7 Best Winter Fishing Destinations in the US
Mar 12, 2021 | 7 minute read Comments
Reading Time: 7 minutes

Winter’s here, but that doesn’t mean you should put away your fishing rod just yet. Every serious angler knows that winter brings fishing opportunities that you can’t experience during the warm months. With that in mind, we decided to put together a list featuring some of the best winter fishing destinations in the US.

ice fishing

Fishing during the colder months means different things to different anglers. Some like to walk on thick ice, while others prefer heading down south in search of sun, sea, and fish. For this list, we looked for destinations that offer amazing reel-spinning action, specific conditions that occur during winter, and cool activities to top it off.

Without any further ado, let’s dive in. Here are the seven best winter fishing destinations in the US!

Brainerd, Minnesota

When we say Brainerd, we mean ice fishing! It’s no surprise that Brainerd topped our winter fishing destinations list. Located in central Minnesota, Brainerd is home to the biggest ice fishing event in the world. The Brainerd Jaycees Ice Fishing Extravaganza takes place every January on Gull Lake’s Hole in the Day Bay, 15 miles north of the town.

The species you can expect to catch here are Walleye, Northern Pike, and Perch. By participating in the tournament, you’ll not only be in for a lot of fun, but you’ll also be contributing to charity. In recent years, the event has raised $150,000 for charities annually.

Brainerd, ice fishing, winter fishing destinations

When you finally decide to get off the ice, there are plenty of other activities you can take part in. Brainerd is nothing short of a winter outdoor paradise. Name your winter outdoor adventure, and Brainerd probably has it. From skiing to winter biking, we’re 100% sure you won’t get bored. 

If you happen to get tired of the cold weather, visit some of the town’s galleries. Brainerd is a small town, but you wouldn’t know it from the number of art galleries! Here, you’ll find photography, jewelry, pottery, stained glass, copper and other metalwork, and much more made by 40 artists from all around the US and beyond.

Stuart, Florida

Stuart is known as the “Sailfish Capital of the World.” It lives up to its nickname during the cold months, making it a great winter fishing destination! Sailfish season is in full swing from November to February and many anglers head to Stuart to experience its famous deep-sea fishing. 

The Gulf Stream can be reached within ten miles from shore, meaning you can catch a Sailfish during a 4 or 5-hour fishing trip. Other species you can expect to catch during the colder months are Blackfin Tuna, Wahoo, Kingfish, and Barracuda. January is also a good time for targeting inshore species like Speckled Trout and Redfish.

Stuart, Florida

There are many more reasons to visit Stuart during the winter, besides its Sailfish season. Wintertime takes on a whole new meaning in the Sunshine State, and it won’t take you long to see why. South Florida is warm, and the days are sunny and breezy.

Take a stroll down Martin County’s beautiful beaches, look for shells, and get yourself a nice winter tan! If you really want to make the most out of the mild temperatures, head out to the woods and enjoy miles and miles of hiking trails.

Kailua Kona, Hawaii

Ever dreamed about fishing on a warm, sunny day in your shorts…in January? Have you found yourself daydreaming of escaping the cold and dark winter days? We certainly have. And if you have too, Kona is the best winter fishing destination for you! 

December is the peak season for Bigeye Tuna in Hawaii, and as soon as January kicks off, you can expect to reel in Striped Marlin and Mahi Mahi. February is the prime time to troll for Spearfish and Striped Marlin. It goes without saying that winter is a great time to go fishing in Kona!

Kailua-Kona, Hawaii

With a wide variety of different outdoor activities in Kailua Kona, it will definitely be hard to decide what you want to do when your fishing trip ends. Some of the world-famous Hawaiian beaches are just around the corner. Here, you can hike, bike, golf, camp, or go diving with Manta Rays. 

Once you get tired, you can relax and enjoy the world-renowned Kona Coffee, and a beautiful sunset. If you’re looking for wilderness, head to the other side of the Big Island, Hilo, where you’ll find waterfalls, jungles, and the world’s most active volcano, Kilauea.

South Padre Island, Texas

It doesn’t matter what time of the year you visit South Padre Island, there’s always something to catch! During the colder months, the inshore bite is the best. You can target Red Drum, Trout, Flounder, and many more species. 

January is a great time to catch Speckled Trout as they tend to get bigger at this time of year. Sitting on Laguna Madre, SPI offers some fishing opportunities that you can’t find anywhere else in Texas. You can find Tarpon and Snook here all year round.

Snook fishing
Look for Snook in deeper passes and channels during the winter.

Texas is another destination where you can escape the wintertime and enjoy the sunshine. Temperatures range between 52°F and 67°F, and most days are warm and sunny. The beaches of SPI are perfect for relaxing, birdwatching, strolling, and collecting shells. 

When the sun goes down in South Padre, the party starts. The nightlife in SPI is vibrant, even during the colder months. We’re talking about lots of live music, beach bars, and tasty food.

Lakes Mitchell and Cadillac, Michigan

If you’re looking for the best ice fishing in all of Michigan, look no further than Lakes Mitchell and Cadillac. Both lakes provide amazing angling opportunities with easy access. The best time to visit is from December up until March, or until the ice melts.

When it comes to popular catches, you can expect to come across a lot of Panfish, including Bluegill, Crappie, and Yellow Perch. Walleye and Northern Pike can also be found in both lakes.

ice fishing in michigan, winter fishing destinations

Finding something to do in Cadillac other than fishing will be an easy task for all outdoor adventure lovers! There are many winter sports you can experience here. You can hop on a snowmobile, or try Fat Tire biking. 

There’s also cross country skiing, snowboarding, and snowshoeing. The Cadillac area has a rich history that you can experience through historic tours, museums, stunning architecture, and much more.

Lake Moultrie and Lake Marion, South Carolina

Lake Marion and Lake Moultrie, also known as the Santee Cooper Lake System, are the year-round hotspots for Blue, Flathead, and Channel Catfish. The lakes offer world-class fishing opportunities and, with the wintertime temperature drop, fishing for giant Catfish heats up. 

The Catfish tend to get really big during the winter, and the state records for both Blue and Channel Catfish were smashed here. If you choose the lakes as your next winter fishing destinations, you can also expect to come across some Striped and Largemouth Bass.

catfish fishing

The lakes are right in between Charleston and Columbia. While Charleston is a world-famous tourist destination, Columbia also has plenty to offer. The capital of South Carolina is a historical and cultural hotspot, with lots of amazing museums, restaurants, and parks. 

For a relaxing day in the city, start from the Columbia Museum of Art, stroll along the Riverfront Park for beautiful views, and explore Riverbanks Zoo and Garden. If you’re visiting with your kids, don’t miss out on incredible child-friendly activities. Make sure to stop by EdVenture Children’s Museum and Saluda Shoals Park.

Lake Hartwell, Georgia/South Carolina

No matter what time of year you visit Lake Hartwell, Striped Bass fishing is always on fire. Winter, in particular, is a great time for beginners to fish for Stripers. During warmer months, the fish relocate to more specific structural features such as ditches, drops, trees, sunken bridges, and many more.

Throughout the winter, Stripers are preparing for their spawning season, and they tend to build up their energy more. This means they stick to baitfish more than usual, and they are easier to find.

Lake Hartwell, winter fishing destinations

The town of Anderson is a short ride away from the lake. If you’re looking to relax, downtown Anderson offers an array of activities including fine dining, theaters, and spas. The area has a rich history of farm and plantation life, and many tours are created by local historical societies and dedicated to experiencing the local farms. 

A Wide Range of Winter Fishing Opportunities!

All of these places are amazing winter fishing destinations. There are, of course, many more places around the nation with winter angling delights. Wherever you are, grab your rod or find a guide near you and start catching fish!

Now, it’s your turn! What are your favorite fishing spots during the winter? Where will you be fishing this winter? Let us know in the comments!

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Comments (4)
  • Wanda Stewart

    Dec 7, 2020

    Venice Louisiana is a great destination to fish in a Sportsmans paradise!

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      Dec 7, 2020

      We couldn’t agree more with you, Wanda!

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  • South Padre Island Chamber of Commerce

    Jan 21, 2020

    South Padre Island is also home to some of the best red snapper fishing in the Gulf of Mexico.

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      Jan 22, 2020

      Hi Roxanne,

      Thanks for reading.

      Agreed, Red Snapper fishing in South Padre Island is amazing!

      There’s a lot to say about fishing here, and we couldn’t possibly fit everything about it into this article. That’s why we published an entire piece dedicated to fishing in SPI.

      Check it out and let us know what you think about it.

      Tight lines!

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