While most know it simply as Presidents’ Day, the official name of the holiday that falls on the third Monday of each February is Washington’s Birthday. And since the Founding Father himself was an avid angler, what better way to spend the day than to do some fishing? Not to mention all the other presidents that also practiced the fine art of reeling in fish, such as Herbert Hoover, Eisenhower, and George H.W. Bush, together with his son.
The only question, of course, is where to go. To give you some inspiration, we’ve compiled a quick list of the best Presidents’ Day fishing destinations around the US. Even though it might still be cold outside, the rivers, lakes, and seas we’ve chosen are all fishable. So without further ado, scroll down and have a look at our Presidents’ Day picks for 2023!
Hilton Head Island, SC
Famous for its pristine, white sand beaches, Hilton Head Island ranks among the most beautiful parts of the East Coast. But while it’s certainly a fantastic place to get some rest, this part of South Carolina also boasts a vibrant fishery. This holds true even during winter, making Hilton Head Island a top-tier destination if you want to get your fish on for Presidents’ Day.
The adventure starts in Hilton Head’s backwaters, along the different sounds and creeks that provide shelter for inshore fish. Redfish are year-round residents here and you’ll often see them schooling the gin-clear flats during February. For those who know how awesome sight fishing for Redfish is, it’s the perfect time to visit Hilton Head Island.
Of course, other fish, such as Speckled Trout and Black Drum can also be caught close to shore. Meanwhile, if you venture out to the nearshore reefs, you’re likely to reel in some delicious Sheepshead for dinner. Also, as long as the weather holds up, there are fishing charters that can take you offshore, expanding your list of targets even more.
Besides the tremendous fishing Hilton Head offers, there are a ton of activities to enjoy around the island. Golfers can enjoy a game along the island’s sprawling courses. Or you can take a nature tour and experience the stunning Lowcountry scenery up close. And to make sure you’re comfortable and well-fed, there are resorts and local restaurants to suit everyone’s tastes.
St. Augustine, FL
Moving south along the East Coast, we reach our next Presidents’ Day fishing destination – St. Augustine. Sometimes called the “Ancient City” due to its status as the longest continuously inhabited settlement in the US, it’s a place that has plenty to offer visiting anglers. Like elsewhere in Florida, fishing in St. Augustine is a year-round endeavor, with each season bringing new excitement.
Anglers visiting on Presidents’ Day can expect the bulk of the action to take place inshore. St. Augustine’s waters are often clear during late February, setting the stage for productive sight fishing trips. Redfish are often the main target, joined by the likes of Black Drum, Speckled Trout, Flounder, and Sheepshead.
If you take a short drive east, you can explore the St. Johns River and hunt for its Largemouth Bass. Westwards, the ocean waters and its reefs hold various types of Snapper and Grouper for you to catch. To add to all this, Wahoo often make an appearance in St. Augustine’s offshore waters in February. So even during what some may call the slow season, there’s the chance to fight one of the fastest fish in the ocean!
When you’ve caught your fair share of fish, there’ll be other things to enjoy in St. Augustine, too. The beautiful Crescent Beach is a sight to behold even when it’s not swimsuit weather. If you’re in the mood for some history, there’s the Pirate & Treasure Museum, which holds relics from the swashbuckling era. Finally, wildlife enthusiasts can visit the St. Augustine Wild Reserve and get face-to-face with tigers and other majestic beasts roaming it. Sign us up!
The Secret Coast, MS
We continue our journey in coastal Mississippi. Its stretch of the Gulf shoreline is dubbed the “Secret Coast,” alluding to its sheltered position between Alabama and Louisiana. But if you ask us, the nickname might as well have something to do with the bountiful fishery you’ll discover out here.
On Presidents’ Day, your main targets along the Secret Coast will likely be Sheepshead, big Redfish, and Black Drum. Close to shore, you’ll also encounter Speckled Trout and Flounder, providing anglers with some more variety. You can find charter captains all along Mississippi’s coast, but the biggest hubs lie in Biloxi, Gulfport, and Pass Christian.
While you’re likely to spend your Presidents’ Day trip fishing the inshore marshes or the barrier islands, going offshore is possible provided the weather serves you. The deepwaters are a year-round home to a variety of bottom fish. Furthermore, if you can get to one of the oil rigs, you’ll also have a shot at Yellowfin Tuna.
This year’s President’s Day falls just one day before Mardi Gras. This means there’ll be plenty of events going on along the Secret Coast. Take part in the Annual Gulf Coast Carnival Association Mardi Gras Parade in Biloxi or the Krewe of Gemini in Gulfport. And, if you’re looking for something for Washington’s Birthday itself, there’ll be a party in D’Iberville.
Next, we visit the Lone Star State and the city of Laredo. It’s situated in southern Texas on the Rio Grande and the Mexican border. While it may be your first time hearing about fishing out here, Laredo actually has great angling both within the city and in the surrounding area.
The two main fisheries in Laredo are Lake Casa Blanca and the Rio Grande, both featuring a healthy mix of freshwater fish to hunt. On Lake Casa Blanca, February is a good time to fish for big Largemouth Bass, with some reaching weights of up to 8 pounds. Besides Largemouth, there are Hybrids and Crappie swimming about, as well as Catfish.
The Rio Grande boasts a similar lineup of fish to reel in. Among others, there are Bass, different types of Catfish, Bluegill, Carp, and even Alligator Gar. Within the city, you can explore spots such as Zacata or Chacon Creek. However, the fishing gets even hotter if you drive about an hour southeast to the prolific Falcon Lake.
If you decide to make Laredo your Presidents’ Day fishing destination, we recommend arriving a couple of days early. That way, you’ll get to enjoy the different activities planned for the holiday. Among other events, there’ll be a Jalapeño Festival, Washington’s Birthday Parade, fireworks, and even a carnival. Bring your family or friends and spend the weekend fishing and celebrating!
Guntersville Lake, AL
While we’re on the topic of distinguished Bass fisheries, we’d be remiss not to circle back to Alabama and Guntersville Lake. The lake is surrounded by breathtaking nature and wildlife, including bald eagles. But what’s important for you, as an angler, to know is that February is lunker season in these waters.
By mid to late February Largemouth Bass in Guntersville Lake enter their pre-spawn period. At this time, many big ones are caught around bridges, where they’ll lurk in hope of an easy meal. Alternatively, you can explore the grass lines and areas near the shallow flats where they’ll later move to spawn. And in case you’re wondering how big the Bass get out here – we’re talking double-digit hogs.
Besides Bass, Crappie fishing can also be very productive during February. You’ll find these tasty fish along the deeper flats and creek mouths around the lake. If you decide to head out at night, you’ll often catch some Crappie lurking around docks and piers.
Once you’ve caught your share of fish, you can visit Scottsboro or Guntersville and enjoy some local cultural features such as the Guntersville Museum. Or, if you’re looking for more of a big-city vibe, Huntsville lies under an hour west of the lake.
Loudon County, TN
For our next entry on the list of best Presidents’ Day fishing destinations, we’ll stay on the Tennessee River. However, we’ll move to Loudon County which lies a short drive from Knoxville. From here, you’ll have easy access to several productive freshwater fisheries.
Aside from the Tennessee River itself, there’s the Fort Loudoun Reservoir, which is famous for its Smallmouth and Largemouth Bass fishing. In addition to these freshwater superstars, February is also a great time to catch Sauger in these waters. Fort Loudoun is one of Tennessee’s finest fishing lakes and most guided trips on it begin from Loudon County’s Lenoir City.
If that’s not enough there’s also the Little Tennessee River and the Tellico Reservoir to explore. In it, you’ll once again get to reel in a fair share of Black Bass, along with Catfish, Sunfish, and multiple other species. And while you’re fishing in Loudon County, make sure you grab a break and take in the surroundings. Out here, you’ll have an unmatched view of the Smoky Mountains, providing the final puzzle piece for the perfect winter day on the water.
So what else is there to do around here? Well, both Loudon and Lenoir City have plenty of small-town charm, historic architecture, and Southern hospitality. You can either enjoy the cities or make them your starting points as you prepare to tackle the Tail of the Dragon, Cherohala Skyway, or the Mountain Survivor Driving Trail. If you prefer an adventure on foot, you can also walk the scenic East Lakeshore Trail.
Saginaw Bay, MI
So far, the destinations we’ve covered all enjoy a relatively mild winter compared to our next entry – Michigan’s Saginaw Bay. Here the winters are a completely different story, and there’s a good chance you’ll find this Lake Huron bay encased in ice on Presidents’ Day.
Out here, though, frozen waters are no excuse to stop angling. Local guides will be more than happy to bring out the shanties, heaters, and augers to introduce you to one of the favorite winter pastimes in Michigan – ice fishing. Saginaw Bay is full of fish eager for a snack, with tasty Walleye usually being the main target, followed by Yellow Perch.
Naturally, ice conditions play a large role here. If, by chance, the bay ice turns out to be too thin around Presidents’ Day, you can venture a bit inland and fish the Saginaw River. The river is a prolific wintertime fishery, offering rich opportunities to put some Walleye in the cooler.
The biggest city in the area is Saginaw, found about half an hour upriver from the bay. There, you’ll find all the amenities you could wish for, as well as a few interesting cultural spots including the Castle Museum. If you’re not a museum person, bundle up and explore the stunning Shiawassee National Wildlife Refuge.
Now, it’s time to show some love to other parts of the US, more specifically, Oregon. The state’s rivers are an angling treasure trove during winter. Visiting Eugene will put you in a prime position to explore them.
The famous Willamette River passes right through Eugene, while its tributary, McKenzie River, joins it just north of the city. What this means is that you’ll have no shortage of fishing spots to try your hand at. As for the fish, you’ll primarily be targeting Rainbow and Cutthroat Trout.
While planning your trip, be mindful of the weather. This part of Oregon gets a lot of rain during winter, which sometimes makes fishing conditions on the rivers difficult. But fear not. If Eugene’s two rivers end up looking sketchy on Presidents’ Day, there are other options. The Umpqua and the Siuslaw Rivers lie within an hour’s drive, and both feature fantastic winter Steelhead fishing.
On a more general note, you’ll absolutely love Eugene if you’re an outdoorsy type. All around it, you’ll find lush forests and endless trails to walk or jog. Why do we mention jogging all of a sudden? It’s because Eugene is a track and field mecca – and also the birthplace of Nike. Cool, right?!
Del Norte County, CA
And so, we come to Del Norte County, our final fishing destination for this year’s Presidents’ Day. As its name suggests, the county is situated in the very north of California. Here, you’ll discover a unique backdrop to fish in, as well as a great mix of both freshwater and saltwater action.
To begin with, Del Norte County has two important rivers running through it – the Smith and Klamath. The Smith River is famous as one of the cleanest rivers in the world and it’s also where the state record Steelhead was caught. Why is this important? Because if you visit on Presidents’ Day, you’ll arrive stark in the middle of Steelhead season, giving you an excellent shot at battling these silvery torpedoes.
Then, there’s the Pacific Ocean to explore. Crescent City is home to a charter fleet offering all kinds of trips. Around Presidents’ Day, you’ll find many captains running crabbing trips, allowing you to harvest your share of delicious Dungeness Crab. Catching some California Halibut and other Flatfish is possible, too. However, Rockfish season is closed.
Del Norte County is also home to some of the tallest trees in the world. Its coast redwoods reach heights of over 350 feet, creating a one-of-a-kind natural scene. You can marvel at these giants by visiting either the Del Norte Coast or the Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park. If you pick the latter, you can stop at the Rowdy Creek Fish Hatchery, which is operated by the Tolowa Dee-ni’ Nation.
Presidents’ Day: A Holiday to Spend Fishing
We’ve gone coast to coast and east to west to highlight some of the best fishing destinations to visit for Presidents’ Day. Now, we’re well aware these are just a drop in the bucket and that there are plenty of other fisheries that could be on this list. But if the article made you think of one such place, then we’re happy to have sparked your imagination. And if you’re still looking for your ideal destination, check out last year’s article for more of our choice picks.
What’s your favorite destination to go fishing on Presidents’ Day? Is there a place in mind you think should have been on our list? Tap the comment button below and let us know!