When you think about fishing, you usually picture a solitary affair, perhaps with a few friends or family members to keep you company. Sure, who doesn’t like a good getaway? There are times, however, when you want to hear other people’s angling stories, and maybe even share some of your own feats.
For this, fishing festivals are perfect. These are events made to celebrate the joy of fishing, try new fish delicacies, and learn a few fishing tricks along the way. Today, we’re breaking down the best fishing festivals in the US.
For this list, we’ve taken fishing festivals with an educational, entertaining, culinary, and fishing element to them. Some of these festivals include angling competitions as well, but are not strictly fishing tournaments.
Texas Fly Fishing & Brew Festival, Mesquite, TX
Located in the suburban area of Dallas, Mesquite’s Texas Fly Fishing & Brew Festival is a two-day event with a mission to introduce as many people to the sport of fly fishing as possible. Taking place in late February, this one-of-a-kind, family-friendly festival will offer you all sorts of opportunities to up your fly fishing game. Beginner or expert, you’ll be able to learn everything you want about casting techniques, fly tying, and fish species.
The TFFBF isn’t just about education, though. There’s also a plethora of hot new fly fishing equipment on display. Once you’re done with gear testing and picking fly fishing experts’ brains, step out into the beautiful Texas outdoors and take a sip of the Lone Star State’s best micro-brewed beers.
The Brainerd Jaycees Ice Fishing Extravaganza, Brainerd, MN
When the Brainerd Jaycees launched their little tournament in 1991, the idea was to make a fun fishing event that would rally locals around a noble cause. The purpose was to raise money for local charities and to provide opportunities for personal growth. What nobody expected was for it to become the biggest ice fishing event in the world.
Today, the Extravaganza brings a cool 20 thousand ice fishing anglers to Brainerd. Together, they raise $150,000 in charities, as well as over $1 million in revenue for local businesses. Talk about overachieving.
Fishing-wise, you’ll be able to test your skills on one of Gull Lake’s 20 thousand ice holes. Traditionally held on the last weekend in January, the Extravaganza has a host of other events around the main contest. Starting with the Friday Night Kick Off Party, families will be able to enjoy live music, a plated dinner, stand-up comedy, and loads of educational content on ice fishing.
Florida Seafood Festival, Apalachicola, FL
One of the biggest and most beloved seafood festivals in the country, the Florida Seafood Festival is a two-day event that draws tens of thousands of visitors each year in November.
The festival features delicious seafood, as well as numerous arts and crafts exhibits. The highlights are, of course, the famous Apalachee Bay oysters. If you’re feeling competitive, be sure to give the Oyster Eating and Oyster Shucking contests a try.
Other events include Blue Crab Races, a Parade, a 5k Redfish Run, the Blessing of the Fleet, and others. Each year, the event features spectacular live concerts. Most recently, the lineup included the award-winning Jason Crabb and Parmalee.
Walleye Festival and Walleye Drop, Port Clinton, OH
Port Clinton is widely recognized as the “Walleye Capital of the World.” It’s only fitting that the place should have not one, but two Walleye fishing festivals. The first, Walleye Festival, is a five-day celebration of Memorial Day, centered around family-friendly educational programs and activities.
Showcasing an array of free live concerts, vendors from across the country and carnival rides, all with a picturesque view of Lake Erie, the festival is a treat for all the senses. With main events like the Kids Fishing Derby, Grande Parade, and the Walleye 5K Run & Walk, the Walleye Festival is also a great place to introduce your kids to fishing.
And then there’s the Walleye Drop. The second Port Clinton fishing festival, is one of the most unique New Year’s celebrations in the country. As they proudly say in Port Clinton, “Who needs Times Square when you can have your own 20′, 600 lb fiberglass Walleye land from the sky at the stroke of midnight?” As midnight strikes, the sky lights up with fireworks, bringing a smile to thousands of excited faces.
Fall Fish Fest, Lake Tahoe, CA
Traditionally scheduled for the first weekend in October, the Fall Fish Festival is a perfect getaway for families with children. Taking place at the Taylor Creek Visitor Center, just outside South Lake Tahoe, the festival highlights the fish species that live in the lake and nearby waterways.
Kids and adults alike come to learn about the native endangered Lahontan Cutthroat Trout, the colorful Kokanee Salmon, and to learn why they’re so important for the local bear population.
At the entrance, you’ll be greeted by the festival’s mascot – a giant inflatable Kokanee Salmon. Once you enter the grounds, you’ll be able to jump from treasure hunts to fish art, to stream-side educational programs, and of course, ice cream. Hit the Rainbow Trail path to get a close-up of the Kokanee Salmon as they spawn.
Unfortunately, this event was canceled back in 2021 and 2022 due to a drought in the region. But we’re all hoping for a return to normality in more ways than one this year!
Issaquah Salmon Days Festival, Issaquah, WA
The Issaquah Salmon Days Festival celebrates the return of Salmon to their birth waters, promoting the town’s rich history, culture, and ethnic diversity along the way. There are several Salmon-watching spots where you can observe them as they return to their native waters to spawn. Guides are happy to show kids everything about Chinook, Coho, and Sockeye as they bask in their natural habitat.
Every year, as many as 150,000 people flock to Issaquah. They come to enjoy the arts and crafts, local food, the parade, live entertainment, and much more. You could say that the festival puts Issaquah on the tourist map. The town’s leadership would definitely agree. So much so that they decided to (temporarily) rename the town to Fishaquah.
The Virginia Fly Fishing Festival, Doswell, VA
Mirroring the Texas Fly Fishing & Brew Festival, the Virginia Fly Fishing & Wine Festival is the largest event of its kind in this part of the country. Each year, the event draws fly anglers from as far away as New York and Georgia. Held in the minute town of Doswell, just north of Richmond, the festival offers fine wine tasting, specialty foods, and everything you ever wanted to know about fly fishing.
The wines alone are reason enough to visit the festival. Virginia boasts an incredibly rich wine culture, reaching as far back as the 17th century. All the varieties on display are 100% Virginia-made, and there’s something for every wine lover’s taste. And, not to stay behind Texas, the organizers have added micro-brewed beer, too.
So, there you have it. Have you visited any of these fishing festivals? Which one is your favorite? Let us know in the comments below.
Sean is an optometrist who left his day job to write about fishing. He calls himself a lucky angler because his favorite fish, Mahi Mahi, can be found almost anywhere – even though he’s lost more of them than he’s willing to admit. Obsessed by all forms of water sports, you’ll find him carrying one of three things: a ball, a surf board, or his fishing rod.