Best Memorial Day Weekend Fishing Destinations for 2019
May 24, 2019 | 11 minute read
Reading Time: 11 minutes

Traditionally held on the last Monday in May, Memorial Day marks the start of summer, and is a perfect occasion for friends and family to get together. Anglers across the country mark Memorial Day weekend on their calendars, knowing that this is one of the very best times of the year to wet their lines. To make the most of this year’s holiday, you’ll want to pick a location that offers amazing fishing, as well as fun activities for you and your loved ones to enjoy. These are the best Memorial Day weekend fishing destinations for 2019.

American Flags on a field of grass

Wilmington, North Carolina

Fishing

Wilmington and its surrounding waters are jam-packed with exciting game fish, both inshore and offshore. The area is incredibly blessed with bountiful inlets, rivers, and creeks. For example, Cape Fear River is a great Largemouth Bass fishery, while the inshore waters are teeming with Bull Reds, Black Drum, Spotted Seatrout, and Flounder.

In May, however, the real action lies offshore. Following the Gulf Stream, giant Yellowin Tuna make their appearance, as well as big Wahoo and Amberjack.

If you’re fishing from a licensed charter boat, you won’t need a fishing permit. If you’re fishing on your own, however, make sure you get a license.

Things to Do

Wilmington is one of those places you won’t see a dull moment in, especially during Memorial Day weekend. The fun officially starts on Friday evening, on the beautiful Carolina Beach Boardwalk. The beach comes alive with music, dance, and color, and that’s all before the fireworks start at 9:00 p.m.

a skylike of Wilmington, North Carolina

Meanwhile, in the town itself, the Downtown Sundown Outdoor Concert will open a summer-long series of concerts. This year’s opener will start at 6:30 p.m., and will feature a Rolling Stones tribute, as well as great food, local wine, and beer. The best part, as always, will be watching the sun set on the other side Cape Fear River.

History buffs will enjoy one of the many historical attractions like the Battleship North Carolina or the Fort Fisher State Historic Site. There’s no better place to pay tribute to the brave men and women who died serving the country.

USS North Carolina

If history’s not your thing, you’ll have a host of other activities and events to check out. Showcasing 80 local artists, the traditional arts and crafts fest is a must-see. If you’re traveling with kids, Sunday’s outdoor movie night in Carolina Beach Lake Park is something you don’t want to miss.

Erie, Pennsylvania

Fishing

Perfectly poised on perhaps the liveliest of the Great Lakes, Erie offers everything a freshwater angler could ever hope for. Aptly named “The Walleye Capital of the World,” this place will put you on some record-breaking Gravel Lizards.

The open waters are famous for Walleye, while the area around Presque Isle Bay is brimming with Smallmouth Bass and Perch.

Fishing in these waters really picks up in early summer. So much so, that the entire state of Pennsylvania offers a pre Memorial Day fish-for-free Sunday to kick the season off. If you’re planning on fishing on another day, be sure you get a Pennsylvania fishing license.

Things to Do

Erie has no shortage of attractions to offer, especially if you love the outdoors. The Presque Island State Park boasts pristine beaches and numerous water sports and boat excursions to choose from. There are plenty of family-friendly activities on offer, ranging from roller-coaster rides in Waldameer Park, to hanging out with wild animals in the town’s beautiful Zoo.

If your kids are into soccer, they’ll be thrilled to learn that Erie will be hosting one of the biggest youth soccer tournaments in the country on Memorial Day. The Memorial Day Classic takes place at the Edinboro University of Pennsylvania Campus and is a well-established soccer competition that draws in over 200 teams.

Not into sports? Be sure to check out the historic US Brig Niagara, an immense two-masted sailing battleship, pivotal in winning over the city of Detroit from the British in the War of 1812.

Perhaps you’re up for something a little more hedonistic. You’ll be pleased to know that Pennsylvania is one of the largest grape growing regions in the US. Venture along the scenic lakeside wine trails, enjoying some of the country’s very best vintages. If you can think of a better way to end the day than a glass of wine along a serene Lake Erie sunset, we surely can’t.

San Francisco, California

Fishing

Few places in the country can match the abundance and variety San Francisco has to display, both culturally and fishing-wise. Seeing as May 18 also marks the beginning of the ocean Salmon season, visiting San Francisco on Memorial Day weekend seems like a no-brainer.

fisherman's wharf san francisco

After you get your fill of Chinook, test your skills agains bottom-dwelling Halibut and Flounder. The recreational fishing season for Pacific Halibut already started on May 1, so make sure you get in on the fun – these guys will make for one amazing Memorial Day dinner.

If you’re in it just for sport, look no further than San Francisco Bay. Leopard Sharks and Sturgeon are constantly on the prowl in these inshore waters. But if you think San Francisco is just about saltwater fishing, think again. The backwaters and lakes around San Francisco are full of Rainbow Trout and various species of Bass.

Before you head out, make sure you get a California fishing license.

Things to Do

To kick things off, head for the colorful Mission District, and immerse yourself in the 40th Annual Carnaval Celebration. Here, you’ll find a melting pot of cultures and cuisines, coupled with live music, spunky beverages, and a grand parade to round it all off.

Away from the crowds, The Botanical Gardens are a perfect getaway from the town’s ruckus. After you recharge your batteries, it’s time for a dose of shopping and dining at the iconic Fisherman’s Wharf. Just a few miles from the Gardens, this place offers unforgettable views of the Bay, The Golden Gate, and Alcatraz.

As most locals will tell you, it takes a lot more than a weekend to truly experience San Francisco. Still, with all the richness it has, “The City by the Bay” will etch itself into your memory long before you know it.

On Monday, the official Presidio Memorial Day Commemoration will honor the men and women who laid down their lives serving the country.

boats at fisherman's wharf

Mobile, Alabama

Fishing

When it comes to fishing, Mobile is as diverse as it gets. From feisty inshore critters to offshore monsters, this place has it all. In the Bay, you can expect some wild running Bull Reds, Speckled Trout, as well as Flounder. Offshore in the Gulf, the bite is on for big Mahi, Wahoo, Kingfish, and Yellowfins, as well as Amberjack.

areal view of Mobile Bay

If you’re up for an adventure, start the day early, and take a drive along the Bay to Dauphin Island. This is where some of the best offshore specialists in the Gulf start their trips from. Twelve and even 24-hour outings aren’t uncommon here, often returning with tanks overflowing with fish.

Residents and non-residents between the age of 16 and 65 will need a fishing license.  

On Memorial Day weekend, Mobile will host one of the biggest fishing competitions of the season, the 42nd Annual 2019 MBGFC Memorial Day Tournament. Organized by Mobile Big Game Fishing Club, the contest prides itself with some of the biggest contest attendances and prizes in the Gulf.  

Things to Do

It’s hard to put all of Mobile’s attractions into a few paragraphs. But you’d expect that from a place once called “Paris of the South.”

Founded by the French way back in the early 1700s, Mobile is a the perfect place to take a step back into history. Colorful and charming, the city boasts mouthwatering dining options, live music, art galleries, and theaters, as well as some of the most stunning architecture you’ll ever see.

Take a stroll through the Oakleigh Garden Historic District, home to some of Mobile’s oldest house museums, where you can see how the cotton trade shaped the city. And when we say shape, we mean make Mobile the 10th wealthiest city in the United States.

Overlooking the Bay, USS Alabama stands as a proud reminder of the heroic feats its crew achieved during World War II. Decorated with 9 Battlestars for its achievements, the “Mighty A” has survived battles in the Atlantic as well as the Pacific. Thanks to a number of forward-thinking Mobilians, the ship is now part of a memorial park, regularly welcoming visitors to its hardened decks.

a statue with skyscrapers in the background in Mobile Alabama

Just south of the city, nature lovers come to enjoy the serene Bellingrath Gardens and Home. In May, the fairy-tale-like retreat is abloom with hundreds of colorful plants. Across the Bay, amidst the green cypress swamps, lurks the massive prehistoric reptile named the American Alligator. Known as Alligator Alley, this 20-acre reserve houses as many as 200 of these magnificent animals.

Washington D.C.

Fishing

You can’t have a Memorial Day destination list without including the nation’s capital. Contrary to what most people think of D.C., the area offers top-notch reel action. The craziest thing is, some of the fishing hotspots are just a few miles from Lincoln Memorial!

the potomac river and washington dc in the background

Fishing in D.C. will take you down the mighty Potomac, a fishing hotspot like no other. Running straight through the city center, the river will have you wrestling Catfish one minute, then admiring the Washington Monument moments later.

Fletcher’s Cove, just up the river, is one of those constantly productive fishing spots. Looking around, it’ll be hard to believe how close you are to the city center. The only giveaway will be the distant traffic noise.

Striped Bass, a local staple, will constantly keep you on the reels. You can expect a healthy dose of Shad, Largemouth Bass, and Walleye to boot.

On the other side of the capital, D.C.’s Anacostia Park encompasses the city’s largest recreational area. You’ll have multiple public boat ramps to choose from, and a good number of fish to go for, too. Before you hook any of the local critters though, be sure to check the D.C. fishing regulations.

Things to Do

One weekend hardly seems like enough when the entire city you’re visiting is a museum. On the flip side, there’s no better time to visit Washington D.C than Memorial Day weekend.

Speaking of museums, the nation’s capital is in a league of its own. The Smithsonian Institution alone has 17 world-class museums. Oh, and admission is free in every single one of them.

smithsonian institution

D.C. is dotted with memorials, parks, and historic monuments. To experience all this historical wealth first-hand, we recommend a walking tour. Or a bike tour. There’s no shortage of either in the city, and many of them are free.

The centerpiece of the weekend is, of course, The National Memorial Day Parade. Scheduled for Monday, May 27 at 2:00 p.m., the parade is the nation’s largest tribute its fallen heroes, from the Revolution to the present day.

Even if you don’t stick around for the entire event, one thing you definitely shouldn’t miss is visiting Arlington Cemetery and its Memorial Day Observation Ceremony.

flags aligned on arlington cemetery in washington dc

Cape Cod, Massachusetts

Fishing

How often do you see a place blessed with a dozen fish habitats, all with different water temperatures, just within a few miles of each other? Probably just as often as you see a place shaped like a fishing hook, with a fish in its name. Cape Cod has it all, and adds some unforgettable scenery on top.

In May, the fishing season takes off in spectacular fashion. At this time, Cow Stripers come barreling down into these waters with reckless abandon, attracting hundreds of anglers to Cape Cod.

Stripers might be the signature fish of the area, but there’s plenty more species to choose from – toward the end of the month, Black Seabass and Bluefish fishing is also great. Pollock and Flounder are on the bite pretty much year round.

Before you hook a fish, make sure you’ve checked out the regulations.

Things to Do

Ideal for family excursions, Cape Cod offers you and your loved ones a plethora of activities to enjoy. The local towns of Sandwich, Chatham, Hyannis, and Provincetown are must-sees. Combining lush green parks with waters of all shades of blue known to man, these towns are bound to remain forever ingrained in your memory.

the beach at Provincetown, Cape Cod
The beach at Provincetown

Whether it’s admiring antique cars, jumping on a carousel, exploring the lush local gardens, or just meandering along the scenic walking trails, Cape Cod has something for you.

Every Memorial Day weekend, Cape Cod hosts the annual Figawi Race, one of the top sailing events in the world. Racing from Hyannis to Nantucket, the regatta boasts around 240 sailboats, 2,000 participants, and countless spectators and enthusiasts. The contest has grown to become much more than just a spectacle, though. Today, Figawi provides support for a hundred local charities and veterans’ organizations.

Louisville, Kentucky

Fishing

If you’re looking for a more serene Memorial Day weekend fishing getaway, the lakes and rivers around Louisville are the perfect choice. The only thing to interrupt your tranquil time on the water will be the splash of fish you’ll be wrestling.

Speaking of fish, the lineup of Catfish, Trout, Bluegill, and Smallmouth and Largemouth Bass makes you wonder how these waters aren’t dotted with anglers. More fish for you, right?

There are several productive spots to wet your line, none more appropriate than Tom Wallace Lake in Jefferson Memorial Forest. This 6,600 acre woodland reserve is a tribute to the nation’s military veterans and a locale of pristine beauty. The best part is, it’s just 20 minutes from downtown Kentucky.

If you’re a Bass angler, Ohio River is the place for you. In late May and early June, the water starts heating up, bringing Bass in big numbers. A few other serene fishing spots include Floyd’s Fork at Beckley Creek Park. This place has a great variety of fish amidst some truly amazing scenery.

Ohio River, Kentucky

Before you set out, make sure you get a valid Kentucky fishing license.

Things to Do

Back in the city, you’ll have no shortage of attractions to explore. Right on the Ohio River, the beautiful Waterside Botanical Gardens are the ideal place to relax and unwind. While you’re there, why not take a stroll to Indiana? One walk across Big Four Bridge and it’s, “Hello, Jeffersonville!”

louisville skyline

Continuing along the river, you’ll come up on The Muhammad Ali Center, an interactive museum dedicated to preserving and sharing the legacy of the greatest boxer of all time.

Feeling adventurous? Hop on a zip line! Only, this isn’t your every-day zip line. This one runs under the city. Featuring over 17 miles of underground passageways, the cavern under Louisville is one huge place. If you’re visiting with kids, you’ll be glad to know that Louisville Mega Cavern has tram and bike tours as well.

Another must-see attraction Kentucky Flea Market, located at Kentucky Expo Center. Between May 24 and 27, over 700 booths filled with unique antiques, collectables, and jewelry will line up for the Kentucky Flea Market Memorial Day Spectacular. The four-day even is expected to draw as many as 15,000 visitors!

This is just scratching the surface – Louisville has so much more to offer. Still, even with the attractions we mentioned, the city’s spot on the best Memorial Day weekend fishing destinations is more than deserved.

What It’s All About

Memorial Day weekend is one of America’s most beloved holidays. It’s a time to honor the nation’s bravest, a time to celebrate what they gave their lives for, and a time to gather around what we cherish. Luckily, there’s no shortage of destinations where you can do all of this.

This Memorial Day weekend, we hope that you will enjoy some amazing fishing. Should you decide to wet your line in any of the places we mentioned – this is pretty much guaranteed.

What do you think of our picks? Where will you be fishing on Memorial Day Weekend? Let us know in the comments below.

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