There’s no denying that, as Americans, we love to fish, and if you’re lucky enough to live in one of the best states for fishing, you’re already off to a great start. According to Statista, over 55 million Americans went fishing in 2022. For those lucky anglers already living in one of the best fighting states, you should count yourself lucky!
For the rest of us planning fishing trips, knowing which state has the best fishing makes planning much easier. If you know the best state to fish in and which target species to catch, then your chances of success are already going to be a lot higher.
However, even if you are lucky enough to be in one of the best fishing states in the US, you still need to know where and when to fish. You can’t just throw your fishing rod and tackle in any body of water and hope to hit the jackpot.
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While local anglers may have the best local knowledge when it comes to local hot spots and secret fishing spots in their area, by using the following information in conjunction with the Fishbox App, you’ll be landing some monster Largemouth Bass, Channel Catfish, Rainbow Trout, Walleye, and much more!
During the research of the best fishing states, we looked at a variety of different factors, including catch rates, fish species, weather, and fishing opportunities. However, we understand that it’s challenging to compare fishing in one state to another, and your personal fishing experience in a particular state could be completely different from that of another angler in the same state.
In the following article on the Best States for Fishing: A Comprehensive Guide for Anglers, we’ll cover:
Even in the best fishing states in the USA, anglers sometimes need a little extra fishing help. If you want to increase your chances of catching a fish, increase your catch rate, and boost the odds in your favor, then you need the Fishbox App. This premium Fishing Forecasting App will help you identify the best times to go fishing in your state and when you’re better off relaxing at home and tidying up your tackle box.
Expert Opinion on the Best States for Fishing
16 years fishing experience
“Throughout my life, I’ve been very fortunate and had opportunities to travel across the country and fish in various states. While I certainly have not been able to fish in every state in the country to give all states an accurate rating, I want to share my personal top 3 best states for fishing (1 being the best).
1. Alaska: By far and away the best state I’ve ever fished in and in my opinion, the best state for fishing in the United States. I know I haven’t fished anywhere close to all the states, but having gone to Alaska, you quickly realize that no matter where you go—you aren’t gonna beat it. Let me break Alaska down a bit further into fresh and saltwater. In the freshwater, you have some of, if not the best, salmon fishing on the entire planet. Various species have “runs” throughout the year keeping fishermen on their toes at all times. Some of these species include Coho (Silver), Chinook (King), Sockeye, Pink, and Chum Salmon. In addition to salmon, there are also various species of trout and char. These species make for a great fly fishing and regular fishing environment. In saltwater, you have another great variety of species including tons of different types of rockfish, lingcod, and the legendary Pacific Halibut. When I traveled to Alaska on a fishing trip a couple of years ago, the most noticeable difference in the fishery was just how untouched it was—freshwater and saltwater. There are almost too many fish. On the rivers, we could literally cast spinners and snag the salmon there were so many. Offshore, we couldn’t even get the bait down to the Halibut because there were so many Rockfish and Lingcod. Alaska is truly the “last frontier”, and the insane fishing would support that.
2. Florida: While I haven’t fished a ton of freshwater in Florida, the saltwater fishing culture of Florida is enough to propel it into spot number 2. Both the Gulf and Atlantic sides of Florida offer pristine inshore and offshore fishing. Tons of species inhabit the plentiful reefs and wrecks around the coast of Florida and the proximity of Florida to the continental shelf allows for quick runs out into deep water where pelagic species dwell. As recently as last year, I was able to go down to Florida and do a bit of offshore fishing and it did not disappoint. We caught various species of snapper and grouper and even a few king mackerel. I think one of the best sides of Florida’s fishing for me is the remarkable access to the offshore fishery. It is literally a two or three-mile run in some places and you are in thousands of feet in water. The only reason I sat Florida behind Alaska was because Florida is definitely more accessible and far more people fish Florida’s waters.
3. North Carolina: Now I may be a little biased towards North Carolina as it is my home state, but it does provide, in my opinion, an unparalleled balance of freshwater, inshore, and offshore fishing. First, let’s look West at the mountain region of the state where you have great fly fishing for species like Rainbow, Brown, and Brook Trout. As we move further East, you have a decent Largemouth Bass and Catfish fishery spurred on by big bodies of water like Lake Norman and Wiley as well as smaller rivers and ponds. Then we move further East where we get to the coast. The intercoastal waterway boasts a great inshore fishery with species like Red Drum, Black Drum, Flounder, Sheepshead, and Speckled Trout. Nearshore offers great accessibility to species like Bluefish, Spanish Mackerel, and King Mackerel. Further offshore offers everything that Florida would have but the accessibility is simply not the same as some places like Ocean Isle Beach, NC, require 60+ mile runs to make it to the shelf. Because I have gotten to experience the uniqueness of all these different fisheries in NC, I had to move it to number 3. There are not many other states that can boast this kind of versatility in fishing and for that reason it’s number 3.
I hope my personal experiences can help you narrow down some places to fish and as always, tight lines!”
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How We Ranked the Best States for Fishing
During the research of this article on the best states for fishing in the US, we looked at 18 different categories to assist us in ranking the best states and how good the fishing is in these states.
6 of the categories below were based on data from fishing trips, charter trips, reviews, and reports utilizing data from the Fishbox App, supplied by users, which has been successfully used by hundreds of thousands of anglers across the United States of America.
The remaining 12 categories utilized information and data sourced from publicly available data sources, including state and federal angling polls, studies, and reports.
We then divided these criteria into four main categories: Angler Interest, Facilities, Financial Conditions, and Geography.
Analyzing all of the data against each state, we then gave each state a score of 1-10 against the 18 criteria. You’ll notice below that specific category, such as the number of fishing guides, the cost of fishing charters, the price of angling licenses, the percentage of the state covered by water, and how much coastline a state has, have been given greater value.
The maximum score for the best fishing state that any state we ranked could achieve using the below formula is 220 points. Once we counted all the scores, we ranked the best fishing states to determine which had the best fishing!
|Saltwater Fishing (%)
|Freshwater Fishing (%)
|Share of Licenses (%)
|Fishbox App: Guides (%)
|Fishbox App: User Recommendations.
|Fishbox App: State Ranking by Users of the Fishbox App.
|Fishbox App: User Recommendation.
|Number of Marinas/Piers.
|Number of Fishing Tackle Stores.
|Number of Bait and Gear Stores.
|Fishbox App: Number of Licenses Charter Operators.
|Fishbox App: Cost of Charters.
|Annual Resident Fishing License Costs as a % of Median Wages.
|Costs of Non-Resident Fishing Licenses.
|Angler Expenditure ($)
|Available Free Fishing Days.
|% of the State Covered by Water.
|Miles of Shoreline.
Below, we will give you all the best fishing states, ranked from the best fishing state to the worst fishing state. In the next section of the article, we’ll do an in-depth analysis of the Top 10 Best States to Fish so that you can plan your next fishing trip in the United States.
The Top 10 Best States to Fish | Best Fishing States Ranked 1-10
1. Michigan – Score 126.5
Michigan | The Great Lakes State | Freshwater Paradise
While Michigan and Florida tied for first place, the freshwater fishing in Michigan, in our opinion, is some of the best in the United States, which gave it the advantage over Florida. With easy access to 4/5 Great Lakes, Michigan is a freshwater angling paradise for anglers.
Did you know that 41.5% of Michigan is covered by water? And that Michigan is surrounded by 20% of the world’s surface freshwater? Whatever way you look at it, there are a lot of angling possibilities, and that’s why Michigan scored so high on our list of best fishing states.
There are a variety of premium freshwater fishing destinations, including Lake Superior, Lake Erie, Lake Michigan, and Lake Huron. You also have access to hundreds of miles of rivers.
According to user data from the Fishbox App, Michigan is the best freshwater fishing state in the United States of America. Target fish species for anglers include a variety of Trout species Walleye, Smallmouth Bass, Salmon, and Northern Pike, just to name a few. Michigan also boasts a fantastic ice fishing season, which has helped it earn its nickname, ‘Water Winter Wonderland.’
2. Florida – Score 126.5
Florida | The Sunshine State | Saltwater Angling Mecca
Tied with Michigan for the top spot, Florida is the polar opposite, offering anglers a saltwater paradise. Florida achieved one of the highest scores for Angler Interest, thanks to its popularity for anglers searching for the best saltwater fishing destination in the United States.
It’s no surprise that Florida boasts excellent saltwater fishing opportunities when you consider it has 1,350 miles (2,170 km) of beautiful coastlines. Some of the spectacular saltwater fish species you can target in Florida include Redfish, Snook, Tarpon, Snapper, Sailfish, Tuna, Marlin, and much more.
3. Delaware – Score 125
Delaware | The Diamond State | Fresh & Saltwater Destination
You may not immediately think of Delaware when you dream of the best fishing states and destination fishing locations, but the variety of fresh and saltwater fishing opportunities is excellent.
Despite only having 318 miles (616 km) of coastlines, when you factor in that Delaware is covered 20% by freshwater, that’s a lot of easy access to great fishing locations. When you combine that with Delaware’s affordable fishing license fees, Delaware is an excellent opportunity for any angler searching for an affordable fishing trip.
Target freshwater fish species include Small and Largemouth Bass, Walleye, Crappie, Muskellunge, and Northern Pike. If saltwater fishing is more your speed, you can look forward to catching Striped Bass, Black Seabass, Bluefin Tuna, and Flounder, just to name a few.
4. Alaska – Score 122.5
Alaska | The Last Frontier | Fresh & Saltwater Destination
Boasting the longest coastline of any state, 66,000 miles (106216 km), you already know that fishing in Alaska will be absolutely crazy. And if you’re a freshwater angler, Alaska has you covered with over 94,000 square miles of lakes and rivers.
Alaska offers a variety of affordable fishing licenses, with a large percentage of residents enjoying angling. Data from the Fishbox App tells us that Alaska is one of the most desirable fishing destinations and that it enjoys an almost perfect satisfaction ranking from those who make the journey.
Saltwater fishing opportunities include all five species of Pacific Salmon, Halibut, and Rockfish. For freshwater angling enthusiasts, you have some fantastic trout fishing opportunities at any of the luxurious fishing lodges.
5. Hawaii – Score 118
Hawaii | The Aloha State | Tropical Saltwater Fishing Destination
Number five on our list of the best fishing states is the island paradise of Hawaii. Surrounded by beautiful and majestic saltwater coastlines and unique islands, Hawaii is a saltwater fishing destination sought out by many saltwater anglers in the United States.
Thanks to the fact that saltwater angling is free (provided you don’t sell your catch) and the generous freshwater license fees, Hawaii is an affordable fishing destination and ranks high in the Financial Conditions category.
Hawaii takes sportfishing to the next level thanks to the variety of saltwater species, including Billfish, Yellowfin Tuna, Mahi Mahi, Marlin, and much more. If you like fishing near shore, you can target species such as Barracuda, Trevally, and the exciting and rare Bonefish.
6. Maine – Score 116
Maine | The Pine Tree State | Fresh & Saltwater Fishing Opportunities
Another tie is Maine and Maryland, with Maine narrowly beating out Maryland in our list thanks to its extensive list of fishing facilities perfect for anglers heading out on the water for a day of fishing.
Thanks to the facilities available, Maine scored high on affordability and facilities, which makes it a great destination if you’re looking forward to a charter or guided fishing trip.
The target saltwater species available in Maine include Sharks, Pollock, Striped Bass, Bluefin Tuna, Haddock, and even delicious and famous Maine Lobsters. If you prefer a little freshwater action, you can look forward to catching Trout, Perch, Bass, and Pike, just to name a few.
7. Maryland – Score 116
Maryland | The Free State | Fresh & Saltwater Fishing Opportunities
Easily, one of the biggest attractions for anglers looking to fish in Maryland is the spectacular Chesapeake Bay. Almost a fifth of Maryland is covered in water, making it both a fresh and saltwater fishing destination for anglers in the United States.
Satisfaction ratings amongst visitors utilizing fishing guides in Maryland are high, so you can look forward to an excellent fishing trip.
A hotspot for Striped Bass on the East Coast, you’ll also encounter Tautog, Black Seabass, Cobia, Mackerel, Tuna, White Marlin, and even some Black Drum. If you head onto the lakes and rivers of Maryland, you’ll find Perch, Catfish, Trout, and Bass.
8. Rhode Island – Score 114
Rhode Island | The Smallest State | Fresh & Saltwater Fishing
Despite being known as the smallest state, Rhode Island is definitely punching above its weight in our best fishing states in the US. The affordable cost of fishing licenses makes it rank high in our financial category.
Not only are fishing licenses affordable, but the satisfaction rating of Rhode Island is also right up there with Florida, making it a great fishing destination spot in the United States. The bountiful waters of Narragansett Bay and the Atlantic Ocean make ideal target locations for Bluefin Tuna and other sportfish, and close to sure you’ll catch Black Seabass, Flounder, and Stripers. Meanwhile, inland fishers are packed full of different Trout species.
9. Louisiana – Score 113
Louisiana | Bayou State | Year-Round Fresh & Saltwater Fishing
The biggest appeal of Louisiana, apart from the delicious Cajun cuisine, has to be the almost year-round saltwater and freshwater fishing opportunities.
The endless marshes and coastal waters of Louisiana make it rich in fish species. The price of a Louisiana fishing license is affordable, and combined with more fishing opportunities, thanks to the climate, Louisiana is an excellent destination for an angling adventure.
Target saltwater fish species include Red Snapper, Yellowfin Tuna, Billfish, Mahi Mahi, and Wahoo, and closer to sure, you’ll find Flounder, Speckled Trout, Redfish, and Black Drum.
10. Wisconsin – Score 111.5
Wisconsin | The Badger State | Freshwater Fishing Destination
The last in our top ten of the best fishing states in the US is Wisconsin, a world-famous freshwater fishing destination. You have the majestic Lake Superior in the north and Lake Michigan in the east, and in between, thousands of lakes, rivers, and streams teaming with your favorite freshwater fish species.
It doesn’t matter what your favorite freshwater fish species is; chances are high that you’ll find it in Wisconsin. All sorts of Trout and Salmon, plus Bass, Perch, Walleye, Crappie, Yellow Perch, and Coho Salmon, can be targeted in Wisconsin.
Worst States for Fishing
Unfortunately, not every state is the best fishing state, leaving us with the worst fishing states in the US.
Without going into much detail about each one, let’s take a quick look at the worst fishing states and what stopped them from making our top ten states for fishing list.
46. Vermont – Score 65
While Vermont does offer some fantastic freshwater fishing for species such as Trout, the limited number of fishing opportunities means that demand is high, and that equals high costs for anglers. Check out the cost of a Vermont fishing license here.
47. Arizona – Score 62.5
Despite fishing opportunities available in Arizona’s State Parks, competition amongst anglers is high, which makes finding secluded or private fishing locations difficult.
48. Nevada – Score 61.5
Low fishing opportunities prevented Nevada from ranking higher on our list of top fishing states. However, they do have some excellent fishing for Cutthroat Trout and other freshwater fishing opportunities for anglers. Learn more about planning a Nevada fishing trip here.
49. Washington – Score 59.5
Washington offers both saltwater and freshwater fishing opportunities, but it’s a long way down the list when it comes to American fishing destinations. Check out some of the Washington fish species and license costs and requirements by visiting the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife website.
50. Idaho – Score 47
Idaho may be at the bottom of the ladder regarding fishing and last on your list of potential fishing destinations. However, it still offers some good freshwater fishing opportunities. The best month to visit Idaho for fishing is between January and April. The South Fork and Henry’s Fork fish well during these months and are excellent fly fishing locations.
Using the Fishbox App to Maximize Fishing Opportunities in the Best Fishing States in the United States
Even states with the best fishing won’t guarantee that you will catch anything. It’s not always easy to show up in a new state and start catching record fish like the locals. That is unless you have a little help and some inside information.
As anglers, we have a lot of tools available to help us catch more fish, and one of the best investments you can make is the Fishbox App. The Fishbox App will allow you to track the perfect weather conditions, plan your destination fishing trip to the top fishing states, and, together with lunar and tidal conditions, maximize your opportunities.
The fishing app was developed in collaboration with expert fish behavioral analysts and weather experts to help you significantly improve your catch rates. Take your fishing to the next level with the Fishbox App.
Best States for Fishing: A Comprehensive Guide for Anglers – Conclusion
There you go! Everything you need to know to answer the questions of what state has the best fishing and the worst states for fishing. If you’re investing in a destination fishing trip and searching for the best state for freshwater fishing or just the best state to fish, you’ll find it in the information above.
However, even traveling to the best fishing state, including the top 10 states for fishing, doesn’t always guarantee that you’ll catch a record-breaking fish. So, take your time, research the local hotspots, and, most importantly, download the Fishbox App.
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If you can recommend any fishing locations in your state or want to talk about a destination fishing trip you’ve taken to any of the states above, then drop a comment below. If you live in one of the worst fishing states and want to ‘boost your state’s ranking,’ let us know!