Top 10 Trophy Fish Destinations in the United States

If you're curious just where it is you have to go to catch the biggest and most unique fish out there, here are ten game species and their respective trophy destinations

Every angler dreams of catching that monster fish, whether for boasting reasons or simply for the enjoyment of reeling in a quality foe. Each lake, river, and coastline brings with it its own records, but sometimes you may feel that itch to go find the biggest fish possible, or maybe even catch a rare species found in few locations. If you’’re curious just where it is you have to go to catch the biggest and most unique fish out there, here are ten game species and their respective trophy destinations.

Where Else to Fish?: North America is filled with amazing fishing hotspots, but if you’re wondering where the best places on the continent are, then click right here.

Tarpon-Boca Grande, Florida

Tarpon are one of the most exciting game fish out there, and nowhere can you catch as many big species as you can at Boca Grande, Florida. Seeing a monster tarpon jump its full length out of the water is truly a sight to behold. They can reach weights over 230 pounds, and you’’ll feel every ounce of that reeling one up. Boca Grande embraces its tarpon fishing tradition, boasting a seemingly countless amount of guides, charters, and rental equipment for all vacationers.

Sheefish-Selawik Valley, Alaska

Photo Courtesy Scott Ravenscroft/Twin Peaks Adventures
© Photo Courtesy Scott Ravenscroft/Twin Peaks Adventures

Dupped the “tarpon of the north,” these similar looking species grow to weights of 60 pounds in northwest Alaska. Getting to the big sheefish of the Selawik Valley requires you to fly in – and a guide is completely recommended given the remoteness of this location. Sheefish (also called inconnu) can be caught almost year-round, though summer feeding periods offer the best results. This coldwater fish can be taken with spoons or even with a fly when they come to the surface to feed.

Plan Your Next Trip: Learn more about guides and how to book one here.

Largemouth Bass-Castaic Lake, California

The U.S. contains so many top notch trophy bass fishing lakes, narrowing it down to one is next to impossible. Castaic Lake wins out for this list just because of the sheer size of largies that have been caught here. No other lake can boast the amount of 20-pound+ fish that have been recorded like in Castaic. Catching a bass close to twenty pounds is a rare feat, but anything in the 12-15 pound range is not. The lake is located about 25 miles north of Los Angeles and is a popular place for boaters and swimmers as well.

Red Drum-Pamlico Sound, North Carolina

Red Drum-Pamlico Sound, North Carolina

The pride of North Carolina saltwater fishing is its red drum (also known as channel bass by locals). Catching red drums in the 30-60 pound range is a common occurrence, and there’s even a chance to catch a channel bass over 80 pounds. The size of the fish may sound small compared to the likes of shark and tarpon, but don’t let that fool you as they fight well beyond their weight. Be aware that red drums are primarily a catch-and-release fishery along the North Carolina coast due to strict regulations for larger catches.

Muskie-Lake St. Clair, Michigan

Lake St. Clair is one of North America’s best kept secrets, especially for muskie. Nestled in between Lake Erie and Lake Huron along the Michigan-Ontario border, Lake St. Clair boasts a tremendous fishery for many species in addition to muskie – walleye, perch, crappie, and plenty of quality smallmouth bass – despite having an average depth of only 11 feet. With all the species available, muskies get overlooked. Few other lakes, however, will produce frequent fish over 15 pounds, and it isn’t out of the ordinary to catch muskie over 30 pounds and close to 50 inches in length.World Fishing Network: Be sure to tune into The Musky Hunter hosted by Jim Saric on the World Fishing Network. Click here for schedules, episode descriptions and video.

Mako Shark-Massachusetts Bay

Mako Shark-Massachusetts Bay

Some of the best shark fishing in North America comes straight out of Boston’s backyard. Massachusetts Bay contains several species of quality shark to catch, but given its size and fighting prowess, mako is the prime target here. Catching a mako shark over 1000 pounds is more than possible in Massachusetts Bay. Be carfeful when fishing for makos, however, as they have been known to turn and attack anglers. Use of an experienced guide is recommended.

World Record: Check out the world record mako shark catch here!

Walleye-Lake of the Woods, Minnesota

Another lake that borders with Canada, Lake of the Woods sits on the very northern tip of Minnesota, bordering both Manitoba and Ontario. Trophy walleye is commonplace on this lake, and the chance of nabbing an IGFA World Record is a very real possibility in these waters. However, if you’re looking for the ultimate Lake of the Woods experience, the best time to go is winter time. When ice sets in, the most comfortable ice shanties you could find are sprinkled along the shoreline and beyond for rent, and there are dozens of quality resorts to stay in as well. Though with all the walleye action out there, you may find yourself staying in the hut.

Golden Rainbow Trout-Mahoning Creek, Pennsylvania

Golden Rainbow Trout-Mahoning Creek, Pennsylvania

For anglers who enjoy river and fly fishing, there are few targets as elusive and colorful as the golden rainbow trout, found exclusively in a select few locations in the eastern United States. Not to be confused with the golden trout found in California, golden rainbow trout are a rare form of rainbows that have developed a predominantly golden hue. The best water system for golden rainbows is Mahoning Creek, Pennsylvania, where the biggest fish can be found. Mahoning Creek is a tributary of Allegheny River, flowing east through Punxsutawney. These golden rainbow trout can grow to weigh over 13 pounds.

Striped Bass-Chesapeake Bay, Maryland

Chesapeake Bay is as good a fishery as you can find in the United States, especially for its striped bass. Over 70 per cent of the stripers that migrate along the Atlantic Coast spawn in these waters in any of the 150 rivers that flow into the bay. Stripers are most often referred to as rockfish by locals due to their preference to congregate around structure such as rocky shoals and artificial reefs. Spring and late summer-early fall are the most popular seasons for fishing as that’s when fish move through the area the most (either to spawn or feed). Be sure to adhere to the regulations during spawning seasons and for anyone wishing to keep their catch.

White Sturgeon-Sacramento River (Near Bay Area)

White Sturgeon-Sacramento River

The biggest freshwater fish in all of North America is the white sturgeon, and some of the largest can be found along the Sacramento River and into the San Francisco Bay Area (it can also swim in saltwater). The white sturgeon has been known to reach weights over 1500 pounds and lengths of over 20 feet, though catching anything approaching this size is rare. White sturgeon are governed under strict guidelines in California, so be sure to follow all regulations when tackling this beast of a fish.

Learn More: Be sure to check out the best fishing areas in the Bay Area here.

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