It’s no secret that one of America’s favorite pastimes is fishing. Well, for some it’s a pastime, for others, it’s a way of life. And it’s easy to see why. Some of the most productive fisheries on the planet are right here. Still, when faced with that many fantastic choices, anglers wrestle with the same question – Where to begin? To answer this question, FishingBooker went on a quest to find out which are the best US fishing states.
We made use of our own data and paired that information with other public fishing-related sources. This helped us better understand which states not only have the most prolific angling but also support and develop their fisheries. In this article, we’ll explain the methodology behind the research and share the ranking of the US states according to their fishing potential. Let’s get started!
Before we get into the nitty-gritty details, let’s go through some key takeaways we discovered after concluding our research:
- Two states, Michigan and Florida, share the first place on the list, with the same number of points. As it turns out, one represents freshwater and the other a saltwater fishery.
- The first half of the list is dominated by states on the Atlantic Coast. There are 14 of them in the top 25, so they make up 56% of the first half of the list.
- Five states on the Atlantic Coast, two states on the Pacific Coast, two Great Lakes states, and one Gulf State in the top 10.
- Out of the 25 bottom states, 18 are landlocked, which contributed to the overall ranking.
- The top eight states with the highest score in the “share state covered by water” criteria also appear in the final top 10 list.
How were the states ranked?
Our extensive research of the US’s fishing opportunities was based on 17 different criteria. Out of these, five criteria were based on FishingBooker’s internal data from hundreds of thousands of fishing trips, reviews, and reports in the past year. The remaining 12 criteria come from publicly available data sources.
Once the criteria were established, we grouped them into four separate categories – Anglers’ Interest, Facilities, Financial, and Geography.
Using the accumulated data, each of the states received a score from 1-10 for each of the 17 criteria. Some of the criteria were considered of special significance, so were given additional weight in the calculations. The maximum possible score a state could get was 220 points. Once the scores were calculated, weighted, and summed up, we got the ultimate list of US states with their fishing potential ranked from best to worst.
Now we’ll cover the top 10 fishing states on the list, highlighting what makes them the best of the best, as well as the categories in which they stand out in our research. Without further ado, here they are – the best US states to fish in 2023!
Top 10 Fishing States in the US
1. Michigan – 126.5 points
We’ve got two states tied for first place – Michigan and Florida. But we’re starting with the best freshwater fishing state, aka the “Great Lake State.” The state boasts easy access to four of the five Great Lakes, which makes it the nation’s epicenter of freshwater fishing. In the ranking, Michigan takes the cake in the Anglers’ Interest, Financial, and Geography categories.
Over 40% of the state is covered in water (more than 40,000 square miles) and those waters are well used. Prices of fishing trips and licenses are affordable and there’s a great interest in fishing among the state’s population. According to FishingBooker’s findings, Michigan is the best state for freshwater angling enthusiasts. All this adds up to Michigan’s prestigious first place on the list.
Where do we start with so many fishing opportunities? In case Lakes Michigan, Superior, Erie, and Huron aren’t enough, you can pick one of the other 11,000 lakes or 3,000 rivers. Another nickname for Michigan is “Water Winter Wonderland,” a hint at its excellent ice fishing scene. The state’s favorite catches are Walleye, Trout, Salmon, Bass, Northern Pike, and Muskellunge among others.
1. Florida – 126.5 points
Tied with Michigan in first place, Florida is representative of top saltwater fishing just like Michigan is in the freshwater realm. Florida has one of the highest rankings on the list in the category of Anglers’ Interest, which makes sense since it’s the most famous saltwater destination in the country.
There’s an incredible variety of angling trips on offer, so the prices are just as varied, and there are thousands of charters that can take you out. This allowed Florida to have a strong score in the Financial category as well. Basically, if you want to go saltwater fishing, there is no better place for it than Florida.
It’s hardly a surprise that the Sunshine State is the best choice for every form of saltwater escapade you can imagine. The Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico hug over 8,400 miles of coastline, with more game fish in these crystal clear waters than we can count. Whether it’s inshore royalty like Redfish, Tarpon, and Snook or offshore giants like King Mackerel, Grouper, Snapper, and Sailfish, Florida will blow your mind with its year-round action.
3. Delaware – 125
If you want to fish in a state which has equally good freshwater and saltwater action, Delaware might be the perfect fit. This is one of the main reasons why the Diamond State came in third on our list of best US fishing states. The thing is, when you think about fishing, Delaware isn’t necessarily the first place you think of. That’s a shame because the area is an angling gem.
That’s clearly mirrored in our rankings. In fact, when it comes to the Anglers’ Interest category, Delaware is tied with Florida! Despite the fact that the state has only around 380 miles of shoreline and about 20% of it is covered by freshwater, fishing is flourishing. And not only is it flourishing, but it’s also accessible thanks to affordable license prices, which gave Delaware a high score in the Financial category.
So, what makes fishing in Delaware so special? Whether you cast your line in one of the numerous inland watersheds, the productive Delaware Bay, or the depths of the Atlantic Ocean, you won’t be disappointed. Bass, Crappie, and Muskellunge are the most common freshwater catches. In the saltwater realm, Striped Bass, Flounder, Black Seabass, Sharks, and Bluefin Tuna are on the menu.
4. Alaska – 122.5
When a state’s got the longest coastline in the country (almost 33,900 miles), you know that fishing will be off the hook. Prefer freshwater fishing? No problem, you’ve got over 94,000 square miles of freshwater at your disposal. According to our research, almost 60% of Alaskans hold a valid fishing license, which speaks volumes about the amazing fishing locals and visitors enjoy.
The Financial category is one of the two categories where Alaska stood out the most. Our data confirm that anglers are willing to invest in a fishing trip here more than anywhere else in the US. Not only that, but the number of satisfied anglers after the trip is very high, over 95%.
Speaking of catches, the list of game fish you can target at the Last Frontier is phenomenal. This is a Salmon mecca, where you can chase all five species of Pacific Salmon, along with “Barndoor” Halibut and some of the biggest Rockfish you’ll find anywhere. Trout fishing is just as good, especially when it comes to Rainbow Trout. Spend a few days in a fishing lodge in the Alaskan wilderness, and your fishing horizons will be widened forever.
5. Hawaii – 118
Coming in fifth on our list of the best US fishing States is paradise, aka Hawaii. Presenting deep sea action in all its glory, the Islands of Aloha are absolutely beautiful and have some of the most exciting fishing in the country. What’s more, you can cast a line in this developed saltwater fishery completely free of charge.
The state got a high score in the Financial category, due to the fact that you don’t need a fishing license to hit the water here. You can fish in saltwater, as long as you don’t sell your catch afterward. Freshwater anglers will still need to buy a freshwater license, however. What also helped Hawaii earn its fifth place in the ranking is that visiting anglers are usually very happy with their fishing experience.
And how could they not be? Sportfishing takes on a whole different dimension in Hawaii. There’s a slew of Billfish species in these waters year-round, and a Yellowfin Tuna bite that’s easily one of the best in the whole US. Mahi Mahi is the official state fish, and is a staple both when it comes to angling and the local cuisine. Want to stay closer to land? You’ll find plenty of hard-fighting Bonefish, Trevally, Barracuda, and that’s just to name a few.
6. Maine – 116
We’ve got another tie on our list – both Maine and Maryland are in sixth place. The Pine Tree State earned its strong ranking because it sports a noteworthy freshwater and saltwater scene. It’s also got more facilities than any other state to help anglers get everything they need for a successful day on the water.
For this, Maine got a higher ranking in the Facilities category than any other state. What also put them in the top 10 is the affordability of charter trips and fishing licenses. All this adds up to a sought-after angling destination that can accommodate fishing enthusiasts of all levels and ambitions.
Get a taste of Maine’s fisheries and it will be clear why it’s one of the best US fishing states. On the saltwater front, anything from massive Striped Bass, Pollock, Haddock, and Sharks to magnificent Bluefin Tuna is in the cards. And don’t forget about the amazing Maine Lobster! Freshwater aficionados will have a lot of fun going after Bass, Trout, Perch, and Pike, too. You can also go ice fishing for these species for a change of pace, so the sky’s the limit!
6. Maryland – 116
The Free State is tied with Maine for sixth place on our list of best places to fish in the US. If you’re wondering why, the answer is simple – the Chesapeake Bay. Plus the fact that a fifth of the state’s surface is covered by water, so both freshwater and saltwater anglers have a lot to do here.
That’s why Maryland has a fantastic score in the Anglers’ Interest category, coming in as one of the highest of all the states. Great access to the inshore and nearshore waters of the bay, paired with action-packed offshore fishing attracts a lot of seasoned fishermen here. According to FishingBooker’s stats, a large majority of people who fish with local professional guides are happy with their time on the water and their catches.
It’s easy to fall in love with Maryland’s rich waters. The Chesapeake Bay is a famous angling destination, both for its variety of species and great numbers of fish. This is one of the places for Striped Bass fishing on the East Coast, and there’s also a lot of Black Seabass, Tautog, Mackerel, Cobia, and Black Drum. The biggest catches of the area are Tuna and White Marlin in the bluewater. Meanwhile, in the many rivers, lakes, and creeks of Maryland, Catfish, Perch, and Bass await.
8. Rhode Island – 114
Rhode Island might be the smallest state, but its fishing opportunities are anything but. That’s how it found its way to our list of the best US fishing states. This state has an excellent rating in the Financial category, thanks to its affordable licenses and trip prices. There’s a lot to chase here, and both locals and visiting anglers know it.
One of the best things about fishing in Rhode Island is that people love coming here to fish. That’s clear from the insight into FishingBooker’s data, where we can see that the level of anglers’ satisfaction is up there with Florida and Michigan. There’s a good number of charter businesses for a state of this size, plus, buying a fishing license won’t break the bank.
Also known as the Ocean State, Rhode Island allows for some first-class action. Fish the plentiful waters of Narragansett Bay or keep going into the Atlantic Ocean, where you’ll find all the trophy species you can think of. Since we’re on the East Coast, Bluefin Tuna are the most coveted catch, but for anyone who’d like to stay close to land, Stripers, Flounder, and Black Seabass are all fair game, while the inland watersheds will reward you with bragworthy Trout.
9. Louisiana – 113
Home of the blues, incomparable Cajun cuisine, and unforgettable New Orleans, Louisiana also boasts some of the best fishing action in the Southern US. With endless marshes and uniquely rich inshore waters, it makes sense that Bayou State is on this list.
According to our research, some of the biggest draws of fishing in Louisiana include its solid year-round freshwater and saltwater bite. Over 15% of the local population holds a fishing license, which is easy and moderately cheap to buy. Casting a line in saltwater is slightly more popular than freshwater fishing, but that makes sense. The Gulf of Mexico in all its splendor is right at the state’s doorstep!
Louisiana has some of the best shallow water angling you’ll find in the South. The numbers of Redfish, Black Drum, Speckled Trout, and Flounder are astounding, and large specimens are almost always available. Go out into the Gulf, and you’ll come across Red Snapper, massive Yellowfin Tuna, Wahoo, Mahi Mahi, and Billfish. All the A-listers in one place!
10. Wisconsin – 111.5
In the final place on our list of best fishing states, we’ve got Wisconsin. The Badger State has immense freshwater fishing potential, which is what warrants its place on the list. With Lake Superior to its north, Lake Michigan to the east, and thousands of lakes and streams in between, this is easily one of the best fishing states in this part of the country.
Freshwater anglers love coming to Wisconsin, be it during the warmer months or during the hard-water season. That’s obvious because of the state’s high ranking in the Anglers’ Interest category. The services of the guides and fishing trips are affordable, as are the necessary fishing licenses. Because of this, Wisconsin got a prominent ranking in the Financial category as well. Awesome fishing at a good price, what’s not to love?
If you’re wondering what you can target in America’s Dairyland, how do all the freshwater game fish sound? Whether you’re in the mood for Trout or Salmon, Walleye or Pike, Bass or Perch, you’re in the right place. Coho Salmon is a particular favorite here, along with Rainbow Trout, both of which make for the tastiest table fare. Ice fishing will put you on Crappie, Lake Trout, Yellow Perch, and many more.
Best US fishing states: Is yours in the top 10?
Finding the very best states to fish in the US is no small feat, and there’s a significant amount of research and calculations that went into this ranking. Of course, there are many many places all over the US that have outstanding fishing, but listing them all would require an encyclopedia.
For the complete ranking, you can check out the slideshow earlier in this article and find your state, in case it’s not in the top 10. Now that you’ve got this list to inspire you, which state is your first bucket list destination? The peak fishing season is already starting, so you’d better start packing!
Sources: FishingBooker, Take Me Fishing, Statista, World Population View, Marinas.com, Walmart, Target, Bait Shops Near Me, Median Wage, Hooked in Fishing, American Sportfishing Association, Hey It’s Free, and NOAA.