The New England states offer plenty of great fishing waters, and most anglers have their favorite spots to cast for trophies. But with temperatures warming up and the school year winding down, this is the perfect time to focus on a different kind of destination: the best locations for a family fishing trip. The goal this month is to find waters where your kids can actually catch fish, and perhaps enjoy some fun diversions along the way. Here are a few places where you can make some memories.
One of the greatest challenges for fishing families is finding places to go that provide adequate accommodations, convenient amenities and, of course, good fishing. Because children are part of the equation, access to the water and those all-important diversions must be easy, quick and practical, which tends to eliminate most of the “expert” waters, camps and outfitters.
For fishing to be fun, kids must be able to participate with a minimum of difficulty. Not all destinations in New England are designed for or cater to families, but there are plenty of kid-friendly places to go where everyone in the group will have an enjoyable and memorable time.
Parents should be mindful of their kids’ attention span, level of interest and angling skills when choosing a lake, pond or river for a fishing-camping vacation. Younger children will do best and have the most fun on waters that contain good numbers of white and yellow perch, bluegills, pickerel or bass. Middle school-aged children will be most interested in bass, pike or saltwater species, and high schoolers may be mature enough to tackle fly-fishing for bass, trout, salmon and other selective, more challenging species. Consider all the options before deciding where to spend your family vacation.
With all this in mind, here’s a look at some of the best places in the Northeast to go for a fun family fishing vacation in 2017.
Despite being one of the most populated states in the region, Massachusetts offers a wide variety of family-style fishing adventures ranging from small-pond panfish to saltwater angling for species as diverse as bluefish, striped bass and even sharks.
Massachusetts has over 1,000 lakes and ponds, most of which are geared for family-style outings. These waters range in size from a few acres to the huge Wachusett and Quabbin reservoirs.
Because the Bay State is highly developed there are plenty of options when it comes to lodging, dining and nearby diversions. To make matters easier the state is replete with state forests and parks, many of which surround large lakes and ponds where the fishing is good and access is easy.
Windsor State Forest near Adams offers tent and trailer campsites with nearby toilets and drinking water facilities. Access to the Westfield River is provided by a picnic area and small sand beach. Common fish species include brown trout, rainbow trout and smallmouth bass.
Nearby Windsor Pond provides good fishing for trout, salmon, perch, bluegills and pickerel. A public boat ramp is available at the east end of the pond off Route 8A/116.
Savoy Mountain State Forest in the town of Florida features 45 campsites and four rental cabins with drinking water and rest rooms nearby. Convenient beaches provide easy access to North and South ponds. North Pond features a picnic area and boat ramp for non-motorized boats only. North Pond contains brook trout, browns and rainbows.
Another family-friendly destination in Massachusetts, Mohawk Trail State Forest in Charlemont contains over 50 miles of hiking trails plus 56 campsites and rental cabins. Fishing for trout is excellent on the Deerfield River. Smallmouth bass are more abundant in the lower section of the river near Deerfield.
Along The Way
Take a tour through the town of Adams’ historic district, especially the 1782 Quaker Meeting House, American Legion Home and many other early settlers’ homes and 1800s buildings. For more early-American history, a visit to Old Sturbridge Village is in order. Volunteers in period dress give live demonstrations of long-forgotten colonial tasks, hobbies and chores. Art lovers will want to spend some time at the Norman Rockwell museum in Stockbridge.
For information and additional family fishing opportunities in Massachusetts, log onto www.massvacation.com.
Flanked by two large state forests, Barkhamsted is an excellent destination for a family fishing vacation. The American Legion State Forest offers 30 campsites while Peoples State Forest boasts many miles of easily-followed hiking trails.
The Farmington River is renowned for its world-class trout fishing while nearby Lake McDonough contains trout, bass, pickerel, yellow perch and sunfish. Other water sports include canoeing, kayaking, tubing and swimming.
Burr Pond State Park in nearby Torrington is a day-use facility with a boat ramp where trailered boats may be launched. Excellent fishing for bass, black crappies and yellow perch will keep the younger kids entertained for hours. Swimming, canoe and kayak rentals and a variety of hiking trails will provide additional diversions for the entire family.
Cockaponset State Forest in Haddam contains a wide variety of fishing opportunities from streams to shore and boat fishing on Pattaconk Lake, where there is a small boat launch off Cedar Lake Road in Chester.
In addition to a swimming area and bike trails, there are miles of horseback and hiking trails open to exploration when the kids get tired of fishing.
Housatonic Meadows State Park in Sharon offers 95 campsites near the Housatonic River. Fly-fishing only is allowed for a long stretch of water within the park but any-tackle fishing for bass and trout is allowed in the upper reaches of the river.
A portion of the Appalachian Trail winds through the park, plus there are many miles of well-marked hiking trails. Nearby Housatonic State Park offers another 7,181 acres with hiking, wildlife viewing and scenic trails to keep campers occupied during their stay.
Along The Way
Connecticut is loaded with fun and interesting sites to visit once the fishing slows down. In Hartford, spend some time at the Mark Twain House and nearby Harriet Beecher Stowe homestead, or visit the impressive castle at Gillette Castle State Park, where William Gillette, a famous actor and playright, lived on his 184-acre estate overlooking the Connecticut River.
Other historic sites worth a look include the Nathan Hale homestead, the Elizabeth Park rose garden and the Whitfield House historic site in Guilford.
For more information on great family fishing destinations in the Nutmeg State, log onto www.CTvisit.com.
Our smallest New England state has some of the best places to go for family fishing adventures. Aptly named “The Ocean State,” Rhode Island contains plenty of saltwater shoreline where access to the water is relatively easy and the fishing is fantastic for bluefish, stripers and other popular species.
For maximum diversity with a touch of coastal charm, head for Block Island, which is 12 miles off the Rhode Island coast. A popular tourist destination at any time of year, there are plenty of motels, hotels, restaurants, small shops and beaches galore where families can relax, eat, stroll and hunt for seashells during their stay.
Of course, fishing is the name of the game. Sachem Pond offers excellent fishing for white perch, but the big draw is the Atlantic Ocean, where there is plenty of easy access to sandy shorelines and rocky outcroppings where bluefish and stripers abound.
Head for Block Island Sound via charter boat where these and other popular saltwater species such as scup, tuna, sea bass, sharks and even marlin may be found.
Inland action may be found at Burlingame State Park in Charlestown, where there are more than 700 trailer and campsites available. Watchaug Pond offers more than 500 acres of great fishing for bass and trout, with yellow perch and bluegills galore.
The Mills camping area also offers a yurt to rent plus 11 log cabins. Showers and toilet facilities are available plus a playground, beaches and hiking trails.
In Coventry, try Colwell’s Family Campground on 659-acre Johnson Pond. A state-owned boat launch provides access to the lake, where pike, pickerel, yellow perch and bluegills provide plenty of beginner-level fishing opportunities for younger anglers.
Along The Way
After a fun day of fishing visitors can spend some time at the Castle Hill Lighthouse in Newport, or history buffs can make an appointment to see the nearby Naval War College Museum and the Revolutionary War-era Museum of the Artillery Company of Newport which includes bronze cannons cast by Paul Revere.
Tennis aficionados will want to visit the International Tennis Hall of Fame Museum, also in Newport.
For more information and additional details on Rhode Island’s great family fishing opportunities, log onto www.visitrhodeisland.com.
For big fun and lots of great fishing it only makes sense to head for Maine’s largest lake. Moosehead Lake in Greenville is the place to be for excellent trout and salmon angling, along with plenty of wilderness trails and local insight into the region’s rich and interesting logging history.
Lily Bay State Park in Beaver Cove, which offers plenty of campsites and RV sites close to the water, is just one of many family-friendly destinations on the big lake. Hiking trails may be found within the park where visitors can take advantage of moose-watching opportunities from shore or boat.
Lily Bay offers running water, rest rooms and showers and is just nine miles north of Greenville off Lily Bay Road.
For a good mix of fresh- and saltwater fishing, head east to Mount Desert Island and the famed Bar Harbor region. Accommodations and camping facilities abound on the island, where trout and salmon may be caught in Bubble, Jordan and Eagle ponds. Stripers and mackerel are the order of the day at the north end of Bass Harbor. Fishermen may try their luck on their own or charter local boat captains to take them to the best fishing.
Several campgrounds provide both primitive and RV sites including Blackwoods Campground and Hadley’s Point Campground. Mount Desert Narrows and others offer cabin rentals plus a wide variety of entertainment ranging from canoe rentals to basketball courts, horseshoes and even a heated swimming pool.
Along The Way
Most visitors to Maine will want to spend some time touring Mount Desert Island and famed Cadillac Mountain, where the sun first hits the U.S. every morning. Bar Harbor is one of the most popular tourist attractions on the island along with Thunder Hole and the Jordan Pond House.
When it comes to retail attractions, nothing beats a trip to L.L. Bean in Freeport or the Kittery Trading Post in Kittery. Local bargain hunters also do a great deal of shopping at Reny’s and Mardens stores, which are scattered throughout the state.
Fill up the tank and do some driving along Maine’s legendary Golden Road, which runs from Millinocket to Greenville and was once the main highway for logging trucks. This is the place to be at dawn or dusk if moose watching is on the family wish list.
For more information on Maine’s tourist-friendly fishing destinations, log onto www.visitmaine.com.
It only makes sense to go to the Granite State’s largest and most popular lake — Winnipesaukee — when family fishing forays are the order of the day. The lake contains largemouth and smallmouth bass, white perch, black crappies, trout, salmon as well as whitefish, cusk and trout.
The big lake provides fishing opportunities from shore or boat via dozens of waterside campgrounds, cottages and motels with all the usual amenities and many attractions that should keep visitors busy all day even when they are not on the water.
Gunstock Mountain Resort covers more than 140 acres and has more than 300 campsites including primitive tent sites and RV hookups available to vacationing fishermen. A pond and nearby stream provide additional angling options.
Campgrounds such as Paugus Bay and Pine Hollow give Winnipesaukee-bound vacationers more choices for camping and fishing plus canoe rentals, playgrounds and other diversions.
For extra variety, try Winnisquam Lake, which covers 4,264 acres and boasts good numbers of trout, salmon, bass, pickerel and perch. To the south is Silver Lake, which offers good warmwater fishing, along with Sunset and Crystal lakes, among others. Families who fish should find plenty of water to probe during the mornings and evenings.
Midday attractions include cruises, hiking, biking and paddling, and the Winnipesaukee Scenic Railroad is a good way to see the surrounding forestlands.
Fishermen looking for some saltwater action will want to head for Hampton Beach State Park where 28 recreational vehicle sites are available close to shore. Meanwhile, Tidewater Campground features over 200 campsites for tents and RVs. All sites include a fire ring and picnic table, plus there is a swimming pool, playground, horseshoe pits and basketball courts just a couple of miles from Hampton Beach.
Along The Way
No trip to New Hampshire is complete without a visit to Mount Washington and its famous weather observatory, which sits atop the 6,288-foot peak, the highest in the Northeast. Access is via hiking trails, car or cog railway.
Also nearby is the Conway Scenic Railway, where visitors can book scenic rides on trains featuring open air cars, enclosed coaches and dining cars.
For more information and additional details on New Hampshire’s family fishing vacation opportunities, log onto www.nhstateparks.com.
Finding a place to fish in the Green Mountain State is simply a matter of preference. Vermont is home to some of the best native brook trout fishing in the East, plus there are rivers, lakes and ponds statewide that offer excellent angling for trout, salmon, bass, pike, perch and a variety of panfish.
There is plenty of room for anglers of all skill levels on 120-mile-long Lake Champlain in the northeast region of the state. Salmon and trout are Champlain’s most popular species, but walleyes, bass, perch and king-sized northern pike may be caught in most bays and coves around the lake.
Campgrounds are abundant on the “Vermont side” of the big lake including North Hero State Park, Lakewood Campground, Alburg RV Resort Goose Point Campground and many others. All of these offer tent and RV sites plus additional amenities.
Along The Way
In Westmore, try the White Camps Campground on 1,653-acre Lake Willoughby, where lake trout and salmon plus brown trout and rainbows are the featured species. The campground offers lean-tos and tent and RV sites, rental cabins and a bed and breakfast. In addition to electricity, water, rest rooms and showers the campground also offers a Laundromat and coffee bar along with a horseshoe pit and swimming area.
For more information, log onto www.vermontvacation.com.
Of course, these are just a few of the hundreds of family fishing vacation options available in New England. Contact each state’s tourism department for more options and for reservations, maps, directions and more information. Also, contact state fisheries authorities for specific fishing regulations affecting individual waters as well as general fishing rules for each state.