9 Best Thanksgiving Fishing Locations in the US
Nov 8, 2021 | 9 minute read
Reading Time: 9 minutes

When you think about Thanksgiving, it’s probably fowl, not fish, that first comes to mind. A huge roast turkey stuffed with all the trimmings is a staple of this holiday, after all. However, we’re here to show you that a day (or more…) of fishing should be on the menu for Thanksgiving, too. 

Two fishermen in a boat fish on a body of water with fall trees in the background

With the COVID pandemic still looming large in 2021, it’s even easier to see how much we all have to be thankful for. What could be better than spending this holiday out in nature surrounded by the ones you love, taking in some stunning scenery, and potentially hooking some world-famous fish? 

Our top list of Thanksgiving locations is made up of a diversity of fishing spots scattered all across the US. We’ve mixed it up by including some well-known areas, as well as those that are more off the beaten track. You never know – soon you could be replacing that holiday turkey with your very own catch of the day!

Space Coast, FL

A view of a rocket launching at Cape Canaveral with the water in the foreground

If you’re looking for a Thanksgiving experience that’s out of this world, where better to venture than Florida’s Space Coast? Firstly, let’s talk about the fishing. The Space Coast is home to cities such as Cape Canaveral and Cocoa Beach, with access to the Atlantic Ocean, the Indian River Lagoon, and the Intracoastal Waterway.

The mullet run takes place during Thanksgiving time, so species such as Redfish and Speckled Trout will be biting hard. Head to the “Redfish Capital of the World” – the Mosquito Lagoon – for especially large Bull Reds! Want your angling action to take place a little further from shore? You can drop lines from around 20 feet out and target species such as Amberjack, Cobia, and Mahi Mahi. These trips usually take place on speedy sportfishing vessels, with a mind-boggling number of charters on offer.

And there’s a whopping amount of things to see and do that aren’t angling-related, too. What’s even better, you can do ’em all while social distancing. The Space Coast boasts travel experiences, educational adventures, and one-of-a-kind activities you can’t get anywhere else in the world. If you’re an adventure seeker, you can hang ten as you catch some waves. Nature lovers can venture through bioluminescent waters. Foodies can take their taste buds on a tour of the best local eats. Then, of course, you can always check out the Kennedy Center’s offerings.

Outer Banks, NC

A view of Bodie Island Lighthouse in Outer Banks, NC with marshy waters in the foreground

Does your perfect Thanksgiving involve plenty of incredible nature in a unique location? Head straight to the Outer Banks. These barrier islands may be located just a short distance from North Carolina’s coastline, but they feel like they’re a million miles away. Home to quaint villages, sandy beaches, and scenic lighthouses, life really does revolve around the water here.

And when it comes to the fishing? In a word, it’s excellent – especially around Thanksgiving time. This is when big Bluefin Tuna make an appearance in these waters. Chunking for them is something of a local tradition. At the beginning of November, they can be found lurking just 10 miles from the beach, in around 100 feet of water. Not quite ready to venture that far from shore? You can also explore the sheltered shallow waters of the sounds. Red and Black Drum are plentiful during this time of year.

Then, after you’ve had your fill of fishing, there are plenty of ways to enjoy yourself on dry land. Why not head to one of the many local bistros or seafood shacks and try out some unconventional Thanksgiving offerings – Oyster stuffing, anyone? Then, take a quick trip across to the mainland. Here, you can pay a visit to the Fort Raleigh Museum, a national historic site that protects Native American land.

Chattanooga, TN

An aerial image of Chattanooga showing a river and greenery

If you’re looking for some top-notch freshwater fishing this Thanksgiving, cast your eyes no further than Chattanooga. Known as the “Scenic City,” this location boasts plenty of fish-filled lakes, creeks, and rivers, as well as some exceptional nature. On top of that, there’s a bustling downtown to explore. There’s something here to please nature lovers and city slickers alike.

There’s one thing you should know if you choose to cast a line in Chattanooga during Thanksgiving. It’s all about big Largemouth Bass and Catfish! Although there’s a whole host of fisheries on offer, perhaps the most popular one has to be Chickamauga Lake. The state record Largemouth Bass was hooked here, weighing over a whopping 15 pounds. What better way to spend this holiday than by attempting to hook your very own trophy catch?

Once you’ve had your fill of fishing, Chattanooga has plenty to offer on land. As well as being a vibrant city in its own right, it also boasts Thanksgiving-themed activities such as the annual Hungry Turkey Run. The city is packed full of restaurants serving Thanksgiving dinner with all the trimmings, too. No matter how lucky you are out on the water, you definitely won’t go hungry!

California Delta, CA

An aerial view of the California Delta

Much like Chattanooga, the California Delta is known for its excellent freshwater fisheries – but there’s more, too. Also known as the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, this estuary is home to a unique combination of species. Where else could you cast a line for White Sturgeon and Striped Bass at the same time? In addition, the delta is surrounded by a variety of cities including Stockton and Sacramento. You’ll never be short of something to do.

In November, trophy-sized Striper are on the menu all throughout the delta. Then there are prehistoric White Sturgeon, prone to leaping out of the water and putting on a real show. If you’re looking for a change of pace and less of a workout, you can set traps for Crawdaddies, a local tradition that’ll keep the whole family entertained.

You have a host of nearby cities and towns to explore, but the delta is also the perfect Thanksgiving spot for anglers who want to retreat into nature. The Grizzly Island Wildlife Area is located here within the Suisun Marsh – the largest estuarine marsh in the entire US. It’s packed full of hiking trails and natural wildlife, and is the perfect escape from the hustle and bustle of everyday life.

Little Rock, AR

A view of Little Rock's skyline at night, lit up with the water in the foreground

Little Rock may not be as well known as some of the other fishing destinations on our list, but the capital of Arkansas has plenty to offer. As well as farmers markets, food trucks, and even live jazz music in the park, this city is home to some seriously family-friendly fishing. Just starting out or want to introduce your kids to the magic of casting a line? A Thanksgiving weekend in Little Rock is the perfect way to get to grips with angling.

Why? Well, Arkansas is home to the Family and Community Fishing Program. This provides memorable fishing experiences throughout the state – with the majority taking place in Little Rock. From November through February, more than 50,000 Rainbow Trout are stocked in a selection of ponds and lakes. Even better, they’re all within catchable size limits!

After you’ve chased Trout to your heart’s content, you can stroll the city and take in local sights such as the Big Dam Bridge and Pinnacle Mountain State Park. If you’re looking for Thanksgiving-themed activities, join the Go!bbler – Little Rock’s annual “turkey trot.” This tradition is fun for all of the family. After walking or running 3, 4, or 6.5 miles, you can reward yourself with a dinner at one of the city’s many restaurants.

Oswego, NY

A view of the sun setting over the lighthouse in Oswego

Want plenty of variety on your fishing adventure this Thanksgiving holiday? Make your way to Oswego. This city may not be the biggest on our list, with under 20,000 residents calling it home, but it’s located right on the banks of Lake Ontario, and the Oswego River runs right through it. You also have access to the Salmon River and Oneida Lake. What does this mean? Plenty of angling opportunities, of course!

There’s plenty of target fish to find here, too. What you’ll be casting your line for depends on where you’ll be fishing. In general, you can expect to find a mix of Walleye, Pike, and Bass in the majority of Oswego’s waterways during Thanksgiving weekend. Whether you’re new to angling or have plenty of experience under your belt, you’ll find a host of local captains ready to take you on an adventure perfectly suited to fit your needs.

On land, Oswego offers up plenty of activities for nature lovers, with hiking trails and perfectly-kept parks. There’s also a host of museums to get lost in, farmers markets selling local produce, a winery, and Fort Ontario. And if you want to celebrate Thanksgiving with a drink or two? There are plenty of bars in this city where you can toast to the holidays with the locals.

Plymouth, MA

A view of the Mayflower 2 in Plymouth with the water

What could be better than spending Thanksgiving in the place where it all started? In 1621, the Plymouth colonists and Wampanoag Native Americans shared a fall feast that is now thought to be one of the first Thanksgiving celebrations on the continent. If you like your holidays to be packed full of history, this is the place to be. And the fishing in Plymouth is pretty fantastic, too.

Located on the west side of Cape Cod Bay, this coastal town offers visitors the chance to target an almost endless list of fish. Stay in the bay itself and you’ll be able to target Striped Bass, Bluefish, Flounder, and Tautog. Looking to go further offshore by taking a trip out onto the Atlantic? Halibut and Pollock are the main targets during November. You might even be able to encounter the last of the Tuna, too.

When it comes to on-land Thanksgiving celebrations, Plymouth has them in spades. You can visit the Mayflower 2 – the full-scale replica of the ship that brought the Pilgrims to this town in the 1600s – as well as the Forefather Monument and various museums.

Port O’Connor, TX

A view of a beach in Matagorda Bay

Port O’Connor’s quaint fishing village vibe is perfect for anglers looking to get away from it all this Thanksgiving. Located on Matagorda Bay, this waterfront community allows you to experience fishing like the locals do. When that involves going after November’s annual Flounder run, it’s something you don’t want to miss out on!

If you want to get the real Port O’Connor angling experience this Thanksgiving, you won’t just be using rods and reels to target delicious Flatfish. In this part of Texas, it’s all about Flounder gigging – a favorite local technique that involves spearing your target fish with a handheld prong, known as a gig. It’s something that the whole family can try, and you’ll find plenty of gig enthusiasts ready to take you out and show you the ropes.

When you’re all gigged out, immerse yourself in the local culture by taking a stroll through the town center before paying a visit to the Matagorda Island Wildlife Management Area. Here, you’ll find protected wildlife species, an ancient lighthouse, untouched natural scenery, and plenty of hiking trails to explore.

Salt Lake City, UT

A view of Salt Lake City's Joes Valley Reservoir

When you think of Utah’s capital city and fishing, your mind probably immediately jumps to the briny Great Salt Lake. But did you know that, despite its name, Salt Lake City is actually home to some incredible freshwater fisheries? Nestled in among natural parks and landmarks, you’ll find reservoirs and creeks that are packed full of a variety of fish species.

Let’s take Joes Valley Reservoir, for starters. This body of water is located within the majestic Manti–La Sal National Forest, and is a hotbed of activity during fall and winter, especially around Thanksgiving. But it’s not just the sheer number of fish you’ll find here that gave it a place on our list – it’s also the species themselves, which are on the more unusual side. Along with favorites such as Rainbow and Cutthroat Trout, you’ll also encounter Tiger Musky and Splake – a hybrid Trout species.

Then there’s the Green River, known for its awesome Rainbow and Brown Trout populations. Fly fishing is the norm in this river, so if you want to challenge yourself or hone your technique, why not use this Thanksgiving weekend to do so? If you’re more into using conventional tackle, that’s welcome, too.

When it comes to Salt Lake City’s on-land offerings, you have a variety of national parks to explore, as well as a bustling city right at your fingertips. Whether you’ve worked up an appetite and want to feast on a delicious Thanksgiving meal, or are ready to be at one with nature, there’s plenty on offer here.

The Perfect Thanksgiving Fishing Destinations

If you want this Thanksgiving to go down in the history books, any of the locations we picked out above will leave you with an adventure to cherish forever. There’s excellent angling action, beautiful nature, and plenty of on-land entertainment… as well as plenty of delicious food on offer, of course! No matter where you decide to cast your line, you’re guaranteed a trip that you’ll definitely be thankful for.

Where are you planning to go this Thanksgiving? Are you visiting any of the places on our list? Let us know in the comments below. We love to hear from you!

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