Looking for some of the best fishing lakes in the U.S.? Lakes with a wide variety of fish and high catch rates can be found all over the country. Here’s a closer look at 14 of the top destinations for the best U.S. fishing trips!
Chickamauga Lake, TN
If you’re looking for the best bass fishing lakes in the U.S., look no further! Chickamauga Lake is home to a booming largemouth bass population thanks to the TWRA Florida largemouth bass (FLMB) stocking project and returning aquatic vegetation. Recently, a 15-pound bass set the state record for the heaviest bass catch, but hundreds of ten-pounders are reeled in every year at this fishing destination! Bass fishers can catch white bass by jump fishing, while anglers looking for catfish should try deep water holes in the main river channel. This long, winding Tennessee lake offers 810 miles of shoreline, plenty of boat access ramps, and a variety of fish like redear sunfish, crappie, sauger, yellow perch, bluegill, and more. Locals recommend fishing the shallows in the early morning and late evenings before the fish retreat to cooler, deeper waters during the heat of the day.
Clear Lake, CA
Clear Lake is a prime destination for catching California freshwater fish. As the state’s largest natural lake with over 100 miles of shoreline, Clear Lake is known for its flourishing populations of largemouth bass, channel catfish, and white crappie. Though only 59 feet at its deepest point, Clear Lake’s warm, nutrient-rich waters are perfect for Florida-strain largemouth bass. You’ll find these game fish in the shallows and weeds during the springtime, around the many fishing piers and docks in the summer, and in deep waters in the winter. You can participate in one of the dozens of California fishing tournaments held at Clear Lake, like the Clearlake Oaks – Glenhaven Catfish Derby or the Clear Lake Team Bass Tournament.
Deep Creek Lake, MD
Lying in a valley outside Savage River State Forest in Western Maryland, Deep Creek Lake stretches 3,900 acres and gets as deep as 75 feet. If you’re taking a family fishing trip to Deep Creek Lake, you’ll need to purchase a fishing license for everyone over 16, except on free fishing days—July 4th and the first two Saturdays in June. This Maryland lake is a great place to hook largemouth and smallmouth bass, walleye, crappie, and chain pickerel. Plus, anglers can catch less-common species like rock bass, pumpkinseed sunfish, and northern pike from a boat, dock, or shoreline at Deep Creek Lake State Park. Trout are abundant all year in the deeper, colder areas of the lake, but the best shallow water fishing is from April until June. In the winter, Deep Creek Lake freezes over with five to ten inches of ice that stays solid for several months, perfect for ice fishing.
Devil’s Lake, ND
Dubbed the “Perch Capital of the World,” Devil’s Lake in North Dakota offers a surprisingly unique fishing environment because its depth and salinity vary widely throughout the year. Beyond perch, anglers can reel in northern pike, walleye, and white bass while fishing at Devil’s Lake. Enter into year-round fishing tournaments like the summer Walleye Tournament or the winter DLVFD Ice Fishing Tournament. If regular ice fishing on Devil’s Lake isn’t challenging enough, try darkhouse spearfishing. Devil’s Lake also provides free, climate-controlled fish cleaning stations, seasonal summer stations closer to the shoreline, piers to fish on, and convenient boat access ramps.
Lake Berryessa, CA
Lake Berryessa is an artificial reservoir formed by the Monticello Dam in Napa County. With 20,700 acres of surface area, Lake Berryessa offers anglers fish of all types—from Chinook salmon and largemouth bass to rainbow trout and Sacramento pikeminnow. If you enjoy using the trolling technique while fishing, check out the southern end of Lake Berryessa near the dam, along the Narrows, in Markley Cove, and in Wragg Canyon Inlet. Free reclamation areas like Capell Cove Boat Launch make it easy to get your vessel in the water. Other bait fishers may find Capell Cove, Steel Canyon Inlet, and areas near Big and Small Islands to be lucky spots for fishing from the shore. To fish on Lake Berryessa, you’ll need to snag a California Sport Fishing License, or you can take advantage of several Free Fishing Days or a Free Group Fishing Permit option. Plan your fishing trip in the spring to catch spawning bass, bluegill, crappie, and catfish in shallow waters before they move to the lake’s deeper, chunk rock areas in the heat of summer.
Lake Champlain, NY & VT
Straddling the border of New York and Vermont, Lake Champlain is one of the best lakes in the Northeast for its wide variety of fish. Reel in yellow and white perch, bluegill, brown bullhead, and northern pike, some of which have set state records for New York. Lake Champlain is also ranked as one of the best bass fishing lakes in the U.S., with Champlain Bridge noted as an ideal bass fishing spot for smallmouth, largemouth, and rock bass varieties. Fly fishers often head to tributaries for trout and landlocked salmon and find bass, panfish, perch, pickerel, carp, and more in the lake’s weedy wetlands from May through September. If you’re competitive, there are over 100 fishing tournaments at Lake Champlain like the Annual Ice Fishing Tournament, Take a Kid Fishing Day, or Bass Tournament Day with Lunker Lady. And don’t miss out on Lake Champlain ice fishing!
Lake Erie, OH
Of course, fishing enthusiasts can’t ignore the allure of the Great Lakes. Lake Erie is consistently rated as one of the best bass fishing lakes in the United States, though it is also home to yellow perch and steelhead trout. Lake Erie walleye fishing is also popular from July through September. You can even take part in an extensive tournament, the Lake Erie Walleye Trail, with six qualifying events in the spring and the championship in the fall. Plus, freshwater fishing enthusiasts have year-round opportunities to bring in a big catch thanks to Lake Erie ice fishing. Visit this Great Lakes fishing hot spot in the spring if you enjoy fly fishing from the shore or in the summer and fall for better boating weather—just check the conditions before you head out, as Lake Erie’s waves can reach up to 15 feet. Lake Erie is also known for stunning sunsets, so be sure to hang around for some twilight fishing!
Lake Fork, TX
The Lake Fork Reservoir, located less than 100 miles east of Dallas, is one of the best bass fishing lakes in Texas because of its brushy surface, which creates an underwater forest environment. This reservoir is the result of a dam impounding Lake Fork Creek, a major tributary of the Sabine River. Lake Fork Reservoir has over 27,000 acres of freshwater fishing area and currently holds over half of the top 50 Texas largemouth bass records. There are many Lake Fork fishing tournaments to participate in, like the Simms Bassmaster Elite Tournament, Legend of Lake Fork Big Bass Tournament, and Bass on the Fly World Championship. There are mild year-round temperatures, plus great opportunities to catch largemouth, white, and yellow bass. You’ll also find plenty of crappies, channel catfish, bluegill, sunfish, and more under the lake’s bridges and in the water’s standing timber.
Lake Michigan, MI
Derived from an Ojibwa word meaning “large lake,” Lake Michigan lives up to its name with over 22,000 square miles to explore. With shorelines in Michigan, Wisconsin, Illinois, and Indiana, this Midwest fishing spot has something for everyone, and offers some of the best freshwater fishing in the U.S. Of all the Lake Michigan fish, the most sought after include salmon and steelhead trout. Steelheads are particularly great to catch in the late spring and summer when they can be reeled in from Lake Michigan’s shores. Put your salmon and trout fishing skills to the test in one of the largest one-day fishing tournaments on Lake Michigan, the Brew City Salmon Tournament. The second-largest Great Lake also includes other types of fish in the Midwest like perch, Chinook salmon, various types of trout, smallmouth and largemouth bass, and walleye. Winter anglers can find under-appreciated native species lake whitefish spawning in November and December.
Lake of the Woods, MN
Hugging the border between Minnesota and Canada, Lake of the Woods (LOW) is a huge open-water fishing spot in the U.S. With over 65,000 miles of shoreline, Lake of the Woods is known as the “Walleye Capital of the World” because it provides anglers with hundreds of thousands of pounds of walleye every year. May is the prime time for hooking walleye with live bait, as they migrate from the Rainy River into the main lake. Cast a wider net for freshwater fish like northern pike, smallmouth bass, sturgeon, sauger, tullibee, and crappies. While visiting LOW, many fishers attain the appropriate license to cross the Canadian border for world-class ice fishing, while other adventurous anglers travel by boat to the Northwest Angle or fish on the Rainy River. Prove your skills with tournaments like the Summer Fishing Tournament and the Ice Fishing Derby.
Lake Okeechobee, FL
Florida is known as the “Fishing Capital of the World” for its warm weather, natural biodiversity, rare everglades fishing opportunities, and amazing preservation programs by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. Also known as Florida’s “Inland Sea,” Lake Okeechobee is a tranquil body of water in the heart of the Central Everglades. Florida’s largest freshwater lake was dammed by the Herbert Hoover Dike and now boasts more than 700 miles of shoreline for freshwater fishing—including the famously thriving largemouth bass population. You’ll also be able to catch black crappie, bluegill, catfish, pickerel, bowfin, and gar in the lake’s shallow waters. Do Florida fishing right with tournaments like the Major League Fishing Toyota Series and the American Bass Anglers Open Series on Lake Okeechobee.
Lake St. Clair, MI
Lake St. Clair may be famous for its beaches, but it’s also considered one of the best fishing lakes in Michigan for game fish like musky and smallmouth bass. Though the 500-square-mile fishing lake is smaller compared to the Great Lakes, 36% of all trophy smallmouth bass submitted to the state’s Master Angler program in 2019 came from Lake St. Clair. The St. Clair river brings in cold, nutrient-rich waters great for smallmouth bass, walleye, and yellow perch. For the whole fishing vacation experience, check out local events like the Bay-Rama Fishfly Festival and Annual Jobbie Nooner at Gull Island. Or try your hand at Lake St. Clair fishing tournaments like the King of the Lake Walleye Tournament or Algonac Lions Pickerel Tournament.
Lake Tahoe, CA & NV
Tucked in the northern base of the Sierra Nevada mountains and neighboring Tahoe National Forest, Lake Tahoe is a stunning freshwater fishing trip destination for more experienced anglers. This U.S. fishing lake has earned its reputation as a challenging spot for beginners and those unfamiliar with its huge body of water. Because it’s the biggest alpine lake in the U.S., the resulting cold, clear waters are ideal for trout species like rainbow, brook, brown, and most notably mackinaw trout. The best time to hook a Lake Tahoe mackinaw is from March until June—don’t forget to snag a few bass, kokanee, crappie, or bluegill while you’re there. Regardless of your preferred catch, pro fishers will get the best results in a boat over deep water, but anglers on the shore can also pay a day fee to cast a line from drop-offs like Rubicon Point and Cave Rock. Fly fishers should head to the lake’s only outflow, the Truckee River, for trout in cutthroat, brown, and rainbow varieties.
Lake Winnipesaukee, NH
As New Hampshire’s largest lake at 72 square miles and a maximum depth of roughly 200 feet, Lake Winnipesaukee is fed crystal-clear spring water by the nearby White Mountains. Though Lake Winnipesaukee hosts a variety of freshwater fish. Smallmouth bass, largemouth bass, rainbow trout, and salmon are abundant, but those who know where to look can also find yellow perch and bullhead catfish. The Winni Fishing Derby held by the Daniel Webster Council provides a great opportunity to get kids involved with lake fishing. And don’t forget to stop by in the winter for ice fishing at Lake Winnipesaukee! Or bring the whole family to kid-friendly fishing event with a festival-like atmosphere, Meredith Rotary Ice Fishing Derby, and meet anglers from across the country!
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