August 07, 2023
Florida likes to bill itself as the "Fishing Capital of the World," and with thousands of miles of coastline, gazillions of freshwater lakes and a wide diversity of species, the Sunshine State seems on pretty solid footing with its claim.
Taking a cue from Florida, we wondered what the Fishing Capital of the East might be. But we’re not going to hang it all on one state. Rather, we’ve decided to spotlight five of the best fishing towns in the region.
To be on this list of piscatorial paradises, a location must have a wide range of species close by—something that appeals to worm dunkers and fly anglers alike. It should be accessible to shore anglers, those with kayaks and canoes, as well as bass boats and larger craft. And it has to have a unique charm, offering something a little bit different than the average town. To make it a bit harder on us, we limited this list to just two purely coastal towns.
So here’s our unscientific spotlight on five of the best fishing towns in the East. And just because places like Lewiston, N.Y., Colebrook, N.H., or Boston didn’t make the cut, that doesn’t mean they should be overlooked. Quite the contrary. Go fish them all. Create your own list. And please feel free to let us know what we’ve gotten right—or wrong.
1. CHATHAM, MA
Cape Cod just had to be on this list, and no town better represents all the fishing the Cape has to offer than Chatham.
Located at the elbow of the Cape, Chatham is uniquely situated near the intersection of the north-flowing Gulf Stream and the south-flowing Labrador Stream that pumps the area full of nutrient-rich water and ideal habitat for a whole slew of fish species. All told, the area offers world-class fishing for stripers, bluefish, tuna, flounder, sea bass and pollock.
What makes Chatham exceedingly fishy (besides its long history as a commercial fishing town) is a healthy mix of charter boats and DIY options. You can show up to Chatham with nothing but a credit card and a bottle of sunscreen, or you can bring your own boat, a quiver full of rods and a live well full of bait. Either way, you’ll be catching fish in no time.
As summer arrives on the Cape, the stripers show up in force. You’ll find anglers on every public beach, tossing live bait, plugs and flies. The Monomoy National Wildlife Refuge is one of the best fishing spots on the entire Cape, regardless of how you fish. Late May to early July is prime time—it’s also the start of tourist season.
The cherry on top of all of this is the decent freshwater fishing that’s also found nearby. The small ponds and lakes throughout the Cape offer up good fishing for pickerel and largemouth bass.
2. PLATTSBURGH, NY
Thanks to its location on the northwestern edge of Lake Champlain, and local tourism officials who understand the value of fishing, Plattsburgh has become a yearly stop for a slate of professional and amateur bass tournaments.
With an RV park on Champlain’s shores, a number of hotels close to I-87 and multiple launches, Plattsburgh offers some of the best access to the big lake that pro bass anglers adore.
“Everybody on the tour absolutely loves Lake Champlain,” says Bassmaster Elite angler Brandon Lester. “I get asked a lot what my favorite place to fish is and I always [used to] say the Tennessee River because that’s where I grew up fishing. But after fishing on Lake Champlain, it really has become my hands-down favorite place. There are not many places you can go out and catch 60 to 100 bass in a day like you can there.”
Champlain is far from just a bass fishery. The big lake offers a dizzying mix of warmwater species (including pike, walleyes, carp and bowfin) and coldwater species (like lake trout and landlocked Atlantic salmon) that can be caught all 12 months of the year.
Plattsburgh, a college town with plenty of inexpensive restaurants, is close to the eastern edge of the Adirondack Park and less than an hour from spectacular trout fishing on New York’s Ausable River that flows down from the town of Lake Placid.
3. GREENVILLE, ME
Situated on the southern end of Moosehead, Maine’s largest lake, Greenville is about a three-hour drive north of Portland. The smallest and most remote town on our list, Greenville doesn’t offer an exhaustive list of restaurants, but with several campgrounds in town, it makes an ideal place for campers. That said, you can’t go wrong renting a cabin at Wilsons on Moosehead Lake. It’s positioned at the East Outlet of the Kennebec, a 3 1/2-mile stretch of river that can be floated or waded and is a premier fly-fishing spot for brook trout and landlocked Atlantic salmon.
At 75,000 acres, Moosehead is famous for its salmon and lake trout fishing, with boat rentals and charter fishing available if you don’t feel like hauling your own boat to the fringes of the North Woods. The big lake is far from the only attraction here. Hundreds of small streams in the region have healthy populations of wild brookies, and nearby Indian Lake has lots of feisty smallmouths.
4. WASHINGTON, D.C.
This might come as a bit of a surprise addition to this list, but there’s a whole lot for anglers to like about the fishing in and around our nation’s capital. Chief among them is the opportunity to casually stroll past historic, iconic monuments to the Potomac River, where you can catch monster blue catfish and stripers.
“I was getting interested in blue cats, and I came across these YouTube guys who were catching big, big blue cats right in D.C. proper,” says Joe Cermele, host of the Cut & Retie fishing podcast. “I mean, they were fishing the railing behind the Kennedy Center and this island right near the Pentagon.”
Cermele gave it a try, and he’s been a big fan of D.C. fishing ever since. There is more than blue cats in the Potomac, too. Much more.
“That river gets an incredible run of breeding stripers that you can catch right in the heart of the city,” Cermele says. “And just south of there, in some of the creek arms and setbacks, it’s ground-zero for northern snakehead fishing.”
Like most attractions in D.C., there’s easy public access. Fletcher’s Boathouse, which boasts “the best selection of shad darts and spoons in the Mid-Atlantic region,” offers boat rentals. It’s a good place for launching or renting a craft.
Not only can you fish within city limits, but other fabulous fishing destinations are close by. If you want to experience spectacular smallmouth and walleye fishing, Harper’s Ferry, W.V., is just an hour’s drive from the heart of the city.
5. VIRGINIA BEACH, VA
Pick any day of the year, and chances are high that you’ll find good fishing near Virginia Beach. And from late spring to mid-autumn, the fishing here can be as good as it gets anywhere in the region.
The main draw is the diversity of big-water species that can be accessed from Virginia Beach, including bluefin and yellowfin tuna, marlin, mahi-mahi, wahoo, cobia and king mackerel.
Feel like something less salty? The nearby James River, a tidal river, supports an excellent largemouth bass fishery that annually attracts a number of pro tournaments. The James is chock-full of prime ambush spots that largemouths prefer, like trees, stumps, lily pads, river grass, and docks.