As Christmas approaches, so too does the dread of long winter months of cold weather and a lack of fishing opportunities. Water temperatures drop and if we want to wet a line, it means many long hours ice fishing with jigs and live bait.
Don't get us wrong. We like ice fishing for a variety of gamefish species. But at times, it feels like warm up and spring is an eternity away for most anglers.
So, take an opportunity to escape the cold! Wintertime is the perfect season to plan a big saltwater fishing trip. Here are a few suggestions on where to travel to this time of year.
The Golden State doesn't get a whole lot of attention for their saltwater fishing, but there is a ton of great angling to be found here starting right now.
One big target species up and down the California coast is striped bass, which often hold and feed offshore all winter before moving inland to spawn in the spring. Stripers can be caught using just about any method this time to year, from surf fishing to trolling.
But striped bass aren't the only fish the California coast has to offer in winter. They've also got plenty of snapper, flounder, sheepshead, halibut and rockfish. Out in deep water, you might be able to find the occasional yellowfin tuna too.
Temperatures generally stay in the 60s and 70s along the coast this time of year, which sounds like a perfect break from the snow and ice to us!
If you're a die-hard fly fisherman, the winter months are a tough time. You can't just go and dip a fly down an ice fishing hole. You've got to wait for conditions to improve.
But what if you didn't have to? The Bahamas are considered one of the best bonefish destinations on the planet, and catching them on a fly rod in clear water on the flats is a total blast.
Not into fly fishing? That's fine, the Bahamas have plenty of other winter species like grouper, wahoo, snapper, mackerel and more. If you come at the tail end of winter, around March, that's when bill fishing for species like blue marlin tends to heat up. As a bonus, the Bahamas aren't far from Florida, so getting there is easy. Which brings us to...
Let's face it, you aren't surprised to see this state on the list of winter fishing destinations. It's often one of the first ones most people think of when they think of fishing salt in the winter.
Inshore fishing is extremely popular during the winter months. Mostly because the list of species you can target is near endless. There are seatrout, snook, cobia, tarpon, red and black drum, bluefish, mackerel, jack crevalle, barracuda and more.
The downside to Florida is that because it's one of the easier destinations to reach, just about everyone starts heading there to escape the cold and snow come December and January. At the least, it makes it easier to pattern and catch the fish because there are tons of reports rolling in daily. Read our Florida fishing guide for more information on how to escape the crowds.
The Outer Banks
North Carolina's series of barrier islands are a good choice because they are easily accessible and slightly more affordable to visit than some of the other locations on this list. The Outer Banks, or OBX, is one of the top fishing destinations on the planet for bluefish, but there are also plenty of drum, speckled trout, snapper, cobia, mahi-mahi, flounder, mackerel, wahoo, and more. Read our full guide for more information on that.
In the winter, you're going to hear a lot about striped bass, rockfish and bluefish near the shore from popular fishing beaches and piers, but the Outer Banks are probably best known for tuna this time of year, including bluefin, yellowfin and more.
You can catch a little of every kind of tuna here if the conditions are right. Just be prepared to pay a little for a tuna trip. Charters are in high demand this time of year and you might have difficulty booking a trip if you are late with your planning.
The Great Barrier Reef
While we may just be entering the icy death grip of winter here in the United States, Australia is just now entering the summer months. That means warm temperatures and awesome fishing in one of the most scenic places you will ever fish.
The Great Barrier Reef is considered one of, if not the best fisheries for black marlin in the world. You'll find no shortage of fishing charters up and down the coast, willing to take you to them, but Cairns is probably THE spot to go if you want to access the best fishing. If marlin aren't your thing, check out the fishing for GTs (giant trevally), cod, barramundi and more.