10 Best Winter Fishing Destinations for 2024

Dec 14, 2023 | 9 minute read
Reading Time: 9 minutes

We usually imagine snow-capped mountains and ice-covered lakes when we think of winter. At first glance, the coldest season of the year and fishing don’t go hand in hand. But scratch below the surface, and you’ll uncover a whole world of casting possibilities. Not convinced? Take a look at our list of winter fishing destinations.

A photo of a rack of fishing rods, reels, a fighting belt, and additional gear and equipment, along with a captain with a first mate navigating their charter fishing boat before sunrise
Photo taken by Vulcan Charters, Inc.

Any avid angler will confirm that fishing doesn’t cease with the drop in temperature. Moreover, winter fishing doesn’t have to be synonymous with frostbite at all. To show you how incredible fishing in winter can be, we’ve spiced this list up with a mixture of frozen spots and some sun-kissed destinations, too. Here are our top picks for your winter angling getaway!

South Padre Island, Texas

How about we kick off our winter line-up with a Gulf superstar? Golden beaches, turquoise waters, and warm weather have cemented South Padre Island as a go-to Spring Break destination. But its inviting climate and natural beauty are even more appreciated in winter. Add enviable angling opportunities on top of that, and it becomes clear why this Texas star ranks high on our winter fishing list.

A photo of three anglers posing on a charter boat in South Padre Island in Texas holding Redfish and Speckled Trout caught during a winter fishing trip
Photo taken by Reel Good Style

With daily temperatures reaching 73°F, South Padre Island boasts favorable fishing conditions throughout the winter. The area’s fisheries will bless you with trophy catches, whether you’re casting from shore, fishing inshore, or hunting on the open waters. In other words, expect to land anything from Redfish, Flounder, and Speckled Trout to Mackerel, Groupers, and Tuna! 

When you’re done exploring the Gulf of Mexico and Laguna Madre, try land-based activities such as beach strolling, horseback riding, and holiday light shows. Speaking of festivities, don’t forget to check out the Holiday Sandcastle Village for a truly unique experience. Thank us later!

Biloxi, Mississippi 

Moving along the coastline from Texas to Mississippi, you’ll reach one of the South’s oldest and most diverse communities. Biloxi, also known as the “Playground of the South,” is the perfect place to shake off that winter drowsiness. Delicious food, traditional music, and endless recreation options – you’ll see how this city earned its nickname!

A photo of two proud anglers sitting on a charter fishing boat and posing with a huge Yellowfin Tuna they caught while deep sea fishing out of Biloxi in Mississippi
Photo taken by Strike Zone Charters

When it comes to seafood, Biloxi is second to none. Once the “Seafood Capital of the World,” Biloxi still lives up to that name. Along with mouthwatering meals, go for more local flavors and enjoy the sounds of blues and jazz. The city is deeply rooted in history, so it doesn’t lack landmarks either. Dining, entertainment, sightseeing… The fun goes on and on.

It goes without saying that Biloxi is also an ideal winter angling playground, especially if you’re after Redfish, Black Drum, and large Sheepshead. As far as bluewater fishing goes, Yellowfin Tuna are almost guaranteed. December, in particular, is when they shine the brightest, so you might be in for the best Christmas present so far!

Florida’s Sports Coast, Florida

With our fishing lines still in the Gulf, we arrive at another sunny destination – Florida’s Sports Coast. Situated in one of the best places to live in the Sunshine State – Pasco County – Florida’s Sports Coast is renowned for its outdoor adventures, with fishing being among the most cherished pastimes. Not bad for a winter fishing destination, right?

A photo of two happy kids standing on a charter boat in the Gulf near Florida’s Sports Coast and posing with two Tripletail fish they caught on their winter fishing trip
Photo taken by Island Time Family Charters

The coastline is dotted with first-class charter boats eager to show you what sportfishing is all about here. Come winter, you’ll reach your limit of Snappers, Groupers, Tripletail, and Amberjack with ease. If you’re lucky, you might even come across Marlin! Apart from these nearshore and offshore favorites, you can also attempt to conquer the brackish waters and reel in Redfish and Black Drum.

When we said that the area is known for its remarkable outdoor offer, we meant it. Where else can you enjoy the Gulf’s fishing and beaches, and then have some winter magic in the alpine snow park? Well, here in Pasco County, the Snowcat Ridge has you covered! And if you’re visiting in February, include the Johnny Cash Tribute Band event in your schedule, too. 

Daytona Beach, Florida

Before we take you to some more frosty corners, let’s stay a bit longer in the Sunshine State. We couldn’t leave Florida without mentioning its Atlantic side and bringing up the legendary Daytona Beach. Known worldwide for the NASCAR Daytona 500, this Florida gem will have you hooked on fishing, too. 

A photo of three happy anglers sitting on a charter boat and smiling while trying to hold a big Sailfish caught while deep sea angling out of Daytona Beach
Photo taken by Vulcan Charters, Inc.

What makes Daytona Beach stand out on this list is the fact that you can both go freshwater and saltwater angling in winter. You can battle giants such as Sailfish and Tuna in the Atlantic or move inland and outsmart Largemouth Bass on Lake George – it’s up to you! You can even catch juvenile Tarpon in the Halifax River.

The need for speed is real in Daytona Beach, and sportfishing is our favorite way of maintaining that adrenaline rush. But, truth be told, nothing beats the Daytona 500. If you plan to visit Daytona Beach in February, this is a reminder to secure your spot on time. Alternatively, here’s a list of events happening in winter in Daytona Beach you can try instead.

New River, Virginia

After several saltwater-inspired hotspots, it’s high time you saw what inland gems we prepared for you. If you crave untamed mountains and raw nature, our next winter fishing destination is a true dreamscape. The fishery is so good that we couldn’t pick only one place, so we decided to present an entire body of water – the New River in Virginia!

A view of sun-kissed trees along the New River near the city of Redford in Virginia, a perfect winter fishing destination during the late fall and early winter

The fact that the New River is the oldest river system in North America speaks volumes about it. Not only does it have historical significance, but it also has angling potential unlike any other river in Virginia. It’s home to almost every freshwater game fish that crosses your mind. Smallmouth Bass, Musky, and Walleye are the ultimate winter trophies here. The Virginia state records for these three species were precisely caught in the New River!

Whichever place along the New River you pick as your headquarters, you won’t go wrong. Radford, however, is the only settlement located directly on the river. Besides fishing, we recommend hiking, roaming nature, and sightseeing. Shot Tower State Park near Jackson Ferry might just spark your interest in history as well.

Kentucky Lake, Kentucky/Tennessee

Virginia’s neighboring states of Kentucky and Tennessee join forces to bring you your next winter fishing destination. These two states are both the proud owners of Kentucky Lake. Located at the border of Kentucky and Tennessee, this lake welcomes all vacationers, anglers, and outdoor enthusiasts.

An aerial view of the lake and snow-covered settlement depicting idylic houses and trees in Central Kentucky during winter

With more than 160,000 acres and 2,300 miles of shoreline, Kentucky Lake is a mecca for all freshwater anglers. It’s stocked with Bass, Crappie, Catfish, Bluegill, Redear, and Sauger. The most popular winter species are Bass and Crappie, however, and the largest specimens are caught precisely in the late winter around rocky banks.

The cold fronts in Kentucky and Tennessee can mean strong winds but, with some proper layered clothing and local entertainment, you’ll feel nothing but a mere breeze. If you need to warm up on Kentucky’s side of the lake, check out one of many events the surrounding towns offer. If you’re looking for a heartwarming experience in Tennessee, start a new tradition with Clarksville’s Drive-Thru Christmas Light Show.

Hillsdale Lake, Kansas

Hillsdale Lake is a freshwater paradise with over 50 miles of fishable shoreline. Cozily nestled amid lush greenery just outside Kansas City, this body of water promises an unplugged retreat but easy access to the metropolis at the same time. So, if you want to spend your winter vacation fishing in peace and exploring the third-largest city in Kansas, then Hillsdale Lake is made for you.

A sunrise view of Kansas City and its iconic skyline with skyscrapers, business buildings, park, pond, and the famous statue overlooking the city

White Bass, Largemouth Bass, and Walleye feel at home in Hillsdale Lake, but the crown jewels are Crappie. While fish usually head for depths with cold weather, Crappie keep on frequenting the rocky shorelines in winter, teasing all surf-casting anglers to catch them. If you’d rather explore the lake on a boat, team up with a local guide. They’ll know how to go about the water level fluctuations that are common here and take you where the fish are biting. 

Speaking of that local feel, don’t miss the opportunity to experience Kansas City. This beauty lights up in winter. The city is so big on holiday spirit that they have an extensive list of scheduled events. So, when in Kansas City, do as the locals do and embrace “dazzling lights and stunning sights.

South Platte River, Colorado

Our next winter fishing contender, the South Platte River, is the lifeblood of Denver’s region. Recognized as a fishery worthy of the Gold Medal Water prize, the South Platte River is also Colorado‘s pride and joy. And if you want to see what fishing in such highly esteemed waters is like, come here in winter.

A photo of two fly fishing anglers standing on a big rock getting ready to fly fish on the South Platte River in the Cheesman Canyon area near Denver in Colorado during late fall and early winter

What makes the South Platte River a perfect winter fishing destination? The river is a year-round angling wonderland, but the coldest season of the year is when fly fishing opportunities surpass all expectations. Trout are the stars of the winter fly fishing show. Try nymphing in Cheesman Canyon, and you’ll be in for a treat.

Treats are most certainly Denver’s specialty, as the city doesn’t lack award-winning eateries and craft beer. We also went through a list of holiday events, and there’s simply something for everyone’s taste. Don’t believe us? Take a look at what the Mile High City has in store for you this winter. 

Lake Mead, Nevada

It isn’t easy to top the above-mentioned winter fishing spots, yet this lake might just do that. Spanning two states and wearing the crown of the largest reservoir in the United States, Lake Mead is a must-visit angling destination this winter. 

A breathtaking view of the mountains in the distance and Lake Mead in Nevada as seen in the morning around sunrise in early winter

With more than 700 miles of fishable shoreline and 28 million acre-feet of water, Lake Mead can brag about a vibrant underwater world and numerous recreational options. Not only does it not freeze during winter, but it also guarantees a hot bite from December through February. Impressive Crappie are its forté during these months, but the Nevada Division of Wildlife also stocks it with Rainbow Trout in winter.

Besides fishing, you can go hiking and biking around Lake Mead. But if you prefer the comfort of a big city after a successful winter fishing outing, head to Las Vegas. What better way to end your winter vacation than to lose yourself in the brightest city on the planet?

Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

We saved the best for last – the incredible city of Puerto Vallarta! We couldn’t end this list without tapping into the Pacific. There were many excellent candidates, but Puerto Vallarta stole our hearts. From tight lines and screaming reels to vibrant culture and stunning nature, Puerto Vallarta promises a vacation to remember. 

A father and a son sitting on a Puerto Vallarta charter fishing boat and struggling to hold a huge Sailfish with both hands while posing for a photo during their winter angling trip
Photo taken by Burton lll Sport Fishing

When it comes to big game fishing, Puerto Vallarta is on fire in winter. Blue Marlin, Black Marlin, Striped Marlin, and Sailfish are all on the menu in early December. Mahi Mahi, locally known as Dorado, dominate the bluewater realm from September through February. So, if battles of epic proportions are what you dream of this winter, go to Puerto Vallarta.

And when you think that nothing can outshine these titans, there’s a group of breathtaking creatures that steal the spotlight in winter – whales! Each year, from December to March, Puerto Vallarta turns into a whale-watching epicenter. And that’s not all. Here’s a list of all things you can do in Puerto Vallarta. Happy holidays!

Winter Fishing Destinations: A Neverending List

We’ve reached the end of our winter fishing destinations list. But the line-up of possible fisheries to explore during winter is far from over. Each year, we carefully select unique locations for you to check out. This time around, we wanted to stress that winter doesn’t equal slumber when it comes to fishing. Hopefully, we gave you some ideas on how to go about your winter angling vacation. If you crave more hotspots, here’s a list of last year’s winter corners. Tight lines!

What winter fishing destination from the list is your favorite? Have you already booked a winter fishing trip? Where will you go? Feel free to get in touch with us in the comment section below.

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Tanya is a Content Creator at FishingBooker and a secret admirer of all things weird and wonderful beneath the waves. The waves, however, are her archnemeses (#seasickness). But she got hooked on angling in 2016 and there was simply no way back. Fishing became her reel passion, and she hasn't stopped casting lines and spinning tales about it ever since.

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