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September 21, 2007

Twenty Greatest Fishing Spots on Earth

No one knows more about hot fishing locations than our editors, and they are here to help you get in on the finest angling of your life.
Destinations
Ascension Bay, Mexico | Bimini, Bahamas | Charlotte Harbor, Florida
East Cape, Baja, Mexico | Florida Keys | Hatteras, North Carolina
Isla Coiba, Panama | Iztapa, Guatemala | Lower Biscayne Bay, Florida
La Guaira Bank, Venezuela | Lizard Island, Australia | Kona, Hawaii
Martha's Vineyard | Midnight Lump, Venice, Louisiana | Montauk, New York
Ocracoke Island, North Carolina | Papua New Guinea | Pi-as Bay, Panama
Prince of Wales Island, Alaska | Rio Colorado, Costa Rica

If fishing the flats is your thing, SWS staffers rank Florida's Biscayne Bay and Ascension Bay in Mexico at the top.
Photo: Bill Buckley/Greenagency.net

Want to catch a grander? How about the mythical two-grander? Ever dreamed of jumping more than 20 tarpon in a day? How about releasing every type of billfish that swims? We asked our SWS experts to provide us with their top picks for the hottest locations on the planet and they came through in spades. So whether you are looking for awesome angling in an idyllic location or just plain fantastic fishing, we have the information you need to plan the greatest trip of your life.

The marlin fishery-blue, black and striped-in Kona, Hawaii, is world class.
Photo: Scottkerrigan.com

Kona, Hawaii
Blue Marlin
Prime Time: May through October
Why: When the waters off the lee coast of the largest island in the Pacific begin to warm in late April or early May, pelagic Pacific blue marlin arrive, joining the fish that reside here year-round. These blue marlin range in size from about 100 pounds to well over 1,000, and as many as eight blue marlin have been tagged and released by one angler in a single day of sport fishing off Kona. In the same waters, yellowfin tuna, black marlin, striped marlin, shortbill spearfish and other species are also available.
How: Trolling lures, especially those pioneered by Hawaiian captains, are most effective although live bait (skipjack tuna) and various switch baits are also used.
Contact: For general information on most Kona charter boats, contact the Charter Desk at (888) 566-248 or visit www.charterdesk.com.
Must-Have Accessories: Billfish tags. The blue marlin fishery in Kona has evolved from a predominantly kill fishery to a mostly tag fishery in the last decade.
-Rick Gaffney, Regional Editor

Iztapa, Guatemala
Pacific Sailfish
Prime Time: November through May
Why: Calm seas, moderate temperatures and more sailfish than any place in the world. What more can you ask for?
How: The preferred method is trolling with rigged ballyhoo, using very light conventional tackle or flyfishing with bait-and-switch techniques.
Contact: Captain Ron Hamlin and his crew on the Captain Hook have more experience fishing these billfish-laden waters than anyone. They house their anglers at the comfortable Quinta Pez Vela in Iztapa and have three boats at their disposal with experienced captains and crews. For reservations, contact South Fishing at (305) 854-4665 or visit www.southfishing.com.
Must-Have Accessories: Sunscreen and good polarized sunglasses.
-Gary Caputi, Offshore Editor

I NEVER LEAVE HOME WITHOUT...
"A Swiss Army knife is a fishing-trip necessity. It comes in handy with various screwdrivers for emergency reel and tackle repair, and the knife works well for cutting anything from leader to duct tape."
-Dave Lear, Boating Editor

Early fall is bull redfish time in Charlotte Harbor, Florida.
Photo: Davidjsams.com

Charlotte Harbor, Florida
Snook & Redfish
Prime Time: September and October
Why: The mangrove-lined creeks and backwaters of Charlotte Harbor are a haven for snook and redfish, with the potential for dozens of fish per day.
How: Start by castnetting pilchards (whitebait) using a mixture of cat food, dry oatmeal and fish oil. Use the bait to live-chum over potholes or around ambush points while free-lining hooked baits into the strike zone. For action with artificials, cast topwater plugs early and late or try weedless jerkbaits back under the mangroves during flood tides.
Contact: Captain Rick Grassett, (941) 923-7799, www.snookfin-addict.com
Must-Have Accessory: Try a shallow-running, red-head, white-body DOA Baitbuster lure.
-Dave Lear, Boating Editor


Ascension Bay, Mexico, has grand-slam potential and then some.
Photo: Tom Richardson

Ascension Bay, Mexico
Permit, Bonefish & Tarpon
Prime Time: February through June
Why: Vast, varied flats, hidden lagoons, very little development and a prohibition on netting help make this pristine body of water a flats angler's dream.
How: Flyfishing with small bonefish patterns, crab patterns and tarpon streamers. On the light-tackle front, 1/8-ounce jigs (bonefish), live crabs (permit) and a variety of swimming plugs and topwater stickbaits (tarpon).
Contact: Casa Blanca Lodge, (800) 533-7299, www.casablancafishing.com
Must-Have Accessory: Long, quick-drying pants to protect from the sun and stinging "water fleas," which can be a nuisance in some parts of the bay.
-Tom Richardson, Editor at Large

Lizard Island, Australia
Black Marlin
Prime Time: September and October
Why: This is the best place for a chance at a grander black marlin and maybe the elusive two-grander. It is also an incredible place for light-tackle fishing inside the reef. It is possible to catch dozens of different species in a single day. Flats fishing, jigging or trolling -it is a long way away, but worth the ride.
How: Trolling ten- to 20-pound baits. The strikes are awesome.
Contact: Lizard Island Lodge, www.lizardisland.com.au
Must-Have Accessory: Australia has some incredible critters and fantastic scenery, so bring your camera from some great pictures.
-Rip Cunningham, Editor at Large

I NEVER LEAVE HOME WITHOUT...
"A few laminated copies of my passport. I've had my passport stolen a few times, and while the copies cannot serve as a replacement, at least you have some proof that you had a passport and can show a photo of yourself. The copies ensure that you can present the passport number and issue date of the original."
-Lefty Kreh, Flyfishing Editor

Papua New Guinea
New Guinea Black Bass
Prime Time: Any time of year
Why: Most areas are not fished hard and I love to find dumb fish. A good number of these bass have never seen a fly.
How: The captain will pull the boat up to a downed tree or other structure so you can cast to it. Once the fish grabs the fly, you must wrap the line around the reel twice to lock it up. The captain will reverse the boat in an attempt to get the fish off the structure. The first two minutes of the fight are incredible. If you can get past them, you have a chance to land a bass. These relatives of the cubera snapper grow to 100 pounds. Contact: It's a little tricky. It's best to contact an Australian travel agency as some areas of New Guinea are hostile.
Must-Have Accessory: Foul-weather gear is an absolute must.
-Lefty Kreh, Flyfishing Editor

Lower Biscayne Bay, Florida
Tarpon, Bonefish, Permit & Seatrout
Prime Time: Good fishing is available all year long.
Why: Access is easy through Crandon Park or Homestead and you can guide yourself or hire a local guide.
How: Poling the myriad flats or drifting the finger channels. Much of this is sight fishing in shallow water or along the channel edges.
Contact: Captain Andy Thompson, (305) 246-4669; Captain Ken Collette, (954) 463-0512
Must-Have Accessory: Take someone with you who can pole the boat so you can fish.
-Mark Sosin, Editor at Large

East Cape, Baja, Mexico
Blue & Striped Marlin
Prime Time: May through November, although some marlin are caught here nearly all year.
Why: The marlin caught near the southern end of the Baja Peninsula range in size from 70 pounds to more than 1,000. When the fishing is good there is excellent potential for multiple shots at big fish in a single day of fishing.
How: Trolling lures, although live and switch baits are also employed
Contact: For general information, call Baja Fishing and Resorts at (800) 368-4334 or visit www.bajaresorts.com.
Must-Have Accessories: My own stand-up fishing rods, reels and harness. Although quality gear is sometimes available, it is better to be prepared.
-Rick Gaffney, Regional Editor

Pi-as Bay, Panama
Blue Marlin, Sailfish & Inshore Fishing
Prime Time: December through September. The best black marlin fishing occurs from December to March and July through September. The best sailfish action takes place from April through June. However, you can catch these and other inshore species year-round.
Why: The fishing is truly great, exceeded perhaps only by the accommodations. The luxurious Tropic Star Lodge is 150 miles from Panama City and 100 miles from the nearest road, nestled at the foot of the Darien Jungle.
How: Troll for billfish, tuna and dolphin. Troll or cast to the rocky shorelines for inshore species.
Contact: Tropic Star Lodge, (800) 682-3424, www.tropicstar.com
Must-Have Accessories: Bring lures and casting tackle for inshore species.
-Mark Sosin, Editor at Large

Alaskan silver and king salmon are a great test on light tackle.
Photo: Mike Schoby

Prince of Wales Island, Alaska
Salmon
Prime Time: July and August
Why: An abundance of silver salmon, which are my personal favorites to catch because of their energetic high-speed runs and spectacular jumping ability.
How: Motor mooching and trolling with conventional gear are favored techniques. For added excitement, I bring along light spinning or plug-casting outfits loaded with eight- to 12-pound-test for throwing metal jigs and bucktails to surface-feeding silvers.
Contact: Waterfall Resort, (800) 544-5125 www.waterfallresort.com/swsm.html
Must-Have Accessories: Bring along clothing for any type of weather. It can be warm one hour and cool and rainy the next.
-Angelo Cuanang, Regional Editor


Martha's Vineyard is synonymous with phenomenal striped bass fishing.
Photo: Tom Richardson

Martha's Vineyard
Striped Bass
Prime Time: Late May through June
Why: Martha's Vineyard lies smack in the middle of the striper's migratory route. An abundance of bait -squid and herring -available at this time of year entices big striped bass to feed.
How: A live herring is just about guaranteed to produce large fish. Later in June live eels work well, too. Casting poppers in the surf or around rocks and trolling parachute jigs on wire line are other preferred tactics.
Contact: Captain Scott McDowell (live bait, wire line), (508) 645-2993, www.bassnblue.com; Captain Jaime Boyle (light tackle, fly), (508) 922-1749, www.boylermaker.com
Must-Have Accessories: Foul-weather gear and fleece garments, as it can be chilly off Martha's Vineyard in the early season.
-Tom Richardson, Editor at Large

Troll an upper Keys weedline for summertime dolphin.
Photo: George Poveromo

Upper Florida Keys
Dolphin
Prime Time: May through August
Why: Dependable dolphin fishing occurs within striking distance of recreational boats.
How: Running and gunning for dolphin can lead to big fish, providing you search for birds and floating debris. Trolling during this time is also very productive and may lead to a wahoo or two, tuna and perhaps a even a marlin.
Contact: The upper Keys have numerous offshore guides who specialize in dolphin. For information on accommodations, marinas and guides, call (800) 352-5397 or visit www.fla-keys.com.
Must-Have Accessories: Never set out without plenty of fresh ballyhoo, quality binoculars and plenty of ice.
-George Poveromo, Editor at Large

Hatteras, North Carolina
Yellowfin Tuna
Prime Time: November and December
Why: Offshore of the Outer Banks is one of the great fish aggregating areas on the Atlantic Coast. The currents, bottom structure and weather conditions all add up to the right mix for fish. In the fall, yellowfin tuna arrive in force to feed on a variety of forage. They make for incredible action. Unlike other places, these fish are anxious to eat.
How: Troll with lures or chunk for those who want fly-fishing or light-tackle action.
Contact: Captain Steve Coulter, Sea Creature, (800) 995-0081, www.seacreature.net; Captain Jerry Shepherd, Tuna Duck, (772) 219-9592, www.tunaduck.com
Must-Have Accessory: A good cooler. Bringing home some tuna steaks for the grill is a real treat.
-Rip Cunningham, Editor at Large

Guaranteed billfishing? Venezuela's La Guaira Bank is as close as it gets.
Photo: Scottkerrigan.com

La Guaira Bank, Venezuela
Blue & White Marlin & Sailfish
Prime Time: March
Why: The spring bite off Venezuela is as close to a guaranteed billfish as you'll find anywhere. Rat blues averaging 250 pounds, white marlin pushing 75 pounds and roving packs of sailfish prowl the famed La Guaira Bank, with the occasional bigger blue in the mix. Shots at 30-billfish days are not uncommon with a chance at an Atlantic grand slam.
How: Troll skirted or naked ballyhoo or small billfish lures on 30- to 50-pound-class tackle.
Contact: Captain Paul Ivey, South Fishing, (800) 854-4665, www.southfishing.com
Must-Have Accessory: Bring a standard, black-orange Mold Craft Softhead Hooker lure.
-Dave Lear, Boating Editor


You'll have to catch a 50-pound striper to make jaws drop around Montauk Point.
Photo: Sam Talarico/Talaricophotography.com

Montauk, New York
Striped Bass, Bluefish & False Albacore
Prime Time: September and October
Why: In the fall, any migrating fish headed south practically rubs its fins on the sands of Montauk, which is located at the tip of Long Island. Gamefish gather here to feed on a plethora of bait. In Montauk, a 40-pound striper doesn't warrant chest thumping.
How: Often fishing is as easy as looking for diving birds, which signal a blitz. Cast lures like Storm Wildeyes and needlefish into the fray to take plenty of bass and blues. At night drifting eels in the rips produces the biggest bass.
Contact: Captain Tom Herlihy, (631) 267-3486
Must-Have Accessories: Foul-weather gear and rubber boots. Fish in Montauk seem to bite best during snotty weather. When the feed is on, returning to the harbor is not an option.
-David DiBenedetto, Editor


It's possible to jump 20 tarpon a day on the Rio Colorado.
Photo: Dusan Smetana

Rio Colorado, Costa Rica
Tarpon
Prime Time: December and January
Why: Tarpon from 50 to 150 pounds feed heavily at the mouth of the Rio Colorado where it dumps into the Caribbean.
How: This is a great time to cast flies on 12-weights or jigs with conventional tackle. When the action is hot, it's not uncommon to jump 20 or more in a day.
Contact: Archie Field's Rio Colorado Lodge; (800) 243-9777; www.riocoloradolodge.com
Must-Have Accessories: Come well equipped with flies that are traditionally used in deep and murky water. Tie a variety of "whistler" patterns in various combinations of colors. You might want to use the largest weighted eyes you can find.
-Angelo Cuanang, Regional Editor

Ocracoke Island, North Carolina
Red Drum
Prime Time: April through June and mid-September through late November
Why: The drum bite is outstanding. Big bulls, averaging between 40 and 50 inches, arrive in early April, leave for the summer and then return again in the fall.
How: Although these drum can be chased by boat, Ocracoke is the best place to catch a monster red from the surf. "Drumheads" use heavy-action, 12-foot surf rods called heavers to launch eight-ounce leads and menhaden chunks into the stratosphere and onto the outer bar.
Contact: Rob Alderman, (252) 305-2017
Must-Have Accessories: Red drum feed largely at night so surf junkies should be prepared to stake out the beach at all hours. Bring plenty of food, water, hot coffee and a sleeping bag.
-Ric Burnley, Regional Editor

SWS Regional Editor Al Ristori shos off a 170-plus-pound Panama yellofin.
Photo: Al Ristori

Isla Coiba, Panama
Yellowfin Tuna, Cubera Snapper, Roosterfish & Black Marlin
Prime Time: Any time is good, but the best action takes place during the dry season in January through April.
Why: For good shots at yellowfin tuna weighing more than 200 pounds, head off Isla Montousa. You'll find some of the world's best casting in and around structure surrounding many islands in the area in addition to black marlin trolling at famed Hannibal Bank.
How: Troll live baits for black marlin and giant yellowfin. Cast large poppers and chuggers into structure for cuberas, roosterfish, snappers and jacks.
Contact: Pesca Panama, (800) 946-3474, www.pescapanama.com
Must-Have Accessories: Bring lots of two- to four-ounce poppers as cubera break-offs are common.
-Al Ristori, Regional Editor

I NEVER LEAVE HOME WITHOUT...
"An athletic back brace. If it is rough, the brace goes on under my shirt or sweatshirt. If it's nice, it stays in the bag."
-Gary Caputi, Offshore Editor

Midnight Lump, Venice, Louisiana
Yellowfin Tuna
Prime Time: January through March
Why: This submerged salt dome is a major feeding area for some of the biggest yellowfin tuna anywhere.
How: Fishermen anchor on the salt dome and chum with chunks of pogies (menhaden) to attract the big tuna and get them turned on. Plan on using 50- or 80-pound stand-up tackle for these very hefty yellowfin.
Contact: Hurricane Katrina left a wake of devastation in August, heavily damaging Venice Marina and Cedar Creek Marina, where most of the charter fleet was berthed. Bill and Mike Butler own Venice Marina, which served as a booking agent for boats in the Venice Charter Boat Association. They said access to the lower Delta was on hold, but they had plans in place to begin rebuilding as quickly as possible. The rebirth of one of the finest fishing destinations in the country will most assuredly take place.
Must-Have Accessories: Bring a top-quality belt and harness and a strong back.
-Gary Caputi, Offshore Editor

The Bimini reefs get top billing for huge grouper.
Photo: Steve Kantner

Bimini, Bahamas
Snapper & Grouper
Prime Time: May through October
Why: An abundance of huge grouper resides within 50 miles of Miami.
How: Anchoring on the reefs around Bimini and chumming heavily can provide hours of entertainment with yellowtail and mutton snapper and big black grouper. This fishing can be as relaxing or as intense as you want to make it.
Contact: Edward "Blinky" Stuart is a local captain who knows these reefs as well as anyone. Stuart can be hired to ride aboard your boat and take you right to the best spots. He can be reached at (242) 347-2328. Bimini Sands Resort & Marina features luxury one- and two-bedroom town homes, a deep-water marina and fuel on South Bimini. Call (242) 347-3500 or visit www.biminisands.com. On North Bimini, call the Bimini Big Game Resort & Marina at (800) 737-1007 or visit www.biminibiggame.com.
Must-Have Accessories: Don't forget the chum and lots of it.
-George Poveromo, Editor at Large