Top 5 Fishing Destinations

It’s no secret that I love to fish. Growing up in Oklahoma ensured that I was surrounded by fishing spots and stories of pond hopping from my friends. I can remember keeping a fishing pole and stink bait in the trunk of my first car, and then trying to explain the awful smell when my friends would ride with me. Snagging spoonbills was one of my favorite after-school activities. I preferred to fish instead of participating in organized sports.

Now that I’m an adult and fully capable of booking my own adventures, I spend a lot of time researching fishing locations around the world. Over the years I’ve been able to cross a few coveted destinations off of my bucket list, so I’ll count down the top five that I recommend you blow your budget on.

  • Bonefishing In Exuma

You’ve probably heard fishing fanatics say that bonefish are pound-for-pound the toughest fighting fish in the world. When you combine that with an 8 or 9 weight fly rod and sight casting on a bright sunny day in the islands, you’ll get fishing memories that will leave you speechless. I’ve had the privilege of fishing for them in a few different places, but there’s a reason why Exuma is the bonefish capital of the world. The fish are wild enough to be a challenge, but plentiful enough to give you chills. On a warm bright day you can see them glistening under the clear water while your local guide poles you around paradise. The first hookup will leave you wanting more. The last hookup will convince you to book your next trip without questioning it.

Lodging: Private homes can be rented at a fair price on the island.                                       Guide Service: exumabonefish.com (Drex Rolle)

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Julie McQueen with a bonefish from the waters of Exuma

  •  Redfish Anywhere

I know that some people think there are more exotic and exciting fish to go after, but fishing for reds is one of my favorites. I’ve fished for them in the Keys and also in Louisiana, and it’s fun for me because I like to watch their tails dancing on the water while they feed in the shallows. I get excited when I see them muddy up a little spot of water, and they’re plentiful year round for your fishing enjoyment. One of my favorite Redfishing trips was to Louisiana a couple years ago. We took our Hobie fishing kayaks out and absolutely wore the fish out. We also call them “red drum”, and they are usually marked with a black spot on their tail.

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Daniel Lee with a Louisiana Redfish

  • Fly Fishing for trout in an unnamed stream

We carry fly rods in the truck everywhere we go. Travel rods that break down are perfect for storing under the seat for those moments when you aren’t in a hurry to get somewhere and you find a perfect stream. As long as you have your fishing license, it’s easy to jump out of the truck and throw a fly into the current. Some of my best days have been spent creeping up on a bank and trying to catch tiny trout from streams that don’t have any names. I’m not very good at it, but I love the challenge of pulling little fish out of the water as it makes it’s way down from the mountains and to lower ground. Knowing that the little fish have probably never seen a human before just seems to make my day every time.

Recommended Streams: Little River Watershed in Gatlinburg TN,  Yampa River in Steamboat Springs CO, Elk River near Lynchburg TN

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Trout fishing on a fly rod in mountain streams in Tennessee

  • Tarpon Fishing In Boca Grande during Hill Tide

The largest fish I’ve ever caught was a tarpon. My second largest was also a tarpon. In Boca Grande we fish during Hill Tide every year. Not because it’s the only time to fish there for them, the fishing is actually good in that area for months out of the year. We like to go because it’s just incredible to see the thousands of tarpon making their way in and out of the Boca Grande Pass to feed on the crabs that have been flushed in. I love to see the boats lined up, the simultaneous hookups, people fighting fish that are bigger than some humans. My biggest one yet weighed in at 180lbs. I fought it for 45 minutes, which seemed like hours in the hot summer sun. We took photos, revived her and took her away from the shark infested waters of the pass, then watched as she swam back into her group. Catching tarpon is fun no matter where you go to do it. I just prefer the pilgrimage in June where I can watch people on every boat hooking up one these giants during a very special moon phase that we look forward to yearly.

Lodging: Gasparilla Inn (it’s a little pricey, but it’s also pet friendly…)                                      You can also rent a villa / apartment for a decent price on Boca Grande Island

Guide: Captain Steve Bowler

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Julie McQueen and Captain Steve Bowler with her 2015 tarpon in Boca Grande

  • Fly Fishing the Atikonak River in Newfoundland / Labrador at Riverkeep Lodge

A couple years ago we got an invite to fly to Newfoundland / Labrador for a fly-in fishing trip. It took us 4 flights to get to Wabash, then we loaded all of our gear onto a float plane that took us 100 miles away from the nearest civilization. Getting to Riverkeep Lodge was half of the fun. Fortunately, we arrived right in time for the caddis hatch. The Atikonak River has 5 species of fish, and they were all hungry. Using fly rods we managed to catch fish pretty much all day every day. The nights are short, so this gave us more than enough time to try every method. Trolling, roll casting, sight casting, blind casting… any way that we could think of to get fish on the line. By the end of our 6 day trip every piece of clothing we brought along had the distinct smell of fish slime. My hands were raw, my face was windburned, and I hopped back on the float plane knowing that I would be back for more someday.

Lodging: Riverkeep Lodge (family owned and operated by my friends Steve and Cathy Murray)  www.riverkeeplodge.com

Landlocked Salmon

This landlocked salmon was caught by Julie in the Atikonak River, Labrador.

 

I’m fortunate to be able to fish more often than most people. I know how lucky I am to have a job that requires that I go fishing a certain number of times per year. It brings me back to my roots in some ways, and it makes me realize that many of us end up back were we started in one way or another. Thankfully, I started off loving the outdoors from the edge of a pond with a fishing pole in my hand.

Stop Celebrating the Hate

Here is an all-to-common story for you…

Girl shoots animal. Girl posts pictures of animal on her social media. Girl gets harassed and threatened by anti hunting people. Girl screen grabs nasty comments, posts them on her social, and tags the anti hunter in the post. Comments ensue. The end, until it happens all over again tomorrow…

I’m not trying to sound like a salty old lady here, but I can remember the days when we were not so quick to use situations like this to get ahead. Is it right that anti hunters say these things and threaten us? No. Absolutely not. But these days it seems like hunters (mostly women) use this as a “right of passage” into the hunting industry. As soon as they begin receiving the threats and harassment from anti hunters, they post it quickly to let their peers know that they are now a famous hunting celebrity who is under attack.

I have some news for you… 

  1. It takes more than that to become a hunting celebrity.
  2. “Hunting Celebrity” is a silly term and shouldn’t even exist.
  3. People begin to lose sight of why they hunt, in exchange for the attention they receive for hunting and having a public platform.

Here is the flip side… I would stand guard outside of the home of any of my hunting peers to protect them from anti hunting clowns who want to harm them. I would serve happily as an armed guard to watch over a fellow hunter who was under attack. I’m not turning my back on anybody. But I am speaking out against hunters who just want the attention.

“Look at me! I got a death threat!” is becoming a common social media post. And I’m sad to say that most of them are females. We want ladies to feel more comfortable coming into the hunting world and feeling at ease around the campfire with us. We want more women and girls to join us in hunting for our food. But we don’t want to send the wrong message: That you have to have this drama to get recognized in the hunting industry, or that you have to post publicly every time someone says these terrible things to you.

Many of us get threats constantly that you never hear about. It’s not because we’re ashamed, scared, or embarrassed about it. It’s because we have better things to do than to glorify or magnify the situation. We go on about our day, we block, delete and ban the people who say those things, and we keep hunting and providing food for our families because it’s our way of life. Not because we get attention for doing so.

I know that in light of recent situations this might upset some people. But in my mind I’m envisioning a little girl who looks up to ladies who hunt and who have a large public platform. If I were a little girl I would be extremely intimidated by the death threats and terrible things that anti hunters say. Instead of posting these things and technically celebrating the hysteria that occurs in the comment sections below the post, maybe we should find a new way of approaching this. I don’t have all of the answers. I’m asking people to open their minds and collectively find a way to work through this for the benefit of our future hunters.

I’m not a salty old lady. I’ve just been toughened by the nasty things I’ve heard from anti hunters over the years, and I don’t want our youth, and the future of our hunting heritage, to become toughened too quickly. I want them to enjoy this culture of hunting, this wonderful privilege that we have, while they are still young and impressionable. They will learn all too soon about the negative and terrible things people will say to them in defense of the animals that we hunt. Let’s not celebrate that as a victory.