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10 Best Fishing Destinations in the US for 2020

The Top 10 Best Fishing Destinations In The US

Whether fishing is a sport or hobby for you, or whether you’re picking a spot for your first or your one-thousandth fishing trip, you’re probably always looking for the best spots in the country.

Let’s go on a journey through the best fishing destinations in the US.

The Best Fishing Destinations in The US

1. Potomac River, Washington, DC

Known as: The “Nation’s River”

Potomac River Fishing

The Potomac is one of the most famous and historic rivers in the country. It flows through West Virginia, Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, D.C.

George Washington was born in and spent most of his life within the Potomac Basin, and he named the Potomac the “Nation’s River.”

By the 1960s, though, the pollution in the river was so bad that then-President Lyndon B. Johnson declared it a “national disgrace.”

Thanks to the safeguards of the Clean Water Act of 1972, the Potomac experienced a resurgence and game fish are making a comeback.

As the Potomac passes four states, there are plenty of fishing spots along the way. One area that stands out is Washington, DC, which offers some of the best urban fishing in the country, along with stunning views of the capital.

Essential Information
Best for: Urban fishing
Skill level: Beginner to advanced
Type of fish you can catch: Striped bass, muskellunge, pike, walleye, American shad, white perch, sunfish; invasive: blue catfish, northern snakehead
Best time of year to fish: All year round
Nearby services and amenities: Marina, boat rentals, boat launch ramps, fishing charters, lodging, convenience stores, bait & tackle shops, restaurants
Nearby places of interest: Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Historic Park, Great Falls Park,
More things to do in Washington, D.C.: 10 Best Free Things to Do in Washington, D.C.

2. Key West, Florida Keys, Florida

Known as: The Conch Republic

Key West Fishing

The southernmost key of the Florida Keys has a rich history of fishing, plus the most spectacular sunsets you’ll ever see. Kayak fishing with the sunset in view is probably the most beautiful, memorable experiences you can have here.

Essential Information
Best for: Deep-sea trolling; kayak, fly, shore, flats, and reef fishing
Skill level: Beginner to advanced
Type of fish you can catch: Tarpon, permit, bonefish, snapper, grouper, tuna, dolphin, sailfish, marlin, shark, hogfish, mackerel
Best time of year to fish: All year round; tournaments held in January and July
Nearby services and amenities: Marina, boat rentals, boat launch ramp, fishing charters, campgrounds, RV parks, hotels, convenience stores, bait & tackle shops, restaurants
Nearby places of interest: Southernmost Point Buoy, Key West National Wildlife Refuge, Dry Tortugas National Park, Mallory Square
More things to do in Key West: Florida Keys Road Trip

3. Islamorada, Florida Keys, Florida

Known as: “Sport Fishing Capital of the World”

Islamorada-fishing

For a state that’s called “The Fishing Capital of the World,” being called the “Sport Fishing Capital of the World” is high praise.

But it’s well-deserved, considering backcountry sport fishing and saltwater fly-fishing started right here.

Plus, you’ll find yourself in good company; there are more professional offshore charter boats and recreational fishers in Islamorada than anywhere else in the Florida Keys.

Essential Information
Best for: Offshore and fly fishing; deep-sea trolling
Skill level: Beginner to advanced
Type of fish you can catch: Tarpon, bonefish, permit, tarpon, snook, sailfish, snappers, groupers, seatrout, redfish, mahi-mahi, tuna, billfish, swordfish, marlin
Best time of year to fish: All year round; tournaments in January, February, June, September, December
Nearby services and amenities: Marinas, boat rentals, boat launch ramp, fishing charters, campgrounds, RV parks, hotels, convenience stores, bait & tackle shops, restaurants
Nearby places of interest: The Rain Barrel Village, Robbie’s Marina, Theater of the Sea, Keys History & Discovery Center, History of Diving Museum
More things to do in Islamorada: Florida Keys Road Trip

4. Chickamauga Lake, Tennessee

Known as: One of the best fishing lakes in the US for bass

Chickamauga Lake is a reservoir along the Tennessee River, created with the building of the Chickamauga Dam.

This lake is also famous as one of the best bass fishing lakes in the country. In fact, the current record holder for largest largemouth bass (15 pounds, 2 ounces) was caught in Chickamauga Lake.

With over 800 miles of shoreline, fly fishing from the banks is popular here. Also, there are plenty of boat launch ramps so everyone from beginners to advanced anglers can fish for bass on kayaks, pontoons, and larger bass boats.

Essential Information
Best for: Boat, shore, fly, jump, and flat fishing
Skill level: Beginner to advanced
Type of fish you can catch: Largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, redear sunfish, blue catfish, striped bass, Channel catfish, black crappie, white crappie, sauger, paddlefish, bowfin
Best time of year to fish: Late winter to early spring for bass; tournaments in February, June
Nearby services and amenities: Marinas, boat rentals, boat launch ramps, fishing charters, campgrounds, RV parks, lodging, convenience store, bait & tackle shops, restaurants
Nearby places of interest: Harrison Bay State Park, Chickamauga & Chattanooga National Military Park, Tennessee Aquarium, Moccasin Bend National Archeological District, Booker T Washington State Park

5. Outer Banks, North Carolina

Known as: The Graveyard of the Atlantic

Outer Banks Fishing

The Outer Banks of North Carolina are a group of barrier islands scattered off the coast of North Carolina.

This area is known not only for its many shipwrecks but also for being a popular tourist destination. Roanoke Island is also infamous for being where the Roanoke Colony vanished in the 1500s.

Cape Point is considered the best surf fishing site in the Outer Banks, as this is where the Gulf Stream and the Labrador Current come together.

Pier fishing is also highly popular here; some of the piers along the Outer Banks include Surf City Pier, Jolly Roger Fishing Pier, Nags Head Fishing Pier, Jennette’s Pier, and many others.

Essential Information
Best for: Surf, pier, fly, kayak, head boat, inshore, and offshore fishing
Skill level: Advanced
Type of fish you can catch: Striped bass, trout, sea bass, flounder, large red drum, striped bass, bluefish, cobia, tuna, mahi-mahi, pompano, Spanish mackerel
Best time of year to fish: All year round; tournaments in May, June, July, August
Nearby services and amenities: Marinas, boat rental, boat launch ramp, fishing charters, lodging, convenience store, bait & tackle, restaurant
Nearby places of interest: Carolina Beach State Park, Karen Beasley Sea Turtle & Rehabilitation Center, Missiles and More, Emerald Isle Woods Park, Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, Jockey’s Ridge State Park, North Carolina Aquarium, Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum
More information: The Best North Carolina Beaches

6. Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts

Known as: Home to one of the oldest fishing tournaments in the US

Marthas Vineyard Fishing

One of New England’s most affluent and scenic seaside destinations is also a fantastic island for reeling in fish. This is your chance to go fishing among one of the most beautiful views or backdrops one could ever experience.

With over 100 miles of shoreline and plenty of places to launch boats, you can do both shore and boat fishing, a trip to Martha’s Vineyard is something both beginner and experienced fishermen will enjoy.

If you feel up to it, you can join the Martha’s Vineyard Striped Bass and Bluefish Derby, a 75-year-old tournament where you can catch albacore, bass, bluefish, and bonito from boat or shore and compare counts and weights.

Essential Information
Best for: Shore, fly, and boat fishing
Skill level: Beginner to advanced
Type of fish you can catch: Striped bass, bluefish, bonito, bunker, false albacore, mackerel, tuna, white marlin, fluke
Best time of year to fish: May to November
Nearby services and amenities: Marinas, boat rentals, boat launch ramps, fishing charters, lodging, convenience store, bait & tackle shops, restaurants
Nearby places of interest: Cape Poge Wildlife Refuge, Edgartown Lighthouse, Martha’s Vineyard Museum, Ocean Park

7. Bristol Bay, Alaska

Known as: Home to the world’s largest salmon run

Bristol Bay, Alaska is the easternmost arm of the Bering Sea, home to various birds, terrestrial animals, and fish, most notably salmon.

Climate change has begun to affect this area; rising temperatures threaten the survival of salmon eggs and fry, as well as cause higher sea levels that threaten to flood the surrounding land.

More recently, this beautiful, productive ecosystem is under threat by the construction of Pebble Mine, a proposed open-pit gold and copper mine. The excavation and mine waste this project can produce can potentially damage Bristol Bay completely.

Essential Information
Best for: Fly, spin, and small boat fishing
Skill level: Beginner to advanced
Type of fish you can catch: Sockeye salmon, Chinook salmon, coho salmon, chum salmon, rainbow trout, herring, arctic grayling, northern pike
Best time of year to fish: June to August for salmon; August to October for trout
Nearby services and amenities: Fishing charters, campgrounds, fishing lodges, hotels, convenience stores, bait & tackle shops, restaurants
Nearby places of interest: Togiak National Wildlife Refuge, Wood-Tikchik State Park

8. Kona, Hawaii

Known as: Best place to snorkel, dive, and fish in the Big Island

Kona Fishing

Hawaii is an archipelago, and fishing is predictably ingrained in the people’s culture.

Kona is on the west side of the Big Island that is historically a fishing village. Many fishing techniques used worldwide originated right here.

Nowadays, it’s a tourist spot where divers and snorkelers would converge and witness the colorful marine life in the area for themselves.

The water here is calm and the depth drops quickly just a short distance from the shore, making it perfect to do deep-sea trolling for tuna, mahi-mahi, and even sharks.

Essential Information
Best for: Deep-sea trolling; pier and surf fishing
Skill level: Beginner to advanced
Type of fish you can catch: Tuna, mahi-mahi, ono, sharks, blue marlin, butterfly peacock bass, rainbow trout, striped marlin
Best time of year to fish: All year round; tournaments kick off in June
Nearby services and amenities: Marinas, boat rentals, boat launch ramps, fishing charters, campgrounds, RV parks, lodging, convenience stores, bait & tackle shops, restaurants
Nearby places of interest: Hulihee Palace, Keauhou, Kailua-Kona, Puuhonua o Honaunau National Historical Park, Kaloko-Honokohau National Historic Park
More things to do in Hawaii: 20 Best Places To Visit In Hawaii

9. Lake Michigan, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, and Michigan

Known as: The “Third Coast”; best ice fishing site in the US

Lake Michigan is the second-largest of the Great Lakes and the only one to be entirely located in the US.

The best way to go on an ice fishing expedition here on Lake Michigan is with a professional guide who’s been at it for a long time.

The northernmost bays of Lake Michigan are the first to freeze with thick ice, so it’s recommended to start there.

Essential Information
Best for: Ice fishing (winter), fly fishing (other seasons)
Skill level: Advanced
Type of fish you can catch: Walleye, whitefish, brown trout, coho salmon, Chinook salmon, Northern pike, and steelhead, perch; invasive species: alewife
Best time of year to fish: Ice fishing: mid-December till mid-March
Nearby services and amenities: Marinas, boat rentals, boat launch ramps, ice fishing charters, lodging, convenience store, bait & tackle shops, restaurants
Nearby places of interest: Mitchell State Park, Interlochen State Park, Charles Mears State Park, Keith J Charters Traverse City State Park

10. Chesapeake Bay, Maryland and Virginia

Known as: The biggest estuary in North America

Chesapeake Bay fishing

Chesapeake Bay is a massive estuary where water from more than 150 streams and rivers flow where they eventually get into the Atlantic Ocean.

What’s unique about the Chesapeake is that you get the chance to fish in freshwater, brackish, and saltwater in the same body of water. And with a whopping 11,000 miles of shoreline, you’ll never run out of spots to fish.

Essential Information
Best for: Inshore, fly, kayak, canoe, jig fishing
Skill level: Beginner to advanced
Type of fish you can catch: Striped bass, Spanish mackerel, redfish, cobia, black drum, tautog, flounder, spotted seatrout, bluefish, rainbow trout
Best time of year to fish: All year round; different fish, different seasons
Nearby services and amenities: Marinas, boat rentals, boat launch ramps, fishing charters, campgrounds, RV parks, lodging, convenience store, bait & tackle, restaurant
Nearby places of interest: Great Chesapeake Bay Loop, Smith Island, Chestertown, Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum, Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge, Captain John Smith National Historic Trail

More tips to have the best fishing trip

Planning a great fishing trip is more than having a location in mind. Here are some of the things you need to consider before you go on that trip.

Get a valid fishing license.
Check the US Fish & Wildlife Service to buy a fishing license and register your boat, if you’re taking it to go fishing.

Adhere to fishing laws and regulations.
Aside from licensing rules, look up the protected species, daily bag and possession limits, whether catch and release needs to be practiced, and other requirements.

The simplest way to find this information is through the local fish and wildlife department of your fishing destination.

Know the best times to fish.
Plenty of popular fishing destinations post their fishing calendar online, with the usual species of fish that can be found and which months they’re likely to be caught.

Look up that information in advance so you’ll know what to expect from your trip.

When in doubt, ask.
Fishing in a new site location can be daunting especially when you’re not familiar with the area at all.

Ask locals, regulars, the staff of bait & tackle shops and boat rentals, fishing guides, even park rangers. They’re the ones who can tell you what time the fish bite, what bait to use, and any other tips for success.

Practice mindful conservation through participation.
Buying a license, registering your boat, and any other activity or requirement that involves paying aren’t there to bleed you dry.

It’s to gather resources to help support and protect that same fishing spot you’re in. Managing the fish populaion, protecting the habitat, and educating anglers require money, after all.

Aside from fulfilling your monetary obligations, always practice responsible fishing and clean as you go. You’ll want to be able to come back to this site and allow future generations of anglers to enjoy it as well.

Plan your next fishing trip today!

Fishing can be considered a national pastime; in fact, in 2018, 49.4 million people spent a collective 883 million days fishing.

Whether you plan to go on a fishing trip alone or with friends or family, going to a new spot is always an adventure.

Hopefully, our list of the best fishing destinations in the US helps you plan a vacation to remember.

Which of these fishing spots have you tried before? How was the experience? What other destinations have I missed? We’d love to hear your suggestions in the comments below.