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 line for company. Others imagine reels screaming under the strain of a 1,000 lb monster. Whatever it is, it’s the thing you spend your life working toward. The reason to keep improving your game.
Everyone has their dream fishing trip. Here are ours. We’ve put together what we think are the ultimate bucket list adventures around the world. The spots are as varied as the target species, but they all have one thing in common: That once-in-a-lifetime catch that many anglers dream of but only a few see come true.
Inshore Bucket List
Turneffe Atoll, Belize
We’re starting off strong. Sitting 20 miles off the coast of Belize City, Turneffe Atoll is one of the world’s top Bone fisheries. The sheer number of Bonefish makes this the perfect place to hone your skills, or even catch your first fish. Most are medium-sized, but don’t worry, there are plenty larger, battle-hardened Bones around too.
Belize’s bonefishing is incredible, but the country is mainly known for its Permit. Turneffe Atoll is no exception, with a massive Permit population averaging 10-20 pounds. Big fish can reach up to 30 pounds or even more. The best part? You can catch them on the flats all year round!
Bonefish? Check. Permit? Check. Someone’s still missing, though: Tarpon. Yes, of course you can catch Tarpon here. Smaller fish live in the channels and lagoons year-round. Come summer, Silver Kings worthy of the crown come barreling through by the hundred. They can often tip the 10-pound mark and some get closer to 150 pounds!
Mississippi Delta, Louisiana
When many people think of bucket list fishing trips, they imagine an alien land of winding waters and huge, colorful fish. What people generally don’t realize is that this watery wonderland might be closer than they think. Enter the sprawling shallows of the Mississippi River Delta.
Louisiana’s Mississippi Delta is like stepping into another world. This is a place 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” Speckled Trout – both fish which more than earn their names.
American anglers can be so used to catching these monsters that they forget just how awesome they are. Make no mistake, both these guys are world-class gamefish that deserve all the respect you’d give Salmon or Tarpon. Take them on in the mouth of Old Man River, and you’re in for an experience you’ll never forget.
The Andaman Islands, India
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.
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 cranked up the crazy when she stocked these waters, and it’s a true sight to behold.
Bissagos Islands, Guinea-Bissau
Sitting just off the west coast of Africa, the Bissagos Islands are a vast, largely uninhabited archipelago of tidal flats, volcanic rocks, sprawling mangroves, and inland channels. The sea goes from gin clear to dark and murky within wading distance, all fed the nutrients of four massive river mouths. This is the most important fishery that you’ve probably never heard of.
In case you hadn’t guessed, variety is the spice of life on the Bissagos Islands. Love fishing the Gulf of Mexico? Take on Barracuda, Cobia, Tripletail, and an army of giant Jacks. Prefer the South African scene? Try your luck at Leerfish and Kob. Then there are Snapper, Grouper, Ladyfish, Needlefish, and several species of large Shark.
If this sounds like a case of quantity over quality, wait until you meet the area’s signature species: Tarpon. The Tarpon world record was set here at 286 pounds, and 200 pounders are considered average. Admittedly, it’s not a great place to take Tarpon on the fly, but there are also Bonefish and Permit if that’s what you’re after. Because of course there are.
Offshore Bucket List
The North Queensland coast is a paradise for many reasons. Great weather, friendly people, and of course, easy access to the Great Barrier Reef. Time your trip right, and you can take part in one of the most exciting offshore extravaganzas on the planet: heavy tackle Black Marlin 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.
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. Stroll the harbor and the Billfish buzz is intoxicating. Never has one fish made a town so iconic.
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.
If you somehow get bored of Blue Marlin, there are plenty more monsters to choose from. For starters, there are also Striped and Black Marlin. Then there are Tuna, Swordfish, Spearfish, Wahoo, Mahi Mahi, not to mention Hawaii’s “Deep Seven” reef species. All that, without ever losing sight of land.
Prince Edward Island, Canada
Prince Edward Island is a real tale of two halves. In the winter, the island gets hit with vicious winds and blinding blizzards that bury the landscape under a thick blanket of snow. 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 hooking 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, picture reeling in a racehorse.
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, charters in P.E.I. put a strong emphasis on tag and release. This gives scientists a chance to learn more about this incredible fish while anglers enjoy the fight of a lifetime. Win-win!
Kenya is best known for its open grasslands and wildlife safaris – hardly a place to look for 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.
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 sportfishing scene is still coming into its own. Are you up to the challenge?
Freshwater Bucket List
Kenai Peninsula, Alaska
Every angler worth their waders dreams of visiting Alaska. The state’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.
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.
Amazon River, Brazil
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 hooking something nobody has ever seen before. There’s one species that outdoes them all though, and that’s the Arapaima.
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.
The Mongolian Highlands, Mongolia
Who doesn’t want to go to Mongolia? It’s about as remote as you can get without boarding a spaceship. The highlands are out there even by local standards. Up 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 it’s a pilgrimage for freshwater anglers because of one fish that lives here.
These distant streams hold a species that was barely known to science until a few years ago: the Taimen. A whole tourist industry has sprung up around them, with exclusive camps and multi-day hike-out trips catering to the ever-growing groups who want a chance of catching one.
What makes Taimen special? They’re the ultimate salmonid. A 4-foot long mega-Trout that can weigh nearly 100 pounds. Taimen are 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 thrashing in the water.
Ebro River, Spain
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 road trip, but hardly a bucket list fishery. Think again.
The Ebro 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.
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 spots screaming for a place on our list. From the sheer variety of Thailand’s fishing lakes to single-species specialists like Southern Argentina, there are bucket list fishing trips all over the world. Even your local waters could hold monsters. So what are you waiting for? Book a charter or find a fishing spot near you and find out!
What’s your bucket list fishing trip? Which of ours would you most like to go on? Let us know in the comments below, we always love to hear your stories!