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March 04, 2011

5 Top North American Fishing Lodges

Try these destinations for your next fishing trip

Bahamas bonefish

Stella Maris Resort

Long Island, Bahamas, 800-426-0466, www.stellamarisresort.com

Location: Stella Maris is ­situated on the northern part of Long Island, a narrow, 80-mile stretch of beaches and mangroves in the central Bahamas. Long Island lies south of the Exumas and north of the Acklins. The lodge sits atop a hill, overlooking the Atlantic Ocean and the Exuma Bank.

Fishing seasons/­expectations: Anglers catch the biggest ­bonefish from January through May. Expect shots at 10 or more bones a day to 8 pounds. From March to June is prime dolphin (mahi/dorado) and yellowfin tuna time, with the peak dolphin bite in May. Expect upward of 40 mahi in a day's outing. Wahoo migrate through from September to November.

Lodge records: Dolphin (mahi/dorado): 34 pounds; wahoo: 65 pounds; snapper: 9 pounds.

A typical day's outing: Offshore trips start about 8 a.m. on the drop-off between Long Island and the Exuma cays. Depending on weather, captains may fish the northern point of Long Island and in the deep water between Long and Conception islands. The game plan usually includes trolling ballyhoo and artificial bait.

Bonefishing relies more on tides and technique, whether clients wish to wade or fish from a boat. Anglers may choose to use spinning or fly gear.

Average climate/weather expectations: Temperatures range from the low 60s (daily lows in winter) to the upper 80s (daily highs in summer) with high humidity; rain is more prevalent in May and October/November. Expect winds with winter fronts and mostly calm conditions during summer.

Getting there: Stella Maris Resort Air Service offers flights from Nassau, Great Exuma and other Bahamas islands ($99 to $139 one way) for hotel guests; the lodge air strip is a half-mile away. Bahamasair (www.bahamasair.com), Pineapple Air (­pineappleair.net) and Southern Air (www.southernaircharter.com) also fly from Nassau. From Florida, charter with Gold Aviation (www.goldaviation.com), Air Flight (www.airflightcharters.com) or Locair (www.locair.net).

Stella MarisVessel information: For offshore fishing, Stella Maris runs a 36-foot Delta sport-fisherman with twin Cummins 300 hp diesels. The 25-year-old vessel has been overhauled three times and features a cabin, fighting chair, outriggers, downriggers and fish finder.

Bonefish boats include a 16-foot Hells Bay with a 65 hp Mercury outboard and poling platform, and a 17-foot Maverick with a 90 Yamaha and platform.

Available tackle: Offshore boats come equipped with Penn International 30s and 50s. Spinning tackle is available for bonefishing, as are 8- and 9-weight Sage and Scott fly rods with Tibor and Abel reels.

Accommodations: Stella Maris features guest rooms (six to eight rooms per individual building), bungalows, cottages and villas, all with an ocean view and terrace or balcony. Each air-conditioned room features tropical-style furnishings with a king bed or two double beds and a full bathroom. One- and two-bedroom bungalows come with one or two baths plus a living room. Two-, three- and four-bedroom cottages and villas come with multiple bathrooms and full kitchens.

To accommodate U.S. boaters, Stella Maris Resort offers 12 slips and a small, full-service marina. Fuel is generally available.

2011 packages: Five- or seven-night Sun & Sea packages include a flight from Nassau, an ocean-view room, meals, roundtrip taxi from airport, taxes and service charges, and access to bikes, kayaks, excursions and more. Through April 30, the five-night package costs $2,585; the seven-night costs $3,395. For shorter stays, hotel rooms begin at $190 for a double in winter, $175 for a double in summer. Fishing rates start at $450 for a full day of bonefishing, $850 a day for reef fishing and $950 a day for offshore fishing.

Provisions for taking home fish: Offshore fishermen ­generally clean their catch and pack it in bags to leave in the lodge's freezer. Anglers must provide their own coolers for carry-on or baggage.