5 Spring Saltwater Destinations

by Bob McNally

Wish you could find some warm temperatures, bright sun and world-class fishing fun?

Big tarpon are prime targets of anglers who fish Charlotte Harbor, Florida in Spring.

Big tarpon are prime targets of anglers who fish Charlotte Harbor, Florida in Spring.

You can set-up a spring trip of your fishing dreams a lot easier and cheaper than you may have thought possible.

Here are five outstanding saltwater fishing destinations for work-weary people who want to get away from it all, and who can’t wait until summer warms the rest of the country. Head south for some great late April and May saltwater action.

Golden Isles, Southeast Georgia

Everything from nearshore king mackerel weighing up to 40 pounds, giant cobia up to 60 pounds, Spanish mackerel, sharks, to barracuda, amberjacks, blackfin tuna and sailfish on offshore wrecks and reefs—it’s all available for saltwater anglers near the Golden Isles of Georgia.

Inshore fishing for seatrout, redfish, black drum, sheepshead and other species can be great, too.

The “Golden Isles” include St. Simons, Little St. Simons and Jekyll islands. They’re right on the Atlantic, with easy ocean access from several sounds and inlets. Creeks and rivers abound, providing outstanding inshore fishing opportunities, and easy access for anglers bringing their own boats.

Charter captain Tim Cutting stays on top of the best action according to the seasons. Top hotels, motels, resorts and restaurants can be found on Sea, St. Simons and Jekyll islands. The nearby towns of Darien and Brunswick are good places to headquarter, too. 

Charlotte Harbor, Southwest Florida

Charlotte Harbor and its nearby southwest Florida waters have phenomenal saltwater fishing for a wide variety of species.

Hot seatrout action is available year-round in Charlotte Harbor and nearby Pine Island Sound. Trout fishing for 1- to 3-pounders is available around grass flats in big bays and in deep sloughs adjacent to islands and channels. Heavy roe-laden females begin to show in March, and 5-pound class fish are caught by anglers working live baits and grub jigs in and around Gulf passes and channels.

Redfish also offer hot fishing action, and they can be found almost anywhere, especially near oyster bars and mangrove points.

Tripletail, flounder, sharks, Spanish mackerel and bluefish are other sportfish regularly caught by Charlotte Harbor light-tackle anglers. Charlotte Harbor and it’s opening to the Gulf of Mexico at Boca Grande Pass offer some of the world’s best tarpon fishing in May and June.

Hiring a guide like Paul Hobby is wise, as it takes time to understand this vast, island-studded and shallow area.

Resorts, motels and restaurants abound in this area. One of the most unique and beautiful places to headquarter is Cabbage Key, which is accessible only by boat and is minutes from great fishing on Charlotte Harbor and Pine Island Sound. For information, call (239) 283-2278.

Lake Calcasieu, Southwest Louisiana

Lake Calcasieu is a huge inland saltwater “lake” off the Gulf of Mexico that offers some of America’s best fishing for heavyweight spotted seatrout and red drum. When it’s right, several anglers working from a boat can expect to catch up to 100 stout seatrout and redfish per day. Trout average 2 to 3 pounds, and bruisers over 5 pounds are taken regularly. Plus, lots of big trout in the 8- to 10-pound class have been recorded.

Redfish schools are commonly encountered by trout fishermen, and these hard-fighting spottail bass weigh 4 to 10 pounds—outstanding light-tackle targets. Visiting anglers typically using the same basic bass and walleye gear they employ back home.

The best approach for visitors is to work out of the Hackberry Rod and Gun Club, run by the Stansel brothers, Kirk, Guy and Bobby, who were raised fishing and guiding on the lake. The club offers great package deals with guides, boats, waterfront accommodations and meals.

Mobile Bay, South Alabama

Oil-rig platforms are great fishing spots in the Mobile Bay area of coastal Alabama.

Oil-rig platforms are great fishing spots in the Mobile Bay area of coastal Alabama.

Oil rig platforms start right in Mobile Bay, and these fish-holding structures are where you can catch inshore fish like flounder, spotted seatrout, tripletail, redfish, bluefish, sheepshead, white trout and other species.

Other oil rigs can be found offshore from Mobile Bay extending out 50 or 60 miles. All kinds of marine fish inhabit that deep, clear water, including dolphin, wahoo, tuna and billfish. Good offshore rigs can be found within 4 miles of Mobile Bay; however, offering choice fishing in 60 to 70 feet of water for king and Spanish mackerel, snapper, grouper, cobia, bluefish, jacks and many other species. Deeper rigs in 300 feet of water hold pelagic species.

Timely Mobile area fishing information is available from J&M Bait and Tackle. 

Key West, Florida

At the southern tip of the Florida Keys, anglers have one of the great angling destinations of the world at their fingertips. Everything is available, from world class tarpon and permit fishing, to wreck cobia, grouper and snapper fishing, to offshore trolling for billfish, kingfish, tuna, wahoo and other species, too.

Even in the nastiest weather, great fishing can be found somewhere nearby, like in Key West harbor for tarpon and permit. If the wind blows from the east, anglers head to the west into Florida bay or the lee side of the Keys. They fish just the opposite when the wind is from the West.

The point here is keep your options open when fishing out of Key West. If you can’t get to a Gulf wreck for cobia, permit and snapper, try some of the other great fishing that will be available in the area.

Lots of great guides, marinas and tackle shops can be found in the Keys and in Key West. One of the many great Key West guides is Robert “RT” Trosset. If it swims near Key West, “RT” is on it.

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