Charles Walsh: As temperatures drop here, chase fish in Southern climes
Updated 12:30 am, Saturday, December 15, 2012
As I write this, the temperature outside my Bridgeport window, much like Thursday, is heading for 50 degrees. Not exactly typical weather just seven days before the official start of winter.
Whether history is any guide -- and with the bizarre climate behavior we have seen, it may not be -- we will soon get our first real awakening to just how miserable winter can be. Enough said. It's time to start thinking about warm, or at least warmer, places to cast a line.
What follows is a highly subjective list of warmer places one can travel to for the purpose of fishing and perhaps some vacation-style eating, drinking and cavorting between outings on the water.
New York and New Jersey: OK, it is not much warmer than here, but after what shore towns went through with Sandy, the least we can do is give some business to the guides working out of the state's battered marinas and inlets. Besides, the Jersey shore is still in the midst of a vigorous run of migrating striped bass. Al Ristori filed a report on www.NJ.com Thursday that stripers off Atlantic Highlands, one of the hardest hit towns, "hit everything we cast in the short period we had before dusk."
The Outer Banks of North Carolina: Again, not exactly tropical at this time of year, but the wide beaches of the Cape, from Oregon Inlet in the north to Ocracoke at the Southern-most tip, yield some tremendous striper action in the surf as well as runs of huge red drum dune buggy using bait casters. From a pier, in the surf or on a chartered boat, sea trout, sea bass, bluefish, bluefin tuna and striped bass fishing on the Outer Banks gets nothing but better in January. The storied bluefish blitzes of the early 1990s have faded, but there are signs the choppers are starting to make a comeback at Hatteras Point. A four-wheel drive vehicle is a must for those wanting to fish the Cape surf.
Florida: Now we are talking real warmth. No matter where you go on Florida's thousands of miles of coastline, some kind of fabulous fishery exists. You can dig for sand fleas and cast them to pompano in the surf at places like Jupiter Beach on the East Coast, or head farther south to pursue tarpon, sharks and bonefish in the gorgeous Keys. Swing over to the Gulf side to hire a charter for giant Wahoo offshore. Bring or hire a kayak for paddling through thousands of miles of mangrove-lined channels in the Everglades where snook, pound-for-pound one of the toughest fighting fish in the sea, lurk. Freshwater anglers will find some of the world's largest largemouth bass in the state's lakes.
Bahamas: Head east for 50 miles from Florida and you are in the turquoise waters of the Bahamas. Composed of more than 3,000 islands and cays, there are 14 major islands to choose from. Whichever one your plane happens to land on, there will be unlimited opportunities for both shallow and deep water fishing. If it is bonefish you are after, guides are the way to go. But if you want to fish for bones on your own, my choice is the island Eleuthera. Because it is barely more than a mile wide at any point, the island's expansive flats can be reached by a cheap rented car. The bones may not be the largest nor the most plentiful in the Bahamas, but there's something about working without a kibitzing guide that makes up for it.
Mexico: Now were getting just plain hot. On the Yucatan Peninsula, fly fishers can short for the grand slam, i.e. bonefish, tarpon and Permit in a single day. Whether you choose one of the relatively plush lodges south of Cancun or in the magnificent Ascension Bay a bit more south, this may be the ultimate winter fishing getaway.