Fishing during the colder months means different things to different anglers. Some like to walk on thick ice, while others prefer heading down south in search of sun, sea, and fish. For this list, we looked for destinations that offer amazing reel-spinning action, specific conditions that occur during winter, and cool activities to top it off.
Without any further ado, let’s dive in. Here are the seven best winter fishing destinations in the US!
When we say Brainerd, we mean ice fishing! It’s no surprise that Brainerd topped our winter fishing destinations list. Located in central Minnesota, Brainerd is home to the biggest ice fishing event in the world. The Brainerd Jaycees Ice Fishing Extravagaza takes place every January on Gull Lake’s Hole in the Day Bay, 15 miles north of the town.
The species you can expect to catch here are Walleye, Northern Pike, and Perch. By participating in the tournament, you’ll not only be in for a lot of fun, but you’ll also be contributing to charity. In recent years, the event has raised $150,000 for charities annually.
Stuart is known as the “Sailfish Capital of the World.” It lives up to its nickname during the cold months, making it a great winter fishing destination! Sailfish season is in full swing from November to February and many anglers head to Stuart to experience its famous deep-sea fishing.
The Gulf Stream can be reached within ten miles from shore, meaning you can catch a Sailfish during a 4 or 5-hour fishing trip. Other species you can expect to catch during the colder months are Blackfin Tuna, Wahoo, Kingfish, and Barracuda. January is also a good time for targeting inshore species like Speckled Trout and Redfish.
Kailua Kona, Hawaii
Ever dreamed about fishing on a warm, sunny day in your shorts…in January? Have you found yourself daydreaming of escaping the cold and dark winter days? We certainly have. And if you have too, Kona is the best winter fishing destination for you!
December is the peak season for Bigeye Tuna in Hawaii, and as soon as January kicks off, you can expect to reel in Striped Marlin and Mahi Mahi. February is the prime time to troll for Spearfish and Striped Marlin. It goes without saying that winter is a great time to go fishing in Kona!
South Padre Island, Texas
It doesn’t matter what time of the year you visit South Padre Island, there’s always something to catch! During the colder months, the inshore bite is the best. You can target Red Drum, Trout, Flounder, and many more species.
January is a great time to catch Speckled Trout as they tend to get bigger at this time of year. Sitting on Laguna Madre, SPI offers some fishing opportunities that you can’t find anywhere else in Texas. You can find Tarpon and Snook here all year round.
Lakes Mitchell and Cadillac, Michigan
If you’re looking for the best ice fishing in all of Michigan, look no further than Lakes Mitchell and Cadillac. Both lakes provide amazing angling opportunities with easy access. The best time to visit is from December up until March, or until the ice melts.
When it comes to popular catches, you can expect to come across a lot of Panfish, including Bluegill, Crappie, and Yellow Perch. Walleye and Northern Pike can also be found in both lakes.
Lake Moultrie and Lake Marion, South Carolina
Lake Marion and Lake Moultrie, also known as the Santee Cooper Lake System, are the year-round hotspots for Blue, Flathead, and Channel Catfish. The lakes offer world-class fishing opportunities and, with the wintertime temperature drop, fishing for giant Catfish heats up.
The Catfish tend to get really big during the winter, and the state records for both Blue and Channel Catfish were smashed here. If you choose the lakes as your next winter fishing destinations, you can also expect to come across some Striped and Largemouth Bass.
Lake Hartwell, Georgia/South Carolina
No matter what time of year you visit Lake Hartwell, Striped Bass fishing is always on fire. Winter, in particular, is a great time for beginners to fish for Stripers. During warmer months, the fish relocate to more specific structural features such as ditches, drops, trees, sunken bridges, and many more.
Throughout the winter, Stripers are preparing for their spawning season, and they tend to build up their energy more. This means they stick to baitfish more than usual, and they are easier to find.