The first part of the winter in the northern states is novel and charming. The middle months of December through February are barely tolerable, but when March rolls in like a lion, anglers that are buried in snow are losing their sanity. Cabin fever cures, like the ones we suggested in January, are no longer enough. Here are ten spring break fishing trips you can take to escape the end-of-winter blues. From largemouth bass to tarpon to tuna, we've got the perfect adventure for you, because T.S. Eliot was right about April, it is the cruelest month.
For the best spring break fishing escapes, click here.
Photo: Mike Bailey took this monster striper on the Potomac in April.
Giant Maryland Striped Bass
The striper season may not be open in the Chesapeake until April, but you can still catch and release the big spawning fish that fill the bay in late March, in both the Bay and rivers like the Potomac.
What to Target: Spawning striped bass. There are few places where you'll have a better shot at 30-, 40- and 50-pound striped bass than in the early spring in the Chesapeake. These fish are fattening up for their long trek north, but they haven't left just yet.
How to Fish: Check the most current regulations, as some baits, such as eels, are illegal to use during this time of year. However, traditional striper lures that work along the coast, including big swimbaits, plugs, jigs and baitfish imitations will all take big bass in the Bay. Find out the most prevalent bait in the area that you're fishing and have an imitation on hand. Sebile Lures makes a wide variety of realistic hard and soft-plastic baits that have taken their share of big bass. Hint: The bass are likely gorging on herring in the spring.
Off-the-Water Drinks: The Boatyard Bar and Grill in Annapolis throws a party on the opening day of striper season every year. How can you beat that? Get an oyster shooter and crab cakes after landing your striped bass. By the way, you'll want to start calling them ‘rockfish' once you get south of Jersey.
Photo courtesy Rick Bach
South Padre Specks
When waters are still relatively cool in the bays along the Gulf Coast of Texas, big sea trout can be caught close to shore. This is just more proof that Texas offers some of the best opportunities both in the sweet and saltwater.
What to Target: Speckled Sea Trout. These voracious, toothy fish are quick to take a lure, live bait or a fly. Before the Texas summer begins to push them off to cooler waters, they are more accessible to wading fishermen and anglers with smaller boats.
How to Fish: The Zara Spook might be the most famous trout lure of all time. Worked with the classic walk-the-dog presentation, the topwater lure can be nearly irresistible to big trout, which are called "gators" down in Texas (not to be confused with the real ones, which will also hit a Zara Spook as I've learned).
Off-the-Water Drinks: Applebees! Just kidding, but there is one there if that's your thing. The Padre Island Brewing Company has been making their own beer on the Island since 1995, so you can wash down your burger with something uniquely Texan. Try the Speckled Trout Stout.
Photo: Jeff Debuys and Kathy Needham show of a 337-pound fish caught with Point Loma Sportfishing Charters.
Go Long in California
This time of year it's all about giant yellowfin tuna. Fish pushing 200 pounds are not uncommon and it's only a matter of time before the magic 400-pound mark is broken again. The long-range trips are expensive but the experience is unforgettable. Book well in advance to guarantee yourself a spot.
What to Target: Part of the fun is fishing for your own bait, which mostly consists of mackerel, although the crew will have bait on board. Yellowfin tuna of giant proportions are the primary target in this fishery, but shorter trips for yellowtails are also available if you're not up for a half-month adventure.
How to Fish: Hold on! These giant tuna aren't for the novice angler. The crew will be more than accommodating to help you have a shot at perhaps the largest fish you'll ever land. The Red Rooster is one of the more popular long-range boats off the California coast, but Point Loma Sportfishing offers a variety of charter options as well.
Off-the-Water Drinks: Point Loma Seafoods, located right near the Point Loma Pier. You can get a 32 oz. beer for less than eight bucks and Ahi tuna sashimi. It's a win-win.
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