Cast out your line to catch some of the most delicious fish around while at the best fishing spots in America
Need a break from adrenaline-pumping activities like climbing the best hiking trails in America and partaking in the best extreme outdoor adventures in the country? Opt for a relatively quiet afternoon spent solo or with the family at the best fishing spots in America. Cast out your line and get ready to catch some of the most delicious fish ever (think trout, salmon, catfish and more)—who knows, you might end up cooking a meal that could rival those served at the best seafood restaurants in America
1. Florida Keys, Florida
Off the southern coast of the Sunshine state is a fisherman’s paradise. Those recreational anglers hoping to catch bonefish, permit, redfish, snook or tarpon should head to the “backcountry,” the waters between the Keys and Florida’s mainland. The real draw for most visitors, however, are the deep seas of the Atlantic Ocean, caught in the warm Gulf Stream. Charter a boat in these waters to try your hand at catching some of the most sought-after fish in the world, like blue and white marlin, sailfish and swordfish. Even if you don’t get any bites, you’re in luck—the Keys are home to some of the best seafood restaurants in the country.
2. Outer Banks, North Carolina
If you and your fishing buds can’t decide which type of angling your trip should consist of, consider heading to the Outer Banks. Flyfish, inshore charter fishing, braking fishing and pier fishing are all available here. Most anglers in the area opt for headboat fishing—fishing on large boats that provide all the supplies necessary (reels, hooks, bait and fishing licenses) and take passengers to popular spots for flounder, trout, sea bass and more. Most headboats offer both half and full day options in addition to snacks and bathrooms on board—so feel free to bring the whole family along. If it’s solitude you’re after, however, bring your line to the beach for some of the best surf fishing around.
3. Kona, Hawaii
Easily the sportfishing capital of Hawaii, the waters off the Kona district of the Big Island’s western shore are calm like a lake but full of thrills for anglers. Here, deep-sea fishing stas true to its name with the depth just a few miles outside of harbor bottoming out 6,000 feet below. Tuna, mahi mahi and ono are caught daily aboard charter boats, as well as sharks and big-game bottom fish—just don’t let the breathtaking views distract you from the task at hand.
4. Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts
One of New England’s most scenic seaside destinations is also a fantastic island for reeling in fish. For some serious catching, gather some family or friends and organize an expedition on a charter boat to chase after bonito and false albacore (known locally as “albies”). Feeling the local vibe? Stick to surfcasting. Grab a pole, or rent one, and find a good spot on the sandy beach or a rocky shore around sundown and you’ll be pulling in striped bass in no time.
5. Bighorn River, Montana
For fly fishing enthusiasts, this large river is considered a must-visit. While access to the river is limited, with much of the water flowing through private property and Crow Tribal lands, the public access fishing spots are worth braving the crowds for. With strict limits on catches to maintain the quality of the fisheries, most sports fishermen catch and release the trouts, trying new techniques and artificial flies as they go. The river is mostly home to brown trout, but prized rainbows can also be caught. Although most fishermen stay at nearby campgrounds, we suggest shelling out some extra cash and staying at Forrester's Bighorn Resort, which grants you private access to the water and excellent fly fishing guides.
6. Thousand Islands, New York
In upstate New York (way upstate) on the eastern edge of Lake Ontario in the St. Lawrence River, find over 1,800 tiny islands and thousands of phenomenal freshwater fish. During the region's mild summers, it’s easy to spend a full day on the water reeling in bass, salmon, walleye, northern pike and muskellunge. Even novice anglers can find luck here, especially on one of the popular guided tours. Only confident, experienced fishers should attempt to catch the massive muskies, which are known to be as long as 60 inches each.
7. Kobuk River, Alaska
Experienced anglers who are tired of catching the same fish trip after trip should head north for a chance to try reeling in a rarer catch. The Kobuk River is over 200 miles long (“Kobuk” means “big river” in Inuit) and is home to arctic grayling, lake trout, arctic char, chum salmon and northern pike, but the river’s true prize is sheefish. These cousins of salmon can be over a yard long and are so strong and fast they can easily rip the rod out of even a seasoned fisherman’s hands. The biggest, most prize-worthy adults are most often found north of the Arctic Circle so you’ll likely need a guide, and a big sense of adventure, to reel one in.
8. Lake St. Clair, Michigan
Though this large body of water is probably best known for bordering Detroit, it is also a great spot to catch muskie. At 430 square miles, St. Clair can hardly compete with nearby Lake Huron or Lake Erie in size, but its thriving supply of game fish is responsible for half of all sports fishing in the Great Lakes. Walleye, perch, crappi and millions of quality smallmouth bass all call this lake home. Take a charter boat in the summer and you’re likely to catch more bass in a 6-hour trip here than you might during a full week in lesser waters
9. Lake of the Woods, Minnesota
In the battle to claim the title of “Walleye Capital of the World,” Lake of the Woods takes the lead. This massive lake on the northern tip of Minnesota is particularly renowned for its ice fishing. Brave the frigid cold and book a weekend at one of the area’s well maintained and comfortable ice shanties for an unforgettable experience. In the warmer months, set some time aside to pay attention to what’s above you: bald eagles also love this fishing spot.
10. Chesapeake Bay, Maryland
The brackish water of the Chesapeake Bay is not only the perfect habitat for those world-famous Maryland crabs but one of the best fishing spots you’ll find on the East Coast. Over 70 percent of the striped bass from the Atlantic Coast are born in the bay and its 150-plus tributary rivers. In addition to the striped bass, which are known locally as rockfish, anglers can catch bluefish, drum, speckled trout, flounder and croaker.
11. California Delta, California
Boasting warm weather year-round and mild summers, Northern California’s climate is ideal to catch fish whenever the mood strikes. In this river and estuary, also known as the Sacramento–San Joaquin River Delta, anglers cast their lines from river banks, piers and boats, ready to catch striped bass, sturgeon, catfish, black bass and salmon. Popular competitive derbies bring hundreds of boats to the area and are quite the sight to behold.
12. Colorado River, Colorado
Though this 1,450 mile long river spans much further than Colorado, winding through Utah, Arizona, Nevada, California and Mexico, some of the best fishing can be found near its beginnings in the Rocky Mountains. Flyfishers should aim to get to the upper Colorado River in June when the salmonfly (a giant stonefly species) hatches en masse and attracts plenty of big trout. Sign up for a trip with a local guide who can show you the best spots to wade or steer your boat.
13. Columbia River, Oregon and Washington
The largest river in the Pacific Northwest is also home to some of the region’s largest smallmouth bass, salmon, sturgeons and steelheads (rainbow trout). While you can get bites all year round, spring and summer are ideal times to find trophy-worthy catches. The rough, often crowded waters are best navigated on boat by experienced anglers, but even novices can enjoy “plucking” with a rod from the river’s beaches and sand bars.
14. Lake Shelbyville, Illinois
Though this 11,000 acre reservoir was man-made (through dams), the two bordering state parks and the wildlife are all natural. During the warm months, Illinois tourists flock to the nearby campgrounds and resorts to enjoy the wooded area and the ample fishing coves. Anglers regularly catch yellow bass, walleye, freshwater drum, flathead catfish, crappie and bigmouth buffalo. Bow fishermen can also be found shooting their arrows at the abundant supply of large carp.
15. Lake Austin, Texas
While there are several lakes in Texas where you might be able to reel in a 20-pound trophy largemouth bass, Lake Austin boasts the added convenience of being in one of the Southwest’s coolest cities. A lower part of the Colorado River, this reservoir was formed originally in 1939 and has since become a primary attraction in the Texas city. During the summer, fish at night to avoid the recreational boaters
16. Lake Tahoe, California and Nevada
A favorite spot in Southern California and Nevada for skiing in the winter and hiking in the summer, Lake Tahoe is also an excellent fishing experience. Tahoe is the largest alpine lake in North America and the second deepest, with majestic blue waters. During the warm months, anglers come to catch Kokanee salmon, rainbow trout, brown trout and mackinaw, always limiting their catches to five fish in total (limit of two mackinaw per fisher) to maintain the healthy fishery.