Where to Fish in May

Find the best spots to find your favorite species as the weather gets warmer and seasons begin to pick up around North America and the Caribbean.

The Salt Water Sportsman editors list the best two locations to go in May for your favorite saltwater species, plus notes for each location about why the bite there is hot.

Pacific Blue Marlin

Pacific blue marlin
Pacific blue marlinIllustration by Keilani Rodriguez

First choice: Mexico
Second choice: Hawaii

An influx of blues muscle in on the striped marlin’s usual hunting grounds along Mexico’s Baja Peninsula this time of year, and some are large females weighing 500 pounds or more. In Hawaiian waters, a seasonal abundance of mahi draws an increasing number of blue marlin to waters off Oahu and Molokai. The action should peak in four to six weeks, but May often yields some true tackle busters.

Atlantic Blue Marlin

Atlantic blue marlin
Atlantic blue marlinIllustration by Keilani Rodriguez

First choice: Dominican Republic
Second choice: Puerto Rico

Young blues in the 150- to 250-pound range take over the offshore angling scene in the Dominican Republic as crews of the sport-fishing fleets out of Punta Cana average half a dozen or more daily hookups in May. The blue marlin action also extends toward neighboring Puerto Rico, with the best early-season bite usually taking place off San Juan and Mayaguez.

Black Marlin

black marlin
Black marlinIllustration by Keilani Rodriguez

First choice: Ecuador
Second choice: Costa Rica

The latest El Niño event appears to be among the weakest in recent years, so a number of roving big-game captains expect the normal patterns to prevail. That means Ecuador is most likely to produce the best black marlin fishing this month. However, the seamounts off Costa Rica attract plenty of blacks as well and could knock Ecuador’s Marlin Boulevard off the top spot.

White Marlin

White marlin
White marlinIllustration by Keilani Rodriguez

First choice: Dominican Republic
Second choice: Bermuda

Packs of hungry whites share the spotlight with small blue marlin off the Dominican Republic, where most game boats concentrate their efforts around the FADs and troll a spread of rigged ballyhoo this time of year to appeal to both billfish species. An increasing number of whites shows up off the coast of Bermuda as more fish migrate north from the Yucatan and the Caribbean.

Atlantic Sailfish

Atlantic sailfish

Atlantic Sailfish

Atlantic sailfishIllustration by Keilani Rodriguez

First choice: Florida
Second choice: Mexico

South Florida anglers experience a solid sailfish bite in May, with Stuart, Palm Beach, Miami and the Keys producing the better numbers. This remains a strong month for boats chasing sails in Mexico’s Yucatan Channel. Though the action off Puerto Aventuras and Cozumel wanes considerably, waters off Isla Mujeres and Cancun should have plenty of fish at least until early June.

Pacific Sailfish

Pacific sailfish
Pacific sailfishIllustration by Keilani Rodriguez

First choice: Guatemala
Second choice: Costa Rica

In Guatemala, May usually marks the beginning of the downturn, yet the sailfishing remains as productive or more so than in other billfish destinations. In Costa Rican waters, sailfish catches are most consistent off Flamingo and Tamarindo, but pockets of wild action keep boats out of Los Sueños and Quepos on the hunt, releasing three to six fish a day between short-lived hot streaks.

Striped Marlin

striped marlin
Striped marlinIllustration by Keilani Rodriguez

First choice: Mexico
Second choice: New Zealand

Boats out of Cabo San Lucas continue to find striped marlin along San Lucas and Santa Maria canyons, but runs to Cabrillo Seamount, Golden Gate, San Jaime or 1150 banks often result in more takers than mere window shoppers. In Kiwi waters, expect hot spots like the Far North and Three Kings to produce big stripes steadily at least through mid- or late June.

Wahoo

Wahoo
WahooIllustration by Keilani Rodriguez

First choice: Bermuda
Second choice: Florida

Bermuda’s Argus and Challenger banks are the surest bets in May, when reports of 20-fish days become more common. Live-baiting produces best, but spreads with Ilander lure-ballyhoo combinations also fill the fish box. Wahoo fishing peaks in northeast Florida, where boats running 55 miles to a ledge off St. Augustine find ’hoos in both good numbers and size. Farther south, boats out of Canaveral catch their share.

Yellowfin Tuna

yellowfin tuna
Yellowfin tunaIllustration by Keilani Rodriguez

First choice: Hawaii
Second choice: Bermuda

In May, hordes of ravenous yellowfins invade Hawaiian waters, and the fishing continues to improve through the summer. Anglers beware: Here there's a chance to hook a 200- to 300-pounder. Now is when the largest specimens are on the prowl around Bermuda's famous offshore banks. Although chumming and chunking produce more tuna, locals looking for trophy fish live-bait for best results.

Blackfin Tuna

blackfin tuna
Blackfin tunaIllustration by Keilani Rodriguez

First choice: Florida Second choice: Bahamas

In the Florida Keys, several Atlantic coast humps are loaded with blackfins this time of year. Live baits fished far back while drifting hump slopes result in more hookups, but two or three liveys fished at staggered depths with breakaway sinkers, lengthy top shots, and fluoro leaders fool the big ones. In Bahamian waters, schools of 10- to 20-pounders patrol reef edges in depths of 90 to 150 feet.

Bonefish

bonefish

Bonefish

BonefishIllustration by Keilani Rodriguez

First choice: Bahamas
Second choice: Turks and Caicos

May weather opens the flood gates in the Bahamas as bones no longer need to retreat to deep channels and creeks whenever a cold front prompts water temperatures to dip. Tide fluctuations become more important for locating fish moving up and down the flats with rising and falling water. In the neighboring Turks and Caicos, a similar spring pattern also keeps bonefish in the shallows for extended periods.

Snook

snook
SnookIllustration by Keilani Rodriguez

First choice: Florida
Second choice: Mexico

Florida linesiders are in or near open water now, feeding aggressively prior to spawning. Look for them lurking around man-made and natural structure in proximity to moving water, or in nearby potholes or troughs waiting for the tide to rise enough to reach the desired ambush points. South of the border, May is the best month to look for big snook in the southern lagoons and bays of the Yucatan.

Tarpon

Tarpon

Tarpon

TarponIllustration by Keilani Rodriguez

First choice: Florida
Second choice: Mexico

Tarpon by the thousands remain on the move in Florida, where the annual spring migration is in full swing along both coasts. Whether live-baiting for fish congregating in the channels, around bridges, in the mouths of coastal rivers, or casting lures or flies to others cruising the shallows, there's not a better time than now. In the Yucatan Peninsula, juvenile tarpon are stacked and active in the lagoons and back bays.

Permit

Permit

Permit

PermitIllustration by Keilani Rodriguez

First choice: Belize
Second choice: Florida

Belizean flats continue to offer anglers intent on catching permit the highest probability for success. From the outer atolls, to the inside flats stretching from Ambergris to Punta Gorda, and the 20 miles of shoals in between known as Permit Alley, the availability of fish in a range of sizes is staggering. In Florida, the number of fish prowling the flats continues to increase, much to the delight of sight-fishers.

Red Drum

red drum
Red DrumIllustration by Keilani Rodriguez

First choice: Louisiana
Second choice: Florida

Cajun waters offer superb redfish action in the marshes as well as along outer shorelines and shoals as fish spread out and pursue an increasing variety and abundance of forage. Both blind casting and sight-fishing pay off. In Florida, redfish also become more abundant and active in inshore waters, increasing anglers' chances to locate some in the open flats, around oyster bars, and along grass or mangrove shorelines.

Striped Bass

striped bass
Striped bassIllustration by Keilani Rodriguez

First choice: New Jersey
Second choice: New York

Barnegat and Raritan bays in New Jersey teem with juvenile menhaden and other small baitfish, and stripers put on the feed bag to make up for the slim pickings of winter. Look for sight-fishing opportunities along Oyster Creek Channel in Barnegat Bay, or try the creek at the marina in Raritan. The tidal portion of the Hudson River in New York is another hot spot where bass congregate for spawning.

Swordfish

swordfish

Swordfish

SwordfishIllustration by Keilani Rodriguez

First choice: Florida
Second choice: Texas

In South Florida, both winds and seas begin to subside this month, making it easier and safer to drift for swords. During calmer periods, this is a good month to use lights to attract fish to the surface and present pitch baits, artificials, or even flies. In the Lone Star State, deep-dropping with rigged squid during the day or at night yields multiple shots at broadbills in deep Gulf of Mexico waters.

King Mackerel

king mackerel
King mackerelIllustration by Keilani Rodriguez

First choice: Louisiana
Second choice: Florida

Offshore oil rigs with clean water closest to the Mississippi Delta are prime spots to troll or drift live hardtails (aka blue runners) or other hardy baits for 30-pound-plus kings. Chances for success increase off Louisiana shores as migrating schools join the resident population of smokers in the northern Gulf of Mexico. The Florida Panhandle offers another reliable kingfish battleground this time of year.

Bluefish

Bluefish
BluefishIllustration by Keilani Rodriguez

First choice: New Jersey
Second choice: New York

With baitfish again abundant and water temperatures on the rise, schools of always-hungry bluefish make their way to the Northeast, looking for bait aggregations along the coasts of New Jersey and New York. Now that most baitfish in the region are still in the early stages of their life cycles, look for some around inlets and inside major bays, especially in boat basins and channels. The bluefish won't be far away.

Dolphin

mahimahi
DolphinIllustration by Keilani Rodriguez

First choice: Florida
Second choice: Bahamas

Southeasterly breezes prevail in South Florida weather patterns this month, allowing the formation of weed lines closer to the coast, thereby creating visible features that anglers target with high expectations of encountering dolphin. Fish traveling north with the Gulf Stream and eastbound through Northwest Providence Channel provide opportunity for boats out of several Bahamian islands this month.