The 12 Ultimate Bucket List Fishing Trips
Apr 11, 2019 | 9 minute read
Reading Time: 9 minutes

Everyone has that bucket list fishing trip burning away at the back of their mind. For some, it’s a remote, icy stream with nothing but the soft swish of a fly rod for company. Others imagine heavy tackle reels screaming under the strain of a 1,000 lb sea monster. Whatever it is, it’s the thing you spend your life working toward. The reason to keep improving your game.

We’ve put together what we believe are the ultimate bucket list fishing trips from around the world. The destinations are as varied as the target species, but they all have one thing in common: They offer that once-in-a-lifetime catch that many anglers dream of but only a few see come true.

Inshore Bucket List

Los Roques, Venezuela

An aerial view of Los Roques, Venezuela, with white sands and shallow, turquoise water

The archipelago of Los Roques is the definition of desert island bliss. Nothing says “wish you were here” like white sandy beaches and gin-clear seas. Except for an all-star cast of inshore game fish, that is.

Los Roques is hard to get to – almost 100 miles offshore from mainland Venezuela – but it’s well worth the trip. These remote beaches are nirvana for flats anglers, with Tarpon, Bonefish, Snook, and Permit all growing to trophy sizes. If you’re looking for an Inshore Super Grand Slam, this is the place to be.

A man holding a Bonefish with shallow water behind him

Don’t be put off by the long cruise to get there, mind you. Even at trolling speed, the journey won’t be dull. Venezuela’s bluewaters hold one of the healthiest Swordfish populations in the Caribbean. They’re also home to monster Yellowfin Tuna, and enough Marlin to make you work up an appetite.

Mississippi Delta, Louisiana

A view of the Louisiana wetlands at sunset, with grass in the foreground, water in the center, and sky in the distance.

When many people think of bucket list fishing trips, they imagine an alien world of winding waters and huge, colorful fish. What people generally don’t realize is that you can find all that just a stone’s throw from a major US city!

Exploring the sprawling shallows of the Mississippi River Delta is like stepping into another world. This is a land ruled by fish, where skilled captains and experienced anglers are both put to the test. The kings of these waters are “Bull” Redfish and “Gator” Seatrout – both fish which more than earn their names.

An angler on a flats fishing boat holding a large Bull Redfish with water and sky behind him

American anglers can be so used to catching these monsters that they forget just how awesome they are. Take a trip into the heart of the Mississippi Delta, though, and you’re in for an experience you’ll never forget.

The Andaman Islands, India

A beach on the Andaman Islands with dense jungle and turquoise sea.

The Andaman Islands are about as picturesque as you can get. Step out of the lush jungle and feel the smooth, yellow sand between your toes. Dive into clean, warm waters to find a world of colorful corals and outlandish fish. It really is that special.

Not that you’ll have time to notice any of that. You’ll be on a small boat a mile or two out, locked in the fight of your life with a monster GT. Giant Trevally are the bullies of the reef, and their fighting power has earned them a loyal following all over the world. The Andaman Islands are home to some of the biggest and meanest out there.

A male angler with a large Giant Trevally fish on his lap

They’re not alone, either. You’ve also got Dogtooth Tuna, super-sized Grouper, and Coral Trout as colorful as the reefs themselves. Mother nature really cranked up the crazy when she stocked these waters.

Offshore Bucket List

Cairns, Australia

A view of the bay in Cairns, Australia, with green trees, yellow sand, and turquoise water.

The North Queensland coast is a paradise for many reasons. Great weather, friendly people, and easy access to the Great Barrier Reef. Time your trip right, and you can also take part in one of the most exciting angling extravaganzas on the planet: heavy tackle season.

The waters off Cairns are spring break central for giant Black Marlin. From September through December, big game anglers pour into town in the hopes of landing a “Grander.” It’s no pipe dream, either. Fish well over 1,000 pounds are caught here every year.

A topless male angler on a charter boat fighting a large Black Marlin which is jumping out of the water

The great thing about heavy tackle season is the excitement and sense of adventure that comes with it. Head to a bar in the fishier parts of town and you can’t help but overhear people discussing the day’s catch. Never has one fish made a town so iconic.

Kailua-Kona, Hawaii

An aerial view of Kailua-Kona, Hawaii, with blue sea to the left and the island to the right

Hawaii is one of those places that just seems too good to be true. Impossibly tall mountains with nothing but water for thousands of miles in every direction. Plants and animals you won’t find anywhere else on earth. Best of all? A laid-back vibe that can only come from living in paradise.

And what a paradise it is! If Cairns is known for its giant Black Marlin, Kona is synonymous with behemoth Blues. You don’t have to travel far to find them, either. Billfish show up just off the beach here – not surprising, considering the seafloor drops 1,000 feet within half a mile of shore.

Two anglers looking at a huge Blue Marlin in the water next to their boat

If you somehow get bored of Blue Marlin, there are plenty more monsters to choose from. Tuna, Swordfish, Wahoo, Mahi Mahi… not to mention Hawaii’s “Deep Seven” reef species. All that, without ever losing sight of land.

Prince Edward Island, Canada

An aerial view of Prince Edward Island in Canada, with green fields on the left, yellow beach in the middle, and dark green water on the right

Prince Edward Island is a place of extremes. Every winter, it gets hit by almost 10 feet of snow. Bad years see whole houses buried under a blanket of white. Come in the summer, though, and it’s a jolly seaside spot home to the hottest Tuna fishing imaginable.

Most anglers would like a shot at landing a Bluefin Tuna. They’re huge, they’re tough, and boy are they tasty. From August through October, the waters around Prince Edward Island are full of Bluefin weighing well over 800 pounds. If you’re trying to imagine what that feels like on the end of your line, picture reeling in a racehorse.

Two anglers leaning over the side of a boat next to a giant Bluefin Tuna. One is holding a gaff hook attached to the Tuna's mouth

Catching Bluefin Tuna is a sensitive issue. The species is just too delicious for its own good, it seems, and global fish stocks are not looking healthy. Because of that, most charters in P.E.I. put a strong emphasis on tag and release. This gives scientists a chance to learn more about this incredible species while anglers enjoy the fight of a lifetime.

Watamu, Kenya

A view taken from the sea of traditional huts in Watamu, Kenya. There is shallow, clear water in the foreground and cloudy sky in the distance

Kenya is best known for its open grasslands and wildlife safaris – hardly a place to look for game fish. But lions and elephants aren’t the country’s only big game beasts. The Kenyan coast is growing a reputation as one of the best deep sea fishing grounds on earth.

What makes Watamu so special? Simply put, you can reliably find more Billfish here than just about anywhere else. Blue Marlin, Black Marlin, Striped Marlin, Sailfish, Swordfish, and Shortbill Spearfish, to be precise. And it’s not unheard of to see them all in one day.

Three anglers on a charter fishing boat holding a large Swordfish with a fishing lure hanging out of its mouth

To those in the know, that’s called a Billfish Fantasy Slam. It’s the sportfishing equivalent of winning the lottery while also marrying your high school sweetheart and negotiating world peace. No-one has pulled it off in Kenya yet (only one person has done it worldwide) but the country’s angling is still coming into its own – are you up to the challenge?

Freshwater Bucket List

Amazon River, Brazil

A boat on the Amazon River at the meeting of the Rio Negro and the Amazon

Taking a riverboat into the heart of Brazil is a bucket list adventure in its own right. The Amazon is the world’s largest and most unexplored river. We’re constantly finding out more about it and the things that live in it. What we do know is that it’s home to some seriously-impressive game fish.

Peacock Bass, Piranha, Payara, Piraiba – a day of fishing on the Amazon can land you all kinds of strange and incredible fish. The farther upstream you go, the greater your chance of landing something nobody has ever seen before. There’s one species that outdoes them all though, and that’s the Arapaima.

Two men and a woman holding an Arapaima fish, one of the top targets on bucket list fishing trips

Arapaima are huge, colorful, and aggressive. That pretty much guarantees them a spot in the hall of fame right off the bat. Throw in their incredible acrobatics and you have what many believe to be the perfect sport fish. Did we mention they can also breathe air? They seem custom-built to outdo all other fish.

Kenai Peninsula, Alaska

The Kenai River in Alaska, with dense forest on either side and mountains in the distance

Every angler worth their waders dreams of visiting the Kenai Peninsula. The area’s untamed beauty is worth crossing continents for. And that’s before you even wet a line. The Kenai River is a mecca for fly fishers and freshwater fanatics. Every summer, anglers arrive from around the world with one thing in mind: taking on the king of kings.

You only need to take one look at Kenai King Salmon to know how they earned their name. Chinooks weighing almost 100 pounds have been pulled from these waters in the past. Even a fish half that size has enough power to smoke your reel and pull your rod clean out of your hand. They’re not fish to be taken lightly.

A happy angler on a boat holding a large Chinook Salmon on a fishing trip in Kenai, Alaska

King Salmon get the headlines, but they’re not the only monsters living here. If Soldotna is the Salmon capital of Alaska, nearby Homer is the heartland of its Halibut fishing. You can spend a month here and never stop catching huge fish – if you can still lift your arms, that is.

Congo River, Central Africa

Two fishermen in the distance on the Congo River, with trees and sky behind them

Cutting a path through the heart of Africa, the great Congo River is simply too big to imagine. The Congo River Basin covers over a tenth of the continent’s surface, and the river itself is so wide that there is only one bridge across it.

As if that wasn’t impressive enough, the Congo River is home to what has been described as “the ultimate river monster.” Local legends tell of fish possessed by demons, hell-bent on killing anyone they come across. Clearly, “Congolese Hell-Shark” didn’t sound impressive enough when they named it. So, instead, it’s called the Goliath Tigerfish.

A fly fisherman standing in a river holding a Goliath Tigerfish and a fly fishing rod. There is water, shore, and sky behind him

(Pia Waugh, Flickr, CC-BY-2.0)

Goliath Tigerfish are the stuff of nightmares. Huge, fast, and powerful, with a bite that goes through bone like butter. And they have the mood to match. Tigerfish are famous for their aggressive nature and relentless fight. All this has put them high on the list of many anglers’ dream catches.

The Mongolian Highlands

A view of the Mongolian Highlands with water in the foreground and snow-topped mountains in the distance

Who doesn’t want to go to Mongolia? It’s about as remote as you can get without boarding a spaceship. Northern Mongolia is remote even by local standards. As you near the Siberian border, grassy plains give way to jagged mountains and ice-cold rivers. It’s not an easy place to get to, but some freshwater anglers see the journey as a pilgrimage because of one fish that lives here.

These mountain streams hold a species that was barely on the radar until a few years ago: the Taimen. A whole tourist industry has sprung up around these fish, with exclusive camps and multi-day hike-out trips catering to the ever-growing groups who want a chance of catching them.

An angler holding a Taimen fish in a shallow mountain stream in Mongolia

What makes Taimen special? They’re the ultimate salmonid. Taimen reach over 4 feet in length and nearly 100 pounds in weight. They’re hard to find and even tougher to tempt onto the hook. And then the fight starts. All the miles and hours become well worth it when you see that angry red tail splashing in the water.

Ebro River, Spain

The Ebro River in Spain, with green fields on either side and blue mountains in the distance

The Ebro River isn’t that exciting at first glance, cutting a slow course through northern Spain on its way to the Mediterranean Sea. It looks like a pretty place to drive along as part of a European road trip, but hardly a bucket list fishery. Think again.

The Ebro River is home to one of the largest and heaviest of all freshwater fish, the Wels Catfish. These guys are big enough to swallow you whole and still come back for seconds. They live all across Europe, but something in the Ebro makes them grow extra big and extra tough.

Three anglers posing with giant Wels Catfish, a frequent target on bucket list fishing trips

Once you’ve had your fill of catfishing, you can move on to the Ebro’s other sport fish. Zander grow fat and happy here, as do Carp. Nothing can compete with the sight of a 200 lb Wels, though.

And So Much More!

There are so many amazing destinations screaming for a place on our list. Some offer sheer variety like Exmouth, Australia or Thailand’s fishing lakes (home to half the fish in this article between the pair of them). Others excel at a single species, like the incredible Brown Trout of Southern Argentina. We could write all day about our ideal bucket list fishing trips, but we would much rather hear yours.

What’s your dream angling adventure? Which of ours would you most like to go on? Have you achieved yours already? Let us know in the comments below, we would love to hear your stories!

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