The colorful magic of fall is upon us, and with it come some unmissable fishing opportunities. ‘Tis the season of great tournaments, extra-large catches, and fun on the water. That’s why we thought it only right to help you out. So we compiled a list of the 12 best fall fishing destinations for 2021 to make it easier for you to decide where to go.
There’s a little bit of everything here. Whether you’d like to venture off the beaten path, face off against big names in tournaments, or just check out a new urban fishery, we’ve got you covered. Let’s get started!
For Competitive Anglers
Destin-Fort Walton Beach, Florida
It’s hardly a surprise we’re starting our journey in Florida. Destin-Fort Walton Beach is a winning combo because it caters to every level of angler. Not to mention the white sand beaches of Okaloosa Island, gorgeous weather even in the fall, and more fish than you can catch! Oh, and did we mention that Destin is the “World’s Luckiest Fishing Village”?
What makes Destin especially attractive to competitive fishermen is the legendary Destin Fishing Rodeo. Come October 1, and all through the end of the month (October 31), anglers from all over the country (and beyond) flock to Destin in search of glory. When there’s a chance to win up to $100,000 in prizes, you know you’ll want to bring your A-game.
You can hire a charter to help you in the tournament or set out on your own boat. Even if you’re fishing from shore or a pier, from a kayak or paddleboard, there’s a category for you.
So what can you catch? In the inshore division, Spotted Seatrout, Redfish, Spanish Mackerel, and more. Offshore, you could be treated to Mahi Mahi, Tuna, and Wahoo. Then there’s the special Billfish Division, where you’ll be face-to-gills with Marlin and Sailfish.
Coming with your family? They can participate too! In fact, there’s a special category for the little ones who reel in a catch that’s 1 pound or bigger. The prize? Their own rod and reel! If you want to start them young, this is a great place to do it.
Come to the Destin-Fort Walton Beach area at the very beginning of October, and you can also enjoy the Destin Seafood Festival along with the tournament festivities.
We’ll stay in Florida just a little bit longer. If you’re feeling up for some friendly competition in a beautiful setting, Navarre Fishing Rodeo (October 2–3) could be just the thing for you.
Navarre in itself needs no introduction. Nestled on the threshold of the Gulf of Mexico, this beachside community offers a fantastic fishing diversity. There are seven different divisions you can apply for in the tournament, depending on your strong suits and preferences.
Among the mangroves and on the flats, you’ll find Snappers, Flounder, Redfish, and Spotted Seatrout. Kayakers can join the show and fish for anything from Spanish Mackerel to Cobia, Grouper, and Triggerfish. Offshore fishermen will also get the chance to pit themselves against Mahi Mahi, Amberjack, King Mackerel, and Blackfin Tuna. If you’ve got kids who’d like to get a taste of competitive fishing, there’s a special Windjammers Junior Division they can participate in.
If you don’t feel like leaving solid ground, don’t worry! Head to the longest fishing pier on the Gulf Coast, the Navarre Beach Fishing Pier – measuring 1,545 feet. From there, you can spend the day enjoying the bite or having a wonderful time with your family.
With its stunning beachfront and so many fun things to do, Navarre should definitely be on your to-visit list this fall.
Brunswick Islands, North Carolina
If you’re looking for a fishing tournament on the East Coast, we’re taking you to the Brunswick Islands, NC. Here, you can spend weeks exploring the quaint barrier towns, enjoying the fair fall weather, and walking on beaches that stretch as far as the eye can see. And when you’re ready for an adrenaline rush, you can sign up for the US Open King Mackerel Tournament.
In Southport, NC, the first two days of October are reserved for premier fishing action. The US Open King Mackerel Tournament has five different sub-tournaments, so there’s a bit of something for everyone’s taste. With great access to the prolific fisheries of the Atlantic Ocean, the sky is the limit to what you can catch.
Whether you’re competing in the tournament or you’d just like to wet your line in these productive waters, the Brunswick Islands won’t disappoint. Inshore species like Spotted Seatrout, Redfish, Flounder, and Crab are available from piers and beaches. In the bluewater, King Mackerel, Wahoo, Grouper, Mahi Mahi, and iconic Sailfish are fair game. It’s not hard to understand why this is one of the top fall fishing destinations.
If you’re coming with your little ones, there’s an array of activities you can do, including mini-golf, splash pads, and nature parks.
Wilmington and the Beaches, North Carolina
Feel like exploring the “Old North State” some more? Then head down to Wilmington, for a bit of comfort food, fun times, and top-notch fishing. The barrier island of Pleasure Island – with Kure Beach and Carolina Beach – is a great place to start your fishing adventure. Come between October 15–17, and you can cast a line in the local Pleasure Island Surf Fishing Tournament.
This is a surf fishing tournament, so you won’t need a boat to participate. You don’t need fancy equipment or a crew to compete either, only reliable tackle and a bit of luck. As for possible catches, think Bluefish, Redfish, Speckled Trout, Weakfish, Mackerel, and Pompano, among others.
If you prefer to cast your lines from a boat with your family and friends, there’s no shortage of fishing guides you can team up with. Outdoor enthusiasts will love the local parks and boardwalks, and there’s plenty of content for the youngsters too. All this makes Wilmington and its beaches more than worth a visit.
Fall Fishing in the City
We can’t talk about the best fall fishing destinations for 2021 without talking about the fishing potential of certain cities. If you enjoy cityscapes and productive urban fisheries, these suggestions are for you.
Home of Elvis Presley and just about any music genre worth mentioning, we would be amiss not to mention Memphis’s fishing prowess. With the Mississippi River on its doorstep, Memphis is already ahead of the game. Add to that the Nonconnah, Loosahatchie, and Wolf Rivers, and you’ve got a wide variety of opportunities.
Freshwater fishing is king in the “Grind City,” and both locals and visiting anglers try to make the most of it. If you’re in the mood to break your personal record and land a massive Catfish, you’ve come to the right place. Carp is another popular catch, along with Bowfin and Garfish. If you head to Meeman-Shelby Forest Park, you can take your pick of lakes and, in these watersheds, Catfish, Bass, and Bluegill are on the menu.
When you’re done with your adventures on the water, Memphis will seduce you with its unique charm. Whether you’re walking down Beale Street or hitting the fishing tackle shop located in the famous pyramid, there’s plenty for you to do in this legendary city.
With a name like “Secret Coast,” you’d think there isn’t much to do in Coastal Mississippi, but the opposite is true! This lovely stretch of land and beaches straddles the Gulf of Mexico and has a lot to offer to prospective fishing enthusiasts. That’s why it’s on the list of the best fall fishing destinations.
Fall fishing all over the Secret Coast, especially in Biloxi and Gulfport, has a stellar reputation. Fishing spots are as numerous as they are diverse, and the bite is on year-round. And then there’s an array of species that come out to play in fall. Bays, reefs, rivers, and marshes are all but one cast away.
As the leaves start to change color, Bull Redfish are on everyone’s minds. Black Drum, Speckled Trout, Gar, Jack Crevalle, and Sheepshead are all there for the taking too, along with Snapper and Tripletail.
Coastal Mississippi is a picture-perfect destination for fishermen who’d like to take a beat from their busy lives, enjoy superb action, and just relax for a bit. Sun-kissed beaches and deep-blue waters teeming with fish await!
Corpus Christi, Texas
Southern hospitality, bright-blue waters, and some of the best Shark fishing in the country – all this perfectly describes Corpus Christi. Passionate fishermen flock to this gem of the Texas coast, all on the lookout for their dream catch.
With two main bays, Mustang and the Padre Islands, and the vast Gulf of Mexico but a short boat ride away, the sky’s the limit. A lot of seasoned anglers show up in Corpus Christi with one thought in mind – Shark fishing.
If you head out to the deep waters, you’ll be facing off against monsters of the deep like Mako, Tiger, and Bull Sharks. These beasts weigh hundreds of pounds and they’re formidable fighters. Getting one of them into the boat is a feat of strength, cunning, and patience. However, you can go after Sharks with your kids too, but you’ll be focusing on “friendlier” species like Bonnethead and Blacktips.
Of course, Sharks are not the only species on the to-catch list. In fall, anything from Redfish and Flounder to Amberjack and Tuna is there for the taking. You can also cast a line from one of the piers, hoping for all the inshore favorites.
What can you do here when you’re not on the water? Well, just about anything. Whether it’s water sports, sightseeing, or simply soaking in vitamin D on one of many available beaches, it’s all within reach in beautiful Corpus Christi.
With the Atlantic Ocean on one side and St. Johns River and the Intracoastal Waterway on the other, Jacksonville has more fishing spots than you can explore. While the weather is turning sour in most parts of the country, Jacksonville’s pleasant weather and bite that won’t quit are just what every avid angler needs.
Let’s start with the St. Johns River. Closer to the ocean, the waters are brackish and home to a number of all-time favorites – Redfish, Black Drum, Flounder, Sheepshead, and even Tarpon. Go further upstream and you’ll be in the freshwater realm, where you could find Catfish, Crappie, and Largies on your line.
The Intracoastal Waterway has similar offerings but in a different scenery of wetlands and marshes. Jacksonville beaches up the ante with Cobia, big Spotted Seatrout, Pompano, Snapper, Snook, and even the odd Sailfish here and there.
Being the most populous city in the state, Jacksonville is an excellent pick if you’re looking for an active vacation. Museums, gardens, and the Big and Little Talbot Islands are only a few of the many attractions this beautiful city has to offer.
Fall Fishing off the Beaten Path
Finally, we have something for fishermen who love getting away from the busy life of the city and reconnecting with nature. Here are our recommendations for the top fall fishing destinations for 2021 that are off the beaten path, but definitely worth the trip.
Estes Park, Colorado
Right on the doorstep of the Rocky Mountains, you’ll find Estes Park, surrounded by prolific watersheds and awe-inspiring views. If you’re looking for a place to cast your line with nothing but trees and gurgling streams for company, this is a great destination for you.
With its many creeks, Estes Park is a fly fisherman’s paradise. The clear and cold waters are the favorite playground of big, healthy Trout. Whether you go into the national park or venture further out to explore nearby rivers and lakes, you won’t be disappointed.
Rainbow, Brown, and Brook Trout are all in the cards, though their numbers vary depending on the body of water. Spots like Glacier Creek have easy access to all three species, while the Big Thompson Canyon boasts a strong catch and release Rainbow and Brown fishery.
Estes Park is the spot to visit when you’re craving some peace and quiet and want to spend your days in the fresh air. There’s even an aerial tramway that can take you to Prospect Mountain for those fantastic views!
Freshwater enthusiasts have a lot to do in the “Cornhusker State” every fall. Its numerous prolific waterways have provided good action for decades, and it’s no different in Valentine. If it’s lake or river fishing you’re after, then have your rods at the ready.
Valentine National Life Refuge has a dozen of small lakes, each of which has its own population of fun-to-catch species. In the early fall, when the fish go into a pre-winter feeding frenzy, you can hook into trophy-sized Largemouth Bass, Northern Pike, and Panfish.
Head some 40 miles west, and you’ll be on the two-pronged Merritt Reservoir. This is the place for you if you’re looking to break a personal catch record (and maybe a state one as well). Walleye is the belle of the ball, along with Black Bass, Crappie, Bluegill, Muskellunge, and Channel Catfish.
Valentine is a quaint town nestled in gorgeous Nebraskan nature, so it’s a perfect spot for hiking, biking, and kayaking. Both families and solo anglers who love the great outdoors will love it.
The capital of the “Cowboy State” is a hidden gem on our list of the best fall fishing destinations. The wider Cheyenne area is home to no less than three productive reservoirs that make up an exciting fishing scene.
North Crow Reservoir is the most diverse of the three. Here, you’ll find good numbers of Brown and Rainbow Trout, as well as Grayling and Splake. Granite Springs Reservoir has got a solid Kokanee population, along with some nice Rainbows. Crystal Reservoir is a Salmonid hub, so Kokanee, Brownies, and Rainbows are all frequent catches.
When you’re not on the water, you can learn about ranchers and check out the cowboy-themed museums in Chayenne. You can also take a walk around town or learn to ride like a cowboy on one of the nearby ranches.
Taos, New Mexico
If you think that New Mexico is all about wine, hot air balloons, and chili, think again. This old and diverse state is a fishing diamond in the rough, and more people are discovering it every year. Among its many spots, the town of Taos stands out, not only because of its fishing potential but also because it’s a world-famous art colony.
What makes fishing in Taos so special? The Rio Grande in all its glory flows some 20 miles from the center of Taos, which translates into very good fall fishing action. If you’re on the lookout for a new Trout spot, then the Rio Grande will wow you. These waters are known for their trophy Rainbow and Brown Trout which get extra aggressive throughout the fall.
Of course, there are many more native species you could find on your line, but Trout are the most prized catches. When you come back from your fishing expedition, save some time to enjoy the beauty of Taos. Admire the Taos Pueblo, take a photo next to the stunning St. Francisco de Asis church, or spend time in the great outdoors hiking and white water rafting.
What is your go-to fall fishing destination?
As you can see, we’ve tried to provide you with a multitude of choices for your fall fishing adventure. Where you’ll go depends on what you’d like to catch and see, so it’s time to put your planning hat on. The good news is that you don’t have to organize everything on your own, and in most places we mentioned, there are qualified fishing guides to help you. All you really need to do is take your pick and get started!
Do you have a go-to fall fishing destination? Have you casted a line in any of the places we mentioned? Do you have a recommendation for your fellow anglers? Let us know in the comments below.
Andrijana has been in love with nature since before she could walk, and she lives to explore the great outdoors whenever she has the chance. Be it traveling to far-off lands, hiking, or mountain climbing, Andrijana loves discovering new places and writing about them. The first time she went fishing with her dad she insisted on returning all the catch into the water. Dad was not pleased. Her curiosity about fishing only grew from there, and she’s been writing and learning about it for years. Andrijana’s favorite fish to catch is Mahi Mahi.