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Fishing Spots - We've Got Your Six!

Prime Fishing Spots When the Temperature Drops

By
Jeff
Merrill

WITHOUT A DOUBT, 2020 was a crazy year, and many travel plans have changed or were cancelled due to the pandemic. Traditionally, the winter months signal a desire to explore a new destination, fishing spots, or return to a favorite state, island or country that has a special place in one's and angling memories.

Sea Sport Fishing Boat - Fishing Destinations - Marinalife
Sea Sport Fishing Boat from Wikimedia Commons

And, while the winter months are often the off-season for many island resorts and much of the U.S. mainland, a few fishing spots still let you enjoy some prime fishing when the temperature drops at home.

Keeping in mind that travel requirements are changing daily, we've put together a list of destinations where fishing can be stellar and accommodations range from simple to five star. In these uncertain times, please check the Centers for Disease Control's website and your state's requirements as well as those of your destination before making plans.

The Bahamas

Well known for its beautiful beaches, crystal-clear water, luxurious hotels and exceptional fishing, The Bahamas are a favorite cold weather = destination for snowbirds. Although winter isn't the peak time to visit the islands for fishing, the close proximity of The Bahamas to the United States provides an opportunity to plan a trip on short notice by boat or plane when a stretch of warm weather is in the forecast.

Miles of sandy bottom flats laden with turtle grass throughout much of The Bahamas are home to bonefish and permit. On warm winter days, you can cast shrimp with a spinning rod or flies with the long wand to both species as they feed on the bottom and signal their location with tails breaking the surface.

On cool days when the wind can make flats casting difficult, many wrecks and reefs near and offshore produce tasty bottom species that include several types of grouper and snapper.

Offshore action is far from the peak of the spring season, but look for white marlin and mahi mahi offshore and sailfish closer to shore along the reefs. High speed trolling will produce wahoo of up to 100 pounds along the southern island chain including Cat Island, Long Island, San Salvador and Rum Cay.

Florida

With more than 1,300 miles of mainland coastline, Florida offers unlimited fishing opportunities. However, when thinking of Florida in the winter, two locations immediately come to mind for awesome fishing action.

Mahe Beach by J. Strzelecki - Fishing Spots - Marinalife
Mahe Beach by J. Strzelecki

If sailfish are your target, it's tough to beat Florida where spindlebeaks are stretched out from the Treasure Coast south through The Keys. Leave the bathing suit at home and instead pack a sweatshirt, long pants and foul weather gear for protection from ocean spray if you hope to score with sailfish as winter cold fronts blast though the area.

The Gulf Stream is closer to the U.S. mainland off Florida than anywhere else, and northerly winds get the sailfish in a feeding mood. It's often possible to see pods of sailfish chasing schools of baitfish.

Look for the best action off Stuart and Fort Pierce while trolling ballyhoo, but from Palm Beach south through The Keys live baiting with goggle eyes, greenies and small jacks is the popular approach. When conditions are right, expect to fly a rigger full of sailfish release flags from the Treasure Coast south to The Keys.

With more than 120 miles of roadway from Key Largo to Key West, the Florida Keys present numerous fishing challenges for winter anglers. In addition to the outstanding winter sailfish action, near-shore wrecks and reefs offer fine fishing for grouper and snapper that make excellent table fare. Barracuda, sharks and a variety of jacks add excitement to any inshore trip.

The famed backcountry, including Flamingo Bay, is home to redfish, snook and trout as well as sharks, jacks and barracuda. Tarpon, permit and bonefish are tough to find during the winter but often surprise anglers in the skinny water on warm winter days.

Mexico

Like Florida, Mexico offers a plethora of travel destinations for winter-weary anglers. Mexico's East Cape lies along the western side of the Sea of Cortez and offers a quiet escape from the hustle and bustle of Cabo San Lucas. Roughly 45 miles north of San Jose del Cabo Airport, the tiny town of Los Barriles is home to Van Wormer Resorts with three properties that provide plush accommodations. Van Wormer's fleet of charter boats includes pangas and deluxe sportfishing cruisers.

Deepsea fishing - Fishing Destinations - Marinalife
Deepsea Fishing from Wikimedia Commons

Although the best billfish action kicks off in March, you find enough striped marlin, blue marlin, black marlin and sailfish offshore to make things interesting. Trolling with lures and live bait will produce strikes, and billfish often tail on the surface, which will have crews tossing live baits to draw hookups.

Also expect to catch mahi mahi, wahoo and an occasional yellowfin tuna. Near-shore action with cabrilla, grouper, Pacific sierra, snapper, yellowtail and roosterfish can make your arms ache.

Cancún and Isla Mujeres are also billfish anglers' favorites where the winter sailfish bite can be off the charts. Unlike Florida where winter cold fronts drive the fishery, Isla Mujeres typically enjoys warm winter weather though trade winds often can make sea conditions a bit "sporty."

During winter, sailfish are on the feed and are often found cutting through bait balls of sardines. Trolling with ballyhoo is the common approach and when conditions are right, expect to ring up serious numbers of releases.

Look for blackfin tuna, kingfish, wahoo and mahi mahi to bite between sailfish strikes during the winter offshore, while near-shore action finds snapper, grouper, hogfish, amberjack and barracuda receptive to natural and artificial offerings.

Panama

When it comes to bucket list destinations, Panama is an often mentioned spot for many die-hard anglers, and one place has been an angler magnet for decades. Opened in 1963 on Piñas Bay in the Darién Gap jungle, Tropic Star Lodge is a world-class fishing resort that receives rave reviews from anglers and travel critics.

Charter Fishing Boats - Fishing Destinations - Marinalife
Charter Fishing Boats from Needpix.com

Winter is prime time to visit Tropic Star Lodge as the weather is warm, and windy, rainy days are virtually non-existent. Lodging includes deluxe rooms, villas, suites and a three-bedroom home, and the fleet of reconditioned Bertram 31s and Hatteras 45s is equipped with the finest inshore and offshore tackle and is crewed by local captains and mates who worked with the lodge for decades.

Situated less than five miles from the venerable Zane Grey Reef, it's a short run to catch blue marlin, black marlin, sailfish, tuna, mahi mahi and wahoo. Should you tire of catching billfish, the waters near the lodge are home to monster roosterfish as well as the very tasty cubera snapper, grouper, jacks and tarpon.

Costa Rica

Another gem for anglers is Los Sueños Resort & Marina in Costa Rica. Californian developer Bill Royster discovered the Herradura Bay area's beauty and sampled its fishing in the early 1990s. Royster saw the fishing potential of the area and envisioned the creation of a world-renowned destination resort.

Today, the marina harbors many American boats, who in fall make the journey through the Panama Canal either on their own or aboard a transport ship to cash in on the area's fabulous and famous billfish.

December through April is the region's prime time, when excellent numbers of sailfish, blue marlin, black marlin and striped marlin as well as mahi mahi, yellowfin tuna and wahoo swim relatively close to shore. Winter is the region's dry season, so you can expect to rarely encounter rain and count on hot weather and flat calm seas that make this an ideal spot for anglers who are not rough water fans.

Striped marlin - fishing spots - marinalife
Striped marlin right off the coast of Carrillo from Wikimedia Commons

Los Sueños Resort offers a wide range of luxury accommodations including a full-service Marriott Hotel within the resort. Visitors who want the ultimate in luxury can rent single-family villas or one-, two- or three-bedroom condos. Amenities include a golf course, swimming pool, hiking trails, zip lines, spa and private beach club.

Maverick Sportfishing offers a fleet of excellent charter boats ranging from 32 to 50 feet with English-speaking crews and the finest tackle and gear. Expect to get arm weary here as Pacific sailfish run larger than their Atlantic cousins, and days of releasing 20 or more are common during winter.

Dominican Republic

The Dominican Republic is one of the few destinations where catching multiple blue marlin on a single day is more common than rare. Winter is a great time to visit the DR, as most of the blue ones caught then are less than 300 pounds, making this a light-tackle haven.

Expect to find blue marlin anywhere from minutes away from the slip to about 50 miles away, based on the part of the island you sail from. Best action for blue marlin occurs on the days leading up to a full moon. White marlin is a rare catch here, but you can tangle with yellowfin tuna, wahoo and mahi mahi during the winter as well.

Most of the pros work the areas where FADs (fish attracting devices) are deployed as they attract bait that draws gamefish. Marina Casa de Campo is right in the heart of the action and is the gold standard on the island. In addition to their world-class marina, land accommodations include lavish rooms, villas and suites. Three championship golf courses test your skills, and there's plenty of watersports and shopping to enjoy.

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Back to School Bucket List
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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.

- Have a tiki party on a boat and serve your guests tropical blender drinks. Bonus points for Hawaiian shirts and grilled pineapple or savory Polynesian snacks.

- Pick a dozen crabs on your boat or at a waterfront dock bar, along with all the classic fixins’ of corn on the cob, hushpuppies, coleslaw and a cold brew.  If crabs aren’t your preference, a lobster, clam or crawfish boil will do just fine.

- Ride down a giant slide, roller coaster or death-defying ride at a waterpark while letting out a mighty yell.

- Body surf in the Atlantic waves or build a sandcastle strong enough to withstand the tide.

- Explore a hidden cove or a dream destination that you’ve never visited before on your boat.

- Go fishing and catch something big enough for dinner.

- Get pulled on a raft or inflatable behind a boat or learn how to waterski.

- Catch lightening bugs in a jar to make a glowing lantern.  But be sure to poke holes in the lid and release them when the fun is done.

- Under the stars, go to an outdoor movie, music festival or seafood feast.

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- Invent a nautical cocktail to commemorate the summer of 2022.

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Nauti Shopper: Identify your new discoveries with these apps and guides
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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

Available on Google Play and the Apple App Store
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

ARGO: BOATING NAVIGATION

Available on Google Play and the Apple App Store

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

KAUFMAN FIELD GUIDE TO BIRDS OF NORTH AMERICA

by Kenn Kaufman Kaufman Field Guides

This guide has been a leading birdlife guidebook for decades. Vibrant photos, detailed descriptions and range maps illustrate a lively key for bird-watching excursions. The book is compact, easily portable and studies most species in North America. (Prices vary)
kaufmanfieldguides.com/birds.html

THE TRACKER’S HANDBOOK: HOW TO IDENTIFY AND TRAIL ANY ANIMAL

By Len McDougall

Whether you’re hunting for dinner, hiking or being an avid nature lover, this guide makes animal tracking easy. Discover North American species such as the American Elk and Whitetail Deer. Identify footprints, habitats and range. This book isn’t just for hunters; it’s for explorers of all kinds. ($34.56)

barnesandnoble.com/w/the-trackers-handbook-len-mcdougall/1118940778

JUNIOR EXPLORER

SKY GUIDE APP

Available on Google Play and the Apple App Store

Point a smartphone to the sky and suddenly you appear in your own planetarium with this stargazing app. Sky Guide locates your position and follows the stars in real time while superimposing constellations and figures interactively. Find planets in rotation, discover where Pisces is currently rising or catch the next meteor shower.($1.99 download) apps.apple.com/us/app/sky-guide/id576588894

OCEAN ANIMALS COLLECTION SERIES

National Geographic Kids
Children will become overnight marine biologists with this fun learning series. Young readers can spot sea otters, manatees, turtles and much more. Teach your kids about aquatic habitats with photography and unique fun facts on each species. ($17.99)

barnesandnoble.com/w/ocean-animals-collection-national-geographic-kids/1123056379

OUTDOOR SCIENCE LAB

SmartLab Toys

This outdoor set brings out kids’ inner scientific explorer. Examining bugs, plants, dirt, weather and more. Activities include testing various samples and tracking findings in a science log. Kids can enjoy after-dark exploration with the UV night scope. ($45)

shopsweetthreads.com/products/smartlab-toys-outdoor-science-lab-bugs-dirt-plants

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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.

With more than 6,000 miles of shoreline, survival built on the sea from olden days of fishing and trading to today's seasonal tourist dollars, it's a natural that racing sailboats is a time-honored tradition and rite of passion for most New Englanders. Many sailors here boast blood as blue as the surrounding seas, yet everyone can find a home to race. Here's a sampling of some of the region's best-known regattas.

MAINE

Camden Classics Cup - new england regattas - marinalife
Camden Classics Cup | Alison Langle

Camden Classics Cup

July 28-30

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.

Edgartown Race Weekend - new england regattas - marinalife
Edgartown Race Weekend | Daniel Fors

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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