If you could take a week off to fish one place in the world that you’ve always wanted to try, where would it be? I put that question to 10 big names in the world of sport fishing. Most of these guys are all about been-there-done-that, but each ticked off one place he’d not yet fished but wanted very much to try. What follows are their 10 choices. (You’ll note that nine spots are listed since two anglers listed the same place.)
World-class anglers share their top bucket-list fishing spots(hover to view)
A thumbnail look at each spot will give you a bit of information in case the same sort of fishing adventure sounds good to you. But plan on dropping some coin: None come cheap, as the bulleted items for “Cost” reveal. Figuring “$$$” to be under $8,000 for five days of fishing, all of these adventures would run you either “$$$$” ($8,000 to $10,000) or “$$$$$” (more than $10,000) in total, including international airfare. But, hey, if they were cheap, they wouldn’t be dream trips, now would they?
Distances listed are all from the arbitrary origin of Atlanta.
Besides being expensive and, in most cases, remote, the spots all share one thing: Amazing fishing is the norm. These guys know their stuff; their interest doesn’t come easily.
1. Ascension Island – Bill Boyce & Capt. Ray Rosher
Ascension Island is “literally in the middle of nowhere,” as Boyce says, describing it precisely as “a tiny volcanic outcropping 34 square miles in size, a thousand miles west of Africa and 1,400 east of Brazil.” Boyce cites the island’s isolation, lack of commercial pressure and “the scientific fact that it’s a feeding zone that transects many pelagic species’ transatlantic migration routes” for the phenomenal fishing.
Grander blue marlin. Many have been landed or released here despite the miniscule amount of effort. Bycatch: Massive yellowfin and bigeye tuna, often in huge schools and often quite near the island. Look for an increase in interest among serious poppers and jiggers here.
This is a tricky one. Ascension has been accessible to anglers only via flights from London (two per week), via the island of St. Helena, with Ascension government approval for an entry permit and nailing down one of the few seats available on a British Royal Air Force Airbus. But as of this writing, the airstrip is closed for repair and not expected to open until later this year or 2019. For the few lucky anglers who get there, a hotel called the Obsidian will accommodate you.
Born and raised in Southern California, Bill Boyce had fished much of the United States by age 14. His passion for fish and fishing ignited a career as a federal fisheries biologist for 16 years, then 20-plus years traveling the world as a photojournalist, and Telly Award-winning executive producer and host of several fishing-travel TV series.
One of South Florida’s most respected charter skippers, Ray Rosher started working as a professional mate in 1979 and as a full-time charter captain in 1999, when he started Miss Britt Charters in Miami. He has notched more than 30 billfish-tournament wins.
2. Cairns, Australia – Mark Davis
For decades, the waters of the western Pacific off Cairns in northeastern Australia have become synonymous with ginormous black marlin. Big baits, big boats, big seas and big fish are SOP here.
Black marlin over 1,000 pounds. Six line-class world records for blacks up to 1,323 pounds have been weighed in at Cairns.
Plenty of flights into Cairns from Sydney, Brisbane or even Hong Kong. Excellent hotels in Cairns are reasonably priced. Day, overnight and mothership charters leave directly from Cairns Harbor.
Distance: 9,100 miles (via Sydney, 10,500 miles)
For more information: traditioncharters.com
Best known as the host on the popular television fishing show BigWater Adventures, Mark Davis has been a player in the fishing industry for decades, during which time he’s traveled the world, pursuing hundreds of species of game fish. A grander black marlin has so far eluded Davis, but he’s determined to tackle the fish as he has giant bluefin: one-on-one, standing up with belt and harness.
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3. Anaa Atoll, Tahiti – Ray Douglas
This small, pristine atoll in French Polynesia — about 200 miles east of Tahiti — offers fly-rodders endless opportunities on its expansive sand-and-coral flats and fringing reef encompassing a large lagoon. Anglers stay in a lodge with two-person bungalows, and enjoy both wade- and skiff-fishing.
The list of targeted inshore/nearshore game fish includes bluefin trevally, bonefish, giant trevally, bohar snapper (red bass), giant trevally, Napoleon wrasse and many other species.
Distance: 5,600 miles
For more information: flatsbag.com
Marine artist and zealous angler Ray Douglas started King Sailfish Mounts in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, in 1991, as one of the pioneers of the fiberglass-release-mount concept. Regarding this dream trip, Douglas has a vision of “being ambushed by bluefin trevally on the white-sand flats in gin‑clear water.”
4. Three Kings, New Zealand – Guy Harvey
About 35 miles northwest of the northern tip of New Zealand sits this group of small islands, atop the Three Kings Bank that rises out of abyssal depths, at the convergence of the Pacific Ocean and Tasman Sea. It is absolutely not a place for fair-weather fishers, but those hardy sorts with the stoutest of sea legs will find the biggest individuals among several types of game fish.
Striped marlin, swordfish, mako and thresher sharks. All of these great game fish grow to monstrous sizes in these rough, cold waters. In fact, nearly all striped marlin line-class and tippet world records come from northern New Zealand waters, as do the all-tackle 494-pound stripe and the all-tackle thresher at 767 pounds, 3 ounces.
Auckland’s international airport is served by several major airlines. Gladiator Marine offers Three Kings trips from Auckland Harbor. Historically, a number of charters operated out of scenic Bay of Islands on the far north coast; however, word from Grant Dixon, managing editor of New Zealand Fishing News, is that recent government regulations have put an end to many Three Kings operations. Gladiator is one of the few still running trips, he says.
Distance: 8,000 miles
For more information: gladiatormarine.co.nz
Guy Harvey needs little introduction. The globally known marine artist is a consummate angler and diver, and International Game Fish Association Hall of Fame member. Harvey founded the Guy Harvey Research Institute in 1999, and the Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation. His interest in a multiday adventure at Three Kings stems from accounts of huge fish there. Harvey adds, “I would want to take my family, of course!”
5. Patagonia, Argentina – Dave Pfeiffer
The region in southern South America known as Patagonia, shared by Argentina and Chile, has coasts on both the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. Its Atlantic estuarial rivers are well-known among anglers for their massive sea-run brown trout; the Rio Gallegos, which originates in the southern Andes, is renowned for that fishery.
Sea-run brown trout. Fly-rodders set their sights on fish of 20 to 30 pounds in this shallow, scenic river.
Fly directly into Buenos Aires; from there, you’ll catch a three-hour Aerolineas flight to the city of Rio Gallegos. Several lodges/outposts can accommodate anglers.
Distance: 5,000 miles Cost: $$$$ For more information: solidadventures.com
Dave Pfeiffer has served as president and CEO of Shimano America since 2006, and is an active participant in the recreational-fishing community, on the board of directors of the American Sportfishing Association and the Center for Sportfishing Policy. He longs to fish Patagonia rivers for their huge trout, as well as “for the absolute beauty and rugged and remote terrain. Challenging fishing, and not like anything I’ve done.”
6. Alaska – Capt. Tim Richardson
Alaska is one of those destinations that’s on just about any angler’s bucket list. Getting there is a full day’s travel from most areas of the United States, a trip anglers willingly make to find memorable fishing for North Pacific game fish.
Salmon (primarily Chinook and coho) and Pacific halibut.
Depending upon where one intends to fish, an angler can fly into Ketchikan, Sitka, Juneau or Anchorage, and from there, variously drive or fly farther via regional airlines or floatplane. Some lodges offer only saltwater fishing, some only freshwater (river) fishing, and others provide both opportunities (as Richardson is looking for).
Distance: 3,000 miles, plus or minus
Cost: $$$$ to $$$$$
For more information: travelalaska.com
Capt. Tim Richardson has been a professional mate and captain since 1992. Marlin fishing is his passion, and he has skippered in most of the hot spots over the years, but Richardson is known especially for releasing big blacks out of Cairns on Tradition (and blues in the Caribbean on Chaser). Alaska holds a particular appeal for Richardson; he mentions its scenery and fishing, so completely foreign to his usual experience Down Under.
7. Transkei, the Wild Coast, South Africa – Patrick Sebile
South Africa’s wild eastern shores, from Cape Town north to Mozambique, are productive for many species, but international sport-fishing enthusiasts don’t typically flock here, in part due to a lack of facilities for them. But deep, rocky reefs off the coast are home to a legendary bottom dweller found nowhere else in the world: the red steenbras.
Red steenbras, the world’s biggest porgy, growing to at least 124 pounds (the current all-tackle record, taken here in 1994); they’re large, powerful predators and offer any angler a challenge. (Overfishing has diminished the population of this iconic fish; despite a one-fish bag limit, release is encouraged.)
There’s no lack of international flights into Johannesburg; from there, a regional flight to East London, where Rance Safaris would transport an angler to the Morgan Bay Hotel situated in the scenic Wild Coast. Fishing may be combined with hunting on the nearby Kei River Game Reserve. Fishing boats depart from the lower river.
Distance: 8,400 miles
Cost: $$$ to $$$$
For more information: rancesafaris.co.za
The name Patrick Sebile is familiar to anglers around the world, thanks to the many lures produced tirelessly by this award-winning lure designer for many years. The native of France now lives in Florida with his wife and infant twins; he spent 17 years as a guide in western Africa. Though he has caught 776 species of game fish to date, that doesn’t include a massive red steenbras.
8. Ibera Marshlands, Argentina – Capt. RT Trosset
The vast Ibera Marshlands are a largely uninhabited and unexplored system of crystal-clear rivers, creeks and lakes. These wetlands include more than 3 million acres. Ibera Lodge is located in northeast Argentina, near the Corrientes River.
Dorado rank among the most prized of all freshwater game fish for their savage attacks on flies and lures and remarkable, aerial fight when hooked. Found in a limited area of South America, these amazing predators are in the same order as piranhas, hardly surprising given the impressive teeth that line their jaws. They may reach more than 50 pounds but are more commonly 5 to 15 pounds.
After flying into Buenos Aires, anglers access the lodge either via a chartered plane to Mercedes, about 70 miles, or travel by bus. From there, a four-wheel-drive vehicle picks up guests for the 1¼-hour drive to Pira Lodge. The lodge provides all-guided fishing as part of its packages.
Distance: 5,000 miles
For more information: piralodge.com
One of the world’s renowned light-tackle guides for more than four decades, Robert “RT” Trosset — based in Key West — has guided clients to 207 IGFA world records, many from his 34-foot Yellowfin Spindrift. He has fished six of the world’s seven oceans, but never had the chance to catch anything like golden dorado. “That,” he insists, regarding an adventure to Pira Lodge, “would be an awesome trip!”
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9. Jewell and Ashmore reefs, Australia – Rob Wittman
Jewell and Ashmore reefs, off the Cape York Peninsula in the northeastern-most corner of Australia, are so remote that they see virtually no real sport-fishing pressure beyond a very rare visit by a mothership operation or large private vessel. These reefs boast all of the amazing diversity of game fishes found along the Great Barrier Reef.
Giant trevally, black marlin and many species of bluewater and reef fish. On the reef, around bommies and in channels, giant trevally, red bass, emperors, jobfish, wrasse and others will strike poppers and soft lures. Trolling off the reef yields marlin, yellowfin and dogtooth tuna, narrow-barred mackerel and wahoo.
Fly into Cairns, overnight there and then catch a short flight to famed Lizard Island. From Lizard, board the 80-foot liveaboard power cat Odyssey for a week, as it begins fishing its way north for the 180-mile journey toward Jewell Reef.
Distance: 9,100 miles (via Sydney, 10,500 miles)
For more information: nomadsportfishing.com.au
Virginia congressman Rob Wittman is serving a fifth term in the U.S. House of Representatives. Wittman, an ardent angling enthusiast since boyhood, has fished his home waters off the mid-Atlantic extensively, but also internationally; on his D.C. office walls are photos and release mounts of trophy yellowfin, cobia, marlin and other great catches. Wittman is also an outdoor photojournalist, published in Sport Fishing.