Summer Fishing Fun Hot Spots, Part 1
Bob McNally 05.14.15
North America is loaded with great and diverse summer fishing opportunities. From Ozark Mountain rivers to Rocky Mountain lakes and from sprawling bass-filled reservoirs to fish-filled salt marshes–every region in America has a healthy variety of waters ideal for every angler.
Here are some good ones to consider visiting this summer.
1) New Hampshire, Lake Winnipesaukee: Smallmouths
In New Hampshire, all bass must be released from May 15 through June 15, a good rule since that’s the peak of smallmouth bedding activity. But catch-and-release fishing during those four weeks is lawful, and for dedicated bass anglers there are few places on the planet better than central New Hampshire’s 45,000-acre Lake Winnipesaukee when love-sick spawning bass move onto gravel-bottom bars, coves, and flats.
During good, calm, warm weather, it’s common for a pair of bed fishing smallmouth anglers to catch and release 50 fish weighing 2 to 4 pounds, and catching twice that number in a day is possible. It’s all sight fishing for bedding “Winni” bronzebacks, so polarized sunglasses and a brimmed cap are imperative equipment. Light spinning tackle, 6-pound test line with stand-up 1/8-ounce jigs, and soft plastic pumpkinseed lizards are deadly.
In addition to smallmouths, Winnipesaukee has a surprisingly good largemouth bass fishery. Smallmouths are much more numerous, but largemouths to 8 pounds have been recorded from “Winni.” Fishing continues good through the summer, too.
Motels, restaurants, and marinas abound. For more information contact www.winnipesaukee.com).
2) Arkansas, White River: Trout
One of the best trout destinations in North America is the famed White River in north-central Arkansas. The wide, clean, clear, cold White provides anglers with excellent trout fishing virtually 12 months per year. And while the bulk of fish are put-and-take rainbows, some giant browns have been taken below Bull Shoals Dam, and there are cool pools alive with brook trout.
The most effective method of working the White is “float fishing.” Anglers simply float down the river in large johnboats, casting lures, flies, or bait.
One of the best trout outfitting services and places to headquarter on the White is Gaston’s Resort (www.gastons.com) in the town of Lakeview. Gaston’s also can recommend guides and outfitters for other nearby fishing.
3) Pine Island Sound, Florida: Snook, Tarpon, Redfish
Pine Island Sound is nestled just north of busy Fort Myers and south of Sarasota, just off the Gulf of Mexico. It’s a shallow water slice of old world Florida that still resists the building boom and offers outdoor family fun and fishing just like it did “in the good ol’ days.”
Inshore summer fishing for snook and tarpon are world class. Drift fishing for redfish and seatrout on open grass flats is superb. On the nearby Gulf of Mexico beaches (still pristine and very public), pompano fishing is the best it’s been in decades, and snook are in good supply, too. For an angler looking for a choice spot for a family vacation, no place is better.
Secluded sounds, passes, and harbors offer great boating opportunities. Shell collecting is world famous on barrier islands in the area, such as fabled Sanibel and Captiva, as well as on undeveloped Cayo Costa. Some of the best snook and tarpon guides in the world work the area, like Paul Hobby (www.fishinghobby.com; phone 239-850-2088).
The sound is easy to get to, and flats, skiffs, bass boats, even johnboats are regularly used by anglers to tap the area’s terrific fishing.
Marinas, motels, and access sites abound throughout the area. The most unique spot in the area, and one of the most remarkable places still available to the public in Florida, is Cabbage Key (www.cabbagekey.com; phone 239-283-2278).
It’s a private island, offering on-the-water cottages with docks for visitor boats and a unique restaurant in an old Florida setting not to be missed.
4) Spirit Lake, Iowa: Bass
Popular Lake Okoboji is near the summer vacation spot of Spirit Lake, Iowa and has some of the best overlooked largemouth and smallmouth bass fishing in the upper Midwest. The state record smallmouth weighing 7 pounds, 12-ounces was taken from Okoboji, and largemouths over 7-pounds have been caught, too. Moreover, lots of 5-pound bass–smallmouths and largemouths–are caught annually from the 8,000-acre lake.
Okoboji is basically two connected lakes, each about the same size. West Lake Okoboji is deep and clear, while East Lake Okoboji is shallow, weedy, and more stained. Both have excellent bassing, and because of their greatly varying natures, good fishing can be found in one or the other spring through fall.
Motels and restaurants abound in the area, and solid bass fishing information is available from Steve Pflueger at “Oh Shuck’s” (bait and tackle) phone 712-338-2087). Guide John Grosvenor (712-330-5815, [email protected]) has a good reputations for finding Okoboji lunkers.
5) California, Clear Lake: Largemouths
This sprawling, clear, 44,000-acre lake near Clear Lake, California is often referred to as the “Bass Capital of the West.” While some other waters may stake claim to that title, too (including a number of California lakes near San Diego), Clear Lake has a long history of good fishing and a stellar pedigree for yielding oversize Florida-strain largemouths.
One March, California angler Mike Folkstad boated an impressive two-day tournament catch of 45-pounds, 11-ounces on Clear Lake. And California native Terry Stark caught a giant 12-pound, 7-ounce fish during the same event. Yet these impressive bass tournament catches still pale to the record Clear Lake bass weighing 17 ½ pounds, caught one February in only three feet of water.
Clear Lake has excellent angler facilities, with numerous launch ramps, boat rental spots, marinas, and lake-side facilities. The Lake County Visitor Information Center (www.lakecounty.com) can provide visiting anglers with a wealth of area information. Another good link for lake bass information is: www.clear-lake.com/Lakewood/bass.
6) Potomac River: Bass
It wasn’t always this way, but within a long cast of the nation’s capital flows a river holding one of America’s best bass populations. The Potomac River in the early 1970s was polluted. But the river, which forms the border of Virginia and Washington D.C., was cleaned, and its bass population rebounded.
Some veteran tournament bass anglers say the Potomac is as good as any bass water in the country. They put it on the same level as lakes like Guntersville in Alabama, Sam Rayburn in Texas, and Florida’s Okeechobee. While the Potomac isn’t trophy bass water, it regularly gives up five bass daily limits. On good days fishermen report 50-bass catches, and biologists say the river bass population has increased 50 percent from just over a decade ago.
And the fishing scenery is stunning. Anglers regularly cast for bass within sight of the Lincoln Memorial and Washington Monument. Anglers often catch large bass in the Columbia Island Yacht Basin, home to the Pentagon. Largemouth and smallmouth bass are landed within sight of the Watergate Hotel and the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.
For information on fishing the Potomac contact the Virginia Commission of Game and Inland Fisheries, phone 804-367-1000.