11 of the World's Best Saltwater Fishing Spots | Sport Fishing Magazine

11 of the World's Best Fishing Spots

Great destinations to fulfill your fishing fantasies

Best Fishing Spots

There’s nothing like a chilly winter day to get an angler thinking about where he or she might go on that next big fishing trip.

Pat Ford

While most of us fish our own backyards most of the time, we also plan to travel to fish, often based around some specific goal or interest.

Locating one of those ultimate fishing destinations doesn’t necessarily require flying to the far side of the planet. Nearly all of the 11 destinations cited here are in or near North/Central America. Each is oriented around a particular goal. I ended up with 11 versus the expected 10 because one goal — catch a slam — required both an inshore and an offshore destination.

Prince Edward Island/Nova Scotia, Canada

PEI, Nova Scotia, Canada — One of the best places in the world to catch a huge tuna

Catch a huge tuna off Prince Edward Island/Nova Scotia, Canada.

Capt. Josh Temple

Why here? 1,496: That’s the weight of the all-tackle world-record bluefin tuna caught here in 1979. Many more weighing better than 1,000 pounds have been taken over the years, and the odds for a bluefin that size are higher off the Canadian Maritimes than anywhere else in the world (with fish commonly more than 800 pounds), as are your chances for the stand-up battle of a lifetime. Fishing is often very near port/land, often less than a mile run. Most boats are equipped with fighting chairs, but if you’re a really hard-core stand-up kind of guy, bring it on. You’ll fish live, chunked or whole fish for bait, often on kites. By law, this is a catch-and-release fishery; however, boats currently are allowed to keep one or two fish per season. Regulations for this controlled fishery are subject to change from year to year.

When: August through mid-October

Cost to get here: $$ (These very general estimates are based on this very rough scale: $ = reasonable, $$ = moderately expensive and $$$ = downright pricey.)

Cost to fish here: $$$

Belize

Belize — One of the Best Places in the World to Catch an Inshore Slam

Catch an inshore slam off Belize.

Courtesy Belize Tourism Board

Why here? Quite simply, it’s hard to find a spot anywhere with greater numbers of willing bonefish, permit and tarpon; the odds of releasing at least one of each in a day are remarkably high. The chances for trophy-size fish, especially bones, are better elsewhere. But for numbers (schools of bones in the hundreds aren’t uncommon), action (with bonefish known to be more aggressive than spooky) and slams, Belize is a great bet. The country zealously guards its extensive flats, which remain pristine. The only country in Central America where English is the primary language, Belize is just two or three hours from most southeastern U.S. cities. Many resorts and lodges cater to anglers; guides can range from local pangeros to veteran pros in top-notch flats skiffs.

When: Year-round (For bigger tarpon, plan to fish midsummer to late fall.)

Cost to get here: $$

Cost to fish here: $$

Malindi, Kenya

Malindi, Kenya — One of the best places in the world to catch an offshore slam

Catch an offshore slam off Malindi, Kenya.

Dave Lewis

Why here? The waters off Malindi, on Kenya’s central coast, offer one of the few places on the planet where anglers can realistically hope to accomplish a billfish royal slam, or even a fantasy slam. The latter (which has been done here a number of times) requires five different species of billfish in a day, and they’re all here. In fact, someday, some angler off Kenya might go beyond a fantasy slam to catch the ultimate six species in a day: blue marlin, striped marlin, black marlin, sailfish, swordfish and shortbill spearfish. You can choose from among competent, experienced crews for offshore charters. Closer in, anglers can target giant trevally and other reef fishes, as well as nearshore pelagics. Several hotels in the Malindi/Watamu area offer accommodations, and resorts such as Hemingways also offer charters.

When: Billfish feed in these waters all year, but January through February (summer in this hemisphere) probably offers the best shot at fantasies fulfilled.

Cost to get here: $$$

Cost to fish here: $$ to $$$

Key West, Florida

Key West, Florida — One of the best places in the world to visit a great sport-fishing town

Visit an angler-oriented sport-fishing town: Key West, Florida.

Courtesy Andy Newman / Florida Keys News Bureau

Why here? Only anglers who have never visited Key West would need to ask. Key West serves as a gateway to the Dry Tortugas and sits in the middle of world-class fishing grounds, where blue water, reefs and flats all beckon enthusiasts. Few communities on the planet are more oriented to anglers and their needs, with a tremendous array of first-rate inshore guides and offshore charters as well as a variety of moorage options. At the same time, Key West offers an endless variety of seafood eateries, a great range of accommodations and, of course, bars of every kind and flavor; it’s a party every night on famous Duval Street! Air Tran, Southwest and Delta fly into the Key West airport.

When: Year-round; winters can be rough, but it’s a great time for sails on the outer reefs and tarpon in the harbor.

Cost to get here: $ to $$

Cost to fish here: $ to $$

Panama

Panama — One of the best spots in the world to catch big fish on poppers

Catch big fish on poppers in Panama.

Sam Root / Saltyshores.com

Why here? Amazingly productive offshore seamounts and rugged coastline loaded with rocky headlands and nearshore reefs — that’s why. Schools of tuna patrol iconic seamounts such as Zane Grey Bank and Hannibal Bank, where they can be seen frothing the surface while crashing bait, often mixed in with vast schools of dolphin (the mammal). Mahi and wahoo will nail poppers, especially around floating logs. Topwater predators that lurk closer to shore include huge cubera snapper, roosterfish, bluefin trevally, large sierra and other game fish. A mere two-and-a-half hours from Miami and served by many airlines, this tourist-friendly country is a snap to fly into, and the Pacific coast offers many excellent fishing resorts.

When: Year-round, though the coast can be pretty wet during the fall rainy season.

Cost to get here: $$

Cost to fish here: $$ to $$$

Louisiana/Mississippi Marshes

Louisiana/Mississippi Marshes — One of the best places in the world to find fabulous saltwater fly-fishing

Find fabulous saltwater fly-fishing in the Louisiana and Mississippi marshes.

Will Drost

Why here? Endless shallow-water habitat makes up the vast coastal marshes that stretch from western Mississippi into Louisiana — just the sort of habitat that red drum love. In other words, these marshes offer a huge population of one of the world’s superb game fish for fly-rodders, all in a vast and fabulous sight-casting milieu. Of course there are various other species on hand as well (such as seatrout and black drum), but with aggressive, hard-fighting reds often in the 15- to 35-pound range, they remain the top target. Nor is there anything difficult about getting here: The marsh begins an hour or two from New Orleans.

When: The fishery is available all year, but winter weather is more erratic than the period from April through December. Look for best shots at big bulls in fall. In general, sunny days up sight-casting ops greatly.

Cost to get here: $ to $$

Cost to fish here: $$

Bermuda

Bermuda — One of the best places in the world to catch a monster marlin

Catch a monster marlin off Bermuda.

Richard Gibson

Why here? Any list of top spots for big blue marlin has to include Bermuda, which has proved its bona fides over many decades. No country has won the one-day, global World Cup Blue Marlin Championship as often as Bermuda (eight times in 27 years), including the two largest fish ever caught in that event (1,195 and 1,189 pounds). The largest blue taken here (so far): 1,352 pounds. Beyond blues are white marlin, wahoo and yellowfin tuna. The quick-hop trip (two or three hours from the East Coast) from many U.S. gateway cities via American, Continental, Delta, Jet Blue, U.S. Air and others adds to the destination’s appeal. So do an experienced fleet and the chance to spend time in a very foreign but very safe, civilized and clean country with amazing beaches, fabulous diving, golfing, restaurants and, well, you get the idea.

When: Peak time for the big girls is June through August.

Cost to get here: $$

Cost to fish here: $$$

Montauk, New York

Montauk, New York — One of the best places in the world to catch great variety on light tackle

Catch great variety on light tackle off Montauk, New York.

Terry Gibson

Why here? While the season for this fishery is short, when it’s on, it’s really on. The famous bass blitzes in the long tidal rips near shore, as stripers gorge on the huge schools of bay anchovies, are a sight to behold. In few places do bass boil as they do off Montauk; hundreds and hundreds of predators are packed so densely that it’s not uncommon for them to be bumping boat hulls. Add big bluefish, false albacore (little tunny), fluke and, some years, weakfish, and it’s a frenzy of targets for light-tackle (and fly) enthusiasts, with the lighthouse and coastal cliffs adding scenery to match the action. Soft plastics, small metal jigs and various plugs will all get nailed off Montauk.

When: September and October; some years the season might extend through November and even into December, but early fall is the safest time for the best action.

Cost to get here: $ to $$

Cost to fish here: $ to $$$

The Bahamas

The Bahamas — One of the best places in the world to find fantastic flats fishing

Find fantastic flats fishing off the Bahamas.

Courtesy Barry and Cathy Beck

Why here? No country close to the United States has as great an area of flats or bonefish as large, on the average, as the Bahamas. While it’s hard to go wrong on any flat around these islands, Grand Bahamas flats and the shallows around Andros, Abaco, and Long islands hold great numbers of fish. Besides bones and permit, even tarpon might get in the act along the west side of Andros. Not only are the Bahamas close by, but English is the primary language. Choose from an array of fishing lodges and resorts that cater to anglers with guides who know how to pole their flats skiffs to put fishermen, whether they’re throwing with a fly rod or spinning gear, into big schools of fish.

When: Anytime can be productive, but March through June is the most reliable time for fishing these flats. (Keep in mind that in late summer and early fall, there’s a risk of a hurricane spoiling the best-laid plans.)

Cost to get here: $ to $$

Cost to fish here: $$

Cabo San Lucas, Mexico

Cabo San Lucas, Mexico — One of the best places in the world to find great blue-water fishing very close

Find great blue-water fishing very close to land off Cabo San Lucas, Mexico.

Riccardo Tamburini

Why here? In many regions, fishing serious blue water means a run of 10 or 20 or even 40 miles before lines go in. On a rough day, you pay your dues at the outset. How does a run of a couple of miles sound? That’s about all you need to start targeting open-ocean pelagics out of the Cabo San Lucas area; many bragging-size marlin, dorado, sails and wahoo have been taken a short distance from shore here, where Pacific Ocean waters mix with the lower Sea of Cortez. And some of the prime banks such as Golden Gate and Gordo can require not much more than a run of 10 miles, depending on your point of origin.

When: Fishable and fished year-round; figure on the hottest action during hot weather for sails, wahoo and dorado, usually May through July. For marlin (stripes, blacks, blues), plan on October or November.

Cost to get here: $ to $$

Cost to fish here: $ to $$$

Graham/Langara Islands

Graham/Langara Islands — One of the best places in the world to visit an island with fabulous fishing

Graham and Langara Islands offer fabulous fishing.

Courtesy West Coast Fishing Club

Why here? Steep, stunning, craggy, forested slopes overlook some of the most productive fishing grounds in the North Pacific. Sport-fishing pressure is negligible around most of the Queen Charlottes, known to the Haida as Haida Gwaii, except for the few (generally top-notch) fishing resorts — strictly fly-in. During most of the season, the waters around these islands truly teem with schools of salmon: It’s a great place to nail a trophy 50-plus-pound chinook as well as smaller coho and Pacific halibut of truly behemoth proportions. Have that flying harpoon ready! Yet, with good conditions, following an easy morning flight from Vancouver, you can be catching ’em up that afternoon. In the summer, daylight fishing can start before 5 a.m. and last until 10 p.m.

When: This is a very seasonal fishery, generally beginning no earlier than mid- to late May and running through early September.

Cost to get here: $$ to $$$

Cost to fish here: $$ to $$$


Note that this offers 11 of the best spots; that’s a different animal from “the 11 best spots.” There are definitely more “best” fishing spots in the world. In fact, you’ll find nine more of the best places to go fishing for various species listed at sportfishingmag.com/top-fishing-destinations. Check it out: Some of the places might surprise you.

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