Month of Mayhem
The fishing is on fire in May, and spools spin at full throttle—so hold on tight.
Hear that? it might be a swordfish ripping line off an 80-wide reel, or a snook exploding on a topwater lure. In the Northeast, the tails of trophy stripers slap the surface, while big red snapper will have you whistling Dixie down South. Wherever you’re fishing, May is playing your tune. Be sure to check regulations before heading out.
— Joe Cermele
BEST Florida Everglades Backcountry fishermen can find aggressive snook in the tidal creeks and lagoons of the Everglades. Diving plugs pitched beneath overhanging vegetation will induce memorable strikes from big fish.
RUNNER-UP Florida Keys Mangrove-bordered flats and lighted bridges both play host to loads of hungry snook.
BEST Ocracoke, North Carolina Battles with thick-bodied black drum in Pamlico Sound, North Carolina, will give anglers a serious run for their money. Cut bait and fresh clams are both sure bets for nailing these bruisers.
RUNNER-UP Assateague Island, Virginia Surf casters can fight big drum feeding in the breakers around this barrier island.
BEST Charleston, South Carolina If you want to see a blue marlin go airborne without having to jet to South America, try the waters off Charleston. Fish in the 200- to 500-pound range are common, and purple-and-black skirts are a sure bet in the spread.
RUNNER-UP Hatteras, North Carolina May kicks off the marlin season here with takers weighing up to 700 pounds.
BEST Orange Beach, Alabama As spawning begins, red snapper congregate over rock piles and wrecks off Orange Beach. Nylon-dressed jigs or heavy bucktails tipped with squid do the trick on fish holding throughout the water column.
RUNNER-UP Port Fourchon, Louisiana Anglers departing from Port Fourchon get into a mess of red snapper.
BEST Cape May, New Jersey It’s time to break out the wire leaders and fish chunks for slammer blues off of Cape May, New Jersey. Smaller fish swarm the surf, but big bluefish hang out over wrecks just offshore.
RUNNER-UP Rehoboth Beach, Delaware The tail of the migration will keep lines tight with monster fish off Delaware.
BEST San Diego, California May is prime time to get in on the yellowtail action aboard a San Diego long-range boat. Jigs in various weights and colors, such as Tady and Salas irons, can be fished to mimic live squid and will take ‘tails at any depth.
RUNNER-UP Catalina Island, California Yellowtail gorge on schools of bait in these waters off Southern California.
BEST Long Branch, New Jersey With the spring migration here, stripers chow down off the beaches and around inshore structure off Long Branch. Plug-and-teaser combos score in the surf, and umbrella rigs catch plenty over nearshore Shrewsbury Rocks.
RUNNER-UP Western Long Island, New York Bass moving into Long Island Sound go on a feeding frenzy.
BEST Cabo San Lucas, Mexico Yellowfin action gets underway off Cabo San Lucas. Bring heavy gear and plenty of stamina as schools of 100-plus-pound tuna are not uncommon. Come prepared for battle, because the bite can last all day.
RUNNER-UP Bermuda This island attracts a huge following in May, as yellowfin cruise en masse around its shores.
BEST Boca Paila, Mexico Flats junkies jonesing for permit can get their fix in the skinny waters around Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula. Since these fish are skittish, fly or bait placement is critical…you may only get one shot.
RUNNER-UP Placencia, Belize Deepwater reefs and coral shoals are both home to slab-sided permit in Belize.
BEST Bahamas Nighttime is the right time for tempting broadbill swordfish around the islands of the Bahamas. Fishing whole, fresh squid rigged with a glow stick beneath a balloon is the go-to method for hooking the powerful swords that prowl the dark depths.
RUNNER-UP La Guaira, Venezuela Venezuelan waters can offer anglers the perfect conditions for catching huge swords.
BEST Ambergris Caye, Belize Jumbo mutton snapper lurk around hard bottom and reefs off Belize. Fresh chum improves your chances of getting these picky eaters to strike and helps lure them away from line-cutting structure.
RUNNER-UP Vera Cruz, Mexico The Gulf Coast of Mexico can get anglers into a mean mutton bite in the late spring.
All illustrations: Florida Department of Conservation. By Diane Peebles. Except Yellowtail: Emily Damstra; Striped Bass: Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries.