12 of the Best Fishing Festivals You Should Attend
When a festival revolves around fish and fishing, it's likely to garner our attention, and fortunately for us, there are fishing fests galore taking place year-round throughout the country
Everyone loves a festival.Great food, fantastic music and fun competitions provide the perfect excuse togather with family and friends to celebrate local culture, art, cuisine and theoutdoors.
Festivals come in all kinds.In my home state of Arkansas, for example, these annual get-togethers celebrateeverything from elk, butterflies, watermelons and armadillos to French cuisine,blues music, daffodils and much, much more.
Using the information below,the enthusiastic angler could travel from one great fishing festival to anotherevery month of the year. We suggest you try.
January: Ice Fishing Extravaganza
When the first Ice FishingExtravaganza was held in Brainerd, Minnesota in January 1991, the Jaycee foundersnever expected it event would become the world’s largest ice-fishing contestand put Brainerd on the map with a winter event that generates more than $1 millionin revenue for area businesses and more than $150,000 for area charitiesannually.
When festivities begin eachyear, visitors can watch more than 12,000 ice fishermen on a single bay alldrop their fishing lines into the water at once. It starts at noon when acannon roars and fishing begins in the 20,000-plus holes organizers havepre-drilled into well-frozen Gull Lake. Anglers who catch the biggest fish winpart of $200,000 worth of prizes, including trucks, ATVs, generators, iceaugers, gift cards, cash and more.
Almost as soon as the cannonsounds, people start running to the center camp with fish to be weighed by theofficials. Within two to three minutes, the line will stretch 150 yards long.It stays that way until 3 p.m. when the contest ends.
Avariety of food, product and gift vendors are on the ice the day of the event.There’s also a Youth Ice Olympics where kids can test their fish ID skills,turn a hand auger, see who can scoop slush out of an ice hole fastest and playthe Recycled Fish “Drop the Bucket” game.
For future dates, visit: icefishing.org
February: International Eelpout Festival
Some might think the eelpout,a weird-looking relative of the cod, is a fish without a following. Not so. Atthe International Eelpout Festival in Walker, Minnesota, (“The Eelpout Capital ofthe World”), thousands of eelpout aficionados venture onto the ice to testtheir skills capturing this delicious, elusive fish also known as the burbot orlawyer.
With tongue tightly in cheek,festival promoters say “pouting” techniques include “calling, snagging, biting,hooking, hypnotizing, glib repartee and others that will remain untold.” Up to 2,000 anglers vie for a 7-foot-talltrophy awarded to whoever catches the biggest eelpout. Other awards are given forPuny ‘Pout, Highest Individual Tonnage, Highest Team Tonnage and the MostLavish Burbot Bivouac.
All fishing takes place on112,000-acre Leech Lake. Other events include a beer pong tournament,mechanical bull-riding tournament, kids’ perch jerk, eelpout fish fry, dog sledrides, polar plunge and a bikini ice-fishing show.
Forfuture dates, visit: eelpoutfestival.com
March: Texas Fly Fishing & Brew Festival
2017 marks the first yearthis event will be held, but we’re certain it won’t be the last. Thisone-of-a-kind, family-friendly event in Plano, Texas, is an indoor/outdoorcelebration of fly fishing—and beyond. Attendees can visit dozens of fly-fishingmanufacturers indoors, attend various lectures on techniques and topics interestingto fly anglers of every stripe and then step out into the Texas sunshine totaste some of the Lone Star State’s best micro-brewed beer.
Guests have the opportunityto meet nationally known fly-fishing authors, professional guides, expert casters,custom bamboo rod makers and fly tiers from across the country. And beginnerswanting to get their first taste of fly fishing can wander the festival groundsand learn how to fish from a kayak, watch casting and fly-tying demonstrations,take fly-fishing, test the latest rods, reels and other tackle and then samplea variety of delicious microbrews.
For future dates, visit: txflyfishingfestival.org
April: Virginia Fly Fishing & Wine Festival
Organizers say the VirginiaFly Fishing & Wine Festival in Doswell, Virginia is the largest event ofits kind in the country, attracting fly-fishing fans from across the UnitedStates. Its purpose is to introduce asmany people to the sport of fly fishing as possible, especially young familieswith children. Toward that end there are a variety of free classes aimedat youth, families and women, including ladies-only beginner fly-castingclasses, family fly-fishing classes, Boy Scout merit badge classes and youthfly-tying classes.
Seasoned fly-fishing veteranswill find plenty to entertain them as well. Meet famed artists and experts likeD.B. Krupa and Dave Whitlock. Visit with lodge owners, guides and travelcompanies specializing in fly fishing. Attend seminars presented by animpressive list of local and national instructors and speakers. And, those 21and older can enjoy free wine samples from several Old Dominion wineries.
Forfuture dates, visit: vaflyfishingfestival.com
May: Bream Fest
Mostdays, the population of Felsenthal in south Arkansas hovers between 150 and 160 good souls, depending onwho is going grocery shopping, seeing the doctor or any one of dozens of otherreasons for temporarily departing the peaceful environs of the remote town. On MemorialDay weekend, all that turns around. The town’s population skyrockets asthousands come to participate in the Felsenthal Bream Fest, a uniqueget-together started in 1985 that commemorates the scrappy, delicious panfishsought by nearly every angler in the region.
Thefestival’s main event is a bream-fishing tournament on the waters of theOuachita River and adjacent lakes. Registered competitors weigh in 20 fish perboat for a chance to win hundreds of dollars in cash prizes for adults andchildren. Other activities include a boot camp obstacle course competition;baggo, arm-wrestling and horseshoe tournaments; the Camo Country 5K race; kids’sack races, balloon tosses and casting competitions; plus live music, food andcraft vendors, a street dance and a beauty pageant.
Forfuture dates, visit: felsenthal-ar.com/
June: Bullhead Days
The southern Minnesota townof Waterville has the dubious honor of being “The Bullhead Capital of theWorld.” Some folks don’t care much for bullheads because these little catfishare notorious bait stealers. Their slimy bodies and big mouths won’t win themany piscatorial beauty contest either.
Folks in Waterville have madethe lowly bullhead a local icon, nevertheless. They know deep-fried bullheadsearn a blue-ribbon for scrumptiousness. And the bullheads’ abundance and readycatchability make them perfect targets for kids eager to catch some fish.Nearby lakes Sakatah and Tetonka produce loads of these bantam cats.
That’s why, in 1964, theBullhead Capital started Bullhead Days. This annual celebration features streetvendors serving deep-fried bullheads, a carnival, flea market, softball andbowling tournaments, a kids’ fishing contest, sailboat regatta, demolitionderby, tractor and truck pull, fireworks and parades. It’s a festival folkslook forward to every year.
For future dates, visit: vwww.watervillemn.com
July: Kids Fishing Festival
Over in Mammoth Lakes,California, there’s a summer fishing festival just for kids. At the30th-anniversary event this year, nearby Snow Creek Ponds will be stocked withtrout so youngsters can experience the fun of fishing. Loaner rods and reelswill be available, and there will be fly-tying lessons so the kids can make afly, put it on their rods, practice casting with expert volunteers and thencatch a trout. There will even be complimentary fish cleaning available so childrencan take trout home and have them for dinner.
Fisheries staff fromthe California Department of Fishand Wildlife will be on hand to teach children about the state’strout fisheries. Every child will receive their own California Fishing Passport,a fish identification book, a special coloring book and a junior fishinglicense. An aquarium full of trout will be available to see, along with Smokeythe Bear, taxidermied animals in the game warden recruitment trailer, a lasertag shot booth and much more.
Forfuture dates, visit: kidsfishfest.com
August: Heber Valley Fly Fishing Festival
If fly fishing is your passion, or if you’re a beginner wanting to learn more about the sport, you’ll want to be in Midway, Utah, this August for the fun festivities at the HeberValley Fly Fishing Festival. Anglers of all skill levels can learn new techniques and fine-tune their skills via the free events offered throughout the weekend by local fly fishing guides andindustry experts. Included are kids fly-tying classes, ladies-only fly-fishingclinics, advanced techniques classes with world-champion fly fisher Lance Eganof Cabela’s and best-selling author Dec Hogan, and more.
Competitions on Saturdayinclude the Provo River Kids FlyFishing Derby, open to youths 15 and under, and a casting competition withamateur classifications for men, women and kids, as well as a pro division foranyone who works within the industry. Guests can visit vendor booths bothdays to check out the latest gear and meet some of the best and brightesttalent in fly-fishing industry today. There’s also a community barbecue andlive music. All proceeds will benefit Utah’s military veterans through ProjectHealing Waters in Salt Lake City.
Forfuture dates, visit: hebervalleyflyfishingfestival.com
September: Ennis-on-the-Madison Fly Fishing Festival
Montana’s Madison Riverprovides fly fishing for rainbow and brown trout that’s second to none. As aresult, fly-fishing enthusiasts from around the world are drawn to the historictown of Ennis, “The Fly Fishing Capital of the World,” on the river’s shore.Thousands pour in during Labor Day week each year when the Ennis on the MadisonFly Fishing Festival provides a venue that celebrates this fast-growing sport.
Highlights include flycasting competitions and skill development seminars; tackle vendors; fly-tyingdemonstrations; conservation group booths; art and literary events; antiquesand collectibles displays; plus loads of musical entertainment and piscatorialcuisine. Experts in all areas of fly fishing from fly tying, travel andtechniques to equipment, literature, cooking and art have been invited toattend. Proceeds help support the Madison River Foundation, which provides alocal voice on the preservation and use of the Madison River ecosystem.
Forfuture dates, visit: madisonriverfoundation.org
October: Fall Fish Festival
Each year during the firstweekend of October, the folks of South Lake Tahoe, California and surroundingareas get together at the U.S. Forest Service’s Taylor Creek Visitor Center tocelebrate the annual fall migration of the Kokanee salmon. The Fall FishFestival, formerly known as the Kokanee Salmon Festival, is great for familieswith children. The event highlights the fish species that live in Lake Tahoeand nearby waterways including the Lahontan cutthroat trout and the salmon thatis so important to Tahoe’s bear population.
Attendees can look forward toamusements such as treasure hunts, fish art, streamside educational programsand visits from nature celebrities such as Smokey the Bear. Not to be missed isthe U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s giant inflatable fish. The fish’s tailserves as the gateway to fun activity stations for kids.
Visitors also can take a walkdown Rainbow Trail to actually see where the Kokanee salmon spawn in TaylorCreek, and guests are welcome to see the spawning up close in the undergroundSteam Profile Chamber.
Forfuture dates, click here.
November: Fall Family Fishing Festival
2017 marks the 20thanniversary of the Fall Family Fishing Festival at Withlacoochee River Park nearDade City, Florida. Made possible by the Pasco County Parks, Recreation &Natural Resources Department, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commissionand Fish Florida, this fun-filled event is designed to introduce families tothe outdoors, the sport of fishing and the importance of being stewards ofFlorida’s freshwater ecosystems.
Hands-on activities includefishing in the pristine waters of the Withlacoochee River, wildlife encounters,fishing learning stations and carnival games. There are raffles for prizes,free rods and reels for the first 250 youth participants, face painting, crafts,vendor displays and many other attractions – all at no cost to attendees.
Forfuture dates, visit: pascocountyfl.net
December: Walleye Madness at Midnight
New Year’s Eve takes anunusual twist in Port Clinton, Ohio, “The Walleye Capital of the World.” Whenthe clock strikes midnight, all eyes in this Lake Erie community will be onCaptain Wylie, a 20-foot, 600-pound, fiberglass walleye, as he descends fromthe sky. The “Walleye Drop” highlights the “Walleye Madness at Midnight”celebration, which heralds its 21st anniversary this December 31.
Port Clinton promotes thecelebration through participation of local businesses. Restaurants preparewalleye specialties such as walleye chowder, walleye sandwiches, walleyecinnamon chips and walleye popcorn. A local winery has even created a “WalleyeWhite” to honor the city’s walleye fame.
The celebration attractsfolks both famous (David Letterman featured Wiley on his Late Night Show) andnot-so-famous (couples have married on-site, with Wylie serving as best man). Admissionis free.
Forfuture dates, click here.