Olander / Sport Fishing

The upsides: Summer months are actually the best time, as a rule, for blue marlin and dorado, and rooster fishing nearshore remains reliable. September is the best month to experience the sensational migration through the Golfo Dulce here of migrating humpback whales, a memorable addition to any fishing day. Temperatures are generally cooler, and more precipitation means the rainforest is at its lush best.
The downsides: Sailfish numbers are down. Also, a flipside of cooler weather now is more rainfall. However, this is not typically all-day rainfall, but late afternoon/evening showers (by which time anglers are often back at the dock). At times, winds can make offshore a bit sporty but still fishable, plus inside the Golfo Dulce calm-water fishing is always available.

Roosterfish release from Crocodile Bay boat off the Osa Peninsula, Costa Rica

Roosterfish release: This fish was taken on a lovely midsummer morning.

Doug Olander / Sport Fishing

Note: Crocodile Bay is open all year. Main driver behind discounted rate is the fact that many Croc Bay regulars spend time from late spring into fall fishing north in Alaska or Canada and in general around home. Also, this time of reduced rates is particularly popular with families looking to mix eco-tour activities with fishing.


4. Hawks Cay Resort (Duck Key, Florida

The operation: Situated roughly halfway down the Florida Keys, this large, luxury resort is a gateway to fishing reefs and blue water on the Atlantic or, to the west, vast Florida Bay’s skinny waters. But Hawks Cay offers much more in terms of water-related and other activities. Guests can choose from a variety of rooms, suites and villas.

Hawks Cay Resort in Florida Keys aerial view

Hawks Cay is surrounded by productive flats, both on the Atlantic (east) side and in Florida Bay (to the west0.

Courtesy Hawks Bay Resort

The Deal: Late August through December 17 — resort rates are substantially less than during peak season. For example, a Sunset Villa would run $249 (per night) at this time versus $674 in peak season. Also those with their own boat will enjoy special dock rates at this time and, depending on boat size, might even qualify for complimentary dockage.

Huge tarpon caught at night in the Florida Keys

Some monster tarpon are caught after dark, which is a lovely time to fish in the heat of late summer.

Adrian E. Gray

The upsides: Less competition for everything in the Keys, including guided/chartered fishing trips; a quieter time, with more couples than families booking late summer and fall; fall is generally an outstanding time to fish these waters, which also tend to be at their clearest in summer and early fall.
The downsides: Late summer can be oppressively humid (if you’re not in the water) and beyond commonplace thunderstorms, there is, into October, a definite risk of tropical-weather systems.

Anglers sight-fish near Islamorada, Florida Keys

Sight-casting skinny water is popular in the Islamorada area any season; Hawk's Cay is open all year.

Doug Olander / Sport Fishing

5. Keen M International (Isla Mujeres, Mexico)

The operation: One of the best-known charter operations that fishes the fabulous Isla Mujeres sailfishery, Keen M, boasts a fleet of three boats — a 41-foot convertible flybridge and a 36- and 34-foot express. Capt. Anthony Mendillo is widely recognized as an authority on this fishery, and specializes in bluewater fly-fishing

Isla Mujeres, Mexico, aerial view

An aerial view of Playa Norte, Isla Mujeres

Courtesy beach-on-map.com

The deal: March 16 through August 15 — up to $250 off the peak-season rate on the Keen M. So during spring and summer, a full day of sailfishing for up to four anglers is $1,200 total; that’s versus $1,300 to $1,450, depending on exact timing, the rest of the year. Also, only in June, July and August, Keen M offers a five-hour trip for $750.

School of sailfish off Isla  Mujeres, Mexico

The waters off Isla are famous for schooling sails. Though this is a less-frequent phenomenon in warmer months, there are always sails around.

© Doug Perrine

The upsides: Summer offers some of the year’s nicest weather and seas to be offshore. Things are less crowded around Cancun, and hotel rates are lower.
The downsides: Mainly that while sailfishing can still be quite productive, it’s definitely slower than in the winter. On the other hand, this is a perfect time for some great reef-fishing action and variety.

Garrafon Park, Isla Mujeres, Mexico

Isla Mujeres is surrounded by clear blue waters, and summer often seas conditions as calm as this.

Courtesy beach-on-map.com

Note: Summer is also the time to book a trip to snorkel with the whale sharks (or do a full day, with half fishing and half snorkeling). That’s when these waters are home to one of the greatest concentrations of whale sharks and manta rays in the world. Keen M offers fishing year-round, though its three-boat fleet is reduced to one boat during fall.


6. Kingfisher Charters and Lodge (Sitka, Alaska)

The operation: This luxury fishing lodge sits atop a hill in Sitka, with balconies offering sweeping views of Sitka Sound. Guest rooms are generous and include full kitchens, though the lodge prides itself on its gourmet meals. Kingfisher Charters anglers fish from 26- to 30-foot Alaska-style cruisers, with enclosed, heated cabins.

Stunning aerial view of Sitka, Alaska

Few places are more stunning on a clear day than southeast Alaska's Sitka.

Leon Werdinger / Alamy

The deal: The middle two weeks of May and approximately the first half of September — $300 off per person on three-day, four-night trips. So during these months, an angler would pay $2,295 versus $2,595, June through August.

Chinook salmon caught near Sitka Alaska

Fishing in Sitka is often grey, calm and productive for chinook salmon.

Doug Olander / Sport Fishing

The upsides: May is typically peak time for king salmon, and regulations often allow for more-generous daily limits at this time versus later on. September is prime time for big silver salmon. Both months are great for halibut, lingcod and rockfish — and both months allow skippers to fish for halibut anywhere (Sitka Sound is closed to halibut fishing June through August).
The downsides: One of the few drawbacks is simply that you won’t get the variety of salmon during these months because May is king (chinook) time, but silvers aren’t yet around; by September silvers are thick, but kings are relatively scarce.

Fishing the North Pacific off Sitka, Alaska

Boats fish in an afternoon chop off Sitka.

Doug Olander / Sport Fishing

Sitka annual rainfall by month

Bookings here are lighter early and late in the season more because of perception than reality. That is, not all of Alaska is colder and stormier then; in fact, May is historically relatively sunny and dry in southeast Alaska, and September weather is pretty much a repeat of August. Kingfisher closes each year from Sept. 15 through May 15.


climate-data.org

7. No Boundaries Oman (Salalah, Oman)

The operation: Offering what he calls “the total Omani fishing experience,” Ed Nicholas puts guests in modern lodges and takes them to prime Indian Ocean fishing spots in one of three 33-foot center consoles with twin 200 or 150 Yamahas. The Hallaniyat Islands, 30 miles offshore, remains barely fished and offers some of the biggest giant trevally in the world for No Boundaries Oman anglers.

Deep blue Indian Ocean around southern Oman

The austere, dry landscape of southern Oman contrasts sharply to the azure waters of the Indian Ocean around it.

courtesy No Boundaries Oman

The deal: The last half of November and all of February — up to four anglers can have the operation’s boat and crew for $700 per day — that’s versus $1,200 per day during peak season (October, early November, and March through April).

Monster of a giant trevally, Oman

Giant trevally this size helped put Oman on the angling map, and though they're less numerous in the winter, there's always a chance for one.

courtesy No Boundaries Oman

The upsides: Perfect weather and flat seas are prevalent. A great time for light-tackle variety fishing with plenty of action.
The downsides: The premier target here — ginormous giant trevally —are available but not in anything like the numbers during peak season.

giant-dentex-oman

Trevally aren't the only game fish that get large here, as species such as dentex and snapper are big and, in the winter, can be great sport.

courtesy No Boundaries Oman

Note: No Boundaries Oman closes May through most of September because that is monsoon season — very wet and very rough — and again in December and January, when currents are too light and winds from offshore (filled with sand) too strong.


8. Tropic Star Lodge (Piñas Bay, Panama)

The operation: One of the world’s pre-eminent fishing resorts, legendary Tropic Star, on the southernmost Panama coast, can be reached only by boat or plane. Located at the edge of the Darien jungle, the lodge offers 19 deluxe rooms. It boasts a fleet of 13 classic 31 Bertram sport-fishers equipped with top-notch tackle. While the coast off Piñas Bay is home to all the eastern Pacific’s game fishes, these waters are particularly known for their variety of billfishes. Besides large Pacific sailfish, three species of marlin are commonly caught: stripes, blues and blacks, often over famed Zane Grey Reef. More than 300 IGFA world records have come from Tropic Star/Piñas Bay.

Tropic Star Lodge in Panama

Tropic Star is well protected inside a small bay, accessible only by air or sea.

Courtesy Tropic Star Lodge

The deal: April, May and June — Take approximately 20 percent off standard brochure rates. So, for example, based on two people, a three-day, four-night trip during this time runs $3,060 per person versus $3,800 at peak season.

Huge black marlin on a line off Pinas Bay, Panama

The waters of southern Panama are seasonally home to huge marlin, though spring and summer are excellent times to also try for trophy roosterfish inshore.

Adrian E. Gray

The upside: During these months, nearshore fishing peaks for coastal trophies such as big roosterfish and cubera snapper.
The downside: There are better months for marlin. Sailfishing can be plenty productive. Blue marlin are caught but not as often as during winter and late summer, and blacks are unlikely during this period.

Gigantic roosterfish caught near Pinas Bay, Panama

During April, May and June, fishing for roosterfish along the Piñas Bay coast, where this monster was released, is typically outstanding

Doug Olander / Sport Fishing

Note: The resort says the increase in targeting the nearshore coastal game fish has really increased in recent years. Tropic Star closes each year during October and November.


9. The Zancudo Lodge (Playa Zancudo, Costa Rica)

The operation: Billing itself as a boutique fishing lodge, The Zancudo Lodge relies on fast, nimble center consoles, including two state-of-the-art Contender 32s for fishing both nearshore and offshore. The lodge, located just above the Panama border, sits at the edge of a black-sand beach near a remote jungle village. Besides fishing, visitors can surf, paddleboard, hike or zip-line the jungle, and more. Zancudo boasts of being rated among the top 25 hotels in Costa Rica by TripAdvisor.

Fishing out of Zancudo, Costa Rica

A Zancudo Lodge boat trolls live blue runners for roosterfish. In the background, the verdant jungle tumbles down the steep slopes of the Osa Peninsula.

Courtesy The Zancudo Lodge

The deal: June through August — a four-day trip is charged at the rate for a three-day trip, which amounts to a break of about 13 percent. So a four-day trip for two will cost $3,495 per person versus the peak-season rate for the same trip of $3,995 per person.

Yellowfin tuna on a popper, Costa Rica

Summer's a great time for big schools of big yellowfin off southern Costa Rica. This one attacked a popper.

Doug Olander / Sport Fishing

The upsides: This can be prime time for big schools of yellowfin, and not just footballs, but triple-digit fish. Blue marlin move in, and some days offshore during this time have produced double-digit marlin raised or released. Pressure is down now in nearshore fishing areas also.
The downsides: Yes, it is rainier during this period. However, that rain tends to take the form of late-afternoon scattered showers, often back at the resort after a day of fishing.

Roosterfish on a popper, southern Costa Rica

Poppers will also work inshore for roosters and cubera.

Adrian E. Gray

Note: The Zancudo Lodge is closed September and October, when rain throughout the day is most likely (though fishing remains outstanding).


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