The long winter is coming to an end and with that, thoughts turn to boating and fishing. Although some parts of the country may still be shrouded in sketchy weather, here are five destinations where the fish are biting in the early season.
1. St. Michaels, Maryland
A tourist attraction in itself, St. Michaels is also a fishing haven that calls to anglers from all around the Chesapeake Bay. From April to November, visit Maryland’s eastern shore to fish for striped bass, rockfish, and crooker. After an early morning of fishing, tie up at the Crab Claw waterfront restaurant for a quick lunch or visit the spectacular Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum. There’s so much to do in the area, you can bring your boat for a long weekend and grab a guest slip at one of the many nearby marinas including Lowes Wharf in Sherwood, OYA in Oxford, and Port Annapolis and Eastport Yacht Center across the Bay in the state’s capital of Annapolis.
2. Panama City Beach, Florida
A world-class fishing location, Panama City Beach in the panhandle of Florida is a must-visit destination beginning in mid-March when numerous species of fish migrate through the area. Look for pompano, jacks, and cobia in the waters along the iconic 27 miles of beach. There is world-class angling in the shallow mangrove habitats along the warm shorelines and backwaters. Pack plenty of live bait and enjoy the weather and calm seas even in early spring. For multiple days of fishing fun, tuck your boat into guest slip in one of the many local marinas including CSS Yacht Basin, or Treasure Island and Emerald Harbor marinas.
3. Gulf Shores, Alabama
A small town with a big beach, Alabama’s Gulf Shores stretches 23 miles along the coast with nearly 17,000 reefs both inshore and offshore. Bring tackle for red fish, speckled trout, snapper, kingfish and amberjack. Cobia are seasonal and plentiful in the spring. Offshore, you’ll find yellowfin tuna, mahi mahi, wahoo and big game fish. You can pier, shore and kayak fish in these waters but you can also bring your own boat and snag a guest slip in one of the many marinas including Saunders Yacht Works, or The Wharf and Reel Surprise marinas, both in Orange Beach.
4. Outer Banks, North Carolina
The Outer Banks of North Carolina are legendary for their fishing. Although cold water and biting winds can last until May in these barrier islands, hardy anglers are rewarded with unique catches of giant bluefish. Hatteras Island is the indisputable angling epicenter and the area warms up into the 60s and 70s in April and May. Look for king mackerel, big-eye tuna, wahoo and 50-pound red drum or troll for speckled trout and flounder. You can beat the summer crowds by coming to fish in the early season when guest slips are more available in places like Whittaker Creek Yacht Harbor, and Hatteras Creek and Oriental Harbor marinas.
5. Florida Keys, Florida
The Keys are a year-round fishing destination, so long as you dodge the hurricanes of summer. Spring is ideal with temps reaching the mid-80s in April and May. These waters are teeming with all kinds of species. Reef fishing yields mutton snapper, kingfish, yellowfin tuna, mackerel and jacks. The month of May brings great flats fishing for tarpon, snook, and bonefish. Offshore angling will have you hunting for mahi mahi, tuna, amberjack, barracuda, bonito and wahoo. Anglers can stay busy for a week or more and there are plenty of guest slips along the island chain in beautiful marinas including Stock Island Yacht Club, Marlin Bay Resort and Marina, and Sunset Marina in Key West.
Why wait until summer to cast a line? Check out one of the great spring destinations above, reserve guest moorage via Snag-a-Slip and get a jump on the angling season because we’re so done with winter.