“Customize Your Travel Plans for the Best Results – Here’s How”
One of the most frequently asked questions at travel shows and fishing seminars is “Where is the best place to fish in the world?” That’s like asking a tackle dealer what his best lure is. There’s no easy answer. It depends on what you need. That’s why some anglers may return from a fishing trip of a lifetime while another may be totally dissatisfied having had the same experience.
This is a resource guide to help you select the best possible trip for your circumstances. A variety of traveling scenarios are listed which may describe your general profile or goal with an explanation of the advantages and disadvantages of each. We have also taken a shot at recommending destinations that fit the scenario based on our experiences as well as information provided by professional fishing travel outfitters. Destinations frequently fit more than one scenario.
Making the right decisions on where, when and how to go are cornerstones to a good fishing trip. Travel outfitters are a valuable resource and most do not charge a service fee to you. Their revenue comes from the operators (e.g. airlines, hotels, charter boat, etc.) so it usually costs the same whether you book it yourself or go through an agent. Good fishing may be available locally but saltwater anglers tend to be a curious sort and wanderlust is a common gene. The more remote the destination, the more unique the problems, challenges and opportunities become. Paul McBride, President of International Anglers, emphasizes that, “There are a number of important criteria to consider when selecting a fishing venue. Safety, convenience, comfort, cost, travel logistics, level of service, food, quality of facilities, type of fishing, local knowledge and experience, sea conditions, weather and clothing, culture, language, and variety should all be considered.”
THE SINGLE ANGLER
If you want to catch all of the fish on the boat going alone is a surefire way to do it. The single angler can change fishing technique, location and species targeted with the most ease and flexibility since there are no partners to convince other than a willing and enthusiastic (hopefully) crew. Getting more time and action on the water is a benefit for those anglers that have no great need to share common experiences as well as the fighting chair. Doing it alone is generally more expensive since the cost of the charter boat, accommodations and other services can’t be shared. More logistical challenges with luggage, travel and security are possible. Photography and videography are more difficult if you attempt to both fish and work the camera at peak action time. Trying to teach the crew the fine points of photography, such as just keeping the horizon level, can be frustrating and they have better things to do most of the time.
To cut down on air travel hassles, it helps to pick a destination that has a variety of well-maintained medium to heavy tackle to lighten your load. Favorite lure and terminal rigs can be taken with your checked baggage. It is not advisable to carry-on anything that poses a security risk such as large hooks, gaffs, knives, etc. because they may be confiscated at the many security checks you’ll be going through. Ask your outfitter for easy flight connections (enough “buffer” time to change planes but no long layovers), personalized transfer services, emergency phone numbers and even a shared charter arrangement f your traveling alone but want to fish with someone upon arrival. Some destinations that may suit the lone angler include:
MIDWAY ATOLL, HAWAIIAN ISLANDS: Big blue marlin and a burgeoning broadbill fishery continues to attract adventurers to this atoll located 1200 miles northwest of Honolulu , Hawaii . A bonus of yellowfin tuna, wahoo, sailfish, striped marlin, dolphin and world record-class giant trevally add variety. A small, specialized fleet of 38-foot Bertrams and Glacier Bay outboard catamarans, a complete array of fly, spinning and trolling tackle, experienced crews, personalized service, comfortable accommodations and gourmet food at the Clipper House Restaurant make for a very self-contained operation. Midway is a historic remnant of World War II as well as a wildlife refuge. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service conducts guided tours for the enjoyment and education of visitors. Season: May to October. Sea Condition: Calm to moderate. Contact: Midway Sport Fishing 888-BIG-ULUA or 707-254-8326; International Anglers 800-477-2076.
KEY WEST, FLORIDA: One of the few regions where billfishing is nearly a year-round pursuit. Sailfish gather from November to April and are replaced by blue marlin between April and October. White marlin may appear in June along with spearfish that are encountered during the summer months. Key West is a light tackle paradise and offers anglers a wide choice of fishing options, boats and customized charters from half-day to multi-day adventures.
The convenience of having experienced charter operators and reliable fishing action combined with Key West ’s active nightlife, “sunset” gatherings and unique social environment make it a favorite destination for many anglers. Season: Year-Round. Seas: Calm to moderate (summer), moderate to heavy (winter).
GUANACASTE, COSTA RICA: The northwest Pacific Coast of Costa Rica offers blue and black marlin, sailfish, yellowfin tuna, wahoo, dolphin and more. The Murcielagos Islands in the Gulf of Papagayo can be a world-class fishery when the blue water current swings in bringing forage and pelagic predators. It’s not unusual to hook black marlin and sailfish within yards of the rocky isles at feeding time.
Costa Rica is often referred to as the Switzerland of Central America due to its friendly people and stable government. It has no military and its teachers outnumber the police officers. Single anglers will find that it’s easy to travel within the country, as flights are frequent and inexpensive. Rental cars are readily available. The capital, San José , is located in an upland valley and most anglers will spend at least two nights here while in transit to the coast. San José has plenty of museums, an interesting central market, hotels and nightlife.
The landmark El Ocotal Resort and a growing number of hotels and fully outfitted sportfishing charters from Flamingo Beach to Tamarindo are headquartered in this region. Season: May to October. Sea condition: Calm to moderate. Contact: Adventure Sportfishing 800-356-2533.
GROUP OF ANGLERS
Many travelers prefer group charters. Some operators offer reduced rates to groups. Groups should interact and travel well together otherwise the positive element of camaraderie will be lost. When sharing a charter its important to communicate to make sure everyone has the same fishing objectives such as species, location and fishing methods. Trolling for big, elusive gamefish such as marlin can create challenges among a group and its important to have an agreed upon chair rotation; first fish rule or other equitable way of giving every angler a chance at fighting a fish. No matter what size the group, two anglers per boat is about maximum for blue water charter fishing so you will need to select an operator that can provide group accommodations yet has enough boats to spread the group out on the water.
COIBA EXPLORER, PANAMA: Located in the Coiba Island Region on the Pacific Coast of Panama, the 115-foot mothership Coiba Explorer II and its fleet of 28-foot twin diesel Albemarles is right in the middle of some of the best fishing on the globe. The famous Hannibal Bank is a feeding ground for black, blue and striped marlin, sailfish, yellowfin tuna surpassing 300 pounds, wahoo, dolphin, shark as well as exceptional light tackle nearshore action. During late March, 1999, a small group on four boats raised over 50 marlin, hooking 37 and releasing 17 blacks and two blues in only four days of fishing.
The mothership is fully air-conditioned and its nine private staterooms include VCR’s and video library. All boats have the latest in electronics including color Furuno depth finders and a full range of Penn tackle. Since live baiting black marlin is an effective technique on these grounds, all boats are equipped with four tuna tubes to keep the bait in top condition.
Groups of up to 18 anglers can be comfortably accommodated. Group discounts are offered. Anglers fish two per boat. Fishing packages include three and six days of fishing. Season: November to April. Sea condition: Calm. Contact: Executive Expeditions 800-733-4742.
TROPIC STAR LODGE, PANAMA: World-class black marlin fishing put Piñas Bay on the map decades ago and it is still producing quality action. Black marlin average 200 to 400 pounds but can exceed 1000 pounds as recently attested to by Sam Pancotto, who released a grander in February, 1999. Blue and striped marlin, sailfish, yellowfin tuna and dolphin add variety. The Zane Grey or Piñas Reef is only 15 minutes from the dock and is the epicenter for the fishing here.
With 11 twin diesel 31-foot Bertrams sizable groups can be accommodated. Guests stay in air-conditioned twin bed rooms with private baths. The “Palace”, a beautiful bungalow secluded on a hillside with sweeping views of the bay, has three bedrooms, sunken living room and “royal” amenities. Tropic Star Lodge, built in 1961, has a tradition of first-class service, experienced crews, great dining (where else will you find baked Alaska in a jungle?), and a high repeat client business. Swimming pool and full-service bar onsite.
Groups are welcome and three to six day fishing packages are available. Season: December to May. Limited service from June to August. Sea condition: Calm to moderate. Contact: Tropic Star Lodge 800-682-3424.
SAN DIEGO, CALIFORNIA – LONG RANGE: San Diego is homeport to one of the most modern and luxurious charter fleets in the world. Long range sportfishers up to 123-feet in length accommodate groups of 18 to 28 anglers on multi-day trips to the Revillagigedo Islands on the Pacific Coast of Mexico, about 400 miles southwest of Baja’s Cabo San Lucas. The main focus is on catching monster yellowfin tuna near the 400-pound barrier and lots of wahoo. However, special fly and light tackle trips are becoming more popular for striped marlin, wahoo and a variety of surface gamefish. Dennis Braid, of Braid Products particularly recommends the “Royal Star” charter for trips off Magdalena Bay . “You can find acres of striped marlin there. Once we had 18 marlin hooked at the same time in our group. It was pretty incredible,” says Braid. These boats popularized stand-up fishing and are responsible for many tackle innovations and refinements in equipment that allow anglers to land big fish from the deck of an anchored boat.
Special group charters are offered as well as individual bookings. Tackle can be rented or purchased at the various landings in San Diego ’s Americas Cup Basin . All fleets provide comfortable air conditioned staterooms, great food, personalized service and state-of-the-art electronics and safety equipment. Some operators offer fly-down, fly-back trips allowing anglers to board the boat at Cabo San Lucas, saving about 6 days of round-trip travel from San Diego . Season: November to June. Sea condition: Calm to heavy. Contact: Fishermans Landing 619-221-8500 (phone/fax); Point Loma Sportfishing 619-223-1626; H & M Landing 619-222-1144; and Lee Palms’ Sportfishers 619-224-3857.
VACATION WITH FISHING
Family vacations don’t always lend themselves to a quality fishing experience but some deft planning can combine both. Family size, activities desired, range of ages and level of outdoor aptitude need to be considered if you want to fish together rather than splitting up the activities. The operator should have good safety practices, comfortable boat(s) and a crew that interacts well with clients of all ages. Destinations with prevailing calm sea conditions are highly desirable. Trolling for hours can be boring even to adults so look for fast action with sailfish, tuna and other pelagics in addition to marlin. Snacks and sodas should be onboard in addition to the traditional box lunches provided by your hotel or charter service. In tropical climes shade tops, hats, sunscreen and other protections are important.
ZIHUATANEJO/IXTAPA, MEXICO: Part of the Mexican Riviera, these neighboring Pacific resorts offer visitors a scenic glimpse of authentic old Mexico or modern, upscale, high rise hotels, respectively. The offshore waters have consistent action with sailfish and yellowfin tuna from schoolies to 300 pounders. Black and blue marlin are lightly pursued but those charters that target them do fairly well with fish up to grander size. Inshore variety helps spice up a family vacation. Located in the tropical doldrums the offshore waters are usually calm. Charter boats are generally of local origin and vintage quality but some fast, twin diesel Cabos and other modern craft with professional crews are now available. Boats depart from Bahia de Zihuatanejo as well as Ixtapa Marina and fish the same offshore waters.
All manner of accommodations, restaurants and typical resort activities can be tailored to your family lifestyle. It is generally less expensive to stay in a hillside bungalow with a view of Zihuatanejo than a hotel in Ixtapa but you may sacrifice some service and room amenities for the view. Season: December to May dry season peak with good fishing still available between June and November. Sea condition: Calm. Contact: Ixtapa Charters 717-688-9466; International Anglers 800-477-2076; Rod and Reel Adventures 800-356-6982; Cass Tours 800-593-6510; or Cortez Yacht 619-469-4255.
CANCUN, MEXICO: This mega-resort clustered around a white sand lagoon jutting into the Mexican Caribbean may have as many as 20,000 visitors on a given day. With so many U.S. and Canadian citizens packing the high rise hotels and chic shops, Cancun has gained a solid foothold in tourist entertainment, over what it has lost in local charm and native culture. It’s world famous hotel zone began construction 28 years ago on Laguna Nichupté, withstanding several hurricanes and recessions in the process. Families will feel comfortable in the “zone” as familiar trademarks, franchises and restaurants abound. Tours can be taken into the Yucatán countryside where jungle, 2,000-year old Mayan ruins, remote turquoise beaches, friendly local people and cultural diversity await.
Blue marlin, sailfish, white marlin and wahoo provide fast spring action. Good charter fleets and experienced crews are available. Season: April to June. Sea conditions: Calm to moderate. Contact: Rod and Reel Adventures 800-356-6982.
TAHITI/BORA BORA: Spectacular scenery, emerald lagoons and the care-free charm of the South Pacific have beckoned tourists to these sister-islands for generations. Part of the Society Islands , this region not only attracts honeymooners and families but hard-core, big game anglers as well. One of the largest blue marlin ever documented, a 2,500-pound behemoth, was caught commercially in Tahiti waters as well as a list of granders dating back to Zane Grey’s exploits. Bora Bora , 125 miles northeast of Tahiti has equally impressive fishing for blues as well as other pelagic gamesters. International tournaments are held at both venues adding to their credibility as serious billfish waters as well as vacation meccas.
Simple to lavish resorts, some built over the water for the ultimate communing-with-nature experience, and modern charter operations make for a special family vacation, though perhaps a bit pricey. Season: September to March. Sea conditions: Calm to moderate. Contact: Qantas Airline 800-227-4500; Amanresorts 800-421-1490.
MONEY’S NO OBJECT
The world is yours. You are limited only by the type of experience you want based upon your personal needs. It’s important to communicate closely with your outfitter so that a trip can be customized as much as possible. Some big budget anglers want to be pampered and luxuriate the whole trip while others may thrive in a steamy jungle draped in mosquito netting and eating local dishes if it means getting a chance to experience some exotic fishing.
Developing and maintaining a first-class operation is costly. In remote locations it costs even more due to logistical problems with supplies, high construction costs, labor needs and relying on air or boat transport. These costs are passed on to the angler whether or not great fishing is available. Add private jet or first-class seating to far-off locations and a trip can get expensive very quickly.
GREAT BARRIER REEF, AUSTRALIA: Whether at Lizard Island Resort or on an exclusive mothership out of Cairns, Australia has built its big game reputation around remote fishing for grander black marlin along the Great Barrier Reef. Some of the world’s top boats and crews fish these waters. It’s one of the best training grounds for mates learning how to rig oversize baits and wire big marlin.
Typically, anglers are flown out by pontoon plane from Cairns to rendezvous with a mothership and one or more sportfishers. The whole operation follows the migration of black marlin in order to give the angler the best opportunity to hook a big female. Since most trolling is an afternoon proposition, plenty of time is available for enjoying the pristine reef environment or for light tackle pursuits. All operations are first-class from accommodations and gourmet food to boats and crews. Season: August to December. Sea condition: Moderate to heavy. Contact: Cairns Reef Charter Services: fax 011-61-70-314610; Complete Fishing Tours 011-61-33-543948; World Wide Sportsman 800-827-2880.
ROYAL CHARLOTTE BANK, BRAZIL: Perhaps no other new destination in the world currently shows more promise of big blue marlin, white marlin and sailfish than this huge, rectangular-shaped bank that juts 50 miles into the Atlantic north of Vitoria, Brazil. Isolated and hard to reach, this region is now being tapped by Tim Choate’s 30-foot Coyote and hopefully more charter operations will follow because it needs to be explored. Blue marlin average 400 to 500 pounds with granders a definite possibility. Season: October to May. Sea condition: Calm to moderate. Contact: Artmarina 305-663-3553.
CAPE VERDE ISLANDS: If you have time, money, patience and a sense of wanderlust, a visit to these rocky isles off Africa ’s North Atlantic coast could be an experience to remember. Blue marlin in the 300- to 400-pound class can be incredibly numerous. Although granders are rare, the Cape Verdes offer a special opportunity for fly and light tackle anglers pursuing lots of blue marlin action or IGFA records.
Legendary skippers have been exploring these waters since the late 1980’s with some dream catches recorded. In 1997, Jerry Dunaway’s Madam and Hooker team caught 146 blue marlin in a 19- day period. Additionally, wahoo, yellowfin tuna and spearfish add variety. Season: May to August. Sea condition: Calm to heavy. Contact: South African Airlines 800-722-9675.
Landing big fish on a small budget is not an impossible task. This usually means looking for savings in either travel, accommodations, food, type of boat or simply by roughing it on occasion. What you don’t want to sacrifice is the actual fishing experience or safety. There are places that have quality billfishing and true big-game action yet are reasonably priced. Budget savings are also possible if you organize a group trip. Operators may offer a free trip or reduced rate for the “charter master.”
Many coastlines and islands of the world have great fishing but lack facilities and local knowledge of sportfishing techniques. These remote areas are more suited to experienced anglers. Some regions like Baja have good, low cost facilities because of the large volume of anglers, competition and single-owner, self-contained resorts.
EAST CAPE, BAJA SUR, MEXICO: There are nine East Cape fishing resorts competing for the anglers attention. Bargain package rates are offered which include air, ground transfers, accommodations, all meals, fishing charter and tackle.
Blue, black and striped marlin, sailfish, yellowfin tuna, wahoo and light tackle gamefishing here can be world-class at a neighborly cost. Season: April to November. Sea condition: Calm to moderate. Contact: Rod and Reel Adventures 800-593-6510.
TUNA COAST, PANAMA: The Azuero Peninsula separates the Coiba Island Region from Piñas Bay in the Gulf of Panama . Its southern coastline or “ Tuna Coast ” is only a few miles from the 1000-fathom line which is a natural migratory route for yellowfin tuna, blue, black and striped marlin, sailfish, wahoo and sharks. Light tackle fishing is untapped here. Sportfishing is just being explored but early results are exciting with sailfish, marlin and tuna found in big numbers close to shore in calm water.
The area is not prepared for tourism and is priced for the “local dollar.” Pangas (23-foot outboard skiffs) are the only boats available unless a charter is arranged directly from Panama City . Captains are inexperienced but know the hotspots and are friendly and eager to learn about sportfishing. Anglers must go self-contained with all fishing tackle. Local motels and restaurants are bargains as well. Prices remind one of the 1950’s when a filet mignon dinner cost $5. It still costs $5 here.
The town of Pedasí is a four-hour drive from Panama City or a half-hour flight with ground transfer from Chitré. Season: April to December. Sea conditions: Calm to moderate. Contact: International Anglers 800-477-2076.
LA PAZ, BAJA SUR, MEXICO: La Paz is known as a bargain-spot due to its moderately priced hotels hugging the bay shoreline (about $35 per person), “free port” shopping status, inexpensive but fresh seafood, and several panga (outboard) fleets that are priced well-below typical cruiser rates.
Striped, blue and black marlin fishing can be excellent here accompanied by yellowfin tuna, sailfish and dorado. Numerous tournaments are held during the season which are usually won with a big blue or black exceeding 600 pounds. Season: June to November. Sea condition: Calm to moderate. Contact: Cass Tours 800-593-6510.
LOOKING FOR NON-STOP ACTION
There aren’t too many places on the entire globe where the billfish stocks are so high that anglers can expect almost constant action. A combination of pristine environment, remoteness, fish at peak historical levels, little or no commercial exploitation and a lack of nearby population centers will help produce an anglers valhalla. Time your trip to coincide with peak fishing periods (e.g. lunar phase, tides, time of year, etc.) and some phenomenal results can be yours.
GUATEMALA: It’s no secret that the Pacific waters offshore of Ixtapa teem with sailfish and has been a consistent hotspot for years. The unusual aspect of this fishery is that it seems to be getting better each season. Last December, Tim Choate’s Captain Hook with Ron Hamlin skippering released 71 sailfish in one day. Later in the month, a three-day, four-boat tournament released 269 billfish (including sailfish, blue and striped marlin) for an amazing score. Season: December to June for sailfish, October and November for blue and black marlin. Sea conditions: Calm to moderate. Contact: Artmarina 305-663-3553, The Sporting Ticket 800-648-8990.
QUEPOS, COSTA RICA: Since 1992 Quepos, centrally located on Costa Rica ’s Pacific Coast , has been the focal point of sailfishing. Typical days average five to ten sail releases per boat. When the action heats up, 40 or more releases can get even hardened anglers excited. Charter boats from all over Costa Rica flock here during sail season to take advantage of the consistent action coupled with good shoreside facilities and guest accommodations. Season: December to April for sailfish, September to November for blue, black and striped marlin. Sea condition: Calm. Contact: Adventure Sportfishing 800-356-2533.
BOM BOM: This honeymoon-style resort island off the West African coast is a serious billfishery. Lots of blue marlin in the 600-pound class with granders sprinkled in and big sailfish make for fast action. Bom Bom has been a consistent producer over the years and caters to experienced as well as novice anglers. First-class accommodations in an idyllic tropical setting complete with white sand beaches lined with palm trees and good charter boats make Bom Bom a good choice. Season: September to December for sailfish, March to September for blue marlin. Sea condition: Calm to moderate. Contact: Goldon Fishing Expeditions 800-780-4247.
BIG FISH ONLY
There is a special breed of angler who is driven by the total pursuit of grander-size billfish. You see them at airports paying over-weight charges for big reels and custom equipment. They are always on “standby” waiting for a call from a remote operation saying the big ones are in because they never want to hear “you should have been here last month.” They don’t “hope” for big fish, they plan and prepare for them. Selecting a top boat and crew is critical. Budget should not be an obstacle.
AZORES: “If I had to buy one airline ticket for a big blue marlin trip I’d go to the Azores ,” says Dennis Braid. The Azores , a Portuguese possession about 800 miles northwest of Madeira , are on the main highway of the big blue marlin migration that also leads to Madeira . In recent seasons the Azores have outperformed Madeira with grander females showing on a regular basis. “The huge blues are there but we also had a great time with bigeye tuna over 300 pounds and bluefin tuna,” adds Braid.
There are four major seamounts that hold blue marlin within 18 miles of Faial . The Azores have a quiet lifestyle and have natural beauty. Excellent charter operations are available such as Captain Don Merton’s Capri , a 40-foot Gamefisher. Captain Roddy Hays will be basing his Shanghai in the Azores as well this season. Season: July to October. Sea conditions: Calm to moderate. Contact: Xácara Big Game Fishing 011-351-92-946644.
CABO FRIO, BRAZIL: On the verge of becoming a mecca for grander blue marlin, this peninsula that juts into the Atlantic about 60 miles north of Rio de Janeiro won’t be a secret much longer. The blues average 600 pounds here with granders being caught in growing numbers as more boats enter the fishery. It is rare when a blue under 400 pounds is caught. If expert charter crews were available the numbers would be even more impressive. The fishery is composed of mostly weekend, local anglers out of Rio who are on an upward learning curve of experience.
Unlike most big game tournaments, grander marlin show up at the Cabo Frio Marlin Invitational held in Rio de Janeiro as if they were invited as well. Last year a 1,096-pound fish and this year a 1,206-pounder were taken during the tournament held in January. Charters are becoming more available out of the Yacht Club of Rio. Season: December to March. Sea condition: Calm to moderate. Contact: Rod and Reel Adventures 800-356-6982.
MADEIRA: Madeira rejuvenated big blue marlin fishing with its celebrated run of granders in the ‘90’s. Although it has slowed its pace, Madeira is still number one with many top anglers. New charter operations, majestic scenery and a friendly culture add to the Madeira experience. Season: June to October. Sea condition: Calm (on leeward Madeira ). Contact: Captivator (phone/fax) 954-456-4468.
Variety adds interest to a fishing trip as well as action. Unless you are using a fully equipped charter boat, the need for a variety of rods, reels, lures and extra equipment can make mixed bag fishing more of a challenge to prepare for. It’s intriguing to think that any number of gamefish species can be raised at any moment and anglers must be alert for a special presentation or technique that must be used for a successful hookup.
VENEZUELA: The La Guaira Bank is renowned for its grand slam and super grand slam action with blue marlin, white marlin, sailfish and broadbill swordfish, Yellowfin tuna and big dolphin add to the mix. Economical “weekender” trips from Miami are a budget bonus. Season: Year-round. Sea condition: Moderate to heavy. Contact: Venezuela Fishing Tours 800-321-4884; South Fishing Inc. 800-333-3347; Outdoor Adventures 800-554-0497; Rod and Reel Adventures 800-356-6982.
LOS CABOS, BAJA SUR, MEXICO: Striped, blue and black marlin, sailfish, broadbill swordfish, yellowfin tuna, dorado, wahoo and more can be encountered at “Cabo”. There’s always something good swimming in these waters year-round and catches of multiple species of billfish are quite common between June and December. Los Cabos is a regional term for the area including Cabo San Lucas and San José del Cabo 25 miles to the east. Charter boats from these ports overlap depending on fish movements.
A dry desert environment, mega-resorts, golf and a trendy social scene attract hordes of visitors. Season: Year-round. Sea condition: Calm to moderate. Contact: International Anglers 800-477-2076; Rod and Reel Adventures 800-356-6982; Cortez Yacht Charters 619-469-4255.
VIRGIN ISLANDS: The U.S. and British Virgin Island fisheries, centered at St. Thomas and St. Croix , respectively, are about as consistent from year to year as any destination. Although blue marlin are definitely the number one gamefish, white marlin, sailfish and prolific numbers of wahoo add to the variety. A distinction here is that the full moon is a favored fishing period which is confirmed by tournaments being held at that time. Grander blues are found in Virgin Island waters, including the former all-tackle record of 1,282 pounds caught in 1977 but it’s the shear number of fish that brings the bulk of anglers here. Season: Year-round, May to October for blue marlin. Sea condition: Calm to moderate. Contact: Great Escape Charters 800-421-6538; Leisure Time Travel 800-771-2202.
Some anglers develop a desire at some point in their lives to experience a fishing trip that is truly unique. The fishing may or may not be better than one is accustomed to but at least it will be a conversation piece for years to come. Far-off, remote locales usually offer unfamiliar fishing boats and techniques, language, culture and scenery that present a pleasant challenge to the adventurer. Some travel experience required (or at least advised).
PHUKET, THAILAND: Asian customs blended with European influences, beautiful white sand beaches, movie-set coastal rock formations and friendly people make Phuket (pronounced pooh-ket) an exotic but safe vacation spot. Good fishing for large sailfish, fly-fishing for small black marlin, yellowfin tuna and wahoo add to the experience. Unique, local-built charter boats and ethnically diverse crews help create a sense of adventure. Season: November to July. Sea condition: Calm. Contact: International Anglers 800-477-2076.
SAN BLAS ISLANDS, PANAMA: Fish in large sea-going dugout canoes with the Kuna Indians. This independent tribe inhabits 51 of the 365 San Blas Islands on Panama ’s Caribbean Coast . A small number of travelers can be accommodated in very rustic palapas or more comfortable facilities such as the lodge at Iskardup Island . The Kunas are shy and need to be taught about sportfishing basics. Sailfish, yellowfin tuna and wahoo roam a few miles offshore. Go self-contained with tackle. The islands are a 30-minute flight from Panama City and are postcard-scenic with palm-lined white beaches. Season: May to October. Sea condition: Calm. Contact: International Anglers 800-477-2076; Panama Atlantic Adventures 800-773-3031.
BIKINI ATOLL, MARSHALL ISLANDS: Infested with big fish including blue marlin, yellowfin tuna and wahoo, Bikini Atoll hasn’t seen fishing pressure for over 50 years. Once an A-bomb test range during World War II, Bikini has been uninhabited for decades. Today, it is pristine-beautiful, safe and ethnic Bikinians may be returning. A spartan but air-conditioned fishing and dive facility can handle a small group of visitors. World-class fishing is limited only by logistical challenges in this remote part of the Pacific 600 miles north of Majuro, capital of the Marshall Islands . Season: April to December. Sea condition: Calm to moderate. Contact: International Anglers 800-477-2076.
Season: Refers to peak fishing season which may not coincide with tourist season.
Calm – Flat to two foot waves; zero to 12-knot wind.
Moderate – Three to five foot waves; 13- to 20-knot wind.
Heavy – Six foot and larger waves; wind exceeding 21 knots.
Prevailing sea condition during “season” as defined.
TIPS AND “HIDDEN” COSTS
Travelers, regardless of budget, do not like to be surprised with unexpected expenses. Tipping crews and support staff is a common practice no matter where you go and should be budgeted for. Tipping can be a significant expense. You can figure ten to twenty percent of a charter boat cost as an appropriate tip to the crew if performance has been satisfactory. For a week of fishing this may be $1,200 or more. How you tip can vary. Some resort operators provide separate envelopes for captain, mate and general staff (usually excluding owner or manager). Absent a process, check with your outfitter for the appropriate method. In some countries it is customary that the entire tip be given to the captain and he decides what the mate gets. Dividing the tip between captain and mate yourself is also a common practice.
Heavy tipping can be a motivator but can also cerate problems. Some anglers have “over-tipped” after the first day only to realize that the crew didn’t show up the next day because they partied all night with the extra money. It is a good practice to inform the crew that tips will be forthcoming on the last day. Although tips are usually in cash, some crews in remote areas may actually prefer new goods such as walkman-type radio/cassettes, watches, blank video tapes, small flashlights, pocket calculators and translators to name a few. Don’t go overboard with packaged commodities, however, as customs officials may assess resale charges.
Unplanned tours, shopping, nightlife, gift purchases and international calls may exceed the cost of the fishing trip itself. Relaxing with a favorite imported drink after the days fishing and maybe hosting your friends and crew can easily result in “sticker shock” at check out time. Add airport departure taxes, ground transfers, laundry and room service, fishing permits and live or dead bait to the list of costs that may not be included in the trip voucher. Always pay attention to the details clearly outlined by all reputable travel outfitters to avoid “hidden” costs.
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The Roving Angler