For me, a good day of fishing is one that ends with the boat still floating and everyone healthy and relatively happy. But that doesn’t mean I don’t have bigger goals and dreams. Of course I love to go out and catch awesome fish. Who doesn’t?
If you’ve been fishing for long enough to catch at least one fish, you probably have some goal species you’d like to catch. Many of us have more than a few. Call it a bucket list for anglers. What you put on your bucket list will be up to you, and the list will change over time as you start crossing things off (and as your economic situation changes). In this column, I’d like to look at a few of the most popular bucket list fish.
WHY: A GT is basically a jack crevalle, with one small difference – they average 30 to 60 pounds, and the world record is 160.
WHERE: These are fish of the tropical and subtropical Indo-Pacific Ocean from Africa to Hawaii. Popular destinations include the Seychelles, Vanuatu, Hawaii, New Caledonia Island, Fiji and the Solomon Islands.
WHEN: Most locations have fish year-round, but check online for the specific place you’d like to go as certain months will probably be better.
HOW: Trevally, like all jacks, are aggressive feeders. This makes them easily targeted on artificial lures. Topwater poppers built to withstand their power are pricey but commonly used, and can be cast using extra-heavy spinning tackle. They can also be trolled or fished with natural baits.
Why: One of the coolest and most exotic fish you’ll ever see. Nothing else looks like a roosterfish, and they’re serious fighters as well. Plus, most areas where you’ll go to fish for them, you can also have fun with billfish and mahi.
WHERE: The Central and South American Pacific coast from Baja California to Ecuador. Costa Rica and Panama are probably the most tourist-friendly destinations.
WHEN: Peak time is January to June, but these fish can be caught anytime.
HOW: Most are caught trolling with live baits or lipped plugs around rocky areas. Many are also caught on the edge of breaking surf. Around La Paz in Mexico, surf fishing is a common method.
WHY: Tuna are schooling fish and provide fast action and great eating. If you’ve ever fished blitzing bonito in the Gulf, this is similar — except the fish are 50 to 150 pounds and much more edible.
WHERE: There are lots of places (Mexico, Panama, etc.), but the most accessible to us is the Louisiana oil rigs. If you go to Louisiana, you can also enjoy wahoo and kigfish offshore, plus maybe spend a day with their legendary giant redfish.
WHEN: In Louisiana, prime time is April thru September.
HOW: Trolling with skirts or rigged baits probably account for most fish. However, they can also be fished with vertical jigs or you can cast heavy-duty topwater lures.
WHY: Just for the halibut. OK, seriously, these enormous flatfish are prized more as food than game, but how many edible fish can you catch as big as you are?
WHERE: Alaska is the big show, which is nice because there are so many other cool things to see or catch there.
WHEN: June thru August, mostly because that’s when the water isn’t ice. June and July are also good for king salmon (just saying).
HOW: Bottom fishing with large chunks of cutbait is the usual method. Those who like to work a rod constantly also fish jigs.
WHY: This species has been recorded peeling line off a reel at 65 miles an hour and free-swimming at 80. Are you booking a trip yet?
WHERE: Black marlin are found almost everywhere in the Pacific and Indian oceans, but there are a few hotspots. Cairns in northwestern Australia is probably the best known. Some are also caught off Panama.
WHEN: These are fish that require luck, so stick to the best times. In Australia, that would be September to November. In Panama, December and January are ideal.
HOW: Trolling with rigged natural baits using the heaviest of heavy tackle and conducting the battle from a fighting chair.
WHY: Although inedible, the aerial acrobatics of these fish are legendary.
WHERE: Right in our backyard. Boca Grande is world-famous for tarpon, and Southwest Florida holds huge numbers of silver kings. If you prefer long-distance travel, West Africa and The Gambia are known for giant fish.
WHEN: In Florida, juveniles are present all year. Adult fish show up in late spring and stick around until the fall cold fronts start.
HOW: No method guarantees connecting with a tarpon, making them one of the more frustrating gamefish. However, normally they will eat shrimp or small crabs early in the season and large baitfish later. In Boca Grande Pass, special techniques are used to present baits to fish near the bottom.
Now, you have just enough information to get you in trouble. No matter what’s on your bucket list, the goal are more likely to be achieved if you do as much research as possible – not just on your chosen fish, but on the guide you’re going to hire to get you on them. Trust me on this: Spend the cash for a top-notch guide, even if it means you have to eat beans and ramen for a few months. That local knowledge is priceless.
Robert Lugiewicz is the manager of Fishin’ Frank’s Bait & Tackle, located at 4425-D Tamiami Trail in Charlotte Harbor. Call 941-625-3888 for more information about the shop or for local fishing info, or visit them online at FishinFranks.com.