Family trip or fishing vacation? If you're debating whether vacation days should go toward a family outing or days on the water, you might be asking the wrong question.
A better question is where you can take your family on a fishing-themed vacation this summer. If that's the question you're ready to ask, we've got the answers, and we've even considered that odd idea that everyone might not want to fish all the time!
Black Hills, South Dakota
From Custer State Park
, where bison and bighorn sheep roam, to the Wild West town of Deadwood
where gunfighters take to the streets, the Black Hills offer a host of fun stuff for families to enjoy. Often overlooked, even by sportsmen, are the trout-filled streams that tumble through Black Hills and the fishy little lakes that dot the rugged landscape. The lakes, most of which you can fish effectively from the bank or a small boat, offer everything from yellow perch to jumbo lake trout. Don't spend every available minute chasing fish, though. Mount Rushmore truly is a must-see spot for the entire family.
Everglades City & 10,000 Islands, Florida
Tucked between the Florida Everglades and 10,000 Islands, Everglades City offers the best of both worlds to family fishermen. From the marina at Miller's World Resort
in Everglades City, traveling one way leads to vast island-protected saltwater flats, where young anglers can cast for everything from snapper and sheepshead to higher profile species like snook and tarpon. Point the boat in the opposite direction, and you're headed deeper into the Everglades, where wildlife abounds and you can fish for freshwater and saltwater species from the same spots. The resort offers waterfront cabins, bike, canoe and kayak rentals, airboat tours and a classic Florida oyster house for mealtime.
Kenai Peninsula, Alaska
For that family trip of a lifetime, head for the Last Frontier in search of giant halibut, majestic king salmon and various other sport fish. As you travel from Anchorage onto the Kenai Peninsula
keep an eye out for moose, brown bears and other big critters. Fishing options range from wading rivers on your own for big rainbows, to taking a jetboat trip for salmon to chartering a bigger boat and targeting halibut that could turn out to be the size of your kitchen table. Speaking of tables, one reward of visiting this part of Alaska is the opportunity to bring home salmon and halibut for your own table!
Mammoth Lakes, California
Image courtesy of Jimmy Kellett
Snow-capped peaks bound the ultra-clear lakes that are the namesake of Mammoth Lakes
in California's Eastern Sierra. Dozens of lakes pepper this region, and virtually all receive heavy stockings of trout (including some very big trout). Various resorts cater to family travel with cabins, campsites and boat rentals, and trout fishing is the main attraction. A boat isn't critical, by the way. The shores of various lakes provide access to excellent fishing, and several tumbling trout streams offer opportunities to wade for both stocked and wild trout.
Niagara River, New York
To most of the world, the Niagara River
is best known for its spectacular waterfall, which you absolutely do need to visit while you're in the area. For fishermen, this short river that connect lakes Erie and Ontario also stands out as one of the world's most prolific fisheries. During the summer, walleyes, muskies and smallmouth bass take center stage on the Niagara, with the smallies serving up sizzling action. The riverside town of Lewiston, New York offers a perfect starting point for any trip down the river and a great center for a family vacation that might also include hiking, biking, exploring, visiting Niagara Falls State Park or even seeing the falls up close, from below, on a whirlpool jetboat tour.
Port Isabel, Texas
Shallow grassy flats and some of the clearest water along the Texas coast make the Lower Laguna Madre an ideal destination for stalking redfish and speckled trout. If you choose to wade, the water feels good on summer days, and the fishing is as simple as casting a grub or spoon, reeling it back and hanging on tight.Port Isabel
, which is located about as far south as you can go along the Texas coast, provides great access to these fish-rich waters, and local charter boats offer everything from dolphin cruises to wading trips to offshore fishing adventures. The Port Isabel area also provides the full beach trip experience on South Padre Island, with plenty of sand to lie on, shops to explore and fresh Gulf seafood to enjoy.
Pymatuning Lake, Pennsylvania
Shallow, stained, cover-laden and filled to the gills with crappie, walleyes, bass and bluegills, Pymatuning Lake
beckons families because the fish stack up in obvious spots during early summer and eat quite readily. Bounded entirely by state park lands, this long narrow lake on the Pennsylvania/Ohio border offers outstanding shoreline access, including piers and a causeway, and a 20-horsepower max for outboard motors makes it a great place to fish from a canoe or johnboat. Pymatuning State Park also offer inexpensive lakeside cabins and plenty of room for family camping.
Reelfoot Lake, Tennessee
Formed 200 years ago when earthquakes caused the Mississippi River to jump its channel and flood swampy bottomlands, Reelfoot Lake looks like a giant farm pond. More significantly, Reelfoot fishes like a farm pond, with jumbo bluegills, thick-bodied largemouths and always-abundant crappie and catfish all readily available and usually easy to locate. Most fishermen leave their fancy boats at home, knowing Reelfoot is a mine field of stumps and cypress knees. For that reason, Blue Bank Resort
offers aluminum fishing boats and motors as part of their fishing packages. They also have guides and multiple guests on the water every day, so they can set you up with the right bait and tell you exactly what you need to know to catch fish.
San Diego, California
Many of the sport fishing boats that depart from H&M Landing
run 1/2- and 3/4- and full-trips that cater to visiting anglers and provide big family fun. You can bring your own gear or get fully outfitted with rental tackle. Either way, pick up your terminal gear locally, based on recent reports. Everything chomps early in the summer, and catches on these boats range from dorado and tuna to sand bass and calico bass. Plan to eat some seriously fresh seafood at one of the dockside restaurants after you get off the water. Of course, if you want to blend in a little freshwater fun, several of Southern Cal's famous big-bass-filled smaller lakes are nearby.
White River, Arkansas
The legendry line of pink cabins at Gaston's
fronts the Ozarks' most famous tailwater, where fisheries folks stock more than 1 million catchable-sized trout every year. Simple bait rigs provide fast action from feisty rainbows to anglers of all ages. Meanwhile, heavyweight brown trout lurks in deep holes, offering a 'big game ' bonus. Bank fishing, wading and boating are all good options. Gaston's offers a fleet of rental boats and a team of guides who are used to catering to family groups. They also have a network of hiking trails that provide great photo opportunities, plus amazing food in a restaurant that hangs over the river.