Not satisfied with angling for fish in your local river? Do you dream of catching the big one? Picture yourself hanging onto a rod that is bucking and bending and you are desperately trying keep your grip, while at the other end of a thin nylon line is a massive king of the ocean, probably twice your weight and undoubtedly twice your strength. After what seems like hours of struggling, you see the huge fish rising from the ocean and becoming airborne within feet of the boat. Welcome to the world of game fishing.
According to author, John Steinbeck, "All Americans believe that they are born fishermen. For a man to admit a distaste for fishing would be like denouncing mother-love or hating moonlight."
Ernest Hemingway was a truly passionate angler who wrote widely about the sport that he loved. "Curiosity, I suppose, is what makes you fish as much as anything," he wrote. He believed that "only fishermen see the great fish in all their power and glowing color" and that game "fishermen were doubly fortunate."
Whether you after marlin, yellowfin tuna, sailfish, dorado, wahoo, dolphin fish or barracuda, there's a game fishing vacation with your name on it, waiting for you in one of the many ocean hot spots around the planet. The warmer waters of the Caribbean, the Pacific and Indian Ocean offer some of the best and most fulfilling game fishing experiences, but this sport, like many other indulgences, can be costly. There are few budget-conscious angling adventures on offer, as you need to be assured that you are traveling with experienced professional crew on safe boats, into the right waters. Unlike the game fishing of yesteryear, many people will be relieved to note that tag and release of large game fish is now the rule rather than the exception, except of course during competitions and tournaments, unless the rules specify otherwise. Other game fishing companies will only allow you to keep your catch if it is eaten.
The global journey in search of the best game fishing starts with Hemingway and his fishing haven -- the waters of the Florida Straights between Key West and Cuba. This area is famous for its giant blue marlin, sailfish and tarpon, but these are just a few of the 225 species of game fish that prowl the crystal, clear waters off the Florida Keys. Offshore fishing in Key West is a chance for everyone to be Ernest Hemingway for a day. Big boats, big tackle, and big fish make a trip out on the Gulfstream an adventure. Key West has a fleet of captains and crews that are among the world's finest in chasing down the legendary giants of the deep sea. Marlin, sailfish, tuna, Wahoo, and dolphin fish are all caught within the 90 miles between the Keys and Cuba.
Listings of boat charters are available at www.keywest.com/offshore.html with close to 30 reputable and experienced companies to choose from. Costs vary according to your demands and the length of your required fishing trip. For example, Key West Papa (tel. 305/304-1182; www.keywestpapa.com) has half-day morning charter trips from $650 (one to six people). For most of the year, you can expect to take barracuda, grouper, kingfish, and mackerel. During the October to May season, troll the blue water for sailfish, dolphin, wahoo and tuna. The four-hour charter is an ideal trip for a novice who wants to give offshore fishing a try. The three-quarter day trip is $750 and offers two more hours of fishing fun, in the winter months (November to April) Sailfish can be caught with light tackle with live baiting, and in the summer months the extra time allows a visit to cooler waters for dolphin fish, sailfish, wahoo and marlin. A full-day trip is $900 and is geared toward the angler who likes to target and tailor their fishing. There is sufficient time to go out to really deep water to troll for Hemingway qualified marlin. Captain McGinn also offers night charters for swordfish, overnight charters, evening shark trips, multi-day tournament fishing, and other special fishing charters.
Travel further southwest to reach the bountiful waters of the Pacific coast of Mexico. As one of the premier sport fishing destinations in the world, you can go after sailfish, blue and black marlin, dorado, grouper and yellowfin tuna, and bring home the ultimate trophy as a memento of your Mexico vacation (tag and release is often not imposed in Mexico).
Blue Water Tours (tel. 800-799-8475; www.bluewaterfishing.com) runs a variety of game fishing tours and packages from various coastal cities along the Mexican Pacific coast. Mazatlan is one of Mainland Mexico's best bargains for authentic Mexican cuisine, great hotel accommodation, shopping, golf and most importantly, big game fishing. Sailfish fishing here is as good as it gets and at a much more affordable rate. Marlin, yellowfin tuna, and dorado are also common catches. The Blue Water package includes round-trip airfare from Los Angeles, airport departure taxes, three-nights accommodation at Hotel Marina El Cid in Mazatlan including taxes (or onboard accommodation in a quad-share cabin), four days of Mexican fun including two full days of fishing, all tackle and bait plus all meals and beverages. This package is priced from $979 per person based on dual occupancy.
The resort city of Ixtapa also boasts plentiful sport fishing at the quaint neighboring seaside village of Zihuatanejo. Long Range Sport fishing boats take you out to the best Yellowfin tuna sites. The Ixtapa includes round-trip airfare from Los Angeles, airport departure taxes, three-nights accommodation at Hotel Presidente including taxes (or onboard accommodation in a quad-share cabin), four days of Mexican fun including two full days of mini-cruiser fishing, all tackle and bait, 12 beverages and ice each fishing day plus all meals and beverages. This package is priced from $919 per person based on dual occupancy.
Loreto has the most consistent yellowtail and dorado fishing on the Sea of Cortez and the best variety of game fish in Baja Mexico. The Loreto package includes round-trip airfare from Los Angeles or San Diego, airport departure taxes, three-nights accommodation at Hotel Hacienda Suites including taxes, airport transfers, four days of Mexican fun including two full days of super Panga fishing plus all tackle and bait. This package is priced from $699 per person based on dual occupancy.
With the Caribbean Sea on its east coast, and the Pacific Ocean on its west coast, Costa Rica offers the adventurous angler numerous opportunities for exceptional saltwater fishing. The Pacific Ocean offers excellent opportunities for catching marlin, sailfish, tuna, wahoo, dolphin, roosterfish, snapper and more. Along the Caribbean coast are perfect locations for excellent tarpon and snook fishing. There are several world class fishing lodges and resorts to choose from on both coastlines.
Crocodile Bay Lodge (www.tropicalfishing.com/costarica.html), in Puerto Jimenez on the Osa Peninsula is one of Costa Rica's newest and finest sport fishing and eco-tourism resorts. The lodge is the gateway to the Corcovado National Park Wildlife preserve for exotic land based wildlife but for water-based adventure, their saltwater fishing is world class for sailfish; striped, blue, and black marlin; dorado; tuna; and wahoo in the Pacific Ocean. Or fish in the Golfo Dulce for roosterfish, cubera snapper, jack crevalle, bluefin trevally, sierra mackerel, tripletail and grouper throughout the year.
Crocodile Bay Lodge packages for two people for five-nights with three-days of fishing start from $2,495 per person. Six nights with four-days of fishing is $2,995, seven-nights with five-day fishing is $3,495 and eight-nights with six-days fishing is $3,995. With four people the price starts from $1,795 for the five-night package.
For a truly exotic South Pacific fishing expedition far away from the tourist crowds, the remote island nation of Tonga may be just the thing. The tropical paradise Kingdom of Tonga lies 400 miles east of Fiji and 400 miles south of Samoa. Ika Lahi Lodge (www.tongafishing.com) is situated in Hunga Lagoon within the Vava'u group of islands -- the most northern island group of Tonga. Air New Zealand, Air Pacific and Polynesian Air all fly to Tonga and land in Nuku'alofa, the capital. From there it is a short one hour twenty minute scenic flight to Vava'u, followed by a 35-minute boat trip to reach Ika Lahi Lodge. "Ika Lahi" means "Many Fish" and you will not be disappointed with the world class fishing that abounds in Vava'u, with year round billfish - marlin, sailfish and short-billed spearfish. The deep water also hold broadbill (swordfish) plus pelagic species -- yellowfin and dogtooth tuna, mahi mahi, wahoo, giant trevally and a host of other reef species. The resort's facilities include three game fishing boats, quality accommodation, a restaurant and bar. The staff at Ika Lahi are passionate about fishing and will accommodate the type of fishing and species you wish to target. The Ika Lahi crew supplies all tackle, specializing in live baiting techniques and run Black Bart lures. Packages include accommodation in comfortable quality log cabin units, fine dining South Pacific style with a la carte meals, the use of kayaks and snorkeling gear, land based fishing tackle and all local taxes. Twin rooms start from $205 per person per day, airport transfers are $139 per person and charter boat rates (with a maximum of four anglers) are $974 per day or $557 for a half-day. Children under 12 years of age are accommodated free of charge with parents, including all meals and airport transfers.
Although it may be the palm tree lined secluded beaches of Fiji that may be famous, the crystal clear waters of the surrounding reefs are a playground for some of the most abundant game fish in the South Pacific. The Lagoon Resort (www.lagoonresort.com/fishpackage.html), located at Pacific Harbour, is the dive and adventure sports heart of Fiji. The Pacific Harbour region has a number of highly experienced deep sea and sports fishing charters with top quality boats and fishing equipment.
The Lagoon Resorts' "Catch of the Day" four-day charter sports fishing adventure includes transfers in air-conditioned vehicles to and from Nadi or Suva International Airport, five-nights accommodation in a standard room, a five-day meal plan with island breakfasts, lunches and three-course dinners daily, a one-day sightseeing and orientation tour, and four spectacular days charter fishing with boat and equipment hire for up to eight hours per day. This offer is valid for four or more persons per charter at a cost of $1,290 per person until March 31, 2006. The Matava Resort (tel. 800/588-3454; www.matava.com) on the Coral Coast of Fiji operates a 17-foot British built Warrior fishing boat for exclusive charter to guests of the resort. The Great Astrolabe reef and nearby continental shelf drop off offer superb reef and blue water game fishing. Anglers can expect to catch wahoo, walu, barracuda, trevally, mahi mahi, dogtooth and yellowfin tuna as well as marlin (black, blue and striped) and sailfish. The resort operates a policy of "Catch and Release" on all billfish and other game fish not destined for the dinner plate. Packed lunches and drinks are supplied for longer trips. Prices start at $30 per person per hour (for a maximum of three people) for light tackle fishing, and $60 for big game fishing (with a maximum of two people). Prices are for the charter of the boat and fuel is charged at cost. Overnight charters are also available or additional charge. Accommodation starts as low as $35 per room per night staying is a waterfront traditional bure.
Hemingways Resort (tel. + 254/423-2624; www.hemingways.co.ke) at Watamu in Kenya, is one of East Africa's finest big game fishing destinations. Black, blue and striped marlin, sailfish, broad-billed swordfish abound, combined with luxury hotel accommodation and the finest food. Fishing season is from July through to mid April.
Boats are chartered at the hotel and can be booked for a full-day 10-hour trip or a five-hour half-day outing. Big boat rates (up to six people) start at $509 for a half-day charter, $685 for a full day during low season (from April to September, and up to $702 and $948 respectively during the high season (December to March). In a small boat (up to four people), rates start at $302 for a half-day and $395 for a full day in low season and $377 and $526 in high season. Full packed lunches, soft drinks, water and beer is provided and price includes fuel, tackle and bait. A 12-hour night fishing trip is priced from $1,403 and an overnight north Kenya Bank trip (two-days and one-night) is $2,106. Fish caught belong to the boat except in the case of release and any fish required by the clients for consumption that day. Accommodations at the resort start from $144 per standard double room per nights in low season and $356 at the peak of the fishing season.