Where to Fish in November and December

Winter is coming, and as the seasons change so do the places to find your favorite saltwater species

Salt Water Sportsman has the best places for you to fish for the most popular saltwater species during November and December. With two locations per fish species, you can't go wrong abiding by this guide if you're looking for a great trip and even better catch.

Pacific Blue Marlin

Pacific blue marlin
Pacific blue marlinIllustration by Keilani Rodriguez

First choice: Ecuador
Second choice: Panama

Action with big blues heats up in Ecuador this month, especially off Salinas, Manta and Isla de la Plata, where boats often raise eight or more fish a day this time of year. In Panama, the blue marlin bite is on the upswing, with more of the billfish on the prowl, feeding on the dorado (aka dolphin) hovering around floating debris dispersed along the coast after the recent rainy season.

Atlantic Blue Marlin

Atlantic blue marlin
Atlantic blue marlinIllustration by Keilani Rodriguez

First choice: Brazil
Second choice: Canary Islands

Schools of yellowfin tuna invade the waters surrounding Royal Charlotte Bank off Canavieiras, Brazil, this time of year, and you can count on lots of blue marlin in the 500- to 700-pound class making the scene to partake. Meanwhile, big-game crews in the Canary Islands concentrate their efforts off La Gomera and Lanzarote, where they’re sure to encounter solid numbers of blues looking for a meal.

Black Marlin

black marlin
Black marlinIllustration by Keilani Rodriguez

First choice: Australia
Second choice: Panama

The giant blacks that made Australia’s Great Barrier Reef world-famous are slowly moving out of the region, but enough stragglers remain this month to make efforts worthwhile and the potential of hooking a grander a likely bonus. In Panama, the same abundance of dorado sparking the blue marlin bite also gets the black marlin going. Trolling over underwater peaks and along the color change should yield just rewards.

White Marlin

White marlin
White marlinIllustration by Keilani Rodriguez

First choice: Brazil
Second choice: Barbados

Waters off Vitoria, Brazil, are a known mecca for white marlin of unusually large proportions, and the spike in the action that usually takes place in late October and November leaves better than average numbers of fish patrolling the 18-mile drop this month. Closer to U.S. territory, the seasonal northbound migration of whites continues to push fish past Barbados and neighboring Grenada.

Atlantic Sailfish

Atlantic sailfish

Atlantic Sailfish

Atlantic sailfishIllustration by Keilani Rodriguez

First choice: Florida
Second choice: Mexico

Sailfishing remains strong off Florida’s south and southeast coasts, with Stuart, Palm Beach, Miami, Islamorada and Key West the usual hotspots, not only this month but through the winter. In Mexico’s Yucatan, sailfish begin to arrive and slowly build in numbers. While the action won’t peak off Isla Mujeres, Cancun and Cozumel for another two to three months, top boats will soon begin to raise multiple sails a day.

Pacific Sailfish

Pacific sailfish
Pacific sailfishIllustration by Keilani Rodriguez

First choice: Guatemala
Second choice: Costa Rica

Boats out of Iztapa and adjacent Puerto Quetzal in Guatemala are again amassing astonishing release numbers. December is known as a top month for sails in the region, and records kept by game crews and lodges corroborate it. In Costa Rica, boats out of Drake Bay, Golfito, Quepos and Los Sueños also benefit from an uptick in sailfish, with consistent double-digit days on the horizon.

Striped Marlin

striped marlin
Striped marlinIllustration by Keilani Rodriguez

First choice: Mexico
Second choice: Australia

Anglers intent on catching stripes this month should consider Cabo San Lucas because there will be plenty of fish available for the taking in popular spots like Los Arcos, Cerro de Arena, Las Margaritas, Migrino and Pozo de Cota. Down Under, the striped marlin bite off Port Stephens should turn on this month and steadily improve until water temps reach 77 degrees, especially from Sea Rocks to the south.

Wahoo

Wahoo
WahooIllustration by Keilani Rodriguez

First choice: Bahamas
Second choice: Bermuda

The annual wahoo run gets underway in the Bahamas now. Known for the number of triple-digit-weight specimens they’ve produced over the years, San Salvador and Cat Island are stops on the bucket list of many ’hoo addicts, but various other places in the island nation also yield nice catches. In Bermuda, live-baiters bank on catching some of the largest striped torpedoes of the year this month.

Yellowfin Tuna

yellowfin tuna
Yellowfin tunaIllustration by Keilani Rodriguez

First choice: Bermuda
Second choice: North Carolina

Bermuda’s Argus and Challenger banks are teeming with yellowfins this time of year, and many local and visiting boats spend their fishing time trolling live baits or anchoring, chumming and drifting chunks to fill their fish boxes. In North Carolina, yellowfin fishing in December usually fluctuates from hot to mild to hot again as schools of 40- to 80-pounders remain on the move off the Crystal Coast and Outer Banks.

Bluefin Tuna

bluefin tuna
Bluefin tunaIllustration by Keilani Rodriguez

First choice: Prince Edward Island
Second choice: North Carolina

There will be lots of giant bluefins feeding ravenously around Canada’s Prince Edward Island this month, in preparation for their annual transatlantic crossing. Local commercial fishermen turn charter captains during the short bluefin season, offering reliable fishing at affordable prices. In North Carolina, packs of 200- to 500-pounders could show up any day off Beaufort Inlet and Hatteras, in water as shallow as 30 feet.

Bonefish

bonefish

Bonefish

BonefishIllustration by Keilani Rodriguez

First choice: Bahamas
Second choice: Belize

As efforts continue to help Grand Bahama and the Abacos, severely affected by Hurricane Dorian, anglers are encouraged to pursue bonefish in other Bahamas destinations to enjoy world-class flats action in favorable, mild weather conditions while supporting our island neighbors. Another top option this time of year is Belize, where bones remain active and widespread throughout the country’s shallows.

Snook

snook
SnookIllustration by Keilani Rodriguez

First choice: Florida
Second choice: Costa Rica

With the fall mullet migration in the rearview mirror, Florida snook move from open water toward their wintering grounds in the backcountry, up coastal rivers, the ICW and residential canals, feeding on shrimp or small baitfish. In Costa Rica, calba (aka fat snook) gather in large numbers inside the Caribbean coast’s barras in preparation for spawning. Jigging with bucktails or weighted soft plastics does the trick.

Tarpon

Tarpon

Tarpon

TarponIllustration by Keilani Rodriguez

First choice: Florida
Second choice: Costa Rica

In the Sunshine State, tarpon put on the feed bag and turn nocturnal, ambushing baitfish and shrimp in the passes, inlets and coastal river mouths, and around bridges and lighted docks along the ICW. In Costa Rica, expect plenty of silver kings to congregate at the mouths of Caribbean-side rivers such as the Pacuare, Matina and Limon, the famous barras of Colorado and Parismina, and off the adjacent beaches.

Permit

Permit

Permit

PermitIllustration by Keilani Rodriguez

First choice: Belize
Second choice: Florida

The mild, subtropical weather in Belize keeps permit active and abundant. Reliable areas such as the atolls of Turneffe and Golver’s, the 20-plus-mile stretch of shoals dubbed Permit Alley, and the inside flats off Ambergris, Placencia and Punta Gorda all produce this time of year. Miami’s Biscayne Bay and the lower Florida Keys continue to offer reliable action, and the average size of permit is larger than in Belize.­

Red Drum

red drum
Red DrumIllustration by Keilani Rodriguez

First choice: Louisiana
Second choice: Florida

Southeast Louisiana, from Biloxi Marsh to Cocodrie, remains the undisputed redfish capital, and now is when big bulls are often found milling around along outer shorelines and coves, and Gulfside shoals like those of the Chandeleurs. In Florida, east coast tidal creeks from Fernandina to St. Augustine, Mosquito and Indian river lagoons, and Gulf coast flats and creeks from Marco Island to Panacea yield plenty of reds.

Striped Bass

striped bass
Striped bassIllustration by Keilani Rodriguez

First choice: Maryland
Second choice: Virginia

As winter weather begins to take over, an increasing number of stripers move into Chesapeake Bay and settle in at various coastal rivers and creeks, where water temperatures will remain comfortable and forage options reliable, if not varied. Expect similar moves but fewer bass numbers up the Potomac, and the Rappahannock and York rivers in neighboring Virginia.

Swordfish

swordfish

Swordfish

SwordfishIllustration by Keilani Rodriguez

First choice: Florida
Second choice: Mexico

Deep structure and steep drops off Florida’s Atlantic coast, especially from Palm Beach south to the Keys, continue to produce the world’s most consistent broadbill fishing; however, winds and seas increase this time of year, so small boats will need to wait for the right weather window to venture out. In Mexico, the depths of the Yucatan Channel also offer good swordfish potential.

King Mackerel

king mackerel
King mackerelIllustration by Keilani Rodriguez

First choice: North Carolina
Second choice: Florida

November is the peak month for smokers in North Carolina waters, and while the bite may wane some, kings of all sizes are bound to remain plentiful through New Year’s, particularly off the Outer Banks. Cooler weather signals the arrival of smoker kings to Florida. Look for the biggest west of Key West, and anticipate consistent action with specimens of mixed sizes along the southeast and southwest coasts.

Bluefish

Bluefish
BluefishIllustration by Keilani Rodriguez

First choice: New Jersey
Second choice: North Carolina

Late fall is a good time to target big blues around many of New Jersey’s nearshore wrecks, but every cold front pushes more of them southward. Smaller 2- to 5-pounders should oblige along the beaches a while longer as the 8- to 20-pound fish increasingly migrate down the coast, staging along North Carolina shores, where they find warmer water and ample forage.

Dolphin

mahimahi
DolphinIllustration by Keilani Rodriguez

First choice: Panama
Second choice: Costa Rica

Monsoon season in Panama is finally over, but all the floating debris pushed down the coastal rivers to the sea creates cover and feeding opportunities for traveling dorado. Game boats fishing along both Panama coasts cash in, and so do their counterparts out of neighboring Costa Rica’s top sport-fishing destinations, such as Golfito, Quepos and Los Sueños.