Top Spring Fishing Spots in the US for 2021

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

For the tops spots this year, check out our 2022 article.

Nothing beats the feel of spring in the air. The trees are blooming, the days start getting longer, and the world seems to come alive with activity. For anglers, the start of spring signals some of the best action of the entire year, with annual migrations and breeding seasons bringing our favorite fish into our sights.

A fishing boat on Maine's Belgrade Chain of Lakes at sunset, with the last rays of sunlight reflecting off the water surface.

To celebrate the start of the season, we asked you to suggest your favorite spring fishing spots. There were a lot of awesome responses, and we chose what we think are the 10 best spots in the country. Each one is unique, but they all offer world-class angling. On top of that, they have beautiful scenery and plenty to keep you busy off the water, too.

Fort Myers Beach, FL

An aerial view across the water to Sanibel Island, FL on a clear sunny day, with the road connecting the island to Punta Rassa visible in the center of the photo.

Where better start than Florida? The Sunshine State has some of the best fishing in the world, and Fort Myers Beach is a classic example of this. It all kicks off with Cobia, who cruise up the coast from late March, offering exciting angling and a delicious feast to anyone who hooks one. Speckled Trout are hot on their tails, followed by Permit to keep the bite strong well into summer.

Then there’s Fort Myers’s trump card: Tarpon. The shallows around Fort Myers Beach and Sanibel are home to one of the largest Tarpon migrations in the world. Thousands of fish roll along the beach fronts each spring on their way to the Boca Grande Pass. They’re usually followed by an army of anglers, looking to take on the mighty “Silver King” in the heart of his kingdom.

The fishing here is outstanding, but it’s far from the only thing to do. The area holds festivals celebrating everything from film and music to unicorns and mermaids in spring. You can enjoy delicious food at local eateries and pop-up events. Want to escape it all? Walk for miles along soft sandy beaches or take to the water to explore local wildlife preserves. There’s something for everyone.

Lake Tahoe, CA/NV

A view across Lake Tahoe, one of the best spring fishing spots in the US, and its blue, see-through waters.

You only have to look at Lake Tahoe to fall in love with it. With its crystal-clear waters, rugged rocky shores, and stunning alpine scenery, the lake is truly magical all year round. It’s most special in spring, when the surrounding mountains are still white with snow and the wildflowers start poking up in the meadows.

There’s another reason to visit this time of year: Trout. Tahoe is famous for its monster Mackinaw Trout, which put up a great fight all the way up to summer. They’re joined in March and April by Rainbow and Brown Trout for even more fun. And that’s just the lake itself. The surrounding rivers hold Lahontan Cutthroat Trout, not to mention the rare Cui-Cui fish in nearby Pyramid Lake.

Once you’re done fishing, you can start enjoying everything else the area has to offer. Lake Tahoe is surrounded by walking and hiking trails, ranging from short strolls to multi-day marathons. You can ski in the morning and kayak in the afternoon, or just spend the entire day basking in the lake’s incredible scenery. And if all that’s still not enough, the bright lights of Reno are just up the road.

Black Hills, SD

A man waist deep in the water, fly fishing in a lake in South Dakota's Black Hills, one of the top spring fishing spots in the US, with rocky boulders visible behind him.
Image source: Travel South Dakota

In many ways, South Dakota is the perfect destination for an angling adventure. The state is home to a wide mix of fisheries, from large lakes to tiny streams, not to mention the mighty Missouri River. To make things even better, 98% of the state’s waters are accessible and open for fishing. With so much water to choose from, it’s tough to hone in on any one spot.

That is, until you see what’s waiting for you in the Black Hills. These ragged rocks hide some of the nation’s top small stream fly fishing. Take on Trout in small mountain streams or hit the open waters of Lake Pactola to reel in Pike, Walleye, Lake Trout, Bass, and more. Visit in late May, and you can enjoy all of this license-free on South Dakota’s Free Fishing Weekend.

The Black Hills hold an amazing mix of fish, but that’s not all they’re hiding. The area is also packed full of national parks, monuments, and caves. Thrill-seekers can dive into Lake Pactola to see the ghost town lurking at the bottom. Kids will love the dinosaur park in nearby Rapid City. Then there’s the hiking, camping, pony treks – we could go on all day!

Coastal Mississippi

A wooden sign on a sandy beach that reads "Mississippi Gulf Coast", with a small white bench in front of it.

Mississippi doesn’t have the longest coastline in the Gulf, but we like to think of it as a case of “quality over quantity.” The Mississippi Coast manages to pack in white sandy beaches, winding bayous, remote islands, and bustling cities, all within reach in a single day. It may be known as the “Secret Coast,” but there sure is a lot to discover.

Spring is the perfect time to target the Gulf’s inshore superstars like Speckled Trout and Redfish, which leave the back bays and head out toward the barrier islands this time of year. The fishing is just as strong out at the reefs, with Kingfish, Cobia, and even Amberjack found around deeper spots. Troll, fly fish, or just cast a line from the local piers, either way, you’re in for a treat. 

Coastal Mississippi is a place that takes its downtime seriously. It’s the perfect spot to unplug, lie back, and enjoy the warm spring sunshine. Soak up a tan, splash in the sea, and recharge your batteries after a long winter indoors. After that, you can sample the area’s seafood or even try your luck at the local casinos.

Yakima Valley, WA

Yakima River in late spring, with wild flowers, calm, flowing waters, and clear blue sky

When you think of April in Washington State, the word that probably comes to mind is “rain.” Not in Yakima Valley. Just a couple of hours from Seattle, this is a land of rolling hills and vineyards, with 300 days of sunshine a year and the perfect landscape for a spring fishing adventure.

Yakima Valley’s waterways wind their way down the forested slopes of the East Cascade Mountain Range into almost 200 miles of flowing rivers. The Yakima River itself is Washington State’s only “Blue Ribbon” Trout stream, full of big Rainbows and perfect for fly fishing. As if that wasn’t enough, you also have over 100 lakes just waiting to be explored.

Yakima Valley is a place where you can take things as fast or as slow as you like. Get your hit of adrenaline on whitewater rivers or spend the day relaxing by the lakes. Enjoy a hard day’s fishing followed by a local craft beer or a glass of wine straight from an award-winning vineyard. It’s the perfect blend of comfort and excitement.

Tybee Island, GA

A beach and pier on Tybee Island, GA, one of the best spring fishing spots in the US, with a flock of seagulls landed on the left side of the photo
Image source: Visit Tybee Island

Located just 20 minutes from downtown Savannah, Tybee Island is a relaxed beach town filled with rich history and quirky hidden gems. The area’s calm coastal waters and warm weather draw visitors from across the state and beyond. Spring is actually the ideal time to visit – before the crowds and heat of summer arrive. It’s also the perfect season for fishing!

Inshore, offshore, or somewhere in between, there’s no bad place to look for fish this time of year. The shallows are thick with Flounder, Trout, and Red Drum. The reefs are bustling with Kingfish, Cobia, and Seabass. This is a fishery that anglers of any skill can enjoy, either aboard a local charter or at one of the three public piers found on the island.

Even if you’re not big on fishing, you’ll be kept busy on Tybee Island. Try out water sports like jet skiing, or rent a kayak and paddle over to the uninhabited Little Tybee Island. Cook up your catch or enjoy local specialties in the island’s many restaurants. Otherwise, just hit the beach and relax in the warm spring sun.

Roanoke, VA

An aerial view of the Roanoke River in Virginia, a popular spring fishing spot, with lush forest trees surrounding it.

The area around Roanoke is the perfect setting for outdoorsy escapes, family vacations, and pretty much everything in between. Nestled in Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains, it’s a place that begs to be explored, to look round one more corner on a pretty country road or hike just a little bit farther to take in the view. And of course, no angler could resist “just one more cast” into the area’s pristine waters.

There’s a spot for every taste here. Hike to hidden creeks for Rainbow and Brook Trout. Wade and fly fishing on the Roanoke River. If you’re looking to cover more ground, you can also take a boat onto Smith Mountain Lake to reel in Striped Bass, Black Bass, and Catfish or grab a kayak and paddle down 150 miles of beautiful blueway, every inch bursting with fish.

Once you’ve done all that, you can check out everything else the Roanoke area has to offer! Explore forest trails or take a scenic drive along the majestic Blue Ridge Parkway. Catch an outdoor movie night or even a concert at the Down by Downtown music festival. Round things off with a trip to a winery or a colorful cocktail at one of Roanoke’s bars – you’ll have earned it!

Niagara Falls, NY

A view from the American side of Niagara Falls, with waters crashing down in a spectacular manner, producing steam.

Most people visit Niagara Falls with one thing in mind: the waterfall. It’s an incredible sight, and well worth the trip just for that, but there’s actually a whole lot more to see and do in the area. In fact, we’d go so far as to say that the falls themselves aren’t even the most exciting thing about the area. Instead, it’s the angling that makes Niagara Falls special.

All the Great Lakes’ most iconic catches can be found around Niagara Falls. Musky and Bass hunt in the warm shallows above the falls, while Salmon, Trout, and Walleye patrol the open waters of Lake Ontario. In between the two, you have the Niagara River, home to all of these fish and more. It’s a must-visit location for keen fly and Bass anglers.

Feeling competitive? Take on big Trout and Salmon as well as other anglers in the LOC Spring Derby. It’s not all about the fish, though. You can also taste delicious beers and wines at local festivals this spring and explore the colorful Lakeview Village Shoppes at Olcott, nicknamed “America’s Ultimate Fishing Town.” Okay, that last one is a little about the fish, but the bite’s just that good here!

Juniata River Valley, PA

A view from a kayak on the Juniata River, one of the best spring fishing spots in the US, with a forest in the background.

The Juniata River Valley is a gentle place with real rural charm. Just a short drive north of Harrisburg, it’s a land of densely-wooded ridges and long sweeping farmland. The valley is tucked away from the major highways that ferry people to and from the East Coast. And in our minds, it’s all the better for it. This is an ideal place to enjoy a little time in the slow lane.

It’s also an amazing spot to wet a line – especially in spring. The Juniata River is a top-tier Bass water, rivaling the nearby Penns Creek, just without the crowds. Kayak your way along the river, and reel in big spring Smallmouth. Otherwise, wade the mix of freestone and limestone streams that feed into the river to take on Trout on the fly. Like a challenge? Why not enter the local Kish Creek Trout Tournament, held each year in May.

“This sounds great, but is there anything to do once you finish fishing?” Absolutely! You can hike through untouched forest or step back in time in Big Valley, one of the oldest and largest Amish communities in the state. Alternatively, turn up the noise at one of the local racetracks. After that, you can treat yourself to a refreshing drink, with beer, wine, and whiskey all made locally.

Panama City Beach, FL

A view of Panama City Beach fishing pier at sunset, with white sand and a shallow tidal channel in the foreground.

We started with Florida, and we’re going to finish with it, too. The fishing here is just too good to miss. That’s not the only reason Panama City Beach makes our list, mind you. It’s also straight-up beautiful, with vast white beaches and warm spring sunshine, not to mention a great bar and food scene. We’re going to start with the fish, though. Because Florida!

The rising temperatures of spring mean big Speckled Trout in super-shallow water on the grass and sand flats. Redfish cruise the bays, while Sheepshead set up around structure a little deeper. The Spanish Mackerel bite also kicks off in the Gulf, inlets, and passes. In short, there are fish everywhere. No wonder the award-winning Discovery show “Chasin’ The Sun” is shot here.

We’re done, we promise. And once you are too, you can rest and relax at the area’s endless beach bars and seafood shacks. Catch world-class music at the Seabreeze Jazz Festival or simply enjoy the evening breeze and the sight of the sun setting into the Gulf. You’ll deserve it after a busy day of sunbathing and lounging in the sea.

Spring Fishing Spots: Something for Every Angler

An aerial view of North Captiva Island in Florida, one of America's top spring fishing spots, connected to Sanibel Island.

This was a tough list to put together. We got so many great suggestions and tried to whittle them down to a good mix of spots, both on the water and off it. There are plenty more out there, though. From coast to coast and border to border, the country is packed full of outstanding fisheries, and there’s no better time to fish them than spring!

What’s your favorite spring fishing spot? Are you visiting any of the places on our list? Drop us your suggestions and stories in the comments below – we’d love to hear from you!

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