Fishing USA: An Angler’s Dream Nears Completion

Oct 11, 2023 | 9 minute read
Reading Time: 9 minutes

Paul Hale of Queen City, Texas, has a mission – fishing in each and every state in America. Hardly more than a dream just one year ago, his mission is becoming a reality.FishingBooker interviewed Hale back in May, after he shared his inspiring story with us. At that time, he had fished 19 states. This is the second part of Hale’s story. You can read about the history of his epic adventure and his favorite spots in the first 19 states here.

Paul Hale holding lake trout in Montana

Paul Hale holding a big Lake Trout on Fort Peck Lake in Montana.

Since we last spoke to Hale, he’s been fishing in 26 more states plus Washington, DC. Along the way, he met up with old friends and made new friends, including a dog called Tripp.

Hale has cast his line in the Atlantic Ocean, the Gulf of Mexico and Tillamook Bay in the Pacific Northwest, as well as many rivers and lakes in between. He succeeded in catching fish on each of his stops, although at times he had to improvise (like the time he didn’t catch anything on his shared fishing charter in Hawaii and resorted to Walmart-bought gear and bait to pull fish out of the local canal). As a result, he has crossed many a fish species off his angler bucket list.

Hale took a break from his fishing travels for the holiday season, to spend time with his family in Texas. Luckily, this also gave us some time to catch up and share the highlights of his most recent adventures!

Cross That Off the List

Of course, Hale’s travels are about catching fish first and foremost. Like many anglers, he has a bucket list of species that he wants to reel in, and it’s no surprise that he managed to cross off a fair number of them in the past few months.

Paul Hale holding red snapper in Orange Beach

Hale with two Red Snappers he caught in Orange Beach, Alabama.

Among these are:

  • Lake Sturgeon on the St. Clair River, Michigan
  • White Sturgeon on the Columbia River, Washington
  • Saugeye on Taylorsville Lake, Kentucky
  • Steelhead on the Clearwater River, Idaho

Weird Fishes

Then there’s the ones that were not on the bucket list, but were unexpectedly intriguing. In September, Hale went fishing in Rhode Island with guide Jack Riley, who Hale says is “one of the very best – he knows how to get it all done.” Here, on the Niantic Bay, he caught False Albacore, which he says “may have been false, but he put up a very real fight. He fought like a demon-possessed machine.”

At Sandy Hook in New Jersey, he hooked a Cownose Ray, a rare fish in those parts. Hale had never even heard of it, but he took it home and prepared it for his friends, to everyone’s great delight. “Man it was special,” he says “It tasted like a cross between veal and premium beef, and all four of us loved it.”

Then at Chincoteague Island in Virginia, a strong east wind blew his chances of getting fish. So instead, his guide took him clamming, a first for Hale. Walking barefoot, he sank into the sandbar up to his ankles with each step, imagining this is the way clamming has been done for a thousand years.

Paul Hale clamming Chincoteague Island

Hale with two clams he gathered on Chincoteague Island, Virginia.

“When my feet touched the ‘round rocks’ –  that was the clams. I got about 35 of them. No fish in Virginia on these windy days, but definitely something different.”

Kentucky Rain

One of Hale’s favorite states on this part of his quest turned out to be Kentucky. He actually stopped there twice, once in August and again in September.

On the first trip, he went fishing on Taylorsville Lake near Shelbyville, where he caught Saugeye.

“The Saugeye was one of the fish very high up on my list and I got him here, catching two of them. One was big enough to eat so I kept it.”

Apart from catching one of his most-wanted, that trip afforded him another gift: he became friends with his guide, Chino Ross.

In September, on his drive back home to Texas from New England, he stopped in the Bluegrass State again. He stayed at the Musky Lodge in Wellington, and despite heavy rainfall that followed him from West Virginia, the next morning at 7:00 a.m. he went out fishing for Musky on Cave Run Lake.

In the pouring rain, Hale and his guide Tim Barkley hit the lake on a boat without any cover. After 30 minutes, the rain started getting under their (theoretically) rainproof clothes, and after an hour they were completely soaked through.

“The only way I could have been more wet was to jump in the lake. Up until about 10:45 I felt like one big fool fishing for a chance to land ‘The Fish of 10,000 Casts.’ That’s when I got him. I have never earned a fish like I earned the 41″ Musky I caught that day.”

Paul Hale with Musky at Cave Run Lake, Kentucky

Hale with the Musky he caught in the Kentucky Rain.

Energized by the catch, Hale and his guide continued to defy the torrent for another two hours before giving in and going back inside. The next day, Hale proceeded on his way home.

“I will probably always think of Elvis Presley’s song Kentucky Rain when I think of that day. I sang that song all the way home.”

A Furry Friend

Three weeks earlier, a special role on Hale’s travels was reserved for Tripp, the dog of Captain Matt Starling of Savannah, Georgia.

Paul Hale and dog Tripp with redfish

Hale with Tripp and a Redfish he caught in Savannah, Georgia.

“He is the only one I have found in all my trips that gets as excited as me when I catch a fish. Every time I caught a small fish Tripp gave no reaction. Every time I caught a big one he went nuts and tripped out. Twice while posing for a picture, Tripp leaped and ran around, got beside me and posed with me.”

A Family Fishing Reunion

Then, in Rhode Island and Connecticut, he was joined on his fishing trips by his sister Debbie. In Rhode Island, he caught the False Albacore that fought tooth and nail.

As for the Connecticut trip, Hale says it was “one of the most fulfilling fishing trips I have taken. I felt like I caught a week’s worth of fish in half a day.” Plus, Debbie also caught her fair share.

Paul Hale with Black Sea Bass on Niantic Bay

Hale with a Bluefish he caught on Niantic Bay in Connecticut.

Fish and Moonshine

In Rochester, New York, on the shores of Lake Ontario, Hale visited friends he and his wife had met on a cruise to Alaska the year before, Anna and Bill Ludwinek. They told him about a guide they knew in Rochester, so in August Hale decided to go up north and try his luck.

“Perhaps Mark Brozowitz, owner of Reel Crazy Charters, is the most entertaining guide I have booked with. There was never a dull moment.”

Hale invited Bill and Anna along for the fishing trip, and Bill was glad to join.

“So Bill came with me and caught his first fish. When Anna told me later it was his first fish, I asked, ‘In Lake Ontario?’ She said, ‘No, in his life.’”

Man with lake trout on lake ontario

Bill Ludwinek with Lake Trout he caught on Lake Ontario, New York.

It wasn’t just Bill Ludwinek who had a day of firsts, though – Captain Brozowitz got Hale to try out something new, as well.

“While we were on the lake he told me we would all take a shot of moonshine when we got through fishing. I told him I would take a shot of my diet coke and let him and Bill do the shine. But he insisted so I took my first shot of lemon moonshine – it was actually good. This guy was a blast and I just love my new friends from the cruise.”

Going Out West

In October, Hale headed west for the last leg of his adventure in 2018. In California, he caught his first King Salmon on the Sacramento River. The next stop was Oregon, where he caught 20 small Rainbow Trout on beautiful Lost Creek Lake.

Paul Hale with three rainbow trout on Lost Creek Lake

Hale with Rainbow Trout he caught Lost Creek Lake, Oregon.

But the real treat came when Chino Ross, his guide from Taylorsville Lake in Kentucky and a new good friend, flew in to fish with him in Washington and Idaho.

They first hit the Columbia River in the Evergreen State, where in the morning “the fog was so dense we could only see a few feet in front of us.” Not long after, though, the sun flaunted its rays and the clouds lifted. Before he knew it, Hale caught – and released – his first ever White Sturgeon.

Paul Hale with White Sturgeon on Columbia River

Hale with White Sturgeon he caught on the Columbia River in Washington.

The highlight of this trip, however, was the Clearwater River in Idaho. Hale expected that Idaho had a lot to offer, and centered his trip around the Gem State on purpose. It didn’t disappoint.

“This was one of my better fishing stops in this nation. We caught many of those big Steelhead and a couple King Salmon. Right as the last minute was about to tick off the trip, I hooked and landed my biggest Trout of the day.”

Two men holding steelhead on clearwater river idaho

Hale and Chino Ross with Steelheads they caught on the Clearwater River in Idaho.

The Final Leg

Hale is currently spending time with his family in eastern Texas, but in February he will be back on the road. He has just five more states to fish before completing his mission: Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Pennsylvania, and Florida.

First, he’ll go ice fishing in the first four and aim to catch Burbot, one more bucket list fish. Then in spring he will head to perhaps the most iconic saltwater fishing state, Florida, where he plans to go on several charters and end his tour with a bang.

Will that be the end of Hale’s fishing saga? Almost certainly not. There’s plenty more fish on his bucket list, and there’s plenty more beautiful places both in and outside of the USA. And Hale will always continue to marvel at both natural and man-made grandeur:

“Many times on this trip I was awed and amazed at the natural beauty and the natural resources of this nation, and just as awed at the reservoirs, highways, and dams that our forefathers built, carved, and constructed in this rugged land.”

Hale’s List of 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
      20. Hawaii – Maui
      21. Montana – Fort Peck Lake
      22. Wyoming – Keyhole Reservoir and Glendo Reservoir
      23. Washington DC – Potomac River
      24. Maryland – Ocean City
      25. Delaware – Rehoboth Beach
      26. Virginia – Chincoteague Island
      27. Tennessee – Cherokee Lake
      28. Alabama – Orange Beach
      29. Arkansas – Lake Ouachita
      30. Michigan – Grand Haven (Lake Michigan), Muskegon Lake, St. Clair River, Lake St. Clair, Port Huron (Lake Huron)
      31. Indiana – Lake Monroe
      32. New York – Lake Ontario
      33. Ohio – Vermillion (Lake Erie)
      34. Kentucky – Taylorsville Lake & Cave Run Lake
      35. Georgia – Savannah
      36. South Carolina – Myrtle Beach
      37. North Carolina – Calabash
      38. Massachusetts – Marblehead
      39. Rhode Island – South Kingstown
      40. Connecticut – Niantic Sound
      41. New Jersey – Sandy Hook
      42. California – Redding (Sacramento River)
      43. Oregon – Tillamook Bay
      44. Washington – Columbia River and Snake River
      45. Idaho – Clearwater River
      46. Utah – Flaming Gorge Reservoir
      47. Maine – soon
      48. New Hampshire – soon
      49. Vermont – soon
      50. Pennsylvania – soon
      51. Florida – soon

Do you have a dream place to go fishing? Which fish is highest on your bucket list? We’re looking forward to reading your thoughts and comments below!

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