Finding the best fishing spots in the US: one man’s dream coming true

Fishing aficionado Paul Hale has a special wish list: to fish in all 50 United States of America. FishingBooker has helped Hale organize several of his trips so far, and we asked him to share his amazing story.

Paul Hale with Musky caught on Lake Chippewa, WI
Paul Hale with a Musky he caught on Lake Chippewa, Wisconsin.

Until his retirement last year, Paul Hale (53) was a logging contractor in northeastern Texas. For a while now, his dream has been to visit all 50 of the United States in his lifetime. So when he retired, he told his wife: “I’ve been to 39 of the states, I’d like to go to the rest of them.”

He looked at the other states and thought: “I really don’t have a specific reason to go there.” But Hale “had fishing on his mind” – a life-long passion that he had put on the back burner while he was running his logging company.

And then it struck him: he would combine his dreams of travel with his favorite activity and make it his goal to go fishing in all 50 states.

Growing up on fishing in Texas

Hale grew up in Bloomburg, TX. “My dad had a couple of stock ponds on our farm and that’s how I learned to fish.” There are also several great fishing lakes in the area, such as Wright Patman Lake and Caddo Lake, on the border with Louisiana. His dad taught him to catch Channel Catfish, and he “didn’t need much help after that.”

Bayou at Caddo Lake, angler's paradise
The bayou at Caddo Lake on the Texas-Louisiana border, an angler’s paradise.

When he was eighteen, Hale started working as a logging contractor. “I loved fishing when I was a kid, but then I started my company and I didn’t have a whole lot of time for fishing anymore.”

Sometimes he would still go fishing, but he couldn’t enjoy it the way he did when he was a child. “There was too much on my mind, the type of business I was in carried a lot of stress and a lot of full-time attachment to the management of it. I probably could have taken more time, but I just didn’t.”

On the flip side, his focus on work gave him the chance to retire earlier and enjoy fishing now. “I’m 53, and I’m still like a little kid when I catch a fish.”

Where did the idea come from?

The idea to fish all 50 US states came to him when he was reading about Devils Lake in North Dakota, one of the prime fishing spots in the Midwest. “I would’ve probably never gone to North Dakota if it wasn’t for Devils Lake. I just had to go there.”

The main reason for anglers to go to Devils Lake is its bountiful supply of Northern Pike, a famous freshwater game fish. Hale always wanted to catch one of these, having heard so much about them over the years.

So he went for it, and it was an incredible experience. For the first time in his life, he reeled in one of these toothy fighters. “When I got him in my boat I was just so thrilled to catch that for the first time.” Now he even says that Northern Pike is his favorite fish to catch.

Big Northern Pike on East Lost Lake, MN.
Hale’s biggest Northern Pike so far, caught on East Lost Lake, Minnesota.

After that first trip to North Dakota, Hale was hooked. He started reading more about the different fish species all over the country and thought, “well, I would just love to go fishing in all 50 states.”

Discovering the best fishing spots in every state

So North Dakota was ticked off the list first. Others soon followed, and Hale has now fished in these nineteen states:

  1. Alaska – Ketchikan
  2. Nevada – Lake Mead
  3. Arizona – Lake Pleasant
  4. New Mexico – Elephant Butte Lake
  5. Texas – Corpus Christi Bay from Rockport
  6. Oklahoma – Lake Fort Gibson
  7. Kansas – Milford Lake
  8. Nebraska – Hyannis
  9. South Dakota – Lake Francis Case
  10. North Dakota – Devils Lake
  11. Minnesota – East Lost Lake from St. Cloud
  12. Wisconsin – Lake Chippewa
  13. Iowa – Clear Lake
  14. Colorado – Pueblo
  15. Illinois – Lake of Egypt
  16. Missouri – Lake Taneycomo
  17. Louisiana – Lake Calcasieu
  18. Mississippi – Gulf of Mexico from Biloxi
  19. West Virginia – New River

Of course, doing that much fishing in greatly diverse places gave him a lot of new favorites and memorable moments. Out of the fish he has caught so far, his favorite saltwater species to target is Redfish, while the tastiest is Sheepshead. Both of these he caught in the Gulf of Mexico during fishing trips from Rockport and Biloxi.

Paul Hale holding Redfish on Lake Calcasieu, LA
Going for Redfish on Lake Calcasieu, Louisiana.

But he still has plenty of time to get new favorites. One of the fish he looks forward to catching most is Red Snapper, which he has eaten in restaurants and describes as “one of the smoothest tasting premium foods I have had.”

When it comes to freshwater species, his number one fish for eating is Walleye – “hands down” – while the best sport is Northern Pike. But he loves eating fish in general, and also praises Black Crappie and Bluegill, which swim in the stock ponds on his property in Texas.

The best place to fish?

Of course, fishing also takes Hale to some of the most beautiful places in the country. Pristine lakes, crisp mountain creeks, gorgeous beaches, wild mangroves, the list goes on and on. “It’s a really neat way to see the whole nation. I get to see some really pretty country and make a lot of new friends. It’s a lot of fun.”

But the most beautiful place he’s visited so far would have to be Alaska. He went there on a cruise with his wife in September last year. He took the opportunity to go on a short 4,5 hour Salmon trip from Ketchikan, and he was awed. “That coastline, the beauty of it is just breathtaking. And I’ve only seen a fraction of it.”

Salmon fishing Ketchikan, one of the best fishing spots in the US
Catching Salmon off the shore of Alaska.

So even though Alaska has been crossed of the list, he wants to go back there for the specific purpose of doing a longer fishing tour.

Another place he would like to go back to is a little closer to home: Rockport. He went fishing there last year, only a short time before Hurricane Harvey blew away much of the city. “That was heartbreaking to see what happened to the town. I sure enjoyed it there, there’s a lot of good people. I’d like to see how they rebuild the town.”

Before that, however, Hale still has 31 states to fish for the first time. He just returned from his trip to Pueblo, Colorado, where he caught his first-ever Wiper (Hybrid Striped Bass). Then, he already has trips planned to Savannah, Georgia and Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, in September. Recently, he also got excited about trying his hand at the famous Red Snapper this summer, probably in Orange Beach, Alabama.

“My message to America is that there has never been a better time to get out of the house, get away from your phone and go get these fish. God has blessed us with billions of fish in multiple species and flavors, along with tens of thousands of water bodies to catch them from.”

What are your dreams when it comes to fishing? Which species is a must for you to catch? Where will you go on your next fishing trip? Share your own stories in the comments below!

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