Written by Jo Morgan
If you’re reading an article on sport fishing, you don’t need to hear about the exhilaration and the camaraderie out on the water, or the sucker-punch disappointment of losing the big one after fighting it for hours. You almost certainly know it all too well.
The real question is, how far afield are you willing to go to battle these leviathans of the ocean? How many of the world’s best sport-fishing destinations have you ticked off your bucket list?
Most importantly, have you ever done it in style on a sport-fishing superyacht charter?
Whether you’re hunting for giant black marlin, mighty bluefin tuna or Pacific sailfish, here’s the where and how of making everyone (yes, even that eye-rolling teenager) have the time of their lives.
And when it comes to choosing the ideal yacht for a game-fishing yacht charter, you’re spoilt for choice.
Five incredible destinations and a whole world of fish await.
If it’s just you on a trip with your buddies, then a standalone luxury sport fisher is a great charter option, allowing you to be out chasing fish at a moment’s notice while still enjoying many of the yachting comforts.
But if you’re looking for a bit more space on board and want to ramp up the luxury level a few notches, then a superyacht with an accompanying sport-fisher chase boat ticks all the boxes, allowing you to head out for epic days of deep-sea fishing while the rest of your group entertains themselves back on the mothership. Returning to the yacht’s palatial staterooms and private chef after a brilliant day’s fishing isn’t half-bad, either.
Some superyachts, such as M/Y Beluga and also M/Y Spirit on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, have their own dedicated sport-fishing yacht included in the charter price. Other charter yachts collaborate with local game fishing operators, who come out to the yacht early each day to take you out on their specially equipped vessel.
Whether you opt to charter a sport fisher, a superyacht with sport-fisher chase boat or a superyacht working in collaboration with local operators, all three options offer a superb luxury sport-fishing experience. However, if you’re chartering a superyacht over a designated sport-fishing yacht, it’s essential that the yacht and crew have extensive experience in running fishing-centred charters.
Don’t overlook the importance of local know-how: a yacht can have all the gear in the world, but nothing substitutes for local knowledge of the best fishing spots and ideal conditions.
Other things to look for are a crew that shares your passion for fishing, a good freezer and cold-storage facilities plus top-of-the-range fishing equipment.
Bob Nabal, Captain of the 37-metre yacht Beluga and its 34-foot Assegai sport-fishing chase boat, knows the importance of the right setup from his years of running sport-fishing charters in the Great Barrier Reef and beyond.
“Experienced crew and tackle are vital when it comes to sport-fishing,” he says. “The rigging and tackle, vessel setup as well as fishing techniques are meticulously finetuned when the right team are on board, ensuring you maximise your opportunities and gain life-long knowledge for future adventures.”
Finally, don’t forget that all-important final piece of the puzzle: a fantastic seafood chef who is adept at cleaning and filleting fish. There’s little better than sitting down for dinner on the deck of a superyacht and tucking into juicy, perfectly grilled fish that you pulled from the ocean hours earlier.
Let’s face it, if you’re chartering a yacht with a group of family and friends, there’s a good chance some of them won’t share your 24-hour-a-day, all-consuming passion for big game fishing. There’s no arguing with such philistines, which is why the destinations featured also stand as exceptional charter destinations in their own right, with a range of adventure, water-sport and luxury activities on offer to keep everybody happy.
And even if the fish stop biting or the sun goes down, no-one can disagree that it’s nice to mix things up with some fine-dining, diving or shore-based adventures.
Here are five destinations guaranteed to keep everyone happy.
GREAT BARRIER REEF
In the balmy months between September and December, game fishermen from all over the world converge on the Great Barrier Reef to hook one of the greatest prizes in the angling universe: the mighty giant black marlin.
Weighing in at up to a whopping 750 kilograms and able to swim up to 130 kilometres an hour, this astonishing beast will test your mettle. There’s no better place to do it either than the stretch of sea between the tropical North Queensland city of Cairns and the luxury resort of Lizard Island, where a staggering 70 percent of giant black marlin in the world are hunted down, using a combination of 30-pound baits, state-of-the-art equipment and good old-fashioned muscle power.
The highlight of the season is the Black Marlin Classic Fishing Tournament in October on Lizard Island, where anglers compete to join the prestigious 1,000 Pound Club over seven days of intense fishing action. And just in case you tire of chasing down giant black marlin, the Great Barrier Reef also offers up plenty of other game fish and reef fish to keep your line singing.
Captain Bob of Beluga believes that the sport-fishing out of Cairns is like nowhere else on earth: “The Great Barrier Reef is vast, somewhat remote and a true oceanic experience,” he says.
Approximately 2,300 kilometres of reef systems provide endless opportunity to target a vast array of fish species.
“Cast poppers on the reef’s edge for giant trevally and monster coral trout, jig and deep drop for large dogtooth tuna and troll for black marlin, sailfish, wahoo, mahi-mahi and tuna. Our charter guests have been witness to the explosive jumps of a 1,000-pound giant black marlin while fishing from our chase boat and needless to say, they’re hooked!”
When you’re not fishing
Cruising grounds don’t come much better than the Great Barrier Reef. The tropical city of Cairns is an adventure gateway for young and old, whether you’re diving among the monster cod at Cod Hole, taking a helicopter across Heart Reef or heading up the coast to visit the boutiques and fine-dining restaurants of Palm Cove and Port Douglas.
Kids will go berserk as they go croc-spotting up the Daintree River, zip-line across the rainforest canopy or cuddle a koala at Kuranda, while adults will find seventh heaven at Lizard Island Resort and day spas hidden in the rainforest. With recent regulation changes opening up the reef to yachts up to 70 metres, the Great Barrier Reef is the ultimate destination for all your sport-fishing, diving and luxury adventures.
CABO SAN LUCAS, MEXICO
As you fly across the spectacular desert landscapes of Baja California and down into Cabo San Lucas, you’ll be chomping at the bit to get out on the water. Unlike most big game fishing destinations that are located a fair way offshore, here it won’t take long to arrive at your hunting grounds: the sport-fishing mayhem starts just a couple of miles off the Cabo coastline, where the waters of the Pacific Ocean and Sea of Cortez meet.
Nicknamed the Marlin Capital of the World, Cabo’s marlin bite all year-round, with the striped marlin favouring the cooler months and the blue and black arriving in warmer weather.
This is a place to make your personal records, whether it’s hitting the Grand Slam of five billfish in a day or nabbing a 200-pound striped marlin.
Impressive black and blue marlin are also up for grabs, as well as dorado, wahoo, swordfish and yellowfin tuna. Home of the famous Golden Gate Bank, the Gordo Banks and the Finger Bank, Cabo is ground zero for the serious fisherman in Central America. Competition is fierce, the legends epic and the parties wild in this good-time, sport-fishing-mad town.
If you’re after the glory, then there are tournaments aplenty around Cabo from June through to November. The big daddy, however, is Bisbee’s Black and Blue each October, also known as the Superbowl of Sport Fishing, which holds the record of the richest tournament on earth with a staggering US$4.165 million payout in 2006. You will, of course, need a pretty penny to compete, though.
When you’re not fishing
Cabo San Lucas is a stunning yachting playground where the aquamarine sea laps up against red desert sand and magnificent natural archways with giant cacti guarding the rocky coast. The amazing fishing isn’t all there is going on in the water, with whale watching, surfing, diving and snorkelling also on offer.
Onshore, keep busy by zip-lining through canyons, quad-biking across the desert dunes and hiking the rugged Sierra de la Laguna mountains. When you’ve had enough exploring, join the party back in Cabo San Lucas, where fine-dining restaurants and lively bars create an incredible nightlife under the stars.
THE ABACOS, BAHAMAS
Reel in the big ones on a sport-fishing charter in the Abacos Islands, where Treasure Cay, Walkers Cay, Marsh Harbour and Green Turtle Cay are local hotspots for landing record catches of marlin, sailfish and tuna. White marlin and dolphin cruise the deeps from April and May, before blue marlin, yellowfin, and blackfin make an appearance through to July, peaking after the first full moon in June.
You may even be lucky enough to snare one of the bluefin tuna sometimes spotted off the Abacos, as three lucky fishermen did in 2003 when they managed the bizarre feat of hooking a trio of bluefin simultaneously, including a record-breaking one at 1,058 pounds.
For wahoo, you’ll want to time your visit for winter or early spring, making an Abacos fishing trip a heavenly escape from the icy northern winter. And while we’re here to talk about big game fishing, it would be remiss not to mention the pretty incredible standard of reef fishing to be had in the Abacos, as well as the superb bonefishing available in the sunlit shallows.
When it’s time to return to port after an exhilarating day’s fishing, there’s an impressive range of marinas throughout the 120-mile-long chain of islands, with the largest, Marsh Harbour Marina, accommodating yachts up to 200 feet.
Tournaments dot the summer calendar, including the exclusive invite-only Custom Shootout and the long-running Bahamas Billfish Tournament with its Million Dollar Marlin prize.
When you’re not fishing
While there is blistering game fishing to be had in other parts of the Bahamas (most notably in Hemingway’s old stomping ground of Bimini), the Abacos wins its place on this list for its varied cruising grounds and range of activities, from swanky golf courses to laid-back beach bars and colourful Bahamian towns with candy-striped lighthouses.
Naturally, with all the abundant sea life there is some incredible diving and snorkelling on offer, as well as all the blissful beach pursuits a person can dream of, whether that’s horse riding along the surf’s edge or just hanging out in a hammock over the sugar-white sands.
QUEPOS, COSTA RICA
If you’re in the mood for a fight then head to Quepos in Costa Rica, where you’ll have a battle on your hands as you haul in world-class blue marlin, mahi-mahi, yellowfin tuna and immense Pacific sailfish. Known as one of the world’s best game fishing locations, Quepos in North Puntarenas is booming, with the Marina Pez Vela accommodating a host of sport-fishers and superyachts up to 200 feet.
One luxury charter sport-fisher operating out of Quepos is the 70-foot M/Y Grand Duke, equipped with US$400,000 of upgrades including a tuna tower and tournament rigging. Denison Yachting charter broker Alex Clarke has been fortunate enough to go out fishing with the crew and says, “They have a world-class captain in James Brown, and the guys working the cockpit are epic. They once landed 83 sails in a 24 hour period,” he says.
What’s great about Quepos is that there are never any crowds, so you are almost guaranteed to be out there with little competition.
You can go inshore for rooster, snapper or snook, head out around seven miles for sails or a little further still for the marlin bite. The options are fast, and you can even hit all three in a long day.”
If you want to test your skills against the best, you should set your course for Quepos each April/May, when the Offshore World Championship kicks off, with 51 teams from 30 countries battling it out for bragging rights and huge prizes.
When you’re not fishing
The best yachting destinations have a little bit of everything, and Quepos is no different. The big draw of Quepos (apart from the fishing of course) is that it is right on the doorstep of the stunning Manuel Antonio National Park, where the rainforest slopes down to stunning white sand beaches and chattering monkeys, toucans and dopey sloths hang about in branches overhanging the turquoise sea.
Surfing, diving and whale-watching offer diversions from the fishing for those who want it, while back in town there are plenty of upscale restaurants and shops to indulge in. Luxury eco-lodges are dotted along the jungle-clad coast, while further afield Costa Rica’s volcanoes, cloud forests and colonial towns beg to be explored.
The sport-fishing in the Seychelles is spectacular, whether you’re trawling for sailfish, tuna, dorado, wahoo or tuna on the granite plateau of the inner islands, or heading out past the drop-off, where blue and black marlin cruise in waters up to 2,000 metres deep. Around 50 percent of the Seychelles’ waters are marine reserves, creating an extraordinary bounty of fish for the visiting angler.
October to May is the prime time for game fishing in the Seychelles, corresponding nicely with the yachting winter season. The further out you travel from the inner islands, the more virgin fishing grounds you’ll encounter.
Because most superyachts cross from the Mediterranean for the winter rather than being based in the Seychelles year-round, it’s common for charter superyachts in the Seychelles to utilise one of the local sportfishing operators to work in tandem with them during their charter, so that guests have the full game fishing experience led by local experts.
A1 Fishing is a local sportfishing specialist operating out of Mahe’s luxurious Eden Island Marina, while AGT run out of Praslin. Eden Island Marina is also the base for the numerous sport fishing tournaments that take place in the Seychelles each year, including the prestigious Seychelles Big Game Classic.
When you’re not fishing
If you want to feel like you’ve fallen headlong into the glossy pages of a Condé Nast publication, then you’ve come to the right place. The Seychelles is a visual masterpiece, with huge granite boulders shading powder-soft beaches and giant tortoises lumbering through the rainforest. Luxury spa hotels beckon from the cool green hills and the vast indigenous coco de mer coconut palms wave in the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Vallée de Mai.
From living the high life on the yacht to joining a cheerful game of locals’ cricket on a picture-perfect beach, the Seychelles is enough to convince you that there’s more to life than just fishing.
Luckily, the fishing is out of this world, so you’ll never have to choose.
For further information on cruising, yacht agents and captains advice, head to Great Southern Route Superyacht Directory