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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.

Updated:

May 19, 2022

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 marlin Illustration by Keilani Rodriguez

First choice: Mexico

Second choice: Hawaii

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Big blues start to show up along the Baja Peninsula, where specimens in the 500-pound range compete with the smaller striped marlin for the available forage. This is also a good month to fish for blues in Hawaiian waters because the seasonal influx of mahi takes little time to attract hungry marlin to the region. Expect the best action off Oahu and Molokai, with the bite improving as June approaches.

Atlantic Blue Marlin

Atlantic blue marlin
Atlantic blue marlin Illustration by Keilani Rodriguez

First choice: Dominican Republic

Second choice: Puerto Rico

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The number of blues on the prowl this month climbs quickly off the northeast coast of the Dominican Republic, where most of the fish fall in the 150- to 250-pound range, perfect for fly and light-tackle enthusiasts. The marlin action extends all the way to Puerto Rico’s nearby waters, with boats out of San Juan and Mayaguez usually enjoying the best early-season bite.

Black Marlin

black marlin
Black marlin Illustration by Keilani Rodriguez

First choice: Ecuador

Second choice: Costa Rica

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Ecuador again stakes its claim as the world’s top spot for black marlin this month, with large females patrolling the nutrient- and forage-rich waters off Salinas, Isla de la Plata and Manta, and the bite in the Galapagos steadily improving through the month. In Costa Rica, boats fishing the seamounts and humps off the south Pacific coast enjoy an influx of blacks this time of year.

White Marlin

White marlin
White marlin Illustration by Keilani Rodriguez

First choice: Dominican Republic

Second choice: Bermuda

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May is a peak month for white marlin off Dominican shores, and boats out of Cap Cana, Punta Cana and Bavaro trolling around the region’s productive FADs should have little trouble scoring multiple fish per day. Bermuda gameboats add white marlin to their target list this month as the seasonal migration brings pods of northbound fish close to the island.

Atlantic Sailfish

Atlantic sailfish

Atlantic Sailfish

Atlantic sailfish Illustration by Keilani Rodriguez

First choice: Florida

Second choice: Mexico

Sailfishing remains hot in the Sunshine State this month, with a good-to-excellent bite continuing from Stuart down to the Keys. As temperatures climb, increase your odds for success by staggering baits at different depths to entice fish hanging 50 to 100 feet below the surface. Action in Yucatan waters fades in May, but reliable action remains off Cancun and Isla Mujeres for a few more weeks.

Pacific Sailfish

Pacific sailfish
Pacific sailfish Illustration by Keilani Rodriguez

First choice: Guatemala

Second choice: Costa Rica

The spectacular sailfishing Guatemala is known for starts to wane this month. However, enough fish remain to satisfy visiting anglers, and tallying a dozen releases a day is not out of the question. May is synonymous with rain in much of Costa Rica, but the northern towns of Flamingo and Tamarindo, in the country’s most arid region, offer pleasant conditions and great sailfishing this month.

Striped Marlin

striped marlin
Striped marlin Illustration by Keilani Rodriguez

First choice: Mexico

Second choice: New Zealand

The big-game fleets out of Cabo San Lucas continue to find willing fish around Golden Gate, San Jaime, and Santa Maria and San Lucas canyons. But when conditions are right, boats making the 50-mile run to Finger Bank really strike it rich, often tallying 20 or more hookups a day. The action remains hot in New Zealand waters, where renowned areas like Three Kings and the Far North should produce for another six weeks.

Wahoo

Wahoo
Wahoo Illustration by Keilani Rodriguez

First choice: Bermuda

Second choice: Bahamas

The striped torpedoes congregate in big numbers around Challenger and Argus, Bermuda’s renowned offshore banks, where hooking more than a dozen fish a day is hardly uncommon in May. This month, wahoo mount their last hurrah off San Salvador and neighboring Cat Island in the Bahamas, where the big draw for visiting boats is the size of the fish instead of the numbers.

Yellowfin Tuna

yellowfin tuna
Yellowfin tuna Illustration by Keilani Rodriguez

First choice: Mexico

Second choice: Panama

Now is when large schools of yellowfins invade the offshore waters off Mexico’s Baja Peninsula, where some banks are notorious for producing trophies exceeding 300 pounds. In Panama, May brings schools of 40- to 80-pounders to the Gulf of Chiriqui on the country’s Pacific coast. Waters surrounding the islands of Ladrones, Secas and Coiba are known tuna hotspots.

Blackfin Tuna

blackfin tuna
Blackfin tuna Illustration by Keilani Rodriguez

First choice: Florida

Second choice: North Carolina

Various underwater pinnacles and banks off the Florida Keys, particularly off Islamorada, Marathon and Key West, are hunting grounds for hungry blackfins ranging from 8-pound footballs to 30-pound trophies. In North Carolina, schools of blackfins mount guerrilla attacks on flying fish and other forage. Trolling around weed lines and the first drop on the continental shelf frequently pays dividends this time of year.

Bonefish

bonefish

Bonefish

Bonefish Illustration by Keilani Rodriguez

First choice: Bahamas

Second choice: Belize

Bonefish fanatics won’t find a better time to stalk their favorite quarry on Bahamian flats than now. With plenty of sunshine, temperatures mostly in the high 70s to low 80s, and the wind down a click or two, there will be plenty of shots at tailers and cruisers to go around. In Belize, mild weather and active fish throughout the region also bode well for visiting bone chasers.

Snook

snook
Snook Illustration by Keilani Rodriguez

First choice: Florida

Second choice: Mexico

With warm waters and plenty of baitfish available, Florida linesiders take up residence around natural and man-made structure near open water, taking full advantage to bulk up in preparation for spawning, just a couple of months away. The lagoon systems in the northern Yucatan and the large bays to the south are home to thriving snook populations, and May is a great month to entice them with lures and flies.

Tarpon

Tarpon

Tarpon

Tarpon Illustration by Keilani Rodriguez

First choice: Florida

Second choice: Belize

The annual migration is in full swing along both Florida coasts, and chances to intercept big tarpon along the beaches and across the flats attract anglers from every corner of the globe. Expect the fish to be more receptive to both natural and artificial offerings the first half of the month, before they face heavier fishing pressure. In Belize, the tarpon run is just getting started, so fishing improves as June approaches.

Permit

Permit

Permit

Permit Illustration by Keilani Rodriguez

First choice: Belize

Second choice: Mexico

From the coralline surroundings of the outer atolls to the grass flats near the mainland and the fertile shoals stretching in between, Belizean waters offer excellent chances to connect with permit this month, and conditions should be ideal. The Yucatan bays of Ascension, Espiritu Santo and Chetumal also boast large permit populations, and expert local guides get anglers within casting range of many this month.

Red Drum

red drum
Red Drum Illustration by Keilani Rodriguez

First choice: Louisiana

Second choice: Florida

May means active redfish are widespread throughout the marshes in Louisiana. Look for singles and small hunting packs moving slowly along the banks of bayous and interconnected ponds, with the larger specimens doing the same in slightly deeper water. In Florida, reds are also aggressively looking for chow. Mangrove shorelines, oyster bars, and potholes and prop scars in the middle of many grass flats will hold fish.

Striped Bass

striped bass
Striped bass Illustration by Keilani Rodriguez

First choice: New Jersey

Second choice: New York

New Jersey’s Raritan and Barnegat bays are loaded with small bunker and other baitfish this time of year, and stripers take full advantage, corralling them in sheltered coves and against the sod banks. Search for bass looking to fatten up in New York Bight waters also, and expect schools of spawning-ready fish to start congregating in the tidal section of the Hudson River.

Swordfish

swordfish

Swordfish

Swordfish Illustration by Keilani Rodriguez

First choice: Florida

Second choice: New Zealand

In South Florida, winds and seas start to come down in May, making drifting for broadbills an easier proposition for smaller boats. During calmer days, some crews are actually sight-fishing for swords at night, using bright lights to draw some to the surface. In Kiwi waters, most crews still opt to drop rigged baits with strobes or Cyalume sticks down to 1,000 feet or more to temp fish from Garden Patch to Nine Pin Trench.

King Mackerel

king mackerel
King mackerel Illustration by Keilani Rodriguez

First choice: Louisiana

Second choice: Texas

Much of the Gulf kingfish population moves west toward Louisiana and Texas this time of year. The mouths of major passes, oil and gas platforms, rocks and other bottom structure in less than 250 feet of water are likely hunting grounds for schools of ravenous kings. Anchored shrimp boats often attract some fish also, and trolling diving plugs and spoons around them often pays dividends.

Dolphin

mahimahi
Dolphin Illustration by Keilani Rodriguez

First choice: Florida

Second choice: Bahamas

The annual push of dolphin is underway off the Florida and Bahamas coasts, with schools of peanuts, grasshoppers and slammers traveling with the Gulf Stream accompanied by pairs and trios of adult bulls and cows. May usually brings gentle southeastern breezes to the region conducive to the formation of large weed lines, where the fish seek both cover and forage.

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