Nothing captures the spirit of summer like a family road trip. Below, we’ve highlighted half a dozen epic adventures around the West you can take right now. So throw the kids, the dog and a few rods and reels in the family truckster and hit the open road. These journeys are all about the destination and the great fishing you’ll find when you get there.
Lake Roosevelt Kokanee, Trout and Burbot
There are monster kokanee—up to six pounds—lurking in northeastern Washington’s Lake Roosevelt, a massive impoundment of the Columbia River created by Grand Coulee Dam. For a body of water this big, trolling is the most reliable way to get on trophy-class fish. Roosevelt anglers use downriggers with a dodger, planers and flatline techniques to cover a range of depths. Small plugs and spinners tipped with maggots and dyed shrimp tails work well.
There’s a two-kokanee limit per person on Lake Roosevelt, but if you’re looking for more fish for the pan, the trout fishing can be spectacular. Trout can be caught while trolling for kokanee, but anglers floating bait off the bottom from shore catch their share of rainbows, too. At night, the burbot fishing along rocky shorelines can be very good. For a guided trip, contact Austin Moser of Austin’s Northwest Adventures.
Oregon Cascade Trout
In Oregon’s central Cascade Range, a series of lakes provide families with water that is fun and easy to fish. Rainbow trout, brookies and browns are the target here. Crane Prairie Reservoir has been a longtime favorite of many anglers, where fishing with live hellgrammites below a bobber is relaxing and productive. Find the channels and you’ll find the fish as water temperatures warm.
Trolling and working flies in Wickiup Reservoir and Davis Lake, which are both near Crane Prairie, produces great trout fishing, too.
For Oregon anglers looking to tie into some kokanee, Odell Lake is one of the best in the West, and trolling small, skirted spinners is the way to go. There are also some monster lake trout in Odell that can be had by trolling or jigging. You can launch your own boat on Odell Lake, or go with guide Dave Jones (541-915-5710).
California Ocean Kayak Fishing
Farther south, the little town of Trinidad, California, 20 miles north of Eureka, is home to some of the best, and safest, kayak ocean fishing on the West Coast, and there are plenty of campgrounds, RV hookups and other accommodations. “We call this place Little Alaska,” says Aaron Ostrom, General Manager of Pacific Outfitters, a well-equipped sporting goods store that also offers guided adventures in the region.
There are a lot of rockfish in this area, and halibut and Chinook salmon can be caught when in season. Inside nearby Humbolt Bay, trolling the shallows for California halibut is a blast, as is the crabbing and surf perch fishing. Nearby beaches offer clamming for multiple species.
Clark Fork Trout
For some fun in Big Sky Country, consider Montana’s Clark Fork River. This 280-mile long waterway can be fished in many places, but it flows right through downtown Missoula, which makes for easy access. Simply walk from town or drive the roads up and down the river—being sure to avoid private property—to find a place to fish.
Salmonflies, Green Drakes, hoppers and dun patterns are hard to beat when it comes to catching rainbows, brown trout and the occasional cutthroat in this area.
Carlsbad Warmwater Grab Bag
In New Mexico, the Carlsbad region is known for providing plenty of fun family getaways, and there’s no shortage of warm-water fishing in the area. Lake Carlsbad lies within the city limits and offers both bank fishing and boat access for bluegills, crappies, walleyes, bass and catfish.
If you want more seclusion, drive a few miles north of Carlsbad to Avalon Reservoir, where white bass, bluegills and catfish reside. Head south from Carlsbad and you’ll hit the 1,200-acre Black River Recreation Area where bluegills and bass abound, and where winter-stocked rainbow trout can be found in Higby Hole. There’s all kinds of hiking, wildlife watching and other outdoor fun to be had in this region.
Corn Lake Crowd Pleaser
While there are many family-friendly waters to fish in Colorado, you can’t go wrong at Corn Lake, near Grand Junction. Corn Lake holds rainbow trout, bluegills, crappies, bass and channel catfish, and can be fished from shore or from a boat with an electric motor. A mile to the west you’ll find the Colorado River Wildlife area, a popular place for hikers and wildlife watchers. Corn Lake is one of many in the region that’s stocked throughout the year.
Whether you’re looking for some family fishing fun close to a popular western town, a secluded getaway or an ocean-fishing smorgasbord, there’s no shortage of options around the region. Before leaving home, though, plan your trip carefully and check for any restrictions that may be in place due to Covid-19. Also, be sure check state fishing regulations for up-to-date laws.