The 12 Best US Fishing Cities for 2020
Mar 10, 2020 | 8 minute read Comments
Reading Time: 8 minutes

The holiday season’s over. A new decade has begun. It’s time to look ahead at what 2020 will bring. Some people are already planning their next vacation – and we’re no different. In fact, we’ve been hard at work building our list of this year’s best fishing cities around the US. It includes a few of the top towns from last year, as well as plenty of new spots for an angling city break.

A Map of the US made out of fish.

Everyone has a different idea of the perfect fishing break. With that in mind, we included some of the nation’s largest metropolises, as well as a few of its smallest cities. What they all have in common is great fishing and plenty to keep you busy once you catch your fill. So, in no particular order, here are the best US fishing cities for 2020.

1. New Orleans, LA

A narrow street in the French Quarter of New Orleans at dusk, with neon signs lighting the street.

Where better to kick things off than America’s Favorite City? The Louisiana coastline is famous for its fishing, and New Orleans is no exception. Comb shallow seagrasses for Redfish, Trout, and Flounder, as well as Largemouth Bass. Farther out, you’ll find Cobia, Kingfish, and tasty food fish like Tripletail and Red Snapper. You’re in for a real feast after a day at sea here.

Make sure you save room for the local cuisine, though. New Orleans has an awesome food culture, from delicious gumbo and jambalaya to southern BBQ and freshly-baked beignets. Work off your meal with a stroll around the historic French Quarter, then jump on a streetcar to see more of the city. Round off the evening with live music on Frenchman Street. This is the Birthplace of Jazz, after all.

2. San Francisco, CA

An aerial view of the Golden Gate Bridge, with boats in the bay and San Francisco in the distance

Making our list for the second year running, San Francisco is literally surrounded by fish. Hit the bay to catch anything from Stripers and Sturgeon to Salmon and Halibut, with an unbeatable view of the city to boot. Offshore, Albacore Tuna and big pelagic Sharks will put your skills to the test. Wherever you go, you’ll end the trip with tired arms and plenty of premium fish.

Back on land, the sights start right where the fishing ends. Enjoy a sourdough bread bowl full of clam chowder at Fisherman’s Wharf. Load up on chocolate at Ghirardelli Square. Visit the sea lions at Pier 39. After that, take a walk down the Embarcadero to the Ferry Building, then a streetcar up the hill to Union Square. Alternatively, cross the Golden Gate Bridge for stunning views from the Marin Headlands and towering redwoods in Muir Woods. And that’s only a fraction of what the city has to offer!

3. Nashville, TN

An aerial view of Nashville, TN, as the sun sets.

When you think “world class angling,” your mind might not immediately turn to Tennessee. However, you only have to look at the record books to see how good the fishing is. From Striped Bass to Catfish to Crappie, the waters around Nashville have produced multiple world records. You don’t need to travel far to find them, either. The city’s surrounded by reservoirs and rivers.

For most people, Nashville means one thing: country music. Music City was home to the industry’s biggest names. Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, Dolly Parton – they’re just the ones that have their own museums! Your evenings will be filled with live bands and Tennessee whisky among the neon glow of Honky Tonk Highway. It’s a must for every country fan. Up for something truly over-the-top? Check out the full-sized replica of the Greek Parthenon at Centennial Park!

4. Charleston, SC

An old street in Charleson, SC, with Antebellum buildings and an old church in pink evening light

If you’re looking for big fish in skinny water, it doesn’t get much better than Charleston. The shallow grass beds of the Lowcountry are famous for their big Red Drum, Flounder, and Seatrout. The city also has a solid Tarpon bite. It’s not all about the inshore action, though. Local reefs hold Snapper and Grouper. Past that, you can find Tuna, Sailfish, Marlin, and more.

The first thing to do in Charleston is enjoy how beautiful it is. Take in the Antebellum mansions, cobbled streets, and live oaks. You should also visit the Old Slave Mart Museum to learn about the city’s – and the nation’s – history. Feeling hungry? Sample local Gullah cuisine, full of spices and piled high with shrimp, fish, rice, and okra. Round things off with some live jazz and a refreshing cocktail to beat the evening heat. Perfect.

5. Portland, OR

Portland, Oregon seen from a distance, with Mount Hood rising in the distance

We love Portland. We covered it last year and we also named it one of the West Coast’s most family-friendly fishing spots. Here’s why. Avid anglers can battle mighty Sturgeon on the Columbia River while families reel in Walleye on the Willamette. And of course, everybody from first-timers to fly fishing fanatics will love Portland’s Salmon and Steelhead bite.

It’s not just the fishing that makes Portland special, though. This is an all-round lovely place to be. From coffee to craft beer, quirky bars to colorful street art, it’s the dream destination for anyone who likes nice things. Portland is the kind of town that begs to be explored, so leave your car behind and discover it on foot or by bike. You won’t get far before you’re tempted into an interesting boutique or a trendy eatery. 

6. Portland, ME

A view of Portland, Maine, from the water, with colorful buildings and boats docking at the waterfront

Yes, both Portlands are here, and rightly so. This is a fishing city through and through, with a long seafaring tradition and a hard-working commercial fleet. Jump aboard a charter to haul in your own Maine Lobster. You can also catch delicious Haddock and Cod, or venture offshore for giant Tuna and Sharks. Otherwise, explore the city’s fresh waters for Pike, Trout, and Bass.

No trip to Portland is complete without wandering the cobbled streets of the Old Port district. Better still, join a brewery tour to learn about the city’s history while sampling its local produce. Once you’ve had your fill of Victorian buildings, vintage shops, and beer, head to the Portland Museum of Art to get your dose of culture. For a real one-of-a-kind experience, check out the International Cryptozoology Museum, home to Bigfoot, mermaids, and “actual” Yeti hair samples!

7. Boston, MA

Boston Harbor seen from the water, with sailboats in the sea and the city skyline behind

It’s impossible to talk about fishing cities without tipping your hat to Boston. The Northeast’s finest fish all show up here. Striped Bass and Fluke are the bread and butter of inshore trips. Farther out, giant Bluefin Tuna and toothy terrors like Blue and Mako Sharks make the summer seas boil. You can also catch top food fare like Pollock and Haddock. It’s tough to know where to start.

“There’s something for everybody” is a clichéd line, but it really holds true in Boston. Literary types can tour the homes of authors from Poe to Thoreau and Kerouac to Alcott. Nature lovers can wander the Harvard Arboretum or see the stars at the Boston University Observatory (free on Wednesdays). And that’s without even mentioning the revolutionary history, incredible bar and brewery scene, beautiful parks, and impressive museums. Seriously, go there!

8. Virginia Beach, VA

Virginia Beach in the early morning. A tyre trail stretches across the sand into the distance and hotels line the beachfront on the left.

Virginia Beach sits at the point where the Atlantic Coast’s fisheries meet. You’ll find Striped Bass and Tautog, just like you would up north. There are also warm-water fish like Cobia, Drum, and Trout. And that’s just the inshore bite. In the bluewaters, Mahi Mahi, Tuna, Sailfish, and even Marlin are common catches. They all vacation in VA Beach, and we can’t blame them.

Done fishing? Time to hit the sand. The city has some of the finest beaches on the East Coast and the sea is perfect for swimming, surfing, and paddleboarding. While you’re there, look out for sand sculptures at Neptune’s Park. After that, head to the Virginia Aquarium to see sea turtles, Sharks, and even Goliath Grouper up close. Round off the day with a drink at one of many oceanside bars. This is a real beach-lover’s paradise.

9. Chicago, IL

The Chicago skyline at dusk with Lake Michigan in the distance.

Chicago is an obvious choice for an angling city break. On the fishy side of things, the City by the Lake offers Walleye, Trout, Salmon, and Perch, all with the city skyline as your backdrop. As if that wasn’t enough, you can also find some decent Bass fishing in the Chicago River. What more could you want?

If your answer is “everything,” you’ve come to the right place. Into music? Catch some of the world’s top acts from jazz through house to hip hop and beyond. More into architecture? Stroll the Magnificent Mile to bask in Chicago’s neo-gothic glory. If you’re feeling cultural, you’ll find museums and galleries covering just about anything you can think of. And the food. Try cuisines from around the globe or just enjoy Chicago’s speciality – deep dish pizza.

10. Miami, FL

An aerial view of the Instracoastal Waterway in Miami, FL, with charter fishing boats in the sea.

“Wait a minute. I thought this was about fishing. Where’s Florida?” Don’t worry. We haven’t forgotten the heartland of American sportfishing. Where else can you battle Sailfish in sight of the shore in the morning, reel up Red Snapper on the way back to land, then chase Tarpon and Snook as the sun goes down? Miami really is an angler’s paradise.

Miami has a reputation as the world capital of glitzy parties and luxury living. It doesn’t disappoint. The Magic City dials the glamor up to 11 with rooftop cocktail bars, over-the-top mansions, and Michelin star restaurants. There’s plenty more going on beneath all this. Tropical nature and white sandy beaches in the local State Parks. The delicious food and hypnotic rhythms of Miami’s Cuban scene. A dozen world-class museums. It’s all here.

11. Colorado Springs, CO

A view across yellow forest to Colorado Springs, one of the best US fishing cities. The Rocky Mountains rise in the distance.

Last summer, we named Colorado Springs one of the top fishing spots in the state. We changed our minds. The city has what it takes to stand among the best nationwide. Fly fishing purists can take on Brown, Brook, Lake, and Rainbow Trout. Everyone else can battle Bass, Musky, Walleye, and more. And at 6,000 feet up, you’d better believe it gets cold enough for ice fishing!

Colorado Springs was founded as a resort town. A city of leisure. Go for a hike or a scenic drive on Pikes Peak, commonly known as America’s Mountain. Treat yourself at one of the local spas. You can also join a tour of the area’s rock formations or learn about its history at the Ghost Town Museum. This is no ghost town, mind you. It’s a friendly city of almost half a million people, with lots of quality bars and restaurants to keep your evenings busy.

12. San Juan, PR

A pretty harbor in San Juan, Puerto Rico, with a boat heading out on a fishing trip.

Some people might argue about whether San Juan is a “US City.” All we know is that the fishing is incredible and you don’t need a passport to get here. Huge Tarpon and Snook hunt in San Juan Bay, right in the middle of town. You start to see Sailfish and Marlin just a couple of miles offshore. This isn’t just one of the country’s best fishing cities. It’s one of the best in the world.

There’s a lot to pack in while you’re in town. Walk the impressive 16th-century walls of Castillo San Cristobal. Explore the narrow streets and shady squares of Viejo San Juan. Discover vibrant street art and cheerful live bands. Escape the old town to enjoy local favorites like La Placita, a large, open market building that comes alive at night with food, music, and dance. Oh, and save time to hit the beach. You won’t get bored here, that’s for sure!

Adventure Awaits!

Each of these cities offers something different. It may have an important cultural scene or strong musical heritage. Sometimes, it’s the stunning surroundings that make it special. And of course, every one has world-class angling right on its doorstep. That’s what makes them our best US fishing cities for 2020.

What’s your favorite spot for a city fishing break? Have you fished any of the ones on our list? Drop us your thoughts and suggestions in the comments below!

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Comments (2)
  • Gary Evenson

    Jan 25, 2020

    Miami should be #1. This list has no credibility

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      Jan 27, 2020

      Hi Gary,

      Thanks for getting in touch.

      As I said in the intro, the list is in no particular order. These fisheries are all so different that a straight ranking just wouldn’t be fair. The same is true of the cities themselves.

      You make a fair point, though. Miami is an amazing place, whether you like fishing or not.

      Which city does everyone else think is the best? Are there any others that should be on the list?

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