By Phil Mackie
If you’ve ever fantasized about what you would do with the money if you bought a winning Lotto ticket, or your next cast brought back Black Beard’s hidden treasure, you’re not alone. Even if I say so myself, it happens to the best of us! When it happens to me, more often than not, I end up envisioning where I would go if I could ship off right away.
On the off chance that a ton of cash does actually land in your lap, here’s my list of the world’s most appealing saltwater fishing destinations. Everyone has their own opinion on these things, but my list is based on a lifetime of listening to enthusiasts who’ve had the good fortune to experience these sites first-hand, and come back raving about them.
This small town is tucked away at the end of the Mississippi River, 77 miles away from famous New Orleans, Louisiana. Situated on the Gulf of Mexico, Venice has weathered some tough times thanks to Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and the Deepwater Horizon explosion in 2010. Still, it’s managed to rebuild itself time and again and continues to be a favourite of fishermen.
The waters of the Gulf and the Mississippi interact to produce conditions that are unique in the world. There’s an incredible diversity of fish in this part of the world, including mahi-mahi, wahoo, snapper, billfish and grouper.
But the real prize is the tuna — thanks to environmental conditions, massive tuna can be caught just 30 miles offshore, especially when the shrimp boats are operating…
This island in Australia’s Northern Gulf is only 31 miles wide but boasts some of the best blue water fishing in the Gulf of Carpentaria and numerous brackish channels. Stay in one of the many scenic Groote Eylandt Lodges if you’d like to fish in the gulf without having to make frequent trips inland, and make the most of a week-long fishing trip. Less travel time, more tackle time.
There are billfish aplenty as you travel up and down the gulf. Barramundi are also a highly-sought after catch in these parts — US readers might not be familiar with this fish type, but they’re prized catches here… and they go very well with fries in the Aussie version of traditional fish and chips! They can sometimes be spotted amongst the mangroves in the brackish waters off Arnhem Land, and make excellent sport fishing on lures, bait or even fly.
Cabo San Lucas
Fish the Pacific just off the peninsula on the tip of Mexico’s West Coast. This is a popular destination for tourists, but if you’re like me, you won’t want to waste time soaking up the rays – you’ll be eager to get amongst the fish.
Fishermen from the US head south in search of the billfish in the gorgeous pacific waters of this region but there are plenty of other species to go after: yellowfin tuna and mahi mahi can be caught only a short distance offshore, or you could go after the hard-to-catch but extremely beautiful and rewarding, rooster fish. (Ed: read about our own experience catching roosters here.)
Playa del Carmen
Just a few miles south of Cancun, Mexico, Playa del Carmen is known for its party scene, but thanks to its location at the confluence of the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico, there’s a lot more to do here than knock down mojitos.
Caribbean waters travel through a small channel between Cozumel and the mainland, making for a fast and furious fish highway very close to the shore. Trawling for big game fish like white and blue marlin and sailfish is popular in these parts, and those of you who like catch and release will be in your element, as that’s practised almost exclusively. Reef fish like dorado and wahoo are also frequent catches and, depending on your captain, you can sometimes take these, sparingly, for the table.
Depending on the time of year, you’re also likely to spot dolphins and whale sharks and may get a chance for a quick snorkel – a true ‘never forget’ experience.
Kenai Peninsula, Alaska
Amongst the hundreds of reasons to experience an Alaskan summer are hiking, sightseeing, wildlife education and, of course, fishing!
This state in the Pacific North-Northwest is world renowned for one fish, the salmon, but that’s not all they’ve got here. In addition to the legendary salmon runs, there are other freshwater and saltwater prizes to look out for, including halibut, ling cod and rockfish, some of which can grow to enormous sizes. If you don’t believe me, here’s what Mark Davis, host of “Big Water Adventures”, has to say about it.
There are thousands of prime fishing destinations in the world, but everyone needs a wish list, and you’ve just seen mine. Each of these spots is unique in its own right and has its own quirks and nuances. But before you buy the first plane ticket out of your present location, here’s a piece of advice I learned the hard way: take some time to find a local guide. It’s very easy to waste a lot of time when visiting a new fishing destination, so while you may well be able to go it alone on the second or third visit, I always like to get someone to show me the ropes on the first visit. Engaging guys who know what they’re doing can turn an average trip into a great one.
Whatever you do, I hope your line is tight and your smile is wide!