Going fishing isn’t just about catching the biggest fish. It’s about taking a break from the hustle and bustle of everyday life and spending a quiet afternoon solo or with friends and family. It’s also great that fishing is one of the few activities that crosses all social, economic, age, gender and ethnic lines. The fish don’t care what you look like or how much money you have! Anyone can grab a rod, cast a line, and catch a fish. As for accommodations, book a stay at one of many vacation rentals across the country for the entire weekend or make a family trip out of it! Check out the top lakes for fishing in the United States.
1. Lake St. Clair, Michigan
This 420 square mile lake bordering Detroit can’t compete with nearby Lake Huron or Lake Erie in size, but it’s a great spot to cast a line. Its thriving supply of game fish is responsible for half of all sport fishing in the Great Lakes. Take a charter boat in the summer for the chance to catch walleye, perch, crappie, and smallmouth bass. This freshwater lake is also perfect for family fun. With a relatively shallow average depth, multiple places to anchor, and dozens of sandy bottom swimming holes, the kids will be begging to come along. Even if you don’t have a boat, you can hit the 160 miles of beach with plenty of public access spots to dip your toes in the water.
2. Lake of the Woods, Minnesota
Lake of the Woods has earned itself the title of “Walleye Capital of the World”, but you’ll have to brave the frigid cold to get here. This massive lake on the northern tip of Minnesota is particularly renowned for its ice fishing. Book a weekend at one of the area’s vacation rentals for an unforgettable experience. If you’re visiting during the summer months, take a break every once in a while to look up. Bald eagles also love this fishing spot.
3. Lake Shelbyville, Illinois
During the warmer months, tourists flock to this 11,000-acre man-made reservoir. Anglers regularly catch yellow bass, walleye, freshwater drum, flathead catfish, crappie and bigmouth buffalo. You’ll also get the opportunity to explore over 50 miles of multi-purpose trails for walking, running, or bicycling. Besides exercise, the trail is a great place for bird watching, geocaching, and photography, or for just enjoying nature with your family. Nearby Wolf Creek State Park also provides the only Equestrian Trail on Lake Shelbyville with 15 miles of trails.
4. Lake Austin, Texas
There are several lakes in Texas where you could reel in a 20-pound trophy largemouth bass, but Lake Austin boasts the added convenience of being in one of the Southwest’s coolest cities. This reservoir was built in 1939 and has since been a mainstay in Austin outdoor recreation. Almost all of the shoreline around Lake Austin is privately owned, so bank fishing is limited. There are two excellent concrete boat ramps available. Don’t worry if you don’t catch anything. Head into the city for some mouthwatering barbecue!
5. Lake Tahoe, California and Nevada
This favorite spot for hiking in the summer and skiing in the winter also offers 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. Just be aware that there is a five fish limit per fisher to maintain the healthy fishery.
6. Lake Champlain, New York and Vermont
This long and narrow natural lake covers more than 280,000 acres and is generally regarded as one of the most diverse and prolific bass fisheries in North America. The surrounding rural mountain scenery is the perfect setting for catching both largemouth and smallmouth bass. It’s also not abnormal to catch over one hundred bass in a single day! Lake Champlain isn’t just about fishing. Grab your hiking boots, clip into your cycling shoes, and don’t forget to pack your flippers. From hiking to biking, sailing to shopping, Lake Champlain has something for everyone.
7. Lake Okeechobee, Florida
This Florida jewel covers 730 square miles, making it the largest freshwater lake in Florida and one of the largest in the United States. It also holds incredible numbers of fish, provides outstanding boating opportunities, and has superior trails. Among the local catches at Lake Okeechobee are largemouth bass, speckled perch, blue gills, catfish, and black crappies. You’ll also have to spend some time in Clewiston, known as “America’s Sweetest Town”. Be sure to do the Sugarland Express tour of a local farm and mill or a three-hour boat cruise that explains the lake’s historic and natural heritage.
8. Falcon Lake, Texas
Located about 40 miles east of Laredo, this 83,654-acre lake has managed to remain relatively isolated and fly under the fishing radar. Falcon is a great shallow or deep water fishery and gives up a lot of big fish, such as largemouth bass, catfish, crappie, and white bass. Summer fishing at Falcon Lake can be tough because of the South Texas heat, so plan your trip for spring, fall, or winter. However, catfish can be caught almost any time during the year. What better way to celebrate the catch of the day than to invite all of your friends back to your vacation rental for a fish fry?
9. Chickamauga Lake, Tennessee
This angler’s dream offers some of the best fishing in the Chatanooga area year-round. You can expect to catch catfish, bluegill, redear sunfish, spotted bass, largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, and striped bass. There’s great boat access, and also some of the best bank fishing opportunities available in the area as well as a fishing pier. What else is there to do? Chattanooga is one of the most affordable vacation destinations in the country, so you can take in a play or concert, visit an amazing museum, be a part of the nightlife, enjoy the outdoors, or experience a piece of history, all without feeling guilty!
10. Santee Cooper Lakes, Marion and Moutrie, South Carolina
Lake Marion and Lake Moultrie is a terrific place for your next family getaway. Both located near Charleston, these lakes are set apart from others in the state by the scenic beauty of their cypress trees combined with swampy wilderness. There are numerous boat ramps, marinas, and fishing guides, making it a breeze to catch some walleye, northern pike, largemouth bass, bluegill, crappie, bullhead species, or yellow perch. In addition to a variety of vacation rentals, you’ll also find many great lakeside campgrounds!
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