The purpose of this article is to share some of my favorite places to fish in North America. It is in no way a complete list and some states have so many great places that they have taken precedence over other possible locations. Of course, Cape Cod and Florida are both an angler’s paradise and I know certain parts of each state like the back of my hand so they may be overrepresented! The list is also not in order of preference or importance.
I’m a Vanhunks Pro-Staff team member and one of my roles in the company is to launch and review their various kayaks and stand-up paddle boards (SUP) as well as all the other Vanhunks branded products where I see fit. As a full-time traveler, I have the opportunity to fish fresh and saltwater so I carry multiple kayaks and an endless amount of gear. There are a couple of non-kayak locations but I felt compelled to include them as they were just too good not to include.
Texas is home to one of North America’s best fisheries but requires some effort to get to as it’s on the American and Mexican border. Lake Amistad, an impoundment of the Rio Grande, is a huge reservoir and is surrounded by the Lake Amistad National Recreation area so there are a number of locations within the boundary to camp or RV. The Bass Pro series has fished here and if you go, you’ll see why. During the spring you’ll find bedding Largemouth along the boulder-strewn shoreline. This fishery is unique in that there are hundred-foot, water-filled canyons that go straight down with countless caves and niches holding some of the country’s largest bass! I managed to lose three of the biggest Largemouth Bass of my long fishing career but still managed to land what would be trophy fish for most anglers.
The Laguna Madre inside Padre Island National Seashore on the Texas coast is an absolute dream to fish with its bait-filled embayment’s, channels, and flats. Sight fishing for Redfish might be my favorite but black drum, and really big ones get a lot of attention and are simple to target from a kayak.
Colorado has to make this list and there are countless miles of trout water but I fished two miles of the most productive piece of trout river I’ve ever seen along the lower end of Eleven Mile Canyon just south of Lake George. Expect to find Brookies, Rainbow and Brown Trout all in the same piece of water. Colorado with its ever-prominent Trout fishing is also home to the Blue Mesa Reservoir just west of Gunnison. This is a remarkable 22-mile-long reservoir within the Curecanti National Recreation Area where camping/Rv’ing is plentiful and the fishing is legendary! Home of the country’s largest Kokanee Salmon fishery as well as Browns, Rainbows and Lakers. I boated a Brown Trout big enough to make a pot of fish chowder for all my neighbors at the campground!
Florida with its endless opportunities to kayak and fish has an enormous reputation as the best fishery in the world. Matlacha just west of Cape Coral is home to Gulf Coast Kayak where I’m considered an honorary guide for life due to my years of guide work with them and is also home of the Matlacha Aquatic Preserve. Within two miles of their launch over twelve species of fish can be caught including Snook, Redfish, Tarpon, Snapper, Grouper and Jacks. Bluefish, Cobia and a half dozen Shark species call Matlacha home part of the time. The Caloosahatchee in North Fort Myers is one of my favorite deep winter locations due to the chance of catching Tarpon, Snook and Redfish that are slightly hibernating in most places. Charlotte Harbor is as versatile a fishery as there is. Deep water passes, home to the world’s largest Tarpon fishery is surrounded by countless flats opportunities and an untold number of fish. No list would be complete without a location in the Florida Keys. I like Bahia Honda as you can access off shore reefs by kayak as well as multiple bridges and endless flats. Be prepared to tangle with Barracuda, one of my favorite fish to engage while kayak fishing as they will test out your drag system! I can’t really say anything about Islamorada that hasn’t already been said, just go online and search Islamorada fishing and see for yourself. Three Rivers State Park west of Tallahassee has the sweetest little campground on a superior bass fishery. This made my list due to its quiet, secluded and fishy environment. Last but not least is Lovers Key south of Fort Myers Beach. I love fishing in this location, especially on a calm day as you can access the Gulf of Mexico and several reefs and then kayak fish any number of Mangrove-covered islands where Snook, Spotted Sea Trout and Redfish abound.
Arizona with all its desert surroundings is dotted with precious little dams of which Bartlett Dam in the Tonto National Forest north of Phoenix is my favorite. Besides the stunning beauty enveloping this little waterway the Largemouth bass fishing can be stellar. Cliff lines and rocky shores make for suitable bass fishing year-round.
California has so many places to fish but the San Diego Bay is probably one of the country’s best urban fisheries and home to the principal Pacific Fleet so while you are out kayaking you may be asked to scoot over while a warship or submarine makes its way in or out as I was asked to do! Offshore but not too far out are Yellowfin, Bluefin, Yellowtail, Albacore, and MahiMahi to name a few while inshore you may encounter Calico Bass, Rockfish, Sheephead, and Corbina but my all-time favorite is the chance to catch Halibut in the winter close to shore!
Vermont, my home for many years has an amazing Bass fishery in Lake Champlain. This was labeled the best two-tier Bass fishery in all of America by members of the FLW tour series. You can target just Largemouth or Smallmouth depending on the environment you choose or you can launch at any of the ramps surrounding Lake Champlain and mix it up. Just be ready to max out your fish count many times over. The Lamoille River between Wolcot and the Mountain View Campground is my favorite river to fish. You can launch in Wolcot and float back to the campground and expect to catch anything from Rainbow and Brown Trout to Smallmouth bass in the many riffles, runs, and holes. Depending on the season and water flow expect to encounter a couple of small Class Two runs but more likely you will need to drag through shallow water here and there. I often go down a run, beach my kayak, and fish back up to the top of the run. The Green River Reservoir in Northern Vermont is home to a great bass fishery and outstanding forest beauty. This fishery has water access campsites and countless places to fish, so many places if fact that every cast has the potential to catch fish. Lake Groton is another one of those lakes that has the potential to catch either Smallmouth or Largemouth bass on every cast. There is so little pressure on this lake that the fish can be big. Rock structure around this lake makes for great fishing in spring, summer, or fall. Valley Lake, AKA Dog Pond has a very limited parking area but is so secluded that almost no one is ever there and the fishing reflects it. Defined by deep crystal-clear water, rising sharply to pebble-strewn shorelines (read crawfish habitat) and shallow grass flats toward the back makes this place my favorite all-time bass fishery. Early morning, thirty fish days are not uncommon here! Good luck finding it!
Cape Cod, another one of the places I called home for twenty-plus years is where fishermen are born and yearn to return to if they leave as I did. Extending out into the Atlantic Ocean and surrounded by beaches, bays, and inlets there are a number of fish species to target. By far most folks are chasing Striped Bass and Bluefish that call this home during late spring, summer, and late fall. While Herring Cove at the very end of Route 6, within the Cape Cod National Seashore, is not a true cove, it is one of the best places on the Cape to target very big Stripers by kayak. Within a five-minute paddle, you will be in about 50’ of water and in the same general area that the commercial fisherman uses to bring big fish to market. Do plan to go out when the wind is light and best if out of the E/NE. Nauset Marsh in the Orleans/Eastham area is by far my favorite place to fish. This marsh is 5 miles across and has multiple free town landings. Fed by a large tidal inlet, the marsh is one of the first places big schools of fish come in to feed after the spring (June’ish) migration and the action can be off the chart. Top water poppers rule as it is not very deep but plugs and swimbaits can be effective in the deeper cuts. Cockle Cove on the Nantucket side of Chatham is another great spring location for Blues and Stripers but is best fished at the outflow of Mill Creek on an outgoing tide. On the freshwater side in the town of Orleans is a little kettle pond called Pilgrim Pond. You will need a town parking pass to fish here but the Largemouth Bass fishing here is worth the price. No fishing trip to the Cape is complete until you surf cast the great beach called the Outer Beach by the locals. Almost 45 miles of uninterrupted beach with multiple beach access points. If the weather is calm and the surf is reasonable you can simply use your standard kayak saltwater gear as the ocean drops off quickly and the fish tend to come close to shore at sunrise and sunset. There are two bridges that span the Cape Cod Canal and this is where you will find the canal men and women who travel back and forth either by car, truck or bicycle in search of the latest fish blitz moving from Buzzards Bay to Cape Cod Bay. You will need to be prepared to really give it a go here as the tides combined with a potentially huge fish will test everything you have so do a little research online before you try.
New Mexico is home to my final 25 places to fish in North America in a place called Navaho Lakes just north of Navaho City. Cottonwood Campground, only ten minutes from the lake is a convenient place to stay. The lake is big so I spent most of my time here fishing across the face of the dam for Smallies but found great Largemouth Bass up against the boulder strewn shore on the other side of the dam. I spent several days here with over a hundred fish per day and cannot wait to return during my next cross country fishing trip Paddlin and Fishin!
Vanhunks Pro-Staff team member Dan Carns
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