Expert Fishing Advice for Saltwater Anglers

Saltwater Sport Fishing Hot Spots in the Winter Months


Don’t let the cold of winter put a damper on your fishing plans. And no, you do not have to go ice fishing dood!  There are plenty of opportunities to take advantage of exceptional fishing while immersing yourself into some of the most spectacular surroundings in the world to be enjoyed from both sea and land.  If you want to be close to home or looking to get as far away as you can and reel ‘em in dood!  

These five destinations scattered across the globe offer some of their best saltwater sport fishing conditions in the winter months, collectively, from December -May. Whether you are setting out to reel in a giant, trophy size Striped Marlin, or want to stock your freezer for the summer with Tuna, Snapper, Grouper, consider these options when planning your next winter angling adventure.

Florida, North America
Cold fronts coupled with northeast wind patterns yield excellent conditions off the coast of Miami, a popular sport-fishing destination throughout the year.  The waters around Miami are home to a surplus of varieties including Sailfish, King/Spanish Mackerel, Grouper, Mahi-Mahi, Snook, Snappers & Speckled Trout.

When conditions are right, Snook are also possible to lure in, though they are indeed harder to find in the winter.  Barracuda and Sharks are abundant and can provide a thrill in the midst of your day.

The Florida Keys offers world-class fishing all year and the winter months are a great time to visit.  The weather conditions play a large role in what is likely biting where and when regardless of where you go to reel ‘em in.  In the “Keys”, a shift in the weather may close the door on your chances of encountering some species, however another door most always opens right behind it, and it is often wide. 

Be sure to bring your “A” game and a strong back in the event you hook a Swordfish while trolling above the deep.  The inshore shallow waters, around 25’, have pleasantly surprised many anglers w Sailfish bites in addition to Dolphin (Mahi-Mahi), Wahoo, Kingfish, Tuna, Bonito & Spanish action. 

Unless you are a professional or an experienced captain yourself, the best chance for you to have the catch of your lifetime in the Keys is to let them be your guide.  Book a charter.  It takes a genuine expert to know the waters, the weather, the winds, tackle, bait rigging and where the best chances are for you to reel ‘em in dood! Don’t be that guy who knows it all and at the end of the day comes back empty handed, sunburnt and making excuses for his unsuccessful day.

If you are heading to Florida, the “Florida Saltwater Recreational Fishing Regulations” booklet is a great resource to learn about Florida fishing laws and regulations (created by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission).  It is a terrific resource that is published twice a year, January and July.  For the most up to date information you should defer to Florida’s official authority on fishing laws, The Florida Administrative Code.

Panama, Central America The meaning of the word Panama is “abundance of fish,” earning its name in large part from it’s Tuna Coast.  The Tuna Coast is famous for offering some of the best fishing spots in the world and is home to an enormous variety of species.

January is the start of the busy season on the Tuna Coast.  Traditionally, the dry season is beginning in Panama at this time as strong winds from the north yield choppy seas and the water temperature is lowering.  With these winds come the first of the giant schools of Yellow fin Tuna. Black Marlin, Dorado & Pacific Sailfish are frequently caught during this month also.

February – March conditions are similar to those in January, and the fish that began to arrive in January are even more abundant!  Black Marlin migrate along Panama’s Azuero Peninsula, Wahoo and Dorado swarm The Tuna Coast.  Inshore fishing is active for Cubera, Snapper & Rooster.

The most popular month for big game Blue, Black & Striped Marlin in Panama is February, although they are prevalent all year.

New Zealand, Oceania 

New Zealand might not have large quantities of fish like other popular saltwater game fishing destinations, but size makes up for the numbers.  The huge Striped Marlin caught here in New Zealand provide a very unique fishery, the most outstanding months are December- May.

Three Kings Islands are the home to the largest Striped Marlin in the world!  Year after year, 300-pounders are reeled in on a regular basis with some topping the 400-mark.  Bottom line, New Zealand is the place for those in search of a trophy Striped Marlin especially during the months of December – May.

Ecuador, South America

Ecuador’s top charter destinations are Galapagos, Manta, Esmeraldas & Salinas.

The opportunity in Esmeraldas is enormous!  This northern province is one of the less frequently places that is fished in Ecuador, and is virtually untouched by the lines of sport fisherman.  This is a great destination all year. 

Manta has been spotlighted in recent years for Black/Striped Marlin, Sailfish, Grouper, & Tuna, particularly in February.

Fiji, Oceania 

There are plenty of tropical game fish caught in Fiji year round however some have peak seasons in the winter months when they are caught far more frequently.  Anglers who would like to reel in Dogtooth Tuna, Bluefin Trevallay & Giant Trevallay (GT) should make plans to visit in Fiji’s summer months (January – April).  This is when the conditions are typically the best.  December – March are best for Barracuda.

You certainly have a shot at catching Blue Marlin here throughout the year.  The largest of this big game are typically caught in the months of February – April during the summer Yellow fin Tuna run.  Dogtooth Tuna, Bluefin Trevally and Giant Trevally (GT) are in season all year in Fiji, January – April are the best months

No matter where you fish and what species you choose to target there’s nothing more valuable than local knowledge.  There are no charts gadgets that can keep up with constantly changing distribution of sand.  If you’re unfamiliar with the waters wherever you end up, talk to the tackle shop owners and their employees as well as those working in bait shops and on piers.  A small tip from a local can make a big difference.  There are anglers wherever you go who are happy to share updated reports and tips that can make or break the chances of you reeling ‘em in dood


Matt Spector

Over the last 25 years, Captain Matt Spector has established himself as an expert fisherman and Captain. He's taught thousands how to be safer, smarter, more efficient anglers! There's simply nothing more satisfying than sharing a lesson, recommendation or tip that helps another angler be able to yell...GottemonDood!

Captain Matt

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