Best of Lists

10 Destinations to Catch Your Dream Fish

Go Fish!

By
Jeff
Merrill

We've put together a list of 10 spots worth a look whether you simply want a change of venue or are looking to cross a species off your bucket list. Keep in mind some of these same locales have dedicated seasons, size and bag limits for the species noted and some also require a fishing license. The best point of reference no matter where you travel is a local tackle shop which can provide guidance on tackle and bait selections as well as other tips and tricks and perhaps even insight to their favorite honey hole.

NANTUCKET, MASSACHUSETTS

The waters around Nantucket boast a variety of game fish whether fishing from the beach, pier, jetty or boat. The best action takes place beginning in April as schools of hungry striped bass arrive with a vengeance. It continues through mid-July then again from September through mid-October. A variety of techniques work including plugs, live bait and trolling. Early May sees the arrival of massive schools of bluefish and surface plugs provide excitement as choppers crash lures often within close range of the angler! Offshore trips can range outward to 100 miles for action with bluefin, yellowfin and big eye tuna, blue marlin and white marlin, swordfish, mahi mahi as well as mako and blue sharks especially during the months of June through September. Sight casting along the sandbars for large stripers, bonito and false albacore is also popular.

Where to Dock: Nantucket Boat Basin (508-325-1350, nantucketboatbasin.com)

MONTAUK, NEW YORK

Montauk sits at the far end of Long Island some 100 miles into the Atlantic Ocean. From the waters of Long Island Sound to its famed surf to the offshore waters there's a species to be caught from spring through late fall. May finds striped bass and bluefish arriving in a hungry mood and near shore anglers find sea bass and fluke which are present through October (with specific regulated seasons). Offshore action kicks into gear in June with mako sharks the prime target followed by bluefin, yellowfin and big eye tuna, which are available June through mid-October. White and blue marlin, dolphin and wahoo are also available during the same timeframe. For surfcasters, schools of striped bass and bluefish crashing through schools of bait as birds overhead pick an easy meal from the remains is the ultimate venue. Casting plugs into this frenzy with the Montauk Lighthouse as the backdrop is their paradise during the months of late September through November.

Where to Dock: Montauk Yacht Club Resort & Marina (631-668-7702, montaukyachtclub.com

CAPE MAY, NEW JERSEY

This tiny Victorian town is the nation's oldest seaside resort and lies at the southernmost point of the Garden State and is popular year-round. For anglers looking to tangle with feisty white marlin, it is hard to beat the canyons off the South Jersey coast from August through mid-October. This is prime season to tangle with these popular billfish, which range in size from 40 to 70 pounds. This is light tackle fishing at its finest and 20 or 30-pound outfits are all you need. Catch-and-release fishing and a growth in the use of circle hooks with ballyhoo have helped white marlin stocks rebound and good days see a dozen or more of tailwalking white marlin released. Look for an occasional blue marlin to make your trip interesting and sailfish bites make a grand slam rare but possible. Dolphin, yellowfin and big eye tuna are also found during the same time of year.

Where to Dock: Canyon Club Resort Marina (609-884-0199, canyonclubmarina.com), South Jersey Marina (609-884-2400, southjerseymarina.com)

PALM BEACH, FLORIDA

Florida's famed Gold Coast is a playground for the rich and famous from its elegantly groomed and ultra-exclusive golf and polo clubs to the glitz and glamour of Worth Ave. Here the Gulf Stream brushes the shoreline often within two miles of the coast and the best fishing occurs during the winter months as pods of sailfish invade the area from November through February. Leave your shorts at home if you want to score with spindlebeaks as seasonal cold fronts from the north kick up the sea and get the sails in a feeding mood. Live bait from kites will draw the most strikes though many prefer the traditional approach of trolling ballyhoo. In between sailfish bites look for dolphin, wahoo, kingfish and blackfin tuna to fill out the day. When the bite is on double-digit releases of sails are possible.

Where to Dock: Old Port Cove Marina (561-626-1760, opch.com)

THE FLORIDA KEYS

The Florida Keys stretch from Key Largo to Key West along nearly 120 miles of US Highway 1, also known as the Overseas Highway. From the backcountry of Florida Bay to the flats which brush the coastline on both sides of the chain of islands to the crystal blue offshore waters there's a species to be caught year ˜round. Winter months find sailfish snapping from the edge of the reef to offshore during cold fronts. Dolphin, wahoo, kingfish, blackfin tuna, bonito and Spanish mackerel are also available. The Keys are also a prime spot to add the elusive swordfish to your résumé. Bonefish, tarpon and permit patrol the flats as spring arrives while Florida Bay and Flamingo offer a shot at a backcountry slam with redfish, snook and trout. Look for wrecks and reefs to yield an abundance of tasty snapper and grouper. Other less desirable species which put up a good fight include jacks, barracuda and numerous species of sharks.

Where to Dock: Plantation Yacht Harbor Marina (305-852-2381, pyh.com), Postcard Inn Beach Resort & Marina (305-664-2321, holidayisle.com)

ORANGE BEACH, ALABAMA

Orange Beach and nearby Gulf Shores, Alabama combined are home to one of the largest charter boat fleets on the Gulf Coast. These experienced captains and crews, together with the area's popular shore and pier fishing combine to offer an extensive menu of fishing opportunities. Gulf State Pier, the second largest pier in the Gulf, measures 1540 feet and is an excellent spot for land-based anglers to catch pompano, redfish, bluefish, jacks, ladyfish and flounder. Casting lures and baits from the beaches of the back bays, lagoons and gulf shore yields most of the same species as you wade the warm waters of summer. Near-shore Little Lagoon, Mobile Bay, Wolf Bay and Perdido Bay are where you'll find specked trout, redfish, sheepshead, black drum Spanish and king mackerel. On the offshore grounds look for blue and white marlin, king mackerel, yellowfin tuna, swordfish, and wahoo when trolling, while bottom dwellers such as a variety of snappers will keep rods bent on your trip.

Where to Dock: Orange Beach Marina (251-981-4207, orangebeachmarina.com), Saunders Yachtworks Orange Beach (251-981-3700, saundersyacht.com)

THE BAHAMAS

The Bahamas has a huge variety of species. From its sandy flats to cobalt-blue offshore waters, this popular island cluster has something for every angler. The flats of nearly every island offer excellent opportunities to cast flies or shrimp at tailing bonefish and permit year ˜round the best action is during the spring and summer months when winds are light and fish are easy to spot. Bottom fishing for grouper and snapper species can be accomplished all year around wrecks and reefs near shore. Offshore look for the best shots at big blue marlin to occur from late March through June in the Abaco and Eleuthera islands. White marlin and sailfish are also abundant along with big mahi-mahi. San Salvador, Rum Cay and Long Island each offer great wahoo fishing during the late fall and early winter months.

Where to Dock: Abaco Beach Resort & Boat Harbour Marina (242-367-2158,abacobeachresort.com), Treasure Cay Beach Marina (242-365-8250, treasurecay.com), Hope Town Inn (242-366-0003, hopetownmarina.com)

ST. THOMAS, US VIRGIN ISLANDS

Popular with cruise ship vacationers and honeymooners alike, St. Thomas is well known for its beautiful beaches, luxurious all-inclusive resorts and popular shopping district. If blue marlin are on your bucket list, than this island is the place to be in late summer through early fall. The backside of the full moon is when the bite for blue ones typically goes off on the North Drop and while the fish are rarely huge, most are in the 150- to 400-pound class. Trade winds can make conditions a bit sporty at times so those with a tendency to come down with a case of mal de mare should prepare accordingly. White marlin, sailfish, wahoo and big yellowfin tuna are also possibilities, though most of the billfish pros will shy away from tactics for those species because the blue marlin bite is that good.

Where to Dock: IGY's American Yacht Harbor (340-775-6454, igy-americanyachtharbor.com)

DOMINICAN REPUBLIC

The Dominican Republic offers excellent winter and early spring billfish action with most action taking place two to 50 miles offshore. Blue marlin and white marlin are the predominant billfish species, though an occasional spearfish will also be caught. Sailfish are scarce, though yellowfin tuna, wahoo and mahi-mahi are a regular by-catch by billfish anglers. The south side of the island off La Romana tends to have a pretty good bite of blue marlin though whites are not as prevalent. From December through February blue marlin become prevalent on the FAD's (Fish Attracting Devices) though seas get sporty due to a constant breeze. The resorts off Punta Cana and La Romana get their shot at white marlin from March through May. Look for the best action to occur with white marlin on the back side of the full moon while the blues tend to bite leading up to the full moon.

Where to Dock: Marina Casa de Campo in La Romana (809-523-2111, marinacasadecampo.com.do)

ISLA MUJERES, MEXICO

Isla Mujeres, Mexico is a mecca for winter and spring sailfish action. The weather is warm, though trade winds can create rough seas but when the sailfish gang up to gorge themselves on massive schools of sardines you can rack up some serious numbers here. January through July offers the best chance at sailfish while April through July sees the arrival of white marlin. Blue marlin are found during summer months of June through August. Trolling ballyhoo is the preferred attack strategy and the location of prime fishing areas varies based on where the billfish are feeding but runs of 10-50 miles are the norm. Wahoo, dolphin and blackfin tuna make each day even more enjoyable. Nearshore you can tangle with snapper and grouper during these same months.

Where to Dock: Puerto Isla Mujeres Resort and Yacht Club (011-52-998-287-3356, puertoislamujeres.com)

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The days are growing shorter, and the final weeks of summer are upon us. So, before the school bell rings, Marinalife is wondering if you’ve checked off everything on your must-do list this season. If you’re looking for ways to wrap up summer, consider the following ideas for last-dash, fun activities.

- Learn how to do a back dive, canon ball or jump off the back of the boat into the water.  Rope swings are also an invigorating option.

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RESOURCEFUL APPS


FISHVERIFY

Available on Google Play, the Apple App Store and Galaxy Store

This fish finder app lets anglers discover saltwater and freshwater catches with the snap of a picture. Take a live shot or import photos and the AI technology works its magic. Learn about marine habitats and check weather conditions including winds, tides, water temperature and barometric pressure. (Free download; premium subscription is $29.99/year) fishverify.com

SHELL MUSEUM: IDENTIFY SHELLS

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Take photos of your shoreline discoveries and this innovative app helps you figure out what they are and the sea creature that built it. Thanks to the Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum in Sanibel, FL, beachcombers can now identify most common shells found across Florida beaches in seconds. ($1.99 download) shellmuseum.org

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This navigation and social boating app offers satellite, terrain and NOAA map features, depth and contours, trip planning, voyage tracking and a captain’s log for itineraries. Find points of interest such as fuel docks, anchorages, marinas and restaurants. The social boating features helps you connect with the boating community (Free download) argonav.io

SPECIES GUIDEBOOKS

REEF FISH IDENTIFICATION — FLORIDA, CARIBBEAN, BAHAMAS

By Paul Humann and Ned Deloach

Whether you’re a southern angler or marine wildlife documenter, you’ll love combing through 1,000 photographs of more than 683 species in this book. Designed as a reference guide, this new 4th edition identifies fish and aquatic creatures throughout the waterways of Florida, the Caribbean and Bahamas. ($44.95) reef.org/products/reef-fish-identification-florida-caribbean-and-bahamas-4th-edition

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kaufmanfieldguides.com/birds.html

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JUNIOR EXPLORER

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SmartLab Toys

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Top 10 New England Sailing Regattas
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What do a media mogul, movie maker and American President have in common? Taking part in yacht racing, one of our nation's oldest sports, and New England, the cradle of this sport in America. Ted Turner won the 1977 America's Cup in Newport. Roy Disney sailed from Newport to Bermuda with record-breaking speed in 2002. And in 1936, JFK earned a winner's cup racing Stars in the Hyannis Port Yacht Club race to Edgartown.

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MAINE

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Camden Classics Cup

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Competition and camaraderie combine in this relative newcomer event sailed in Penobscot Bay and celebrated shoreside in downtown Camden. Over 100 sailboats, everything from vintage yachts to very fast one-designs like J/46s and J/42s, race. Classes are available for day sailors and cruising yachts, too. Dockage at Lyman-Morse is included in the race fee, so the party starts ashore when the racing ends, says organizer Mackenzie Lyman, who adds the marina operator and boat-builders have rebuilt the waterfront after a fire in 2020. Spectators can have just as much fun. Maine's Wind- jammers offer two-hour tours to view the racing, while landlubber's best bet is watching the parade of sail as dressed yachts with costumed crew parade through Camden harbor on the morning of July 30.

Boothbay Harbor Yacht Club Annual Regatta & Shipyard Cup Classics Challenge

July 23-24

A trend toward classic yacht racing and a nod to the area's deep sailing roots combined for the first time last year at the Shipyard Cup. This new addition to the nearly 50-year-old annual regatta put lots of eye-candy on the water. The 1926-built NY-40, Marilee and 1937-constructed 12-meter America's Cup contender, Gleam, plus classic Boothbay Harbor one-designs like the 21-foot, Geerd Hendel-designed, 1938-launched sloops, are expected back this year along with contemporary race yachts. We invited several America's Cup contenders to join Gleam this year on the start line, says co-chair Bob Scribner. Spectators can observe from Spruce Point, McKeown Point or Southport. A narrated parade of participants in the inner harbor starts at 10:00 a.m. on July 24.

MASSACHUSETTS

Marblehead Regatta - new england regattas - marinalife
NOOD Marblehead Regatta 2021 | Bruce

Helly Hansen Sailing World Regatta Series - Marblehead

July 28-31

The 1889-founded Marblehead Race Week joined with National Offshore One-Design concept a few years back, and the result is close to 200 boats racing. We now have all our regular classes like J/70s, Rhodes 19s and Viper 640, plus there are usually one or two guest classes like RS21s, Skuds, 2.4's and J/24s, that hold regional championships as part of the week, says Leslie Rousseau, race committee chair for the host Boston Yacht Club. We expect to see the return of Jud Smith, two-time Rolex Yachtsman of the Year and local J-70 favorite. Spectators on land can get a bird's eye view of the racing from Chandler Hovey Park on Marblehead Neck. Those with a fast center console can watch the boats line up to start off Turkey Point in Middle River or set their chutes at the windward mark in Middle River.

Edgartown Race Weekend

June 23-25

Since 1938, celebrity-studded Martha's Vineyard is home to this week of combo coastal, offshore and round-the-island racing hosted by Edgartown Yacht Club. The history, charm and summer activity on Martha's Vineyard is a meaningful draw, in addition to fantastic wind and ideal sailing conditions, says Alex Nugent, one of the event's co-chairs. Plus, we typically host a big welcome party that's sponsored by Mount Gay Rum. New is the ‘Round-the-Sound series of races, which features 20-some nautical mile coastal sprints around Vineyard Sound and Nantucket Sound and replaces the around-the-buoy series. There's monohull and multihull, racing and cruising, double-handed and many-handed entrants including teams from state and federal service and maritime academies.

Nantucket Race Week

August 13-21

Nine days of racing, parties and awards ceremonies take the concept of race week to the extreme. There's something afloat for everyone: kids in Optis and 420s, women in Rhodes 19s, kiteboarders, radio-controlled model boats and some of the country's top sailors competing in high-performance big boats and classic wooden yachts. This year we celebrate the 50th Opera House Cup Regatta, the grand dame of classic wooden boat regattas. The Cup, named after a legendary Nantucket restaurant, attracts some of the finest wooden boats on the East Coast and Europe. There is a big awards party on the beach after the race, says Diana Brown, chief executive of Nantucket Community Sailing. The Parade of Wooden Boats offers a brochure that describes each participating boat. The public can watch the parade from Brant Point Beach.

RHODE ISLAND

Annual Regatta

June 10-12

Hosted by the New York Yacht Club (NYYC) out of its facilities in Newport, this is North America's oldest continuously held sailing event going on its 168th year. The format features two days of buoy racing, prefaced by a race around Conanicut Island. The sight of 100-plus spinnakers running north in the West Passage of Narragansett Bay from Fort Adams, Castle Hill or Beavertail Light is breathtaking. Entries are invited to one-design classes, and boats more than 24 feet race under a variety of handicaps. The Annual Regatta is one of my perennial favorites, says Paul Zabetakis, NYYC commodore and a regular participant on his Swan 42, Impetuous. The race management is impeccable with multiple course configurations. Few other venues offer the perfect combination of offshore racing in Rhode Island Sound and inshore racing on Narragansett Bay. The Saturday night regatta party is one of the biggest occasions of the Newport regatta season with sailors converging on Harbour Court for cocktails and dinner.

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Newport to Bermuda Race

June 17

The lawn at Castle Hill Inn in Newport and Fort Wetherill in Jamestown are ringside seats to watch nearly 200 vessels start in the East Passage on a 635-mile passage south to Bermuda. Fort Adams State Park also provides close-up views of many of the boats as they depart from Newport Harbor. The fleet then sails past Brenton State Park as it clears Brenton Reef and turns to the southeast. Charter boats and private yachts assemble to watch the start from the water as well, says John Burnham. It's one of the oldest regularly scheduled ocean races, happening biennially since 1906. This year, three high-speed multihulls -- two MOD 70s, Argo and Snowflake, and the 78' trimaran Ultim'Emotion 2 -- are entered, and each has a good chance of breaking the elapsed time race record of 34h:42m:53s set in 2016 by the 100' maxi yacht, Comanche.

Ida Lewis Distance Race

August 18-20

The fleet goes where the wind blows. The Ida Lewis Distance Race is like no other in that the Race Committee chooses from among four different courses, based on the weather. Each course incorporates some of the most storied cruising grounds in New England and is just long enough for the fleet to be offshore overnight, yet not so long to prohibit inviting family and friends to join for a first-time adventure, says Anselm Richards, event chair. The goal: get about 60-some teams to compete on race boats 28-foot and longer in double-handed, youth, collegiate and different handicap classes back to the dock in under 24 hours. The start happens off Fort Adams and ends inside Newport Harbor, where each team is handed a congratulatory bottle of Prosecco.

CONNECTICUT

Block Island Race

May 27

Stamford is the start of this Memorial Day weekend regatta that for many sailors kicks New England's offshore racing season. The 186-nautical mile course down Long Island Sound and around Block Island and back also acts as a ‘warm up' for many teams that are racing some two weeks later in the Newport to Bermuda Race, says Kate Wilson Somers, who handles media for the event. The race marks its 75th anniversary this year and is organized by the Storm Trysail Club, based in Larchmont, NY.

Cedar Point One Design Regatta

June 4-5

A 20-year+ tradition on the first weekend in June, this one-design keelboat event hosted out of the Cedar Point Yacht Club in Westport, CT, can draw as many as 800 competitors on over 100 boats. The key is that all the boats in a class are the same; no handicap scoring is needed. This makes it easy to watch, as first over the finish line is the winner. Currently, the event is open to J70, J88, J105 and J109, and Beneteau 36.7 fleets, but other fleets are welcome if they meet the requirements, says Joyce Oberdorf, who handles the club's communications.

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