Hit the Road
Salmon Fever in Bodega Bay, California
King salmon in the Pacific Ocean waters off California’s Bodega Bay beckon me back each summer. Kings sometimes feed just a mile outside the bay entrance, gorging on clouds of krill as a prelude to their autumn migration up the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, and that attracts a hundreds of boating anglers, including me. Situated about 45 miles above the San Francisco’s Golden Gate, Bodega Bay might be better known as the setting for Alfred Hitchcock’s bizarre film, The Birds. Yet, this quaint harbor succumbs to salmon fever in late June and July.
Full Roster in Hatteras, North Carolina
Full Roster in Hatteras, North Carolina
At 6 a.m. we decked a 200-pound bigeye tuna. By noon we had a limit of gaffer dolphin. Then, we ran inshore and scored a pair of 80-pound cobia. Only in Hatteras, where the Gulf Stream and Labrador Current meet over fabled Diamond Shoals, can anglers find epic inshore and offshore action in one day. Early summer is prime time for yellowfin tuna, big dolphin and blue marlin. Troll skirted ballyhoo at six knots where the Gulf Stream crosses the 100-fathom drop. As summer heats up, white marlin fishing gets white hot along the warm water eddies that swirl alongthe Continental Shelf. Naked ballyhoo on a circle hook will fool feisty whites feeding on schools of bait under diving birds. Or, move inshore and sight-cast three-ounce bucktails to trophy cobia and big red drum along the beach or behind the island. Skinny water action for reds, seatrout and flounder is as easy as casting a 1/8-ounce jig and soft plastic in deep holes and grass flats. Spend blow days exploring miles of white sand beach and small coastal villages. Hatteras Harbor Marina; hatterasharbor.com: Oregon Inlet Fishing Center; oregon-inlet.com
Tuna Town in Venice, Louisiana
There is no place quite like Venice. The scenery, the fishing, the people all add up to my favorite fishing spot on earth! Summer offers vast schools of yellowfin tuna around oil rigs that will fall for live bait and surface plugs. The Delta waters have excellent redfish action with really big ones moving in with the approach of fall. You can trailer your boat or hire a guide to get in on the action. Venice Marina is home base and offers lodging, launch ramps, tackle and bait, a restaurant and bar. Their website lists dozens of inshore and offshore charter boats. Take Rt. 23 south from New Orleans to the end of the road. Fishing Nirvana awaits! Venice Sportsman’s Marina; venicemarina.com: Southern Way Charters Venice Sportsmans Lodge; southernwaycharters.com/sportsmans-lodge/
Central America Fishing
South Bound for Central America Billfish
When it’s time to get out of town for a fishing vacation I head south—way south, to Central America. I’m not particular: the wild coastal waters of Panama at Tropic Star Lodge (tropicstar.com); the off-the-charts numbers of sailfish off Quepos, (marinapezvela.com); the variety of Crocodile Bay (crocodilebay.com); or the finely-tuned fly and light tackle fishing for billfish at Casa Vieja, Guatemala (casaviejalodge.com). Sign me up. They all offer inshore fishing as well, if you get tired of catching billfish. Which hasn’t happened to me yet. The route from Miami to Guatemala City, San Jose, or Panama City provides a cultural experience that makes the trip a real vacation.
School Bluefins off Cape Cod, Massachusetts
Inside Massachusetts’ flexed arm of the Cape lies Cape Cod Bay, one of the most productive bodies of water along the northeast coast. Its 604 square miles are home to all the northeast species, but none are as prized as the bluefin tuna, particularly the schoolies. These 40 to 75 pound fish provide the light tackle angler with fast action from June through September. Access for the angler that tows their boat is easy. Google MA Boat Ramps and find what works from Plymouth right around to Provincetown. Google Cape Cod Tackle shops and click around to check on current action. If a charter is your thing, try Reel Deal Charters http://www.fishreeldeal.com But don’t wait too long, when the action is hot, they all get booked.
Mixed Bag on the Jersey Shore
Summer on the Jersey Shore
Soft sugar-sand beaches underfoot, bells and whistles of carnival boardwalk games ringing and the ever-present scent of pork roll and cheese steaks in the air – welcome to the eclectic sideshow known as summertime at the Jersey Shore. Hardcore fishing opportunity abounds; whether taking a family-friendly half day jaunt out on a party boat ($40) to hang a limit of summer flounder for the grill, chartering a sportfisher offshore to troll and jig 40 to 100-pound bluefin tuna, or kicking back bayside to collect a bushel of blue claw crabs while tricking up a grand slam of bluefish, striped bass, fluke and weakfish – there’s definitely no lack of piscatorial pursuits to choose from. And bonus – it’s Jersey, so you know you’re gonna eat well and see something ridiculous go down. Contact: Fisherman’s Supply, Point Pleasant; fishermenssupplyco.co, 732-892-2058
The Marquesas Await West of Key West
West of Key West
The rock piles scattered about the shallow Gulf and Atlantic sides around the Marquesas Keys have kept me returning for decades. Some 25 miles west of Key West, offer you’ll find non-stop action with groupers and snappers over rock piles in25 and 45 feet of water; and it’s simple fishing. Live pinfish are a plus, but fresh squid, ballyhoo, Spanish sardines and chunks of bonito bend the rods nearly as rapidly. Twenty-pound spinning and conventional tackle and knocker rigs rule here. There are always fish around, with muttons more prominent in spring and fall, mangrove snapper in July and August, and gag grouper in winter. Red grouper are common year ‘round. I’m parcel to docking at Murray Marine on Stock Island (www.murraymarine.com), a full service marina with several top guides for hire; they’ve a ramp and trailer storage.
Fishing Florida’s East Coast on Foot
Angler Afoot Along Florida’s East Coast
If you’re average or better at casting and catching any inshore sportfish, you’ll love southeast Florida. Fly into West Palm Beach, or drive if you must. Fish your way north along Highway 1, either wading or renting kayaks along the way. Drop the boats or wet the boots anywhere – anywhere – and fish miles of flats loaded with snook, seatrout, bluefish, tarpon, jacks. Pack topwaters, DOA shrimp, soft plastics, 20- and 40-pound fluorocarbon leader, extra line, and two rods. You won’t get bit every cast, but the bites you get will be memorable. Bill Buckland’s Fisherman’s Center; fishermanscenter.com
Fishing the Bahamas is a Winning Combination
Winning Combination in the Bahamas
Summertime is when I head to the Bahamas in search of great bottomfishing and the perfect pina colada. I always find both in the Abacos, where big yellowtail, mutton and mangrove snapper congregate in 60 to 120 feet of water this time of year and Capt. Jack’s and Firefly (both in Hopetown) serve killer frozen concoctions. Fly fishing for bonefish, an addiction of mine, is another reason to visit. Blackfly Lodge (blackflylodge.com) is one of a handful of operations specializing on stalking bones and permit in Abaco’s pristine flats. Andros, another personal favorite, is also a great option. Stafford Creek Lodge (staffordcreeklodge.com) and Bairs (bairslodge.com) offer topnotch flats fishing and can arrange for larger boats and captains to let you sample the island’s phenomenal reef fishing.
Fishing Rigs and Rips off Orange Beach, Alabama
Rigs and Rips off Orange Beach, Alabama
For visiting anglers, there’s plenty to love about Orange Beach, Alabama. The abundance and variety of targets is phenomenal. Blue-water possibilities include marlin, swordfish and triple-digit yellowfin tuna. Boats can run east to the Steps through Perdido Pass or west to the Green Canyon via Mobile Bay. Nearshore Alabama rigs offer steady action with cobia, king mackerel and snapper. Cooperative redfish, trout and flounder await light-tackle enthusiasts in Wolf Bay and the ICW. With a full service operation, charter boats and ample dining, accommodations and family entertainment, The Wharf Marina is an ideal starting point for the summer fishing vacation; thewharfmarina.com