Top Family Fishing Destinations

From the Florida Keys to Central America: recommended lodges and locations for fun fishing

Young kid fishing offshore
Introduce kids to fishing early: These family-friendly fishing destinations will help ensure your next trip is popular and successful.Scott Kerrigan / www.aquapaparazzi.com

During its earliest days, ­saltwater fishing seemed as exotic as big-game hunting: expensive, wildly adventurous, maybe even dangerous. But with global development, ­abundant air-travel options, and advances in marine technology, anglers of all shapes, sizes, genders, ages and skill levels can access—and enjoy—once-remote destinations and challenging, sought-after species.

Fishing has become more family-friendly, and just in time to encourage a revival of the sport.

The Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation, which celebrated its 20th anniversary in 2018, leads the drive to recruit women and children to fishing. While focusing primarily on the abundant freshwater resources and opportunities in the United States, RBFF also addresses prospects for coastal saltwater fishing.

In May 2018, the ­organization released its Top Mom-Approved Places to Fish and Boat in the U.S., which included two coastal locations: Grand Isle State Park in Louisiana and Pōka‘ī Bay in Oahu, Hawaii.

To enhance that list, I compiled recommendations from Sport Fishing staffers: Some ­destination ideas emanated from personal experience, others from reputation. All offer not only excellent fishing opportunities, but also options for day trips, kids’ activities, adventurous dining and comfortable accommodations. (The destinations, which include specific lodges as well as general regions, are listed alphabetically. Pricing is included where feasible.)

Elbow Cay beach
Elbow Cay harbors beautiful fishable, divable waters and lonely stretches of beach, as well as fun family outdoor adventures.Bahamas Tourism

1. Bahamas—Abacos (Elbow Cay)

Family Attraction
Favorites include island hopping, boating, sailing, fishing, shelling, water­sports—such as snorkeling and scuba diving—and beach options. Elbow Cay, which lies just off the main island of Great Abaco at the northern end of the Bahamas, is known as the "Hollywood of the Abacos," home to Tahiti Beach and the last candy-striped lighthouse in the world. Accessible and ­navigable by private boat or easy to fly to from South Florida cities, the Abacos offer a variety of lodges, upscale resorts and rental homes.

Fishing Information
On the flats—including the famed Marls west of Marsh Harbor—anglers can catch trophy bonefish and permit on fly. Offshore, troll for wahoo, marlin and mahi; on the reefs, anglers bottomfish for groupers and snappers. Best offshore months include April, May and June, though wahoo migrate through in winter and spring. On the flats, target May through October.

Kids holding a cero mackerel
Kids love offshore fishing in spring and summer for species such as this cero mackerel, as well as dolphin and billfish.Scott Salyers / Sport Fishing

Other Activities
Brendal's Dive Center on Green Turtle Cay, north of Elbow Cay, offers an adventure that includes snorkeling on the reef followed by hand-feeding stingrays and turtles. Afterward, enjoy a picnic on the beach prepared over an open fire, with taste treats including lobster, grouper, chicken, conch salad and coconut bread. Also on Green Turtle, stroll the pastel-colored village of New Plymouth. One island south, Nipper's Beach Bar and Grill on Great Guana Cay sets the quintessential Caribbean scene on a white-sand beach. Secluded Tahiti Beach, at the southern tip of Elbow Cay, is accessible only on foot, bike or by boat, and optimal for shelling. Ferries and chartered boats transport visitors throughout the island chain. Visit theabaconian​.com/ferry-schedules.

Family-Friendly Resorts and Hotels
On Elbow Cay, try Firefly Sunset Resort or Hopetown Inn & Marina. Around the Abacos, investigate Abaco Beach Resort; Treasure Cay Beach, Marina and Golf Resort; and Bluff House Beach Resort and Marina.

Booking/Contacts
Book at least three months in advance for the best options. A typical five-night stay with two days of fishing and airfare varies, but Bahamas sources estimate $3,500 to $4,500 per person.

An aerial view of Crocodile Bay Resort
An aerial view of Crocodile Bay Resort shows its long dock near the tip of the peninsula as well as the property’s tropical grounds.Crocodile Bay Resort

2. Costa Rica—Crocodile Bay Resort

Family Attraction
Crocodile Bay lies at the southern tip of the Osa Peninsula, touted as one of the most biologically diverse places on the planet. While providing first-class inshore and offshore fishing, Crocodile Bay also offers more than 30 rainforest expeditions and ocean safaris. All rooms come with air conditioning and surround a tropical garden with a pool, hot tub and swim-up bar. An on-site spa delivers a wide variety of services. Flights from multiple U.S. locations deliver anglers to San Jose—Costa Rica's capital—in two to three hours. From there, small planes ferry them to Puerto Jimenez (a 45-minute flight). Lodge trucks pick up arriving fisher­men for the remaining five-minute ride.

Fishing Information
Aboard the lodge's fleet of Strike sport-fishers and center-console Boston Whalers, anglers can fish inshore for roosterfish, pargo (snappers, including seven different species), groupers and jacks. Offshore, target blue, striped and black marlin, Pacific sailfish, wahoo, dorado (mahi) and yellowfin tuna. Try winter months for blue marlin, and summer for striped or black marlin. Tuna, mahi and sailfish can be found throughout the year.

Other Activities
The Osa Peninsula features a quarter of a million species of animals; in the waters of Golfo Dulce swim massive pods of dolphins and humpback whales. Off-site tours include canopy zip-lining, horseback riding, surfing, waterfall ­rappelling, visiting a chocolate farm, panning for gold, cross-country biking, paddleboarding and more.

Booking/Contacts
An all-inclusive five-night package (excluding international flights) with two days of fishing ranges from $3,185 to $5,285 per person, based on double ­occupancy. High (dry) season falls December 16 through April 14. The resort advises anglers to book six months out or more during the high season. Contact Lynn Alban at lynn@lynchcreektravel​.com or visit crocodilebay.com.

Hawk’s Cay interior
Hawk’s Cay features an activities center for kids of all ages.Hawk’s Cay

3. Florida Keys—Hawk's Cay Resort

Family Attraction
Hawk's Cay Resort, on Duck Key between Islamorada and Marathon in the Florida Keys, encompasses 60 acres and features a hotel as well as 250 fully equipped two- and three-bedroom villas for families and groups (some villas offer dockage). On-site, guests will find six restaurants, five pools (including a pirate-ship pool), a spa, and a full-service marina providing scuba, fishing, snorkeling, parasailing, kayaking and kiteboarding charters. Anglers fly to Miami (a two-hour drive) or Key West (an hour-and-20-minute drive) and rent a vehicle.

Fishing Information
Anglers can target backcountry species such as tarpon, redfish and snook; nearshore species such as groupers, snappers and king mackerel; and offshore gamefish such as sailfish, tunas and dolphin. Near the resort, kayak anglers can fish bridges and rock piles. While some species, such as tarpon, migrate and become more accessible during peak seasons, others can be found year-round. The marina accommodates vessels up to 110 feet, so anglers can bring their own boats or charter a Hawk's inshore or offshore guide.

Kid catches grouper in the Keys
Even on rough days in the Keys, kids can fish protected channels for structure-loving species such as this grouper.Tom Rowland

Other Activities
Besides the various outdoor activities already listed, the resort features an on-site educational dolphin experience and a kids camp with hands-on environmental-education programming. Adults and kids of all ages can enjoy any of eight lighted tennis courts, or enroll in tennis clinics or camps. Families also have access to a basketball court, soccer field, putting course and volleyball.

Booking/Contacts
Room rates start at $249 in the low season, September through November ($399 for a villa). Room rates during high season—from Presidents Day through Easter and on all major holidays—start at $349 and $499. A daily resort fee for internet, parking and access to a variety of amenities costs $42. Fishing charters start at $500 for a half-day inshore trip. Call 877-484-9342 or visit hawkscay.com for packages and specials.

Anglers fishing from seawall
Ocean City anglers can opt to fish from charter vessels, party boats, the surf, piers or seawalls.Maryland Tourism

4. Maryland—Ocean City

Family Attraction
While temperatures in the South mostly remain warm throughout winter, average highs for Ocean City, Maryland, can dip into the 40s. But from spring through fall, visiting anglers and families find enormous diversity at this mid-Atlantic hotspot, from outstanding white marlin and bigeye tuna fishing each summer to beach-and-boardwalk outings, as well as visits to nearby Assateague Island and its famed wild ponies. Most visitors fly to Baltimore or Philadelphia and drive two to three hours south, along the Delmarva Peninsula to Ocean City, however US Airways serves the proximate Salisbury/Ocean City regional airport.

Fishing Information
Each August, Ocean City hosts the White Marlin Open, when boats of all sizes run to the offshore canyons to troll primarily for whites and bigeye tuna. Other popular catches include mahi, blue marlin and sharks. Anglers can also fish from the surf or from smaller inshore charter vessels on the Assawoman and Sinepuxent bays, targeting striped bass and flounder.

Plate of steamed blue crabs
Maryland’s most delicious signature fare: steamed blue crabs, covered in seasoning and washed down with a local brew.Maryland Tourism

Other Activities
Iconic shops, including Dolle's Candyland with its saltwater taffy, line the city's 3-mile-long boardwalk, which dates back to 1902. The town also offers putt-putt golf, 18-hole golf courses, Ocean Downs Casino, go-cart racing, waterslides, ghost tours, watersports, bicycle rentals, and the ­country's oldest continuously ­operating merry-go-round. Other local summer specialties include Maryland's renowned steamed blue crabs.

Family-Friendly Resorts and Hotels
Three Ocean City hotels offer extra amenities for families. Francis Scott Key Family Resort features on-site putt-putt golf and an indoor swimming pool. Castle in the Sand, on the ocean, provides free kids' activities, a beach volleyball court, and a game room. The Carousel Hotel boasts an indoor ice rink, movies on the beach, indoor and outdoor pools, and family photo night.

Booking/Contacts
For peak-season summer visits, book six months to a year out; during shoulder seasons, a week to a month should suffice. Lodging costs vary widely, but during summer, expect to pay $350 to $500 per night for ocean-access hotels. Offshore fishing charters range from $1,500 to $2,500 per day and up to $5,000 for overnight trips. Two-hour bay charters range from $15 to $18 for kids and $25 to $30 for adults. Visit the following websites for more information: ococean​.com, visitmaryland.org and fishandhuntmaryland.org.

Tournament boats leave port out of Cabo San Lucas
Tournament boats leave port out of Cabo San Lucas to run offshore in search of marlin.Dan Jacobs

5. Mexico—Los Cabos

Family Attraction
Los Cabos technically includes both Cabo San Lucas, at the tip of the Baja California ­peninsula—gateway to the Pacific Ocean—and the East Cape region on the Sea of Cortez, one of the most biologically rich bodies of water on the planet. Fishing options range from roosterfish and snappers to blue and striped marlin, tunas and mahi (dorado). Other activities include golf, scuba diving, surfing, ATV rides, whale-watching and turtle-release programs. One airport serves both regions: The Los Cabos International Airport is a short, affordable flight from many U.S. hubs.

Fishing Information
Cruise the East Cape beaches on ATVs or run the coast in small pangas for roosterfish, snappers and dorado. Just offshore, the summer in the Sea of Cortez means good numbers of blue and striped marlin, sailfish, tunas and dorado. The Puerto Los Cabos Marina in San Jose del Cabo provides quick access to the famed Gordo Banks, which produces huge yellowfin tuna, blue and black marlin, as well as wahoo. Cabo San Lucas hosts one of the largest fleets of sport-fishing boats in the world. Striped marlin are king in Cabo, with blue and black marlin frequenting the area, along with large tuna and dorado. (World-class tournaments, including the Los Cabos Billfish Tournament and Charter Boat Classic fall in October and November.)

Woman catching fish on offshore charter
Families can book big-boat offshore charters or hire pangas for nearshore fishing.Brad Stroud

Other Activities
Los Cabos hosts a rising culinary scene, and many resorts and restaurants offer cooking classes. Arts, sports and cultural events run year-round. Outdoor adventures include those mentioned above as well as hiking, biking, bungee jumping, ultralight hang gliding, sailing, paddleboarding, kayaking and even camel rides on the beach. Many families opt for whale-watching: Every year, female humpbacks migrate to the Sea of Cortez to conceive and nurse newborn calves.

Family-Friendly Resorts and Hotels
Many of the region's top resorts—including but not limited to Solaz, Grand Velas Los Cabos, Hyatt Ziva Los Cabos, and the Westin Los Cabos Resort Villas and Spa—offer family amenities such as kids and teens clubs, spas and golf courses. Travelers should book at least a month or two in advance. High season runs from December through April.

Booking/Contacts
A wide range of pricing is available at the many resorts, condos and hotels (visitloscabos.travel). For charter information, visit piscessportfishing.com, picantesportfishing.com and redrumcabo.com.

Sailfish offshore North Carolina
North Carolina captains can target sailfish from spring through fall, trolling lures or dead baits offshore.Crystal Coast Tourism

6. North Carolina—Crystal Coast

Family Attraction
The Crystal Coast of North Carolina comprises 85 miles of shoreline and sounds along the southern end of the Outer Banks. From Emerald Isle to Harker's Island and the Down East area, this region includes 11 separate communities. Each has its own vibe and experiences, including inshore and offshore fishing, of course, as well as paddle sports, culinary tours, shelling, wild horse and dolphin viewing, beach yoga, eco‑tours, and sightseeing cruises. Visitors usually fly to New Bern, about a 40-minute drive north of the Crystal Coast.

Fishing Information
As in many coastal marshlands, inshore fishing on the Crystal Coast excels with redfish and trout the prime players, joined by flounder, black drum, bluefish, cobia, Spanish mackerel, tarpon and even striped bass. The prime season for redfish and trout stretches from May through November. (Action slows from January through April, with marginal expectations for stripers and bluefish.) Offshore, anglers target blue and white marlin, sailfish, wahoo, kingfish, and bluefin, blackfin and yellowfin tuna. Giant bluefin tuna migrate through this region in December and January, chasing baitfish fairly close to shore. Peak season for king mackerel is September through December, and summer is time for dolphin and marlin species. Charters of all sizes and shapes, including party boats, work out of the region's ports.

Other Activities
Some of the top family opportunities along this coast include visits to Fort Macon, a restored Civil War-era fort with a coastal education center in Atlantic Beach; outings to the North Carolina Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores; boat rides to see the wild horses on the Shackleford Banks; and forays to the Cape Lookout "Diamond Lady" lighthouse.

Family-Friendly Resorts and Hotels
Options range from campgrounds and bed-and-breakfast properties to resorts to condo or home rentals. The Peppertree Atlantic Beach Resort features condo-style units with full kitchens and porches. It offers mini golf, tennis, volleyball and other activities. The Fisherman's Inn, on the Atlantic Beach causeway, offers lodging with dock slips.

Booking/Contacts
Visit crystalcoastnc.org.