Check out the most recent Winter Fishing Destinations list here.
Winter wonder takes many forms, and just because it’s cold outside, it doesn’t mean the fun has to stop. For passionate anglers, cold weather is an open door for exploring new fishing locales, an adventure waiting to happen.
We want to help you make the right decision, so we’ve compiled a list of the best winter fishing destinations to consider in 2022. Some of them are all-time favorites, some are off the beaten path, but all of them boast strong winter action. And if you’d like to see our 2023 picks, you’ll find that article here. Let’s dive straight in!
Let’s start with a destination that is a fishing gem year-round and offers undiluted winter splendor – the city of Kenai. Nestled right at the mouth of the Kenai River, with easy access to some of the most prolific fisheries in the state (and country), Kenai’s appeal doesn’t lessen with the drop in the temperature. On the contrary!
Avid fly anglers and ice fishing enthusiasts won’t be discouraged by the cold. The river produces good numbers of Rainbow Trout and Dolly Varden during the winter months, and fly fishermen take every chance to hit the waters. These fish aren’t to be messed with – they’re big and fight hard and smart. It’s no wonder they’re so popular.
If you prefer spending your time on ice, consider open water ice fishing on the river and the nearby lakes. Skilak Lake has solid reserves of Trout and Sockeye Salmon and makes for good fishing grounds. As long as the ice conditions are favorable and safe, you’re in for a blast. And when you’re not fishing, you can enjoy cross-country skiing, ice skating, or snowmobiling with your family and friends. Or you can just sit back and admire the views. We promise, you’ll never get tired of Kenai’s untamed beauty.
Morro Bay, California
Halfway between Los Angeles and San Francisco, you’ll find Morro Bay – a scenic coastal city and one of the last fishing villages in the state. With the Pacific at its doorstep, six miles of coastline to discover, and a warm and sunny climate, Morro Bay is full of promise.
So, what’s on the to-catch list in Morro Bay? Well, it all depends on where you’re fishing from. The stars of the winter fishing scene are Striped Bass, Starry Flounder (especially from shore), and Yellowtail. Shore fishermen can head to one of the beaches or local parks for surf fishing, or try their luck on piers for a variety of Seaperch. Thanks to the rocky shore and deep waters close to land, the bite is something that needs to be experienced to be believed.
When you’ve had your fill of fishing, you can spend your days surfing, kayaking, and whale watching. After a fulfilling day on the water, you can walk around the Old Town and enjoy the city’s nautical charm.
South Padre Island, Texas
If you’re looking for a fishing spot that’s downright tropical, and has got the fisheries to prove it, look no further than South Padre Island. This barrier island town, with its winter temperatures in the upper sixties and fishing that keeps on giving, is a dream come true. No wonder it’s one of our picks of best winter fishing destinations.
Whether you stay on land, go fishing in the Laguna Madre Bay, or head offshore, you’re in for a treat. From the jetties, you can target Mackerel, Tarpon, and Grouper and be very successful in the winter. Nearshore bay waters are the playground of Redfish, Snook, Flounder, and Speckled Trout. Offshore fishing will put you on the trail of Snapper, Blackfin and Yellowfin Tuna, Bonito, and Sailfish, among many others. Winter fishing for Tuna is especially popular in town from December to February – perfect for trophy chasers.
The hyper-saline waters of the bay are teeming with fish and the warm weather makes South Padre Island a fishermen’s haven. It’s not just the number of fish, but also their size that tempts people to visit and fish in SPI. When you’re not fishing, spend your days relaxing on the beach and soaking in beautiful sunshine, and leave frigid temperatures behind.
Lincoln City, Oregon
When you’re in the mood to visit a town with a distinctly artistic vibe and excellent fishing, come to Lincoln City. With the ocean to the west and Devils Lake to the east, the town is surrounded by first-class fishing grounds. Add to that the Siletz and Salmon Rivers, as well as Schooner and Drift Creeks, and what’s not to like?
Devils Lake is the main angling attraction in Lincoln City, with a variety of species available in the winter. The lake is even directly connected to the Pacific by the D River. Here, you can expect anything from Rainbow Trout and Steelhead to Largemouth Bass, Catfish, Crappie, and Yellow Perch. The fish are active throughout the year, and the winter bite can be strong.
Winter Steelhead runs is what put Lincoln City on the map and what makes this location a hidden gem. Devils Lake is also regularly stocked with hatchery Rainbow Trout. You can fish from shore or hire a boat, whatever you prefer, and the results will be worth re-telling for years to come.
Just like most coastal towns, Lincoln City boasts a variety of fun activities for everyone’s taste. Surfing, crabbing, kite-boarding, hiking in evergreen forests, and looking for clams are only some things you can try.
Orange Beach & Gulf Shores, Alabama
Here, we’ve got two top fishing spots for the price of one. Located next to each other on the Gulf’s coast, Orange Beach and Gulf Shores pride themselves on unforgettable winter fishing action. These cities are the epitome of all that the Alabama fishing scene has to offer – variety, quantity, and quality of fish year-round.
In the winter, although you might not be able to target famous Red Snapper, both fisheries are still going strong. Bull Redfish, Speckled Trout, Flounder, and Pompano dominate the inshore waters and are always hungry. Further offshore, prolific artificial reefs are the home of Grouper, other Snapper, Barracuda, Amberjack, King Mackerel, and Sharks.
Ready for a change of pace? Head to the Gulf State Park and its freshwater lake. There, you can try your hand in catching Catfish, Bass, Bream, and Crappie, to name a few. When you go fishing in Orange Beach and Gulf Shores, there’s no preference left behind.
Your winter vacation doesn’t have to be all about fishing though, especially not in coastal Alabama. Water sports like sailing, kayaking, and diving are always in the cards. Or you can simply enjoy the wonderful tropical temperatures with your family and get your fill of vitamin D.
Outdoor enthusiasts will love this one. Right on the state line of Tennessee and Virginia lies the city of Bristol that has easy access to some of the best fisheries in the Southeast. With the South Holston River and Lake a stone’s throw away, there’s an array of opportunities at your fingertips.
South Holston River is known for its fly fishing action far and wide. Its cold water are home to feisty Trout year-round and fly anglers make the most of it. Rainbows, Brooks, and Browns are all on the menu. There’s even a saying that this river has almost 10,000 Brown Trout per its every mile. And your backdrop? A stunning national forest
If you prefer calmer waters for your fishing escapades, South Holston Lake is but a short drive away from Bristol. Here, you can hook into the likes of Bass, Walleye, Carp, Pike, and Muskellunge. You can also try fishing with a Damiki rig, which is a staple in the area.
From Bristol, you can take on the Cherokee National Forest on foot, if you’re in need of some alone time in nature. You can also visit the Birthplace of Country Music Museum and take a break from all the hustle and bustle.
Elephant Butte Lake, New Mexico
To take your freshwater fishing game to a new level, why not visit the biggest lake in New Mexico? Elephant Butte Lake offers great bite year-round and the variety of species alone is enough to reel you in. Pleasant weather and the number of fish only help us make our case for this destination being a fun worthwhile winter getaway.
The biggest lake in the state is located in the largest state park in New Mexico and, as such, offers a slew of activities. These deep-green waters have a lot of freshwater game fish hiding under the surface. Think Walleye, Largemouth and Smallmouth Bass, Crappie, Catfish, and many more.
Still, the main act are big Stripers, which are the most desired catch in the winter months. As the temperatures cool down, Striped Bass continue feeding in the lake, getting bigger and bigger. That’s why fishermen from all over the country flock to the Elephant Butte Lake in search of their next great catch.
The lake is a great destination for thrill-seekers and outdoorsmen and women. You can enjoy a lot of different water activities including sailing, jet skiing, and kayaking. With massive winter Stripers and so many things to do with your family, Elephant Butte Lake really is a full fishing package.
It’s hardly possible to discuss the best winter fishing destinations without getting Florida in the mix. While there are many reasons to visit the “Magic City,” fishing is right at the top of the list. Add to that the white-sand beaches, permanently warm weather, eclectic food scene, and it’s not hard to understand why Miami is so popular.
In the winter, fishing in Miami is nothing short of stellar. Bottom fishing is fantastic, with an array of Grouper and Snapper biting left and right, though catches are smaller compared to summer specimens. The reefs are teeming with King Mackerel, Cobia, Amberjack, Mahi Mahi, and Sharks, all ready to bite.
Then you’ve got the one and only Sailfish – the fighter, the speedster, the ultimate beauty. In the winter months, Sailfish are migrating through Miami waters in the thousands, and anglers can hardly wait for their arrival. You can find them very close to shore during this time of year, and multiple Sail catches on private charters happen all the time. There are so many of them that you can stumble upon a Sailfish when you’re fishing from a party boat. Yes, it’s that good!
In short, winter fishing in Miami is glorious. The city needs no introduction, and neither does the fishery, all you have to do is go out and experience it yourself.
Presque Isle Bay, Pennsylvania
Among such a mix of best winter fishing destinations, we would be remiss not to mention Presque Isle Bay as a great ice fishing contender. This little bay is tucked away in the nook of Lake Erie and is the first to get a safe ice-over. The quickest and easiest way to reach it is from the city of Erie, though you can easily drive here from Pittsburgh or Cleveland.
Like we said, Presque Isle Bay is one of the first spots to provide safe ice for anglers to fish through, and this can happen as early as December. As soon as the conditions allow it, excited ice fishermen flock from all over the country and start drilling holes. The prospect of Yellow Perch, Northern Pike, and Panfish will be enough for you to forget about the cold too. The top of the bay is usually the best place to start your ice fishing excursion.
If you don’t like the idea of being exposed to elements the whole day, there are ice huts that you can use to stay warm. Presque Isle Bay is the entrance to the world of Lake Erie ice fishing, which is what makes it such a loved winter fishing destination. To get a head start, stay on top of the weather reports and be ready to hit the ice as soon as the chance arises.
Here’s another location for fishermen who aren’t afraid of cold weather if it gets them that next great catch. Bozeman and its surroundings are famous for outstanding fly fishing and the action is on all year. Rainbow and Brown Trout are on everyone’s mind and when it’s freezing outside, you don’t need to worry about crowds.
Gallatin, Madison, and Yellowstone Rivers are on the map of every fly angler who visits Bozeman. Gallatin River, in particular, is productive because of the nearby hot springs that keep the water from completely freezing over. This means access to beautiful Trout every day of the year, as long as the weather is on your side.
The Paradise Valley Spring Creeks can also provide a memorable fly fishing experience, and both locals and visiting anglers know it. These cold waters make for a perfect Trout habitat, and the fish usually gather in deeper slow-moving sections. When you know where the fish are, you’re halfway there to catching one.
Bozeman is one of the best-known fishing destinations in Montana and the top-notch winter bite is a big part of that appeal. Fishing here allows you to enjoy some much-needed peace and quiet only interrupted by the sounds of splashing water and Trout on the line. What’s not to like?
And the List Goes on…
While all these destinations offer not-to-be-missed fishing opportunities, this list is by no means exhaustive. Nor should it be! We’re here to help you start thinking outside the box and then it’s up to you to decide where you’d like to go first. You can even check out our top winter fishing picks from previous years for more inspiration. Winter can still be a fun and productive fishing time, so head out and see where it takes you.
Do you have a favorite winter fishing destination? Have you ever been to some of the spots we featured? Do you have advice for anglers yet to test the waters of winter fishing? Talk to us in the comments.