Image: Venice, Louisiana
John N. Felsher
At the mouth of the Mississippi River, the town of Venice is the departure point for one of the most diverse fishing environments on the planet. "It's literally possible to fish for anything from bluegill to blue marlin in the same day," said John Felsher, the managing editor at Sport Fishing magazine.
updated 10/1/2007 4:53:27 PM ET 2007-10-01T20:53:27

Deep in the jungles of Suriname, on a wild bend of the Courantyne River, Larry Dahlberg hooked a literal monster beneath his boat. "It hit like a freight train — WHAM! — and I pulled for all my life," said Dahlberg, the 57-year-old host of television's "The Hunt for Big Fish."

What ensued was the greatest fish battle of Dahlberg's career, a 12-minute tug-of-war against a catfish nearly nine feet long and as big around as a barrel. It shot upstream, spinning Dahlberg's boat, towing the crew and loaded craft several meters against the current. "I wasn't sure what was down there," Dahlberg said.

When he finally landed the beast — a 396-pound giant catfish — the fight was far from over. Dahlberg's partner, attempting to steady the flailing creature, suffered a dislocated shoulder at the shake of the fish's head. "Everyone just screamed "Oh my God!" Dahlberg said.

The great drama of a fish story — rods arcing, reels spinning, feet bracing on bulkhead walls — gains currency as the size of the fish grows. Indeed, the greatest fish tales ever told come back from fights with marlin and tuna, or swordfish leaping wildly out of ocean waves (think Hemingway and "The Old Man and the Sea.")

For this story we polled 10 veteran pursuers of big fish to pick their top destination to cast and troll for beasts of the deep. The scaly, snaggletoothed swimmers dwell in jungle waters, lakes and deep oceans alike, leaping, cutting wakes, sweeping down, and sometimes swallowing a hook to fight.

Take the East Cape of Mexico's Baja California Peninsula, where Kip Adam, owner of the guide company World's Best Big Game Fishing Inc. of Oakland, Calif., has caught sailfish and striped marlin respectively at 120 and 200 pounds.

Adam first fished off Baja California in 1978 on a trip with his father. He now guides the waters, motoring clients to cast for tuna, roosterfish or big bull dorados.

But blue marlin — which are among the most sought-after fish species on the planet — are the name of the game on the East Cape, according to Adam, who's battled with 250-pounders, and won.

Image: Isla Vieques, Puerto Rico
Six miles off the eastern end of Puerto Rico is Isla Vieques, an old United States Navy bombing range, part of which was recently reclaimed as Vieques National Wildlife Refuge.
Matt Straw, an editor at In-Fisherman magazine from Brainerd, Minn., prefers the Columbia River in the Pacific Northwest, where he's caught 8-foot-long white sturgeon, the biggest fish species on the continent.

"A large sturgeon makes many powerful runs before coming boatside, and they jump," said Straw. "Well, a sturgeon over eight feet in length doesn't really jump. It's more like felling a tree."

Straw, who's fished the Columbia since 1987, calls the river a "huge, dark, powerful and mysterious medium." The 1,243-mile waterway is the fourth largest in North America, dropping from a mountainous watershed and growing wide in its namesake gorge on the Oregon/Washington state border. "To know that fish twice the length of your body could be cruising beneath the hull in that deep, muscular flow gives one pause," Straw said.

Image: Mary River, Australia
Naomi K. Shapiro
Hit the Mary River at Shady Camp Reserve in the Northern Territory of Australia for barramundi, a scaly, pale grey-green fish species that grows to six feet.

Egypt, Australia, Costa Rica, and Canada's Northwest Territories made the list for big fish including tarpon, barramundi, yellowfin tuna, giant perch, and lake trout. Our panel — guides, fishing writers, outdoors-industry executives and professional casters — have literally trolled the planet in search of the biggest, baddest (and sometimes tastiest) aquatic beasts nature could dream up.


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