In the hit or miss contest of fishing, where you decide to drop the lure is all-important. A productive spot —or “honey hole” as they’re sometimes called — can yield bite after bite, stories to last a lifetime, fresh fish for dinner and maybe, just maybe, a fat tip to boot. If your guests drop their lines in the wrong spot and they, and possibly you, will come back empty handed. Here are some of the coveted sweet spots in the Eastern Atlantic from the experts to take out much of the guesswork when planning your next itinerary for guests who want a fishing trip.
For those yachts in South Florida, world-class, deep-sea fishing is right around the corner. The Florida Keys is home to more saltwater world records than any other angling destination around the globe, according to the International Game Fish Association. Here, estuaries, sharp elevation changes, teeming reef ecosystems and the Gulf Stream current combine to provide ideal fishing grounds. By most estimates, good fishing extends along Florida’s east coast to as far north as Palm Beach, but the chances of hooking “the big one” increase the further south of Miami you fish, as the effects of “fishing pressure” by other anglers decreases. The waters off of Key Largo and Islamorada are safe bets.
The quarry of choice in South Florida is pelagic, or open ocean, fish like Wahoo, king fish, black fin tuna, skip jacks, king mackerel, Spanish mackerel and dolphin fish, known also as mahi-mahi. The bulk of the pelagic fish are caught in depths of 90 to 120 feet, though they can be found in depths of 60 feet, says Elias Rodriguez, a veteran sports fisherman and fish and tackle manager of Crook & Crook in Miami. The height of the season for most pelagic in the region are October to June.
The catch in June of a record-breaking 1,119 pound blue marlin has generated renewed interest in The Abacos as a top fishing destination, particularly for billfish, but also dolphin and other pelagic fish. The island’s exposure to the open Atlantic is a major draw for the big billfish, which prefer the deep, deep water. Marlin fishing is hottest here from March until June, while Wahoo start in October and last until mid April. As for dolphin, the best time is in March, April and May.
If you got a taste for dolphin fish, when the conditions are just right, there’s perhaps no better place than in Chubb Cay in the Berry Islands. Chubb Cay sits at the north end of a wide swath of deep water commonly known as the Tongue of the Ocean for its uncanny resemblance, and extends into The Bahamas Banks. During April and May, prevailing southeast winds have a tendency to push Sargasso seaweed up against the northern edge of the Tongue. The weed lines, as they are known, and any other flotsam are irresistible to dolphin fish, which seek out the accompanying baitfish.
Other hotspots for pelagic fish include Highbourne Cay, at the north end of The Exumas, Cat Island, San Salvador, Rum Cay and Long Island. The height of the season is November, December and January.
For bottom fishing in the Bahamas, Reiter says the Out Islands, which are distanced from fishing pressure in places like Nassau and Freeport are best.
When you’re looking for hot spots in the Northeast U.S., nothing quite compares to the Canyons, the name given to the deep crevasses riddling the edge of the continental shelf where the seafloor drops off by a mile or more over a 10-mile distance. An abundance of marine life is drawn to warm currents from the Gulf Stream and thriving sea-floor ecosystem. The Canyons can be accessed from any number of ports from Nantucket to Montauk. In the northern stretch, closer to Nantucket, sweet spots include Hydrogapher Canyon, Veatch Canyon and Atlantis Canyon with Fish Tail, The Dip and Hudson Canyon, further to the South. Late June through October is the best time to drop a line in the Canyons.
The catch though, is that the Canyons are located 65 to 100-plus miles out — a trip that requires careful preparation and planning. The legendary conditions, however, justify the trip. Capt. Dan Boynton, a recreational fisherman, has been fishing the Northeast for over 30 years and says it’s like an aquarium. Every major pelagic fish is represented, including yellow fin and blue fin tuna, wahoo, white and blue marlin, striped bass and a litany of sharks, from makos to threshers to blue sharks. For hot spots closer to home, Boynton recommends the BC buoy. This hot spot is located just 15 miles off of Chatham in waters 400 to 600 feet deep, about 40 miles west of Nantucket, by the shipping lanes running in and out of Boston harbor. The BC buoy’s feature attraction are blue fin tuna that average a couple hundred pounds, but can tip the scales well north of the 700-pound mark. The tuna seek out sand eels and other baitfish teeming in the waters, which also attract seals and humpback whales. If you don’t catch a fish off Chatham, as a consolation prize, you may get some stunning views of the marine life.
Wherever you find yourself, you can find your own honey hole so long as you look for key features, such as a reef, a sharp change in the seafloor elevation like a seamount or wall, a wreck or estuary. Wherever you go, make sure there is current, says Rodriguez. When there is no current, you may find yourself without a nibble.