Dr. Nick Rauber's Top 5 Memorable Fishing Destinations
- Florida – The Sunshine State has really grown on me in the last few years to take the number one spot for fishing outside of Louisiana. It’s a beautiful state, with great resources that are well managed and great conservation programs. A couple of years ago, I got the opportunity to go fishing for giant gator trout in the Indian River with Capt. Peter Deeks. Growing up fishing around the Louisiana coast, you always have that longing to hook into a big speck. I always said if I caught a trout over seven pounds, I would mount it, but that never happened at home. Then I got the chance to go with Capt. Deeks and the first day, I landed an eight and a half pound trout. I also netted a giant snook, 46-inches, the same day. Two fish of a lifetime, then add in the giant Atlantic sailfish and peacock bass which we caught in Fort Lauderdale the day before, and this was the most epic three-day trip I have ever had. My buddy, Ross Wolkart, and I went back with Capt. Deeks this February and hooked into a bunch more seven-plus pound trout, some pushing upwards of 9.5-pounds, and an even bigger snook than the year before. We also just got back from tarpon fishing in Tampa Bay with Capt. Jon Cannon of Highliner Charters. Capt. Jon is a spider monkey on his boat, constantly jumping around checking lines, throwing out lines, jumping up to the tower, and round and round. We had an absolutely great trip. This guy does not stop the entire time, giving 120%. We caught bait or all sorts, tried every presentation of different baits, until we finally got the first tarpon to bite. We knew it was probably going to be a little tough on the waning moon, but we stayed persistent. Once that first tarpon hit, the other two lines screamed as well, and we had a triple hook up. We landed all three, all our first tarpon. It was quite a memorable achievement. We jumped a couple more tarpon, touched the leader line on three more, and boat sided one more. It was everything I expected from a dream tarpon trip and more. After we hammered the tarpon, we headed to some flats off the channel and immediately found a big school of permit. We troll motored into place; Capt. Jon launched a small free-lined crab in front of the school. It took about two seconds before our rods were doubled over. What a fantastic trip! It added to my love for Florida fishing, therefore making Florida my top place to fish.
Yukon – I often get asked, “What has been your favorite trip of all the hunting and fishing trips you’ve been on?” To pick one is hard because they are all amazing experiences, but the 14-day backpack sheep and moose hunt in the Yukon would have the number one spot. After two days of travel to the Yukon, the last leg was a two-hour floatplane ride into the middle of nowhere. We landed on this magnificent lake, Fyre Lake, where I met my guide, Jesse, and our horses. This was truly an expedition like no other. Jesse and I immediately bonded and are still friends to this day. After settling in, Jesse asked if I wanted to go fishing for dinner. Well, of course, I did. We had rations of canned sardines, kippers, and granola, but fresh fish was a must. There was a very small dingy-sized boat with a two-horsepower motor on the lake. We slowly made our way to the end of the lake where these white rapids dumped into a fast flowing river. We threw out the homemade anchor and sat there catching arctic grayling on every cast. I had never seen a grayling in person before; but they are beautiful fish, almost like rainbow trout, with a large sweeping dorsal fin. Knowing these fish had probably never seen a lure before, it was amazing how aggressive they were. We brought a handful of grayling back to our tents, got our little Coleman stove cranked up, and sautéed these fillets in oil, salt and pepper with the one pan we carried in our backpack. I remember like it was yesterday, the feeling of total remoteness. It was a sense of freedom from everything we know and rely on every day in our busy lives. You are responsible for every decision, just you and nature. This was the most remote and most memorable trip I have ever been on.
Belize – The idea of traveling on a Panga boat through the mangrove-laden waterways of the Belizean jungles had always been something I wanted to do. About eight years ago, I got the opportunity to get down there and experience exactly that. My buddy Clint and I headed to Belize, stayed in a jungle lodge, and went with the locals on a true homemade Panga boat in some of the most pristine water I had ever seen. This was an experience of the locals, not a trophy-fishing trip. Our guide had bare minimal gear in the boat, no shoes, a handful of homegrown vegetables, and tin foil in a milk crate. We navigated picturesque waterways from the interior jungle to a big open body of water, where we pulled the boat into the mangroves. Absolute gin clear water, white sand, and scattered palm trees dotted the coast amongst the mangroves. We caught a smattering of different fish hanging in the mouth of this drainage, hoping for a juvenile tarpon, which never happened. Our guide would save the occasional small jack crevalle and barracuda. He would bleed them out in the back of the boat, and then just leave them on the floor, no ice chests. Around lunch, he began cutting up a couple of the small jacks. He walked into the entangled roots of the mangroves to get to a little clearing of sand, where he gathered some sticks and made a small fire. He sliced some tomatoes, onions and peppers, put them with the cut jack fish, wrapped that in tin foil, then placed it directly on the coals. A few minutes later, we were eating a great lunch with our local guide on a beach in the middle of nowhere with not a single person or boat in sight. Feeling like I was living in the pages of a National Geographic magazine, I remember sitting there thinking, “This is the most picturesque trip I have ever been on.”
Arctic Circle – The Arctic is an amazingly beautiful, desolate landscape. When it isn’t totally frozen, there’s crystal clear water, tucked in snow-covered rolling hills, with roaming musk ox, Arctic grizzlies, wolves howling through the night, migrating caribou, nesting waterfowl, ptarmigan, grouse, foxes, and majestic swans. On my latest trip up to far northern Quebec inside the Circle chasing caribou, we got the opportunity to see the northern lights (aurora borealis). The morning after the amazing light show, I got to go out with my native guide who was from the local Inuit community. He asked if I wanted to go fishing and of course, I said yes. We loaded up in a beat-up aluminum Jon boat with a small outboard. He had a couple of old rods and reels, and some spoons we found hanging from the sides of a skinning shed. He knew exactly where to find submerged ledges around certain points jutting out into the water. We slow trolled, holding the rods out to each side, while looking over the hillsides and watching migrating caribou. This was my first experience catching lake trout. As we trolled, my guide knew exactly when the bite was about to happen. There were a couple of guys from the Boston area who were in my hunting party, and one guy, Pete, had come fishing with us. Pete and I became good friends in a short period of time, and this fishing excursion was just a great ending to a great trip. Our guide would explain how sacred the animals and fish were to his people. He would explain back thousands of years of what the fish, caribou, polar bears, and musk oxen meant to his indigenous roots. He also explained how much of an honor it was to share his land and game with us in these moments. So, for me, this was one of the most spiritual, sacred trips I have experienced.
South Africa – Most would assume I fished for giant tuna or marlin off the southern tip or maybe Zambezi tiger fish up north, but this was very different. My first safari over to South Africa, I stayed in the middle of the Limpopo region and got to really see how the people lived. This was the most resourcefulness I had ever seen. It doesn’t rain much, but it did on day four of the safari; and the two native trackers I was with, ran to each of the puddles we found and caught tiny fish in several watering holes. They spoke rapidly in Afrikaans to each other and later explained how it was a delicacy to get these fish. They scooped the tiny fish with their hands and ran to put them in these big cement water-holding tanks that were scattered around. Next, they would feed these hatchlings for several months from scraps left over from the skinning shed. I was so intrigued, I started helping catch the fish, handful by handful, running them to the tanks. They showed me the whole process, then brought me to some tanks where the fish were ready to take out and feed their families. We used hand lines of string and tiny hooks to catch these fish, what looked like perch that were at biggest, four inches long. They would only take a few, only what was needed to eat for that day. They were basically growing a rotational crop in different tanks to allow them to have fresh fish, for which I got the opportunity to go fishing. This was by far the most resourceful fishing I have ever taken part in.