The 9 Best Up-and-Coming Fishing Towns for 2019
Feb 22, 2021 | 8 minute read
Reading Time: 8 minutes

Fishing is the perfect way to make a vacation special. Spending time with family or friends, getting back into nature, landing a trophy or hooking your first fish – this is what memories are made of. The thing that sets some trips apart, though, is knowing you’ve found somewhere unique to wet your lines. With that in mind, we’ve made a list of up-and-coming fishing towns that you simply have to visit.

Every town offers something different but they’ve all got a few things in common. They have great fishing, beautiful nature, and nowhere near as many tourists as they deserve. Judging by our numbers, these nine towns are on the up and up, and you can expect a lot more anglers in future years. Get in quick to enjoy a classic fishing trip without fighting for casting space.

Atlantic Beach, NC

People relaxing and fishing on a beach in Atlantic Beach, NC

(James Willamor, Flickr, CC-BY-SA-2.0)

The Outer Banks are hardly breaking news when it comes to sportfishing. Anglers come from around the country and beyond just to fish here, and towns like Hatteras are household names among deep sea anglers. Somehow, Atlantic Beach has never enjoyed the same fame as towns farther north. That doesn’t mean that the fishing here is anything short of spectacular.

Sitting out on the Bogue Banks, at the southern end of OBX, Atlantic Beach has something for just about everyone. Head north into Bogue Sound and you have shallow flats full of Flounder, Trout, Redfish, and Black Drum. Launch south, and you find the open blue of the Atlantic Ocean, home to Sharks, Tuna, Marlin, and more. The hardest part is choosing where to fish first.

Atlantic Beach has plenty to keep you busy off the water, too. Walk the walls of the historic Fort Macon. Bike through the local parks and forests. Take a tour to see wild horses and untouched wetlands. If that all sounds too active, spend the day lounging on sandy beaches and splashing in the sea. Atlantic Beach has it all.

Bodega Bay, CA

A view along the cliffs in Bodega Bay, CA, with sea on the right and a road in the foreground.

We saw a lot more people visit Bodega Bay last year. We’re not surprised. The town is just a short drive from one of the most populated parts of America. Despite that, it manages to maintain that remote NorCal Coast vibe that many towns have lost. It also has huge fish in pretty much any depth of water.

The Bodega Bay itself is home to big numbers of Rockfish, Lingcod, Halibut, and Crab. In short, everything you need for a fishy feast. Visit during the summer, and you can also take on the mighty King Salmon or head offshore for a chance of bagging an Albacore Tuna. You won’t go hungry here, that’s for sure!

Wherever you fish, make sure you save some time for everything else that Bodega Bay has to offer. This is a world-class whale watching spot, and home to some seriously beautiful sunsets along its rocky coastline. It’s also the perfect place for walking, horseback riding, or just taking in the sea air – whatever sounds more relaxing to you.

Little River, SC

An aerial view of Little River, SC, one of the most up-and-coming fishing towns in the US.

When you think of the South Carolina Coast, you may picture the crowds and resorts of Myrtle Beach. The Grand Strand has a lot more to offer if you know where to look, though. Take a drive up to the state line and you find the friendly streets of Little River, the Grand Strand’s oldest and most up-and-coming fishing town. Little River’s surroundings have changed a lot over the years but one thing remains the same: The fishing here is fantastic!

Little River marks the meeting point of the Calabash River, the Intracoastal Waterway, and the Atlantic Ocean. Add them together and you get an all-star lineup of Flounder, Bluefish, Speckled Trout, Redfish, and Striped Bass. And that’s just inshore. Local wrecks hold King and Spanish Mackerel, Amberjack, and Cobia, while the Gulf Stream waits offshore with Mahi Mahi, Wahoo, Sailfish, Yellowfin Tuna, and Marlin.

That’s plenty of fishing for you, great – but what about the less outdoorsy types? Don’t worry, everyone will be kept happy here. The Little River calendar is packed with special events, from seafood feasts to jazz festivals and craft beer events. With so much going on, this little slice of Old Carolina can’t stay under the radar for long.

Port Clinton, OH

A white lighthouse in Port Clinton, OH, with blue sky behind it and green grass beneath it

Port Clinton is the perfect place for a relaxing Great Lake getaway. Just a short drive west of Cleveland, the town straddles the open expanse of Lake Erie and the sheltered waters of Sandusky Bay. It’s not exactly a secret fishing village, but the town has been getting more popular in recent years. It’s easy to see why.

Among those in the know, Port Clinton is the “Walleye Capital of the World.” Big words, but well earned. The waterfront is lined with pleasure cruisers and for-hire fishing boats. Jump aboard a charter or take a ferry out to the islands and you can reel in more big “Gravel Lizards” than you’ll know what to do with. And that’s without even getting started on the local Yellow Perch and White Bass populations.

Walleye fever burns strong off the water, too. Strong enough to make crowds brave the cold on New Year’s Eve to see a giant Walleye drop (Times Square, eat your heart out). This is a town that really takes its fishing seriously. Don’t worry, it’s not all Walleye. Port Clinton also has water parks, tasty eateries, and even an African wildlife safari if you somehow get bored of fishing.

Port Saint Joe and Apalachicola, FL

A beach on Florida's Forgotten Coast, with blue sea on the left and palm trees on the right.

You may call us crazy for mentioning Florida in a list of up-and-coming fishing towns. The Sunshine State has been sportfishing central since the days of Ernest Hemingway and it continues to draw more anglers than most other states combined. There are still some hidden gems, though. Take a trip along the Forgotten Coast, and you’ll find two of the best: Port Saint Joe and Apalachicola.

There’s a very good reason to visit these towns: They have all the fish with way fewer anglers. Port Saint Joe and neighboring Apalachicola are home to epic populations of Oysters, Scallops, Redfish, Sheepshead, and all your other fishy favorites. They also have easy access to the deeper waters that Kingfish, Cobia, and monster Sharks call home.

So why don’t more people fish here? They sure used to. Back in the 19th Century, Port Saint Joe and Apalachicola were at the heart of Florida’s commercial fishing scene. They still produce most of the state’s Oysters. The tourist train has largely passed the area by in the past, but crowds have been picking up in recent years. Fishing this good can’t go unnoticed forever, clearly.

Duluth, MN

A lighthouse on a tall, gray cliff in Duluth, MN, with green forest behind it and the blue waters of Lake Superior beneath it.

A lot of people visit Minnesota to fish, but surprisingly few of them go to Duluth. Most people fish the northern lakes or stick to the state’s urban waters. They’re both amazing, don’t get us wrong. In fact, we ranked Twin Cities as one of the best fishing cities in the US. Head to the mouth of the St. Louis River, though, and you’ll find a fishing town you could come back to year after year.

What makes Duluth special? The great mix of river and lake, for one. Duluth sits on the shores of Lake Superior, with the winding waters of the St. Louis River running right through town. What that means for you is lots of Walleye and Lake Trout, as well as Salmon and Steelhead. It’s the best of both worlds.

Duluth is also a historic trading town. Trappers and fur traders met here as far back as the 17th century and it’s been an important port throughout much of its history. These days, it’s a pleasant city of around 80,000 people with a rich cultural scene. Take time off the water to see a play, go to the ballet, or just enjoy a locally-brewed beer.

Matagorda, TX

An aerial view of Matagorda Beach in Texas, one of 2019's most up-and-coming fishing towns

Last year, we saw a big jump in the number of people fishing in Matagorda. There could be a few reasons for that. Maybe people were avoiding Florida due to Red Tide. Perhaps they just fancied a change of scene. If you ask us, people are finally realizing that Matagorda has some of the best inshore fishing in Texas.

You’ll find big fish everywhere you look in Matagorda. The West and East Matagorda bays offer year-round action, featuring Redfish, Trout, Flounder, and Sheepshead. The open Atlantic Waters are home to Sharks, Tarpon, and tasty reef fish like Red Snapper. It has all of the Gulf’s Saltwater favorites, but fewer crowds to compete with.

Matagorda is mainly a beach town. Think soft sands, warm waters, horseback rides along the beach – the classics. If you’re looking for a little more action, the town is just a short hop from Houston and within easy reach of San Antonio. Not that you’ll get bored, with so many awesome fish around.

Oswego, NY

A kite-surfer on Lake Ontario with Oswego's lighthouse behind him.

In many ways, Oswego is the ideal upstate fishing spot. The town looks out onto the open waters of Lake Ontario and is cut in two by the soft wind of the Oswego River. This mix of river and lake gives you much more than pretty views (although the town has more than it’s fair share). It makes Oswego one of the most productive fishing spots anywhere on Lake Ontario.

Take a boat out onto the lake, and you can enjoy a mixed bag of Salmon, Trout, Walleye, and more. The Oswego River offers great fishing whenever you visit, with Smallmouth Bass, Pike, Trout, and various Panfish. The river really comes into its own in the fall, though. This is when you’ll see big Chinook Salmon migrating upstream on their way to their spawning grounds.

Once you’ve caught your fill or killed your arms trying, you can enjoy the rest of what Oswego has to offer. Visit during the summer for fun events like the Oswego Regatta or Harborfest festival. Spend an afternoon swimming or take a hike through pristine nature. Round the day off with one of Lake Ontario’s famous sunsets – the perfect end to a perfect lakeside vacation.

Long Beach, MS

A yellow sandy beach in Long Beach, MS with blue sky and a setting sun in the distance.

It would be a stretch to call the Mississippi Coast “undiscovered.” This is a land of white sandy beaches, warm Gulf waters, and even warmer welcomes, after all. The area took a big hit during Hurricane Katrina, though, and it’s taken well over a decade for many towns to really recover. Good news – Long Beach is back in business and ready to give you that idyllic beach vacation!

Long Beach is home to the kind of fishing that memories are made of. The grassy shallows are full of Red and Black Drum. The coastline is littered with inshore reefs which are ideal for a family fishing trip. Head to deeper water, and Gulf monsters like Red Snapper and King Mackerel show up by the dozen. In short, Long Beach has it all.

Long Beach is more than just a fishing spot, though. This is an old-timey town with a laid-back vibe that you can’t help but fall for. Between the picture-perfect houses and gardens, the green parks with ancient trees, and the unbeatable beaches for miles around, it’s the perfect place to escape the hustle and bustle of daily life.

And So Many More!

We’ve gone coast to coast on the search for up-and-coming fishing towns. We found tropical escapes, lakeside retreats, and more big fish than you can shake a stickbait at. These are just some of the places that we think are worth visiting, but what about you?

Is there a town you think we missed? Have you fished in any of these places? Let us know in the comments below – we’d love to hear your ideas!

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