Whether it's the dramatic thrill of the hunt or the constant heave of the ocean, few sports are as exhilarating as deep-sea fishing -- even for anglers who have fished rivers for years. As the pastime has increased in popularity, a number of U.S. fishing outfitters have put together full-service (this means tackle is included), multi-night charters to some of the deepest water around. Here's a sampling.
Alaska Sea Adventures
Where: Petersburg, Alaska
With halibut the size of motorcycles and salmon that can weigh as much as small children, the Gulf of Alaska is a deep-sea fisherman's dream. Perhaps this is why the six-night, seven-day Silver Salmon Fishing excursion with Alaska Sea Adventures is one of the most popular fishing trips in the Northwest.
The adventure leaves from Petersburg, a small fishing town on the Inside Passage. Aboard the 60-foot M/V Alaska Adventurer, the crew heads west, powering through the whale-infested waters of the Icy Strait and into the gulf for some serious fishing. When the water's calm, the depths teem with all manner of sea life, from halibut to black cod. When the sea rages, the crew heads east to the passage, where salmon abound.
A gyro-stabilized fishing platform on the boat's aft deck is just a few steps from a comfortable salon, dining table, large freezer and a fully stocked refrigerator. Down below, four private staterooms, three bathrooms and two hot-water showers provide inn-quality accommodations.
Back on shore, take a day or two to explore Petersburg -- a town so obsessed with its Scandinavian heritage that some call it "Little Norway." Food options here are slim, but the Northern Lights Restaurant near the marina has the basics covered. After dinner, head to the Harbor Bar for a pint of -- what else? -- Alaskan Amber beer.
Andy Griffiths Charters
Where: Key West, Florida
When Highway 1 ends in Key West, FL, the only way to continue west is by boat. That's where Andy Griffiths Charters comes in handy. The outfitter runs two- and three-day overnight fishing charters from Key West to Dry Tortugas National Park.
Most of the fishing in the Tortugas revolves around coral reefs and shipwrecks. With bait supplied by the outfitter, guests angle their own rods for snapper, grouper, cobia, amberjack, kingfish, sharks and barracudas. Sometimes, in up to 200 feet of water, the captains choose to troll, in an attempt to catch mahi mahi, sailfish, wahoo or tuna.
All six of Griffiths's 43-foot motor vessels sleep only six, making the bunk-style accommodations seem spacious for those onboard. A large galley (which guests must use on their own) boasts a coffee maker, toaster, microwave oven, gas stove and electric frying pan. There's also a large kitchen table and spacious bathroom; the boat carries adequate fresh water for showers once a day.
After the trip, rent snorkel gear and dive the vibrant Key West Marine Park, where even first-timers can spot colorful tropical fish and tiny briny lobsters. Cap the night with a pub crawl along historic Duval Street, home of the original Margaritaville Caf��.
Where: Oxnard, California
Close to the mainland of Southern California, yet seemingly worlds apart, Channel Islands National Park encompasses five islands and some of the best deep-water fishing in the Pacific Ocean. One of the best ways to get there is on a two-day chartered fishing excursion with Supergun Charters.
Supergun's 46-foot Bertram Flybridge Sportfisher departs Channel Islands Harbor in Oxnard and heads due west until it's directly over thousand-foot canyons that run close to shore. Here, crew members catch some live squid for bait and encourage guests to use it to angle for everything from white sea bass, calico, yellowtail bass and halibut.
At night, from the aft deck, the view of the pock-marked heavens on a clear night is spectacular. Downstairs, relax below deck in two spacious staterooms before emerging for a home-cooked dinner and a movie on the 28-inch digital flat-screen surround-sound system. The boat also boasts two heated showers and a decent-sized bathroom.
Before heading home, stop back at the harbor and grab a meal at The Whale's Tail, a seafood restaurant with legendary lobster taquitos, and a stellar view of the marina. Another diversion: the Maritime Museum, which celebrates the art of model shipbuilding and displays the life's work of master modeler Ed Marple.
Where: Gloucester, Massachusetts
Anyone who's read the book or seen the movie "A Perfect Storm" knows how much New England fishermen revere the fish-filled waters around Georges Bank in the Gulf of Maine. Yankee Capts, an outfitter in Gloucester, MA, leads two-night, two-day fishing charters to the wrecks in this area all summer long.
The trips depart from West Gloucester Harbor. It's an eight-hour ride from the Banks themselves. There, Capt. Greg Mercurio angles the M/V Yankee Capts over secret shipwrecks that lie in anywhere from 60 to 300 feet of water. These spots are home to literally millions of cod, pollack and hake. Provided the weather cooperates, two days here yields at least 20 hours of good fishing.
The ship itself is old but cozy. Renata Salvador grills up eggs and hamburgers in the galley's kitchen like at any greasy spoon. Luxury seekers, take note: to call accommodations barebones would be at best an understatement. Still, for those seeking an authentic, boat-bunk experience, the berths work fine.
Celebrate the big catch in Gloucester at Alchemy Bistro, an upscale spot that serves wood-fired pizzas and, of course, fish. Then, in homage to the fishermen who've died at sea, head to the Crow's Nest, a watering hole that just might be saltier than the sea itself.