Vacation tips from angling experts - Soundings Online

Vacation tips from angling experts

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Want to try casting in new waters? Here are some sportfishermen’s favorite getaways

Want to try casting in new waters? Here are some sportfishermen’s favorite getaways

As you stare out the window at the cold you may think back about the weekend trip to the island, maybe your kid’s big bluefish or the Saturday your brother-in-law almost went over right in front of the yacht club. While the memories help, you don’t need a GPS to know you’re still locked in winter.

However, if there’s some money left in the fish budget, consider a vacation to someplace warm — or at least warmer than the Northeast. Below are a few suggestions to get away from the freezing mark and to take your mind away from just how long it will be until the cover comes off the boat. To provide ideas, we polled sportfishing writers and a charter boat captain, the latter in case you want to travel during the summer.

Joel Arrington is a respected writer who lives below the Mason-Dixon line. He was happy to answer questions about a possible trip to Charleston, S.C.

From mid-February through mid-March this area has periods when the temperature hits the mid-60s, not tropical but warmer than Boston or Portland, Maine. During that time small red drum from 5 to 12 pounds can be caught in the relatively sheltered waters of Charleston Harbor. Fed by three rivers — the Wando, Stono and Copper — the area is a worthwhile stop for the small boater. Anyone interested in trying it out can contact Capt. Ric Hiott at (800) 437-0433. If the weather gods don’t smile on your selection, Charleston has a historic district on the bayside called the Battery that’s filled with shoreside stuff to check out.

Key West conjures up images of warm days, and is known as one of the premier saltwater fishing spots in the continental United States. One of the many fish to be caught around this small island are bonito, a nickname for false albacore, an inshore speedster that’s developed somewhat of a cult in the Northeast, both spin and fly rodders.

The drawback when these fish are in our waters is their finicky nature; sometimes they hit with abandon, the next day ignoring even flies tied like the exact duplicate of prevalent baitfish.

Off Key West from mid-March to April, bonito to 18 pounds hang around anchored shrimp boats in the Gulf of Mexico and can be caught almost at will. The shrimpers work at night, sleep during the day after sorting their catch and dropping the unwanted bycatch over the side. This chumming draws bonito that remain under the hull of the boat waiting for more. Guides often only have to throw a scoop of chum near the stern and the bonito come out like trained carp in a pond. Anglers catch them as long as you keep tossing chum.

Mixed in with the bonito around some shrimpers are blackfin tuna to 30 pounds, a true tussle with 8-pound spin rod or light tippet on a fly rod. Two skippers very familiar with this fishing are Capt. Joe Alexander, (305) 294-0639; and Capt. Wally Albrecht, (305) 294-8321. After the day is done, Key West sports an amazing amount of nightlife along Duval Street or numerous restaurants from Martha’s on the upscale end to the Rusty Anchor for local seafood.

Al Ristori of New Jersey is a globetrotting fishing personality who has fished the world over for the last 30 years. For those seeking both warm weather and calm seas he recommended Quepos on the Pacific side of Costa Rica. The weather is T-shirt and shorts plus the mighty Pacific is calm, so if you book a week you’re usually assured of fishing all the time, something that can’t be said for resorts on the Atlantic side.

Your targets will be high-flying sailfish easily over 100 pounds or exotic- looking roosterfish caught with lures or live bait along the scenic shore. The area hosts a fleet of 40 boats that can be checked out when you arrive after flying into San Jose followed by either a 20-minute flight the next morning or a three-hour trip by rental car. Al books his trips through Herb Rosell at South Fishing, (800) 882-4665. If you want some sightseeing, Manuel Antonio National Park is close by with great beaches and swimming.

Al and Emme Golinski of South Hadley, Mass., are two Northeast anglers who annually depart our cold clime for places like Key West or Golfito Sailfish Rancho, also on the west coast of Costa Rica, but this one down near the border with Panama.

Al and his wife regularly catch 70- to 100-pound sailfish on their fly rods, a struggle indeed. Emme fought and lost a battle over an hour with an estimated 140-pounder on 20-pound tippet, a sure new record for that weight tippet if landed. Al rates the Rancho as first-rate, a clean place for your family. Call (877) 726-2468 for more information.

And, if you want to take a vacation during the summer, you might want to follow in the footsteps of Capt. Jack Balint of Preston, Conn. From late-May through the fall Jack is extremely busy not only running a small charter boat but also helping his dad in their tackle shop. To clear his head and get away from the seven-day schedule, he takes 10 days or so to head to Alaska, where the weather is cooler than our July heat.

The real targets though are halibut, bruisers that easily go over a 150 pounds. Imagine showing off pictures back at work of a “flounder” that’s as big as you.

To reach this frontier of saltwater fishing, Jack flies to Anchorage from Hartford, Conn., then rents a car to drive along paved roads, enjoying majestic scenery not seen along the I-95 corridor. His destination is the Alaska Sports Lodge in Sterling, where they rent a cabin, then begin the business of securing an Osprey-style boat powered with twin outboard that’s launched from the beach.

Jack doesn’t book the boat in advance due to possibility of bad weather. He goes through enough rough seas in his chartering so wants only calm days on his vacation. When he arrives he listens to the local forecast. If it’s blowing, there’s shopping and sightseeing in nearby Soldatna, or maybe some salmon fishing in the rivers. For more information on this the last of our suggestions, contact the Alaska Sports Lodge at (800) 662-9672 (access Code 00).

A trip down south can break up the winter, or maybe give you a project to plan for next time. That Pacific sailfish leaping over calm seas sure beats the view through your windshield as skies darken, dropping the first of the snow, making the commute an even soggier slog.

Tim Coleman has been fishing New England waters for 30 years. He was managing editor of The Fisherman magazine’s New England edition until 2001, and is now a freelance writer based in Rhode Island.