The 12 Best US Fishing Cities for 2024

Dec 1, 2023 | 12 minute read Comments
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Reading Time: 12 minutes

With 2024 ahead of us, it’s time to once again look forward to all the angling excitement the new year will bring. From east to west, there’s fish to catch wherever you turn in America. And like every year, we’ve prepared a list of the best fishing cities in the US, encompassing some of the hottest spots to cast your line.

A elderly man in a red shirt fishing over a fence on Coney Island Pier in New York, with the water in front of him and buildings visible across on the shore.

Between all the amazing fishing destinations out there, we know the 12 we’ve picked only really scratch the surface. However, these are the places where you’re pretty much guaranteed to have a good time on the water.

We’ve made an effort to cover both freshwater and saltwater hotspots, and include destinations where you’ll generally have fun regardless of how much fish you catch. So, as we dive into the list, let these cities inspire you to plan the adventure of a lifetime in 2024!

Baltimore, MD

A view of the skyline of Baltimore at sunset with the city's buildings and the dramatic pinkish skies reflecting off the water surface in the foreground.

We’ll kick off the list in Maryland’s largest city, Baltimore. Situated on the shores of the famous Chesapeake Bay, “Charm City” is the perfect place to start your fishing adventure. Here, you’ll get to experience one of the best fisheries on the East Coast.

The main target in the Chesapeake Bay is Striped Bass – locally known as Rockfish. These amazing fish have it all. They’re fun to fish for, they grow big, and they taste absolutely divine. And, as they’re abundant in the bay, you can enjoy world-class Striper fishing from spring all the way to the end of fall.

Naturally, there’ll be other fish to chase after in Baltimore. White Perch, Bluefish, Spanish Mackerel, and Flounder are just some you’ll encounter. Many local charter captains also offer crabbing trips, giving you the chance to catch some delicious Maryland Blue Crab.

But Baltimore’s allure doesn’t stop at its waters. The city has a rich history, starting with Fort McHenry, the birthplace of the national anthem. With a number of interesting museums and the breathtaking National Aquarium, there’s always something to do. And when you get hungry, hit the Lexington Market and enjoy the famous Maryland crab cakes – even if you’ve managed to land some yourself!

Pensacola, FL

An aerial view of Sanders Beach in Pensacola, Florida, Pensacola Bay is visible to the left of the photo while the city is on the right.

Thanks to its striking, emerald waters and some of the most pristine beaches in Florida, Pensacola has long been a popular destination among vacationers. But if you come only for the beaches, you’ll miss out on some of the most prolific fishing on the entire Gulf Coast. After all, it’s only a stone’s throw from the “Luckiest Fishing Village in the World” – Destin!

In terms of what you can catch, Pensacola simply has it all. Close to shore, you’ll get to reel in exciting Redfish, Speckled Trout, and Flounder, to name a few. Start moving offshore and you’ll discover an extensive reef system housing delicious Snapper, Grouper, and more. In fact, the largest artificial reef in the world – the sunken USS Oriskany – is located about 22 miles from Pensacola.

To add to all this, Pensacola’s deep sea fishing scene is just as stellar. King Mackerel, Mahi Mahi, Wahoo, Tuna, and Marlin all prowl these waters, giving even the most demanding anglers new trophies to hunt for.

On a different note, Pensacola also boasts an extensive military tradition. It’s the home to the famous Blue Angels flight squadron, and you’ll occasionally see them practicing in the air space over the city. There’s also a National Naval Aviation Museum, packed with more than 150 aircraft and other memorabilia. Or, if you’re more interested in spending your time in nature, head to the Gulf Islands National Seashore. And, of course, there are those famous beaches to kick back on!

San Francisco, CA

A view of the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, California from a hill on a clear day, with striking blue waters flowing underneath the bridge and the city visible in the distance.

Mention California to an angler and they’ll likely think of the action that goes on in the southern part of the state – especially when it comes to saltwater fishing! However, Northern California is an exciting fishery on its own. In fact, we’d go on to say that San Francisco and its surrounding waters feature some of the most diverse angling in the Golden State.

The adventure starts in San Francisco Bay, just minutes from shore. Here, you can catch Halibut, Striped Bass, Leopard Sharks, and Chinook Salmon. For a special treat, venture up into San Pablo Bay and you’ll get the opportunity to wrestle monster White Sturgeon.

Then, there’s the Pacific Ocean to explore. The waters offshore from San Francisco are a bottom fishing heaven. Rockfish, California Halibut, and Lingcod will usually be the main targets. However, depending on when you visit, you’ll also face the likes of White Seabass, big Tuna, and more.

When it comes to other activities, you’d need quite a bit of time to really take in everything San Francisco has on offer. It’s a cultural melting pot, with Mission District, Fisherman’s Wharf, and the Marina serving as just some of the areas that you’ll enjoy exploring. What’s certain is that you’ll never run out of things to do.

Corpus Christi, TX

An aerial view of the city of Corpus Christi, home to some of the best fishing in Texas, and the Corpus Christi Marina with various docked boats and the Norma Urban Park visible on a cloudy day.

Moving down to the Gulf Coast, we reach the next destination on our list of the best fishing cities in the US – Corpus Christi. Sheltered behind Padre Island, this Texas city lies at the cusp of one of the most beautiful coastal regions in the state. Naturally, the fishing is off the charts, too.

Ride south of town and you’ll enter the Laguna Madre, an area renowned both for its stunning scenery and great angling opportunities. While fishing these coastal waters, you’ll usually target the likes of Redfish, Speckled Trout, and Flounder. You’ll also have a shot at catching tough-fighting Snook, which are otherwise rare in Texas.

Of course, once you head beyond the barrier island and into the Gulf of Mexico, there’ll be even more fish to hunt. King Mackerel, different types of Snapper and Grouper, Amberjack, and Cobia can all be caught out here. Go far enough, and you can even add Marlin, Mahi Mahi, and Tuna to the list.

But what do you do when you’re done fishing? Well, you’d be remiss if you didn’t spend some time enjoying the pristine beaches of Padre Island. Along the way, you can tour the epic USS Lexington aircraft carrier, view amazing marine wildlife at the Texas State Aquarium, or grab a bite at one of the many restaurants in the city.

San Juan, PR

An aerial view of San Juan and its buildings, taken somewhere close to the Martin Peña channel, with the inshore waters visible in the foreground and the open ocean and clear skies stretching out in the background beyond the city.

Next, our journey takes us to the “Island of Enchantment” and its capital – San Juan. As the second-oldest capital city in the Americas, San Juan boasts an eventful history. To complement that, it’s home to otherworldly beaches and turquoise waters you won’t be able to get enough of.

If you know anything about Puerto Rico, you know that the fishing is absolutely wild. Just over a mile north of San Juan, you’ll come across an underwater trench called the “Blue Marlin Valley.” The name itself tells you what fish you can expect to see! But, besides Marlin, there’ll also be Sailfish, Mahi Mahi, Wahoo, and Tuna swimming about.

Meanwhile, there are also a number of coastal rivers and channels near San Juan where you can fish. What’s swimming in them, you ask? Massive, leaping Tarpon and beautiful Snook.

We’ve already mentioned San Juan’s beaches and it’s likely where you’ll end up spending most of your time. But there’s also incredible nature to witness if you venture inland. West of the city, you can visit the ​​El Yunque National Forest, the only rainforest in the United States. Trust us, it’s absolutely worth it.

New Orleans, LA

A sunset view of the New Orleans skyline taken from above the water, with the city's buildings visible against vividly-colored skies, and with a large ship in the water.

From a tropical island haven to the birthplace of jazz! New Orleans is a smorgasbord for foodies, a mecca for music lovers, and a hotspot for anglers all at once. It’s one of the most iconic places in the US, easily earning an entry on our list of best fishing cities.

New Orleans lies on the shores of Lake Pontchartrain, a brackish estuary where you can catch almost every local favorite. Species include Louisiana’s famed Redfish, Speckled Trout, and Sharks, along with freshwater fish such as Largemouth Bass and Alligator Gar. If that’s not enough, these waters are where the world-record Sheepshead was caught back in 1982!

As an alternative to Lake Pontchartrain, there’s the mighty Mississippi River which flows right through the town. In it, you can wrestle some mustachioed river monsters – Catfish. Also, since this portion of the river is so close to the ocean, you’ll see saltwater species such as Redfish on the end of your line as well.

When you’ve had your fair share of angling, you can dive deep into the famous cultural scene of New Orleans. The most famous part of the city is the French Quarter, where you can enjoy vibrant nightlife, Cajun eateries, cocktail bars, and rambunctious jazz clubs. Or, for a more tempered vacation, the city has plenty of interesting museums and parks to explore.

West Palm Beach, FL

A sunset shot of the skyline of West Palm Beach, with the setting sun giving the entire photo an orange-pink hue, with waters visible in the forefront and buildings in the distance.

Is it cheating that we picked two cities from Florida for our list? Maybe so! But the fishing West Palm Beach offers makes this city definitely worthy of an entry. Thanks to its proximity to the Gulf Stream, this part of the “Sunshine State” is where you can take part in some of its most exhilarating angling.

But before we get to what you can catch in the Gulf Stream, the West Palm Beach area has plenty going for it inshore, too. Snook, Jack Crevalle, Tarpon, and Sharks all prowl its waters. Meanwhile, the nearby freshwater lakes and channels hold Peacock Bass, Largemouth Bass, and the exotic Clown Knife Fish, among others.

What about offshore? Well, West Palm Beach is truly blessed when it comes to big game species. This is because the Gulf Stream meanders only a short distance from shore, allowing anglers to get to the productive angling grounds quickly and battle the likes of Sailfish, Mahi Mahi, Wahoo, and Tuna. There’s also excellent bottom fishing, with Snapper, Grouper, and Amberjack serving as the main targets.

As you’d expect in Florida, West Palm Beach boasts an exciting nightlife. There are also plenty of fine-dining restaurants and cultural attractions to choose from. And if you’re up for some rest and relaxation, the scenic Juno Beach lies just north of the city and caters to all kinds of visitors.

Wilmington, NC

An aerial view of Wilmington, North Carolina looking down the Cape Fear River, which has made the city one of the best fishing destinations in the state.

Continuing our journey along the East Coast, we reach Wilmington. This charming city is nestled in North Carolina’s Cape Fear region, an area home to some of the best fishing grounds in the state.

In them, you’ll experience the full extent of North Carolina’s inshore fishing. This means you can expect big Redfish, plenty of Speckled Trout, along with Sheepshead, Spanish Mackerel, and more. When the season is open, Wilmington also offers fantastic Flounder fishing.

And if you navigate your way through the coastal creeks, you’ll soon be out exploring the Atlantic Ocean. There, you’ll get to battle King Mackerel and Cobia or reel in tasty Black Seabass, Snapper, and Grouper. Go far enough and you can add Mahi Mahi, Sailfish, Tuna, and Marlin to the list!

As for the city itself, you can start exploring Wilmington by visiting its Historic District. It’s famous for its 18th- and 19th-century architecture and the picturesque riverwalk that goes along the Cape Fear River. You’ll find different eateries and attractions along the way, and there’s even a fishing pier you can cast from.

Seattle, WA

An aerial view of Seattle taken from above the Puget Sound, with the city's most famous landmark, the Space Needle, visible along with numerous other buildings at sunset on a clear day.

Known for its greenery, obsession with coffee, and extensive rock music history, Seattle is one of the most iconic cities on the West Coast. But we’re writing about it for a whole other reason – its fantastic angling, of course! Seattle is situated on the shores of Puget Sound, which falls among the finest fisheries on this side of the US.

Puget Sound is fed by numerous rivers and creeks flowing through and near Seattle. Salmon and Steelhead use these to make their journey to the sea and back. This, in turn, gives anglers plenty of opportunities to target them. All five species of Pacific Salmon can be caught in Puget Sound – Chinook, Coho, Chum, Sockeye, and Pink. As mentioned, there are also Steelhead swimming about but they’ve been strictly regulated in recent years.

To provide anglers with some more variety, the waters off the coast of Seattle also house a range of bottom fish. Flounder, Lingcod, and different types of Rockfish all inhabit these fishing grounds. And, as is almost tradition on the West Coast, you’ll find a fair number of guides offering crabbing trips when the season opens, allowing you to harvest the delicious Dungeness Crab.

Whether you’re a nature lover or eager to tour the city, Seattle has plenty going for it. For outdoorsy types, the Cascade Mountain Range is just a stone’s throw away from the city. Or, you can check out the Space Needle, take a walk along the Ballard neighborhood, or visit the Museum of Pop Culture and dive deep into the city’s music history downtown. There’s something for everyone!

New York City, NY

A view of the New York City skyline on a cloudy day taken from the East River, the Brooklyn Bridge is partially covering the skyscrapers visible in the background.

Jumping back east, New York City takes the next spot on our list. Fishing out here almost stands in contrast to all the skyscrapers making up the cityscape. However, it makes for a unique experience – and there are plenty of different fish to catch, too.

As is the standard on the East Coast, New York City’s waters are a Striped Bass heaven. You’ll find them both in the East and Hudson Rivers, as well as in the Atlantic Ocean. While Rockfish are usually the main draw, Bluefish, Fluke, Porgy, Tautog, and Porgy can all be caught close to shore, too.

Once you ride further into the ocean, there’ll be some truly fierce game fish for you to wrestle. Thresher and Mako Sharks patrol these waters, along with different types of Tuna, and even Billfish. The brunt of the deep sea fishing takes place during summer, so make sure to time your visit correctly.

If you’re wondering what else is there to do besides fishing, the answer is, well, everything. It’s New York after all! You won’t find many other places out there with as many things going on. So instead, here are a few things you shouldn’t miss out on – the Statue of Liberty, Times Square, Central Park, and pizza!

Milwaukee, WI

An evening shot of the waterfront of Milwaukee, taken from Lake Michigan,  with calm waters and lit-up buildings visible and partially-reflected in the water.

As we near the end of our list of best fishing cities in the US for 2024, it’s time to show some love to the Great Lakes region. We’ll first head to Milwaukee, situated on the shores of Lake Michigan. This Midwestern city is seriously underrated, as it offers a lot both in terms of angling and other attractions.

So what is there to catch around these parts? First, there are Salmon. Lake Michigan and its tributaries are home to Chinook and Coho Salmon, both of which you can catch from Milwaukee. Then there are Lake Trout, Brown Trout, and Steelhead, all three of which are fantastic fighters.

The open water season typically starts in April and lasts until mid-fall. The action often switches from the lake to the tributary rivers and streams around this time. Eventually, when the winter sets in and the ice forms, you’ll get to try your hand at ice fishing, so the fun goes on year-round!

If you like a beer or two with your fishing, you’ll love Milwaukee. The city’s nickname is “Brew City,” and you can trust that the local folks have mastered the fine craft of beer-making. The food is similarly oriented around meals that go well with beer, keeping it simple and delicious. And, if all the beverages and food don’t make you too lazy to explore, Milwaukee boasts numerous beautiful parks, lots of cool architecture, and great beaches.

Duluth, MN

An aerial view of Duluth, Minnesota and the Aerial Lift Bridge located at the shores of Lake Superior on a clear day.

We end the list with another city in the Midwest – this time in Minnesota. While Duluth may be the smallest city among the twelve we’ve picked, it’s a veritable gem. It’s beautiful, calm, and it features some of the most stunning natural scenery you can set your eyes on. Oh, and the fishing is outstanding as well.

Duluth is positioned on the shores of Lake Superior, serving as the perfect starting point to explore the world’s largest freshwater lake. To add to this, there’s also the St. Louis River that flows through the city. The river is a fantastic fishery on its own, especially its estuary which is easily fished from Duluth.

With both the lake and the river at your disposal, the species you can catch out here are diverse. Chinook and Coho Salmon, Lake and Brown Trout, as well as Steelhead, can be caught in the lake. Meanwhile, Walleye, Muskellunge, Pike, and Bass lurk in the rivers. Quite the lineup, right?

For a break from fishing, visit the Canal Park and enjoy a view of Lake Superior. Or, head northeast along the lake coast until you reach the breathtaking Gooseberry Falls. To put it simply, there’s incredible nature wherever you turn in Duluth, and you should make the most of it while you’re here.

A Tale of the 12 Best Fishing Cities in the US

A fishing rod set against a fence, with a bobber and the line hanging down into the water with the foggy skyline of San Francisco in the background.

And so, we’ve finished the list. How do you like our picks? We know you’ve probably thought of several other cities we could’ve written about, but that’s kind of the point! If our article served to remind you of a place you’d like to visit in 2024, we’ll happily consider our job to be done. After all, America is full of wonderful fisheries to explore, and some may well be on your doorstep. So what are you waiting for? Get out there and get fishing!

Looking for more inspiration? Check out our article from last year! Also, let us know how you feel about the cities we picked in the comment below. We’d love to hear your thoughts!

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From a young age, Marko has been a nature buff. His first contact with fishing came through his dad who’d take him to the Danube River. It’s where Marko got his basic angling education, landed his first catch (an Ide), and learned how to cook a mean fish stew. Marko also enjoys hiking, running, traveling, and writing about it all.

Comments (4)

Kim Skeltis

Feb 7, 2024

This list highlights only big cities, yet there are many smaller towns, especially in the Midwest, with phenomenal fishing. Take Ludington, Michigan, for example. On the eastern shore of Lake Michigan (4 hours from Chicago), Ludington is a great fishing destination with 2,000 miles of streams, three rivers and more than 40 inland lakes – not to mention Lake Michigan. More fishing charters originate and more trout and salmon are caught out of the port of Ludington each year than any other port in the state. And the Pere Marquette River attracts anglers from across the country to experience its legendary steelhead and salmon runs. Appreciate consideration for these smaller markets.

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    Rhys

    Feb 8, 2024

    Hi Kim,

    Thanks for your comment. We absolutely agree that there are plenty of fantastic smaller towns for fishing across the country – we even wrote an article about some of the best towns around the Great Lakes! It’s impossible to cover them all in every piece we do but, rest assured, we’re constantly trying to shine a light on the best fisheries out there!

    Tight lines,

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Darrell Smith

Dec 20, 2023

Wilmington, NC?? The Cape Fear river is full of PFOS!! The NC Department of Health has issued advisories against fishing in this area. You might want to leave this city off your next list.

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    Rhys

    Dec 21, 2023

    Hi Darrell,

    Thanks for raising an important issue. You’re right that the current levels of PFOS in the Cape Fear River are worryingly high. That being said, the Department of Health has only recommended “limiting” the amount of fish one consumes from the river and, in any case, that doesn’t mean that you can’t practice catch and release. You’re also forgetting that Wilmington is a great starting point to get into some prime saltwater fishing grounds, which are relatively unharmed from the PFOS! I, personally, still think it’s a great city for fishing!

    Tight lines,

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