Fishing, and especially angling — fishing with a rod, line, and hook, as opposed to spearfishing and other forms of the sport — is a popular pastime in America. But this is a big country and fishing conditions vary enormously from state to state: Some have thousands of rivers and lakes and/or many miles of seashore, while others are largely desert; some have vibrant fishing communities while in some, angling is an afterthought. Even the cost of fishing licenses and related essentials is different from one place to another.
To determine the 25 best states for anglers, 24/7 Tempo reviewed the results of a study by the lawn care marketplace Lawn Love, ranking the fishing environment in all 50 for 2021. In compiling the study, the site considered 11 relevant metrics in four categories: the size of each state’s fishing community, access to fishing grounds, cost of licenses and such, and availability of supplies. In compiling the data, Lawn Love drew on information supplied by five primary sources: Bass Pro Shops, Cabela’s, Dick’s Sporting Goods, Field & Stream, and Scheels.
It should come as no surprise to learn that Alaska, which is almost synonymous with salmon, is the No. 1 state for fishing. It’s also the largest state and, according to the Official Alaska State Website, has more than 3,000 rivers (including the Yukon, the third longest river in the country) and a whopping three million lakes. The state also boasts 6,640 miles of coastline and, including islands, almost 34,000 miles of shoreline. Alaska is also No. 1 for involvement, based on metrics such as fishing licenses issued per capita, number of fishing competitions, and number of fishing charters and guides.
Michigan ranks No. 2 and again this should come as no surprise. Even though it’s an inland state, it’s the one most covered by water, is surrounded by four of the five Great Lakes, and boasts the longest freshwater coastline in the world. In total Michigan has nearly 65,000 lakes and ponds, which means great access to fishing. (This is the best place to enjoy the water in each state.)
Maine comes in at No. 3. It has thousands of miles of ocean and tidal coastline, as well as thousands of lakes, ponds, and rivers, and sport fishing is a major tourist attraction. (If you’re planning to cook up what you catch, however, see this list of the best seafood to eat.)
Rounding out the top 5 are Rhode Island and Florida. Rhode Island is the smallest state but, as its nickname — the Ocean State — suggests, much of it is coastal. Florida claims to be the “Fishing Capital of the World,” but its ranking suffers somewhat because permits are relatively pricey and it doesn’t have as many bait and tackle shops as some other states.
Nonetheless, all 25 states on this list are great places for fishing.