Miami: Gateway to Everything
Miami offers the widest variety of salt- and freshwater angling opportunities in America. Add to that the unique blend of traditions, styles, trends, and cultures that flavor the South Florida fishing scene, and it’s easy to stake a claim for Miami as the premier urban fishing destination. This is where America’s flats fishing was born, and anglers can still catch bonefish and permit in the shadows of Miami’s skyline. Offshore, plenty of deep-sea action beckons. The nearby Florida Keys and Everglades are gateways to backcountry angling for snook, tarpon, redfish, jacks, speckled trout, snapper, and more. Saltwater is only half the story. To the west, Miami opens onto one of the most alluring freshwater fishing regions in the country. From Lake Okeechobee to Everglades National Park, anglers can find stellar fishing for trophy bass, panfish, and a host of other species. It all starts downtown. A) PIERS AND DOCKS You can fish from many of Miami’s lighted downtown piers and docks. Evening and nighttime is usually best for catching snapper, croakers, mackerel, seatrout, drum, jacks, and other nearshore species. B) GOVERNMENT CUT Along with Haulover Inlet, this channel collects schools of migrating tarpon, giving you a shot at hooking a silver king (or other species) not far from South Beach. C) BISCAYNE BAY Our flats fishing tradition began here. Anglers now must contend with pleasure boaters, and the mile-long schools of tarpon off Curtis Point may be gone, but you still have chances for the silver king on the turtle grass flats. D) TAMIAMI CANAL AIRPORT LAKES SYSTEM Before you fly to South America for peacock bass, check out Blue Lagoon Lake and Lake Mahar. Part of a system of lakes and channels surrounding the airport, these waters are accessed from the Maceo Park boat ramp off NW 7th Street. E) EVERGLADES NATIONAL PARK This fishing wonderland has countless freshwater ponds and rivers brimming with largemouth bass. Saltwater anglers can explore the backcountry for snook and tarpon, or go into open water for redfish and seatrout. F) ATLANTIC OCEAN Some of the best offshore action in the Western Hemisphere is just a short run from Miami. G) ROAD TRIP Dania Beach is the Cooperstown of fishing, where the International Game Fish Association Hall of Fame features exhibits and interactive displays. igfa.org Prime Source: Capt. Harry’s Fishing Supply at 100 NE 11th Street, Miami, Fla.; 305-374-4661; captharry.com Field & Stream Online Editors
San Diego: The Sportfishing Capital
“There’s even more than meets the eye-¿ might be the best way to describe fishing around San Diego. One of the largest sportfishing fleets in the world is based here, near the most prolific tuna and billfish waters of the Pacific Ocean. Yet it is San Diegans’ knack for spicing up the fishing game that sets the city apart. For example, you can abandon logic and flyfish for mako sharks with Capt. Conway Bowman (see (D) Blue Water for all the details). And speaking of sharks, hasn’t anyone told the local fishermen who ride surfboards to fish the kelp beds off La Jolla for halibut, sea bass, and other critters that they might be the ultimate bait imitations? The real action unfolds away from the sea, as many of the fattest largemouth bass and panfish ever recorded have been caught in area reservoirs. But first, there’s the Pacific. A) OFFSHORE The California Bight is highly productive. Yellowfin tuna upwards of 200 pounds are the prized quarry; marlin and swordfish are also here in numbers. B) NEARSHORE Fishing for sea bass, halibut, yellowtail, and other species is a favorite pastime, and public access is plentiful. The Wind ‘n Sea Surf Club pioneered surfboard fishing near La Jolla, and you’re welcome to paddle out to the kelp patties. C) SAN DIEGO BAY Rumor has it that the bay has a healthy population of smallish bonefish (less than 5 pounds) that cruise 5-foot-deep flats. There are also barracudas and a variety of other species worth chasing with flies or conventional light tackle. D) BLUE WATER Looking for a testosterone buzz? Go to bowmanbluewater.com to arrange a trip to the “Top of the Nine-¿ in a skiff with a fly rod. On a good day, the mako sharks start swarming about 10 minutes after the chum hits the water. August is prime time. E) RESERVOIRS The truly world-class fishing in San Diego may be inland, where mondo bass (15 pounds plus) as well as catfish, panfish, and crappies pulse through regional reservoirs. Lakes Murray, Barrett, and Hodges, and San Vicente, El Capitan, and Otay reservoirs are all worth visiting. Check local information; many lakes are open on a limited basis and permits are needed. sdfish.com F) MOUNTAIN WATERS There are even trout in San Diego County, especially in the mountain streams and reservoirs. Pauma Creek near Mount Palomar is one of the only places in the country where you can flyfish for the rare Rio Santo Domingo strain of trout. G) ROAD TRIP Mexico’s Baja California and the Sea of Cortez are fish traps, and San Diego is a good stepping-off point for San Felipe, Magdalena Bay, and the East Cape. Prime Source: Stroud’s Bait & Tackle at 1457 Morena Boulevard, San Diego, Calif.; 619-276-4822; stroudtackle.com Field & Stream Online Editors
The Twin Cities: A River Runs Through It
So we cheated…two cities for the price of one, where anglers can target almost any freshwater species. Smallmouth bass, walleyes, carp, gar, catfish, and even pike and big muskies inhabit the Mississippi River, which meanders through the Twin Cities. Add to the equation the 100-some lakes dotting the greater Minneapolis-“St. Paul region-“brimming over with crappies, panfish, bass, and pike-“and this mid-American city cannot be denied its rightful position at the top of the urban angling list. The sport isn’t limited to spring and fall, as ice fishing is a popular winter tradition. When you talk Twin Cities, though, the river rules. A) MISSISSIPPI RIVER The river slices through Minneapolis and St. Paul and holds fish throughout. Bass, walleyes, muskies, catfish, and gar are caught in huge numbers every year. Check with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources for access, seasons, and boating restrictions. dnr.state.mn.us B) LOCAL LAKES There are hundreds of waters, and all hold fish. Minnetonka, with muskies upwards of 50 inches, as well as crappies, bluegills, and walleyes, is one of the largest. North Arbor Lake in Hennepin County served up a state-record green sunfish last year (1 pound 4 ounces). C) WHITE BEAR LAKE At 2,500 acres and only 20 minutes from St. Paul, White Bear has such clear water that anglers sight-fish for muskies. The lake also holds walleyes. D) NORTHWEST Head in this direction and you’ll find that the Mississippi and its tributaries hold high concentrations of smallmouth bass. Use light tackle or fly gear for some guaranteed big-time fun. E) BELOW THE TWIN CITIES The Mississippi broadens into lakelike pools here and offers fishing for huge walleyes. Deep trolling in spring can yield fish up to 30-plus inches. F) MILLE LACS Well known for perch and walleyes, the lake is a landmark, especially in winter, when an ice-fishing hut city pops up on its 132,000-acre surface. If you want to land a monster walleye from a boat, get on Mille Lacs three weeks after Mother’s Day. G) ROAD TRIP Trout bums, steelheaders, and salmon anglers need only head north or east for a few hours to hit rivers feeding Lakes Superior and Michigan. Prime Source: Thorne Bros. Custom Rod & Tackle at 7500 University Avenue NE, Fridley, Minn.; 763-572-3782; thornebros.com Field & Stream Online Editors
Seattle: Salmon City
Say Seattle isn’t a classic fishing city and you deserve to be whapped upside the head by a flying salmon at the world-famous Pike Place Fish Market. Although the steelhead runs aren’t what they once were, there is still plenty of salt- and freshwater action within a relatively short driving distance of downtown. Puget Sound offers year-round fishing for halibut, flounder, lingcod, and rockfish. The main game still centers on salmon, however-“chinooks, cohos, humpies, chums, and sockeyes. There’s no disguising when the fun is on, either. When the sockeyes run in July, the Sound, local lakes, and rivers are all stacked with boats and anglers. Wading the saltwater flats for sea-run cutthroat trout is definitely worth your while. Good steelhead fishing can also be found north of town. And perhaps the most overlooked but no less productive fisheries are bodies of water such as Lake Washington, which holds more than 100 different fish species. For salmon, start with the Sound. A) PUGET SOUND Good for halibut, flounder, cod, and of course salmon, the Sound has many boat launches, charter operators, and shore fishing options. pugetsoundfishing.com B) BAINBRIDGE ISLAND Three of the best locations to sight-cast for sea-run cutthroats are Bainbridge Island, on the western side of the Sound; Bremerton, south of Bainbridge; and Picnic Point, north of Seattle. C) LAKE UNION Take an afternoon in the spring to visit Lake Union, or upper Lake Washington, where you’ll see dozens of seaplanes taking off and landing. Many have been here all winter for servicing and are starting their hops back to lodges in Alaska. While you’re there, try casting for smallmouths, crappies, and perch. D) LAKE WASHINGTON More than 100 species of fish swim here, including a sizable smallmouth bass population. Salmon also run through the lake at various intervals. In good years, sockeyes stage up the Cedar River, near Renton. E) STEELHEAD RIVERS Hard times have fallen on the region’s steelheading, but opportunities remain on the Snohomish, Snoqualmie, and (farther north) Skagit and Sauk Rivers. Some of these waters also hold native Dolly Vardens. F) OLYMPIC PENINSULA For real steelhead fishing action and rugged, natural terrain, visit the peninsula to fish such classic rivers as the Bogachiel or Hoh. G) ROAD TRIP The Yakima River, two hours to the east near Ellensburg, is Washington’s only blue-ribbon trout stream, with good numbers of rainbows. Prime Source: Ted’s Sports Center at 15526 Highway 99 North, Lynnwood, Wash.; 425-743-9505; tedssportscenter.com Field & Stream Online Editors
New Orleans: Land of the Giants
Hurricane Katrina’s salty storm surge dramatically damaged some of the best freshwater channels and bayous from Houma into Mississippi. Still, there are more options for finding largemouth bass or bream within close proximity of New Orleans than almost anywhere else. It’s no coincidence that the Louisiana Delta has been a base for the Bassmaster Classic in recent years. As for saltwater, the beat goes on. Even now, those who chase big redfish, black drum, speckled trout, tarpon, or snapper would be hard-pressed to name a better destination than the original land of giants. Lately, the Gulf has been off-the-charts good. Not so with our starting point. A) CITY PARK Longtime host of the Big Bass Fishing Rodeo, City Park offered more than 11 miles of lagoons filled with bass and catfish. Katrina damage was severe, and the Rodeo was cancelled this year, but restoration efforts are under way. Check neworleanscitypark.com for updates. B) BAYOU SEGNETTE Site of the 2001 Bassmaster Classic, this is the gateway to trophy largemouth waters. The network includes marshes, canals, and ponds on the west side of the Mississippi River. C) LAKE PONTCHARTRAIN Along with Lake Salvador, it’s one of the best spots for targeting speckled trout with light tackle. On Pontchartrain, key in on the bridge supports under I-10, piers, and lighted docks. Salvador’s specks move with the seasons. D) BILOXI MARSH The redfish record books are revised at Biloxi every season. You’ll also catch speckled trout, black drum, sheepshead, and jacks, but the real draw is sight fishing with fly tackle for 20-plus-pound bull redfish. November through January is prime time. www.fishinthelandofgiants.com E) VENICE AND GRAND ISLE Two-hour drives from New Orleans, they are the launching points for some of the world’s best offshore and oil rig (“vertical reef-¿) fishing. Tuna migrate in the winter, tarpon in the summer, cobia in the fall, and there’s good inshore fishing for specks and reds. F) NORTH SHORE This side of Lake Pontchartrain has a hard bottom and is excellent for wade fishing. In summer, you can walk out on grass flats and sight-cast to jack crevalles, but mind the bull sharks. Local guides can also point you to tarpon holes. G) ROAD TRIP The Atchafalaya Swamp region includes lakes such as Chicot and Henderson, bodies of water that produce bass in the 10-pound range. West of Baton Rouge, this area was spared from the worst of Katrina’s fury. Prime Source: Uptown Angler at 601 Julia Street, New Orleans, La.; 504-529-3597; uptownangler.com Field & Stream Online Editors
The Best of the Rest:
(6) Grand Rapids, Michigan:
You’re never far from fishable water in western Michigan. Grand Rapids is the hub city, where you can hook steelhead running up the Grand River in the middle of town by the Sixth Street Bridge. The city’s population shrinks on the last Saturday of April, when many head north for the trout opener.
(7) Denver, Colorado:
It’s the gateway to the Rockies and trout fishing, but don’t overlook warmwater species such as bass, walleyes, and pike in the reservoirs.
(8) New York, N.Y.:
You can chase striped bass and bluefish on the east end of Long Island, or within a double-haul of JFK airport in Jamaica Bay; fish for bass on the city’s reservoir system (get a DEP permit); or head up to the Catskills for trout fishing on the Beaverkill or Delaware River.
(9) Austin, Texas:
Bass fishing on crystal-clear limestone creeks is the big draw in the Hill Country. You can also find largemouths in Lake Austin, near downtown; and in LBJ Reservoir, northwest of the city.
(10) Anchorage, Alaska:
This is the staging point for most good things in Alaska. Before you jump into a bush plane, try fishing Ship Creek in town for salmon. Willow Creek, an hour away, holds huge rainbow trout, and the nearby Russian River is legendary for its sockeye salmon runs.
Obviously steeped in tradition, especially on the saltwater side. And freshwater fishing is taking off again … we’re paying attention, particularly to the EPA goal of making the Charles River and its tributaries “swimmable and fishable.” Though many strides have been made, we’re watching the situation, and think Boston is on the verge of cracking the list, the next time we do the story.
Another fishing mecca. Lake St. Clair is awesome, and the culture here is alive and vibrant. Could do more to promote the destination appeal …
(13) San Francisco:
Love the Delta, and all it’s worth. Offshore, inshore, and of course, a short drive from some of the most technically challenging and storied trout and steelheaed rivers in the U.S. Couldn’t get over the Mark Twain, coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco …
(14) Jacksonville, Florida:
Inshore and offshore, rock solid fishing. The St. John’s River is a vibrant and abundant resource. We gave the nod to the larger city down the coast.
(15) Atlanta, Georgia:
Great local bass fishing, and trophy fishing for stripers, etc. on Lake Lanier, and elsewhere. Gotta love the trout fishing magnetisim of the Chatahoochee River …
(16) Milwaukee, Wisconsin:
Admittedly, many state record species have been caught right out of Milwaukee. It’s the epicenter of Lake Michigan fishing, Chicago not withstanding. And Badgers fish. Period. Tough call to give the nod to the neighbors in Minnesota …
(17) St. Louis:
We certainly understand and appreciate the Mississippi River fishery, and even more important, we understand the lure of the ample warmwater fishing hotspots around St. Louis.
(18) Buffalo, New York:
Lake-run fish and abundant local streams and lakes. But we couldn’t block out the “combat fishing” element, when the salmon or steelhead run.
(19) Baltimore, Md.:
A fishing mecca, and part of the legendary Ches. Bay estuary system. A great local fishing access and fishing promotion system run by City Parks.
(20) Portland, Oregon:
We know all about the local steelhead fishing, the bass, and otherwise. Portland rocks, but in the big city context, we gave the nod to its neighbor to the north.