Thanks to the internet, finding good fishing spots is easier than ever. There are hundreds of websites packed with information about prime public fishing waters and the types of fish that can be caught in each. A few minutes spent on your favorite search engine should turn up many options.
State fish and wildlife agencies provide some of the best information. All 50 states have such agencies, and all the agencies have websites with fishing sections that include where-to-go information. You can find links listed on the Association of Fish & Wildlife Agencies website. Provincial agencies in Canada are listed there as well, along with organizations like the Recreational Fishing & Boating Foundation that can help in your search.
You’ll find useful information of all kinds on these websites, including descriptions of the fishing waters; interactive maps; locations of fishing piers, bank-fishing areas and boat ramps; fishing regulations; license information; weekly fishing reports; state and lake records; fish identification tips; and much more.
Continue your internet search to find helpful information on these fishing destinations, too.
Family and community fishing waters
State fisheries agencies often establish agreements with municipalities that allow them to manage small lakes and ponds to provide urban fishing opportunities. These waters usually are kept well stocked with fish and provide excellent bank fishing. Special fishing events, beginner fishing clinics and tagged fish contests often are offered by participating agencies, with a special emphasis on fishing activities for families, kids and retirees.
State park fishing waters
Lakes, ponds and streams in state parks are worth learning about, too. Most are easy to fish, with good bank- or pier-fishing options. Rental boats often are available as well. Weekends and holidays may draw lots of visitors, especially in spring and summer. But during weekdays and cooler months, you often can enjoy fishing and other outdoor activities with few interruptions. Plug for bass in the morning and hike a trail in the afternoon. Enjoy a refreshing swim followed by some fly fishing. Cast for catfish, then swap fishing tales by a campfire. Opportunities are many.
Public fishing opportunities abound on many federal areas, too. For example, our national forests and grasslands encompass more than 150,000 miles of streams and 2.5 million acres of lakes in 43 states where guests can enjoy superb fishing opportunities. You can learn more about them here.
Fishing is available at more than 270 national wildlife refuges, 29 national fish hatcheries and many other U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service lands and waters, too. Virtually every type of sportfishing is represented, from remote fly fishing in Alaska to saltwater fishing along the coasts to fishing in cities like Minneapolis and Philadelphia. Visit www.fws.gov for more.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers manages 12 million acres of lands and waters as part of its responsibilities, and many of the agency’s projects, most of which are near major metropolitan centers, include first-rate fishing facilities such as river- and lake-side walkways and trails, fishing piers, docks and launch ramps. Visiting the Corps Lake Gateway online is a good way to start mining information.
Blue-ribbon fishing in scenic settings also can be found in many national parks and Bureau of Land Management areas.
The fishing locales discussed so far are all publicly owned, but many more great fishing spots can be found on private land. Farmers, ranchers and other landowners often build ponds, irrigation reservoirs, watershed lakes, livestock tanks and other waters, and many are stocked with bass, catfish, bluegills and other fish. Fishing privileges often are reserved for family and special friends, but many times, if you ask permission in a courteous, direct manner, the owner will welcome you to visit and catch a few fish.
Be sure to follow all rules you’re asked to abide by, such as size limits or catch-and-release fishing only, and show respect for the landowners and their property. Close gates, don’t litter and never damage fences or crops. Offer to share what you catch, and send a thank you note afterward. If you act responsibly, you will probably be welcomed to fish again. If you don’t, you and fishermen who come after you may get turned down.