During my fifty plus years of chasing a wide variety of both fresh and saltwater game fish, I have gathered together my favorite fishing destinations.
First of all, I have been very fortunate to be able to make a living from what most people claim is their recreation, and that is fishing. In the process I have turned down a career in the Army, by which I would have been retired for a long time now, and a head golf professional job at an exclusive Atlanta country club. From the very first time a fishing rod and reel was placed in my hands, I knew this was something very special. Even today I get extremely excited when I have the opportunity to captain my charter boat, compete in a fishing tournament, or travel to a well known fishing destination.
While most of my fishing experiences have been good ones, there have also been days on the water when fishing wasn’t so good. No one can actually predict how good the fishing is going to be, however we can do a lot of research on a body of water and pretty much tell how well the fishery will produce.
Beach fishing for tarpon, cobia, king mackerel and sharks off from St. Augustine, Jacksonville, and Fernandina Beach ranks high on my list of favorite fishing destinations. Beginning in late May and right through the month of August, saltwater fishermen have the opportunity to slip out from a nearby inlet and fish close to the beaches in a fairly small boat for big game fish.
The big attraction for game fish comes from the plentiful supply of menhaden schools that work the beaches. Here beach fishermen will first cast net a cooler full of menhaden, then begin to setup a chum slick by cutting the menhaden into small pieces or tossing them out onto the surface. As their boat drifts and the chum slick increases in both width and length, sharks, cobia, king mackerel and even red drum are attracted to the chum slick.
As a result, beach fishermen will have the opportunity to catch trophy size game fish while casting large saltwater plugs, flies, or bait fishing. While fishing may be excellent through the summer months, prevailing west winds often create a thermocline along the beaches where cold water temperatures scatter baitfish schools and fishing conditions worsen.
You just can’t beat the king fishing off from the Mississippi Delta during the fall fishing season when large mullet migrations begin to move offshore. Weather conditions are also a determining factor when tropical storms and even hurricanes hammer the Mississippi Delta creating discolored and cold water conditions.
Some of the best action comes in water depths from 150-250 feet where underwater humps and oilrigs attract both baitfish schools and king mackerel as well. An excellent example of this came during the 2009 SKA National Kingfish Championship. The Horseshoe bottom, which is located some 70-miles off from SKA’s homeport of Biloxi, Mississippi, produced a kingfish bite that most mackerel fishermen will never forget. Bluefin tuna, wahoo and even a blue marlin were hooked and landed by SKA kingfish teams. Lets not forget McMullan’s record breaking 74.10-pound king mackerel!
That’s why I believe that the Mississippi Delta holds the best trophy king mackerel fishing, particularly during the fall fishing season.
The Mississippi Delta also holds some of the best red fishing opportunities, particularly for giant bull redfish. I have fished for redfish several times from famous Venice, Louisiana and was never disappointed. My best trip came during the fall when huge schools of redfish were holding off from Mississippi River’s Southwest Pass. During the fall fishing season, the Gulf of Mexico is rich with schools of menhaden and Southwest Pass is no exception.
Here, fishermen will actually witness redfish weighing fifteen to fifty pounds sky rocketing in the air like king mackerel, then belly flopping on top of a school of menhaden. The tricky reds will then feed on the stunned pogies!
At times, redfish schools are so numerous they will bump up against the side of your boat. Fly fishing is very popular, while my favorite redfish tactic is catching these giant redfish on topwater plugs.
For more information visit http://www.venicefishing.net.
If you enjoy catching big fish on topwater plugs, you must fish for Louisiana’s Lake Calcasieu giant sea trout. This shallow lake attracts huge schools of menhaden from the nearby Gulf of Mexico, particularly during the summer and fall fishing seasons. Simply locate diving birds feeding on menhaden pushed to the surface by sea trout weighing upwards of ten pounds. During an average day of sea trout fishing with topwater plugs, speck fishermen can expect to catch trout weighing over the five pound mark.
During a past fishing trip to Lake Calcasieu, I was casting a white Rapala Skitter Walk surface plug to a school of redfish. My plug was engulfed in a huge washtub-like strike, resulting in the hooked fish that ran like a kingfish. Five minutes later, I released a ten-pound sea trout!
For more information on Lake Calcasieu, visit http://www.casieucharters.com.
If you wish to catch really giant size fish that are also excellent eating, you must fish for Alaska halibut. Halibut can easily weigh over the one-hundred pound mark and have been caught weighing over 500 pounds!
Several fishing seasons ago I fished out of Elfin Cove Lodge, a unique Alaska fishing lodge that features salmon, code and giant halibut. After catching our limit of king and pink salmon in close to a mountainous shoreline, our charter boat took us offshore to deep water where we bottom fished for giant halibut.
I know my hook was at least a 12/0 and my lead weight tipped the scales at five pounds! Speared on my large hook were entrails from salmon and large chunks of fish. The bait was enough to turn a non fisherman’s stomach, even a seasoned chum fishermen like myself was glad when the ugly bait disappeared into the deep water column. However a strike resembling a fairly large shark soon followed and I was straining hard into a giant of a fish. Thirty minutes later, my captain gaffed a 100-pound halibut and roped it off to the gunnel.
I don’t know what the fantasy is about halibut fishing, but if they weigh less than 100 pounds, the catch is seldom acknowledged! I do know that I took home several frozen pounds of vacuum-packed halibut filets for my friends and neighbors!
For more information on Elfin Cove Lodge, visit http://www.elfincove.com.
Trophy bass fishing has always been one of my first loves for fishing. Through the years I have fished many of the top trophy bass destinations, while Florida’s Bienville Plantation is my top pick for catching bass over the ten-pound mark. Bienville Plantation is hard to beat while targeting giant bass with artificial lures. During my past six fishing trips to the bass filled phosphate lakes, I have managed to catch a bass weighing at least eight pounds with the largest weighing eleven pounds.
My favorite time of year to fish at Bienville Plantation is actually after the main spawning season, which normally includes the months of late April through the month of May. Here, bass fishermen will find the majority of the bass holding along the deep edges of weed beds and drop offs where deep diving lures, plastic worms, surface plugs and swim baits are all deadly lures.
For more information visit http://www.bienville.com.
Although I have fished at a variety of fishing destinations, these are my favorite waters for not only catching big fish, but also enjoying an all around excellent experience.