The Ten Most Incredible Fisheries I’ve Ever Experienced

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This Amberjack convinced me Virginia’s fishery belonged in the top ten.

We all have that bucket-list of places we’d love to fish, and it makes for some great winter conversation with fellow fishermen… because dreaming’s free. But what about the places we have been blessed enough to experience? It’s equally important to think about the water we’ve been fortunate enough to fish… and these are my the top ten that I’ve fished in my 29 years.


10. Montana Trout: Some will be shocked that this isn’t higher, but keep in mind I’m only talking about my personal experience, and I’ve only fished Montana in December. Still, fishing the Madison River with Fly Rod & Reel Editor Greg Thomas was a memory I’ll cherish forever. The most amazing part about Montana, for a kid from the East Coast, is the stunning beauty of the scenery you’re surrounded by.

9. Texas Border Bass: There’s no doubt that an element of danger adds some excitement to any fishery, and when you’re on the border lakes between Texas and Mexico, you’re in an area that’s been notoriously problematic for U.S. law enforcement, but that makes you all the more appreciative that you’re able to, with relative safety, pursue some of the U.S.’s largest bass right where the lower 48 ends.

8. Virginia AJsI have never fought any fish that left me as completely tired, worn and whipped as an amberjack off the coast of Virginia. That alone puts this fishery in the top ten.

7. South Carolina Sharks: There’s a guy named Tommy Scarborough who is a South Carolina legend. He’ll laugh hysterically while a South Carolina shark “Whoops your butt…”on light tackle, and that’s part of the fun

 6. Montauk Striped Bass: I cannot, nor will I try, to describe Montauk in all its funky awesomeness in a couple sentences. But it is the striped bass capital of everywhere.

5. New Orleans Redfish: Start a conversation with a Texan and a Louisiana fishermen about who has bigger redfish… and you’d better wear something bulletproof. But the fishing culture around the Big Easy where you’re chasing redfish in water that came sometimes barely cover their backs is one of America’s truly unique ones.

4. Seattle Salmon: Seattle gets a bad reputation for wet weather… but here’s the catch: That’s from people who’ve never fished there. Sure, it rains. And if you’re on the water when the silver salmon bite is on with a guy like Chris Senyohl,it can be pouring silvers and chum salmon. You’re a fisherman… how dry do you want to be?

3. Maine Salmon: Grand Lake Stream, Maine, is not the southern coastal part of the state that most New Englanders envision when they think “Maine,” and I promise you it’s not where most of those “Maine” stickers you see on the back of S.U.V.s come from. On GLS, you can wade crystal clear water and cast flies to landlocked atlantic salmon that will sit right in front of you, taunting you, while passing up your fly.

2. The Keys: The beauty of the Florida Keys defies description. Every day when you wake up and look at the water, it’s as though some part of hardened cynicism you’d developed along the way in life just melts. And the number of species you can potentially target on one given day is greater than almost anywhere else in the lower 48.

My cousin and I wading the Brewster flats in 2001.

1. The Brewster Flats, Cape Cod: Right on the elbow of the Cape, you can wade out almost a mile and cast light-tackle gear to striped bass that feed on one of the world’s largest tidal flats. The mile walk out is one of the most beautiful I’ve ever been lucky enough to transverse. Again, there’s some danger here… when the water floods the flat as the tide comes in, you’d better be high and dry. But the chance at connecting with a striped bass, on light tackle gear, hip-deep in the Atlantic, almost a mile from shore, is one that’s hard to come by anywhere else on the coast. (Disclaimer: Our entire enormous Irish Catholic family packed mini-vans and crammed into a rental house on the Cape for a few weeks each summer when I was growing up, so this one has some sentimental value, boosting it to number 1).


How to Live Without Walls

The Easiest Tent I've Ever Owned: Eastern Mountain Sports
The tents the guys make at Eastern Mountain Sports are ridiculously easy to assemble, this coming from a guy who could blow up a car trying to check the oil. I can put them together in minutes in the dark. If you’re looking for a new one, check EMS. And it’s worth noting I paid the full price for this one and am in no way affiliated.

Flipping through channels while hanging out with my inspiration, friend and grandmother while home between semesters at Emerson, I stumbled upon a show about “Tiny Houses” which sparked a conversation about exactly how much space a human being needs to survive. My grandmother, born in 1934, a woman who raised seven children to adulthood despite at times crippling poverty, had some stories to share about less-than-ideal housing, as you can probably imagine. But it reminded me of the 200 nights I spent living on the road for Fish America for Outdoor Life in 2010, many of which were spent living in my 2009 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited. So for any of you looking to take the road on an absolutely limited budget, here are some secrets I discovered:

10: Find friendly parking lots: There are some stores, and Wal-Mart is the most obvious, that have 24-hour traffic. In places like this you’re less likely to be noticed at odd hours of the night if your vehicle isn’t… say… in the driveway of a home you don’t own. Wal-Marts are handy too, because if you discover you’ve run out of, say… deodorant or toothpaste, you’re only a walk away from more.

9. Be an Early Riser: You’re not likely to get busted for loitering on public property at 6 a.m., when most of the world is asleep. Noon, however… is a different story. If the sun’s up, you should be too.

8. Get Tired: If you’ve ever had trouble falling asleep in a heated bedroom, a parking lot isn’t going to be more comforting. But if you push yourself each day to your physical limits, sleep will come to you before the engine even cools.

7. Stay Warm: Those super-warm sleeping bags at EMS might seem expensive before your trip, but if you’ve ever tried to fall asleep in an Idaho parking lot in December, you’ll know there’s nothing you wouldn’t pay in that moment for a few degrees of added warmth.

6. Pack the Vehicle Wisely: Clothes, blankets and jackets aren’t THAT uncomfortable to sleep on… tackle boxes ARE. When you’re packing the back of your Jeep or S.U.V., keep a “soft side,” and maintain it.

5. Plan ahead: Know where you’re going, and where you’ll be sleeping. When you’re tired at the end of a long day’s drive, you pick risky places to sleep.

4. Be Honest, and Polite: If you’re talking to a marina owner after a day’s fishing, ask nicely whether or not sleeping on site is a possibility. I’ve had many people offer me the space, if not a spare bedroom in their house, if I was just honest and kind. Marinas are great, too, because many have showering facilities on site.

3. Know your Public Land: In many places, especially out West, there are parks where you can camp for a small fee, and some are even free. If you investigate this situation prior to setting out, you can have a planned place to stay at the day’s end.

2. Eat Local: If you’re looking for grub at a restaurant, pick the local favorite instead of the Applebees. I’ve struck up a conversation with more restaurant owners or managers than I can count, and many offered space in the parking lot for my business. Don’t ask for the “soup with a side of a night’s rest,” though. Make it clear you’re there first and foremost for their business, and treat anything extra they offer as just that.

1. Check the surroundings before snoozing: See discarded needles on the ground or hear people screaming obscenities? Keep moving. This might seem like an obvious one, but before calling it a night… take a walk around the grounds, look for anything suspicious or scary, and be prepared to move. This is the time to be nervous, not when you’re half-awake wondering if that noise is a bird you’ve never heard before or someone pleading for help.