US Winter Fishing Destinations: Our Top Picks for 2021

Oct 11, 2023 | 6 minute read Comments
Reading Time: 6 minutes

The year 2020 turned our lives upside down. If you’re anything like us, this year made you appreciate time spent outdoors even more. That’s why we’ve decided to make a list that features some of the best winter fishing destinations in the US. if you’re coming here in early 2022, check out our current top picks.

An angler fishing on an unfrozen lake in winter

Even though you might not be able to travel to some of these amazing places right now, you can still add them to your bucket list. Plan out some future trips for when the world goes back to normal, whenever that happens.

Fishing during the winter season can represent different things to different anglers, and that’s why we included several different kinds of places in this list. From ice fishing to winter lake fishing to sunny destinations in the United States, this list covers some of the best winter fishing destinations in the US. Let’s find out more about them!

Lakes Mitchell and Cadillac, Michigan

Opening up our list of the best winter fishing destinations in the US, Lakes Mitchell and Cadillac are two of the best ice fishing spots in Michigan. The ice starts to thicken around December and stays on top of lakes until late March.

three anglers fishing on ice in Michigan

Anglers who decide to visit can expect to catch lots of Panfish, including Crappie, Bluegill, and Yellow Perch. Next to these species, you can also find Northern Pike and Walleye in both lakes.

Traveling with friends or family that don’t really like to fish on ice? Don’t worry, there are many more things you can do in Cadillac besides fishing. Outdoor adventurers can hop on a snowmobile, try Fat Tire biking, skiing, snowboarding, or snowshoeing.

Not an outdoorsy person? The Cadillac area has a rich history, which you can explore through organized tours of museums, architecture, and more.

Big Green Lake, Wisconsin

Big Green Lake is one of the best places to go ice fishing in Wisconsin. The ice starts to thicken around mid-December and stays on top of the lake until early March. Green Lake is the deepest inland lake in the country and has the perfect conditions for Lake Trout to thrive.

Ice shack on Green Lake, one of the best winter fishing destinations in Wisconsin

Lake Trout are the superstars of the lake and can grow to be pretty large around here. Besides Lake Trout, you can also target Yellow Perch.

For outdoor enthusiasts, Green Lake during the winter is like paradise. There’s plenty of things you can do here, besides ice fishing. You can go snowshoeing, iceboating, or skating, and ride a snowmobile. Once you get tired and cold from all these activities, you can warm up in one of the many cozy bars and restaurants you’ll find around town.

Lake Moultrie and Lake Marion, South Carolina

The Santee Cooper Lake System is a fishing hotspot for Blue, Flathead, and Channel Catfish at all times of the year. However, when temperatures drop, giant Catfish come around. This makes the lakes a world-class winter fishing destination.

Catfish jumping out of the water

The Catfish tend to get pretty big during the winter, and the state records for both Blue and Channel Catfish were set here. Besides these fish, you can also target Striped and Largemouth Bass.

The lake system is located right in between Columbia and Charleston, which makes the lakes a perfect weekend getaway for residents of these two cities. If you’re a tourist in the area, both Charleston and Columbia can show you a great time.

Charleston is a famous tourist destination, with many attractions available. On the other side, Columbia is a cultural and historical hotspot, with many restaurants, parks, and amazing museums you can visit.

Gulfport, Mississippi

While Mississippi’s largest coastal city might be famous for its vibrant atmosphere and numerous casinos, there’s another well-hidden secret around town. The fishing in and around Gulfport is absolutely spectacular!

A girl holding a Speckled Trout on a boat in Texas smiling

When the winter comes along, the best thing you can do is go inshore fishing. The waters are packed with Speckled Trout, Redfish, Sheepshead, and Black Drum.

During the winter, the most popular coastal town in Mississippi has far fewer visitors than during the summer. This makes it perfect for a winter getaway, and you’ll feel like you’re all alone in this charming town.

The weather is warm and sunny, and you can spend your days strolling around the beach, visiting museums, or try your luck out at some of the many casinos.

Diamond Lake, Oregon

Diamond Lake is located in southern Oregon’s Umpqua National Forest. The lake is well known as a year-round Rainbow Trout fishery. The lake is frequently stocked with Rainbows, and they can quickly grow to trophy sizes at Diamond Lake.

The view over the frozen Diamond Lake in Oregon, with snow-covered mountains lurking over the lake in the distance of the photo

You might also come across Tiger and Brown Trout when fishing the Diamond Lake, but you must release them. The Diamond Lake Resort tends to keep the lake open year-round. If you don’t have all the equipment you need for ice fishing, you can rent it at the resort.

When the winter comes along, Diamond Lake becomes a winter wonderland. Besides fishing for tasty Rainbows, there’s a lot more you can do around here. Some of the most popular outdoor activities are snowshoeing, snow tubing, and cross country skiing. If you’re an outdoor junkie, you won’t get bored easily around here!

Stuart, Florida

The “Sailfish Capital of the World,” Stuart, truly lives up to its nickname during the winter. Sailfish season is on fire from November to February, and many fishers from all around the States head to Stuart to test their skills here.

Aerial view of Stuart, Florida

What’s so special about Stuart, compared to other places on this coast? The Gulf Stream comes very close to shore here and can be reached within 10 miles. For anglers, that means that you have a chance of reeling in a Sailfish on a four- or five-hour fishing trip!

Besides Sailfish, you can also target Blackfin Tuna, Wahoo, Kingfish, and Barracuda during the winter. If you’re visiting in January, and love inshore fishing, you can target Speckled Trout and Redfish.

Next to the Sailfish season, there are many other reasons to visit Stuart during the winter. South Florida is quite warm during this time of the year, and the days are sunny. You can spend a few relaxing hours strolling around the beautiful beaches and collecting shells, or enjoy miles and miles of hiking trails.

Flaming Gorge, Utah

Flaming Gorge is an amazing fishery throughout the entire year, but winter tends to bring some unique opportunities here. On the southern end, there will be no ice, and you can expect to catch Rainbow Trout.

An angler in knee-deep water is casting for Rainbow Trout, in Flaming Gorge. The front of the picture shows snow-covered stones, and the back shows orange cliffs.

However, that’s not what most of the locals get excited about. It’s the ice fishing you can find in the northern parts. In the past several years, Burbot was illegally introduced to the reservoir, and this invasive fish has been causing trouble for other game fish that swim around these waters. That’s why the harvest of Burbot is heavily encouraged. These fish are fun and easy to catch, and they also taste really good.

Besides ice fishing, you can also enjoy other activities here. The long shadows, snow-covered mountains, and the quiet of the reservoir are just what you need to relax. During the winter, you can explore the Flaming Gorge on a snowmobile, go nordic skiing, look at wildlife, and recharge your batteries at the local cozy lodges.

Winter Fishing Destinations – the List Doesn’t End Here

A dedicated ice fisherman drilling a hole at sunrise

There you have it! These are some of the finest winter fishing destinations in the US. While you might not be able to visit them this year, you can have a list of the go-to spots ready as soon as the opportunity to visit them comes around. In the meantime, find a guide near you and start practicing!

Now, back to you… What’s your favorite winter fishing destination? Have you visited some of the ones from the list above? Comment below and let us know!

Comments (2)

Eric Woychik

Sep 17, 2021

Weak, all NW focused, ice fishing???

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    Sep 17, 2021

    Hi Eric,

    Thank you for reading and reaching out. Would you say that NW isn’t the best region for ice fishing? It would be great if you shared what you’d put on the list of top US winter fishing destinations.

    Tight lines,


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