5 Top North American Fishing Lodges | Sport Fishing Magazine

5 Top North American Fishing Lodges

Try these destinations for your next fishing trip

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The Lodge at Walters Cove, West Coast Resorts

Vancouver Island, British Columbia, 800-810-8933, www.westcoastresorts.com

Location: West Coast Resorts' Lodge at Walters Cove is located in a pro­tected bay in the remote, coastal fishing town of Kyuquot on the northwest side of Vancouver Island. The edge of the continental shelf lies only 12 to 15 miles from shore. Access is limited to air and sea, cutting off the village of 300 from the rest of the world.

Fishing seasons/­expectations: Expect excellent bottomfishing all year for halibut (25- to 30-pound average), lingcod and rockfish, and a very consistent seasonal salmon fishery. Resident salmon feed yearlong on the large flat known as "The Reef," while migratory runs of chinook/king show in March and continue through September. Prime time for kings is June through August. Late July through early September is prime for coho (silver) salmon. Some days, multiple boats release 30-plus king salmon (from the teens to 40 pounds); the 2010 single-day record was 48.

Lodge records: Biggest king salmon: 54 pounds. Biggest halibut: 190 pounds.

A typical day's outing: The typical day starts with a buffet breakfast and a 6 a.m. departure. Most anglers pack a lunch and fish all day, returning to the lodge around 5 p.m., though they may return earlier. Generally, guides start the day drifting and jigging for halibut, and switch to slow-trolling for salmon. Later, they opt to jig for lingcod and snapper (yellow eye). In June and early July, guides often fish inside the surf line and along the massive kelp beds. From mid-July to early August, they fish "The Reef," three to five miles out. From early August till the end of the season (early September), the major migratory route for salmon takes us 12 to 14 miles offshore.

Average climate/weather expectations: The lodge's ­location sees more sunshine and less fog than other coastal areas. The shore features a temperate rainforest, however, so expect rain any time. Summer temperatures average 65 to 75 degrees.

Getting there: Trips ­originate from Vancouver, British Columbia, and packages include a 70-minute floatplane flight from the river beside the Vancouver International Airport to the lodge dock. The carrier is Seair Seaplanes, which flies nine-passenger Cessna Caravans.

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Vessel information:** Walters Cove debuts a new fleet of boats for the 2011 season - 24-foot commercial-grade Sea West boats. These fiberglass vessels feature enclosed cabins, suspension seats and onboard heads. They're powered by 300 hp Mercury Verado outboards and sport 9.9 hp auxiliary engines. All come with Lowrance GPS/fish finders and Scotty electric downriggers.

Available tackle: Captains spool up single-action Daiwa MOne Plus mooching reels with 30-pound Berkeley Big Game monofilament and pair them with Shimano Technium 10½-foot mooching rods for salmon fishing. Halibut gear comprises 7-foot Kufa rods and Penn 320 level-wind reels with 100-pound TUFLine. The lodge can also provide Shimano Charter Special level-wind reels with matching rods for salmon.

Accommodations: Each of the 11 guest rooms accommodates two to three people (twin beds and bunks) with a private bath. The lodge features cedar-lined walls and fir floors with First Nation artwork and Pacific Coast photos. When weather permits, guests use the harbor-view deck for meals. The lounge area features a full-service bar, comfortable couches and overstuffed chairs around a giant wood stove.

2011 packages: A four-day, three-night stay is $3,895 per person; five days/four nights is $4,395. Includes seaplane airfare, accommodations (double occupancy), meals, snacks and non­alcoholic beverages (wine is complimentary with dinner), fully guided fishing (minimum 10 hours per full day), all tackle and bait, foul-weather gear and boots, and cleaning/packing/freezing fish for transport home.

Provisions for taking home fish: Your catch is filleted, portioned, vacuum packed, frozen and packaged in airline-approved, waxed, lined cardboard boxes that weigh 50 pounds or less (to avoid airline charges).

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Getaway Adventures Lodge

Port Mansfield, Texas, 956-944-4000, www.getawayadventureslodge.com

Location: Getaway Adventures Lodge lies 43 miles north of the Texas/Mexico border in Port Mansfield. The surrounding South Texas brush land hosts loads of wildlife, and the nearby Laguna Madre is one of three navigable, hypersaline lagoons in the northern hemisphere. Its depth averages less than 2 feet.

Fishing seasons/­expectations: The lower Laguna Madre has produced numerous line-class world-record trout. Peak time for trophy trout runs from late December through mid-March, when 7- to 8-pounders are caught.

August to November comprises the best redfishing months, as bulls work the beach and juveniles migrate to the Gulf of Mexico.

Along the beach, tarpon fishing begins in mid-May and continues through mid-December. Expect four to eight shots a day at fish ­averaging 60 to 70 pounds.

Offshore, anglers find red snapper, tuna (September to February), sailfish (April to August) and wahoo (December to midMay).

Lodge records: The largest trout caught at the lodge weighed just over 12 pounds. The biggest redfish would tag in at 35-plus pounds.

A typical day's outing: The typical day starts with a buffet breakfast followed by a run to the flats or to the Gulf. Anglers throw primarily artificial baits in the bay, though dead shrimp and cut mullet are available for novices. Anglers may also choose to wade, drift or troll; fishing occurs over grasslines, gravel and sand potholes.

Offshore, captains troll for pelagics or bottomfish for snapper (beeliners, red, gray and dog), grouper and lings (cobia).

Average climate/weather expectations: December to mid-March, air temperatures hover in the 60s and water in the 50s. Winds remain relatively light.

March to mid-June means fishing in high winds - 35 to 45 mph sustained winds are not uncommon; 25 mph is normal. Captains find protected waters.

June to early September: Anglers can expect 90 to 95 degrees on the water with light winds until noon, followed by stronger winds. Water temps in the 70- to 80-degree range keep waders cool. In fall, air temperatures drop into the 80s and 70s with water temps in the 60s.

Getting there: Fly-in guests primarily use Valley Inter-national in Harlingen - 40 miles away - which is served by Continental Express and Southwest airlines. The lodge provides pickup and delivery per client request.

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Vessel information:** On the bay, captains use 20- to 25-foot Dargel and Explorer flats skiffs powered by Honda or Suzuki outboards. Most skiffs are equipped with Power-Poles; a few captains cater to sight-casting, and equip their boats with casting and poling platforms.

Offshore boats include a 36-foot Ocean Master and a 32-foot Mako express, and are rigged with Lowrance HDS10M fish finder/plotters and Furuno radars.

Available tackle: All boats are equipped with top-of-the-line ­products by Penn, Berkley, Abu Garcia, Shakespeare, Pflueger and All-Star Rods. Berkley and Bomber Saltwater Grade baits make up the bulk of lures.

Accommodations: The lodge has eight guestrooms showcasing a Texas/Southwest theme. Six rooms come with bunks (lower bunks are doubles) and private bath/showers. Two rooms provide king beds with tub/showers. The lodge plans for single occupancy in bunkrooms, but will lodge two anglers per room for larger groups or if space dictates.

Outdoor common areas feature a hot tub and pool, and an ­expansive outdoor deck with kitchen and pavilion. Docks are lighted for guests to fish at night. Inside, the fully stocked game room has a large, flat-screen high-definition TV.

2011 packages: Two days/three nights is $575 to $750 per person with a minimum booking of three people. Anglers may customize packages for split bay and offshore trips.

Provisions for taking home fish: The lodge processes and freezes fish to the client's request, and will pack it in soft coolers as carry-on baggage. Getaway can also freeze and ship fish via Federal Express.

Cajun Fishing ­Adventures

Buras, Louisiana, 985-785-9833, www.cajunfishingadventures.com

Location: Cajun Fishing Adventures, in Buras, Louisiana, lies about an hour's drive southeast of New Orleans and 15 minutes northeast of Venice. Plaquemines Parish (the surrounding county) provides passage for the last 70 miles of the Mississippi River as it meets the Gulf of Mexico.

The river's delta - the South Louisiana marsh - contains 40 percent of the nation's wetlands, which provide flood control, water purification, and nursery grounds and habitat for aquatic life.

Fishing seasons/­expectations: Captains primarily target redfish and seatrout but may also catch black drum, flounder, sheepshead and jack crevalle. The region's peak season runs from March to July and September to January, because that period offers the best weather. During winter duck-hunting season, anglers may enjoy some of the best redfishing of the year after a hunt. Slot-size reds weigh up to about 12 pounds; average specks weigh 2 to 3 pounds with an occasional 4- to 7-pounder. Anglers can catch double-digit numbers of reds and trout in a day; state bag and size limits determine keep or release.

Lodge records: The largest redfish caught out of the Lodge is 57 pounds, largest black drum 53 pounds, and the largest seatrout just under 9 pounds. Lodge captains release all redfish longer than 30 inches, since they are the breeding stock for the Delta. Customers can order replica mounts through the Lodge. Anglers commonly encounter 25-pound bull reds on a daily basis within the inshore fishery.

A typical day's outing: Most charters begin at daybreak; the marsh is already alive with activity. Birds hover over bait pods, while schools of trout and redfish push from beneath. Guides look for these signs and place customers near the action. During high tides, when the oyster reefs completely submerge, fish congregate around the structure.

The marshes provide loads of sight-fishing opportunities, spine-tingling moments when clients can see redfish cruising the grassy shorelines of bays, lakes and bayous.

Average climate/weather expectations: Daily temperatures range from the low 60s in January to near 90 degrees in July. Skies are sunny 60 percent of the time, and the average annual rainfall measures 64.2 inches. Prevailing winds come from the south or southeast. Wind speeds peak in March; the lightest winds occur June through November.

Getting there: Fly-in guests travel to Louis Armstrong International Airport in southwest New Orleans. Most rent a vehicle and drive 90 minutes to the lodge or select one of several shuttle services.

Vessel information: Most vessels are 22- or 24-foot Skeeter bay boats powered by Yamaha outboards. Cajun Fishing Adventures is a Hell's Bay endorsed Lodge for ultra shallow water sight-fishing and fly-fishing. All boats are outfitted with GPS/sonar units and Power-Poles. Shallow skiffs also feature poling and casting platforms, push poles and trolling motors.

Available tackle: The lodge stocks Quantum rods and reels in bait-casting and spinning combinations, and uses a variety of soft and hard plastics such as LIVETARGET Lures and Z-Man Fishing. Typically fly-fishing clients bring their own equipment, although the lodge can sell fly customers a small box of hand-crafted flies make exclusively for their trip.

Accommodations: Three lodges sleep up to 36 people; a nearby cabin accommodates an additional nine guests. Rooms come with a queen-size bed and a bathroom. The 2,500-square-foot living room houses a pool table, 60-inch TV and plenty of lounging space. The back deck overlooks one of two pools; the lodge also features a hot tub.

The lodge contains a mix of finished and rustic wood; deer, duck and fish mounts; plus plenty of Louisiana marsh décor.

2015 packages: Anglers can fish any number of days for an inclusive price that ranges $450-500 per person per day, and include inshore fishing with an experienced captain, tackle, soft drinks, bottled water, southern-style breakfast, poor-boy sandwich for lunch, three-course dinner, fish cleaning and prep. Alcohol, licenses, guide & house gratuities and transportation are not included.

Provisions for taking home fish: The lodge cleans, packages and freezes fish for customers who choose to take fish home. Anglers bring their own coolers for transporting their catch home.

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Hawks Cay Resort

Duck Key, Florida Keys, 800-432-2242, www.hawkscay.com

Location: Hawks Cay Resort is located at mile marker 61 in the Florida Keys, 60 miles from Key West and 90 miles from Miami. A few miles offshore lie lush coral reefs that drop to deep-blue ocean currents. To the north, the estuarine Everglades National Park provides juvenile habitat for many game fish.

Fishing seasons/­expectations: Top inshore species include tarpon, bonefish and permit. Peak tarpon season occurs March through May; a half-day charter might see three to five hookups on fish to 200 pounds. Fish for bones primarily from April through June; expect shots at four to six fish from 6 to 12 pounds in a half-day. For permit, target May through July and also in December. Permit average 15 to 25 pounds; expect two to four shots in the ­shallows, more on reefs and wrecks.

Offshore, target sails from December to March, when you can expect double-digit shots in a day's time. Prime dolphin season is April through July and again in November. Expect multiple shots at fish to 50-plus pounds. Blackfin tuna numbers peak from February through April, though they can be caught through July.

Lodge records: None recorded.

A typical day's outing: Morning charters leave by 8 a.m. and return by noon. Afternoon trips leave at 1 p.m. and return at 5. Full-day trips are also available.

Inshore trips usually involve running to a flat where the guide quietly poles the skiff, looking for tailing bonefish or permit. Using fly or spin tackle, anglers cast to spooky fish. On tarpon trips, guides anchor along channels or near bridges and use conventional gear with live baits or cut mullet.

Offshore trips usually involve a run of 30 minutes to an hour. For sails, captains launch fishing kites and use live baits or troll dead baits. Dolphin fall prey to trolled baits and lures; anglers often catch smaller dolphin along weed lines with small jigs. For tuna, captains usually fish behind shrimp boats.

Average climate/weather expectations: Temperatures average 70 to 85 degrees. Winter winds pick up with frontal activity; in summer, southeast trade winds tame the tropical warmth, and afternoon showers become expected. The Atlantic hurricane season runs June through November, but peaks in September.

Getting there: Typically guests fly into Fort Lauderdale (127 miles), Miami (100 miles), Key West (59 miles) or Marathon (charter jet, 10 miles), rent a car and drive the Overseas Highway. Shuttle services also make daily trips between mainland airports and Keys ­destinations (www.fla-keys.com).

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Vessel information:** For reef and offshore fishing, charter boats include:

• Tailwalker 1 - 1993, 43-foot Viking (full-cabin sport-fish), twin 8-cylinder MANs

• Tailwalker 2 - 2000, 50-foot Viking (full-cabin sport-fish), twin 10-cylinder MANs

• Final Final - 1992, 38-foot Buddy Davis (full-cabin sport-fish), twin 671 Caterpillars

• Eagle Eye - 2005, 26-foot Regulator center-console, twin 225 Yamahas

For backcountry/flats fishing:

• Soc-Et-Tu-Um - 1993, 20-foot Hewes, 150 Honda four-stroke

• Tarpon Time - 2002, 17-foot Grandslam, 115 Yamaha four-stroke

All boats are equipped with GPS/fish finders. Skiffs use Power-Poles, trolling motors and casting platforms.

Available tackle: Guides use tournament-grade Fin-Nor, Penn, Shakespeare, Quantum and Shimano rods/reels, Momoi and Sufix brand lines and circle hooks. Fly-fishing outfits are also available.

Accommodations: Hawks Cay offers 177 newly renovated guest rooms and 225 two- and three-bedroom villas for families or groups. Each villa has multiple bedrooms and bathrooms, full kitchen, living room and private deck.

Hawks Cay's five restaurants offer foods prepared with fresh local ingredients. Hawks also offers a wide variety of outdoor sports from kiteboarding and stand-up paddle boarding to scuba diving and snorkeling.

2011 packages: Bundle fishing and accommodations to save money (use promo code SFM). Base packages (standard room/­half-day inshore charter) begin at $525 per night.

Provisions for taking home fish: Hawks arranges ­shipping through an offsite vendor. Captains filet and package fish for guests. Guests may purchase a cooler as a carry-on bag.

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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).

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Vessel 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.

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