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 winnipesaukee.com. Two good Winni guides are: Scott Canelas (603-635-1717) and Jim Brown (603-627-9041).
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 ( gastons.com, phone 870-431-5202) in the town of Lakeview. Gaston’s also can recommend guides and outfitters for other nearby fishing.
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 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 Phil O’Bannon (phone 941-964-0359) and Paul Hobby (www.fishinghobby.com; phone 239-433-1007). 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.
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). Guides John Grosvenor (phone 712-330-5815) and Jim McDonnell ( fishokoboji.com, phone 712-933-5532) have good reputations for finding Okoboji lunkers.
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. Guide George Hawley (phone 707-279-9269) is a well-known Clear Lake bass angler. The Lake County Visitor Information Center ( lakecounty.com) can provide visiting anglers with a wealth of area information.
Sebago Lake, Maine: Bass Sebago Lake is deep (averaging 100 feet), clear and because it’s the water supply for the city of Portland, it’s a popular summer spot for vacationers. But the 28,000-acre lake also boasts some of the best fishing in Maine for good, average-size largemouth and smallmouth bass. Bass tournaments held on Sebago have resulted in hundreds of 2 to 3 pound smallmouths and largemouths caught. Smallmouths over 5 pounds, and largemouths over 7 pounds are taken annually, too. Because Sebago is so deep and clear, it takes a while for the lake to warm, so the best spring fishing doesn’t get underway until mid-May. Through mid-June anglers can enjoy good spawning bass fishing, with smallmouths typically found on small gravel bars in coves and on sheltered points, while largemouths are more weed-oriented in coves and creek mouth regions. Much of the lake’s shoreline is rocky, and savvy bass fishermen who work 15 to 25 foot depths score well on smallmouths through summer. Night fishing is productive, too, due to the lake’s clarity. Windham is a good place for motels and restaurants, and housekeeping cottages are available on the west side of the lake. Sebago Lake Marina (phone 207-787-2444) and Richardson’s Marina in Windham (phone 207-892-4913) have good facilities. Dave Garcia’s Naples Bait and Tackle (phone 207-693-3638) is a good place for fishing information and guide Carl Boise (207-925-6262) is the man for bass trips.
Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming: Trout Some of the best trout fishing in the world is found in famous Yellowstone National Park in northwest Wyoming. Of course, the wild and wonderful park also boasts a wealth of sightseeing opportunities for hikers and backpackers, as well as people who want to gaze upon some of the most remarkable assemblage of geysers, boiling mud pots and other thermal wonders. In addition, wild game such American bison, elk, coyotes, antelope, deer, bears and now wolves abound and are readily seen by visitors. But to the serious angler, Yellowstone waters read like a litany of hollowed and revered trout havens. The air-clear and picturesque Yellowstone and Madison rivers are teeming with trout (browns, rainbows and cutthroats). Other lesser-known streams such as the Gallatin, Lamar, Lewis, Bechler, Gibbon and Slough are full of fish, too. And in places like the Firehole River, wading trout anglers can catch brown trout while elk wade downstream, and geysers billow into the forest upstream. Excellent lake fishing for cutthroats can be done easily by the whole family from boats on sprawling Yellowstone Lake, in the heart of the park. Great accommodations can be found in the park, with lodging available in cabins and hotels. Camping is easy to do and popular at many sites scattered throughout Yellowstone. Visitors also can make daily excursions into the park from the towns of West Yellowstone and Gardiner. For more information contact the chambers of commerce in those towns or the National Park headquarters ( nps.gov/yell).
Niagara River, New York: Walleyes, Smallmouths Just minutes from the NFL city of Buffalo, and not far from the urban centers of New York, Cleveland, Toronto and Pittsburgh is the famous Niagara River – the same place where generations of honeymooners have come to view the awesome falls. It’s a popular family destination, too, and also happens to offer some of the best smallmouth bass, walleye, trout and salmon fishing in America. From June through summer smallmouth action is incredible, with bronzebacks weighing 2 to 4 pounds caught regularly, and 5-pounders taken annually. Fish over 7 pounds have been recorded, and 100 fish days are always a possibility. Walleyes in the 6 to 8 pound class are caught commonly from the river, and lake trout, browns and rainbows are boated. This is easy, family-style boat fishing, in the deep, clear and picturesque Niagara, very near the falls and close to area attractions and great facilities. Lewiston is a good place to headquarter. Ernie’s Guide Service (phone 716-284-2335) offers everything visiting anglers need to tap the Niagara’s outstanding bass-walleye-trout fishing.
Mobile, Alabama: Tripletail, Seatrout, Redfish, Flounder Great saltwater fishing around oil and natural gas rigs is well known (as they act like artificial reefs) off Louisiana where they number in the thousands. But outstanding oil rig fishing also is available in Alabama waters, including sheltered, shallow, Mobile Bay. In Mobile Bay anglers catch inshore fish like flounder, spotted seatrout, tripletail, ladyfish, redfish, bluefish, sheepshead, white trout, and others. Mobile Bay oil rigs are productive year-round, and summer night action can be remarkable. Some lighted rigs are less than a half-mile from shore, in 15 to 20 feet of water and are attractive small-boat spots. There are about 50 rigs inside the bay. Rigs off Mobile Bay extend offshore 50 or 60 miles, where excellent trolling for dolphin, wahoo, tuna and billfish is available. Good offshore rigs can be found within four miles of Mobile Bay, though many fishermen prefer working rigs in 60 to 70 feet of water, 10 to 15 miles out for snapper, grouper, king mackerel, cobia and others. For fishing Information contact J&M Bait and Tackle ( jmtackle.com), San Roc Cay Marina and Charters ( sanroccay.com), and the Alabama Gulf Coast Visitors Bureau ( gulfshores.com).
Lakes Barkley/Kentucky; Tennessee/Kentucky: Bass, Crappie One of the most beautiful, pristine and unique outdoor areas in mid-America is “Land Between The Lakes,” a U.S. Forest Service Recreation Area sandwiched between the sprawling and fish-filled waters of Lake Barkley and Kentucky Lake. Largemouth and smallmouth bass and crappies are the big draws to Barkley and Kentucky lakes. And while there is an abundance of access sites, marinas and resorts dotted along the shores of both lakes, the LBL (as Land Between The Lakes is affectionately known) stands apart as a choice headquarters for visitors. Located partially in Tennessee, and mostly in Kentucky, the LBL is a giant peninsula separating the two oversize reservoirs, west of Hopkinsville. From the LBL, anglers can tap either lake, with boat accesses scattered throughout the area. Superb campgrounds also abound on LBL, and there are cottages for rent. The LBL main office ( lbl.org) provides outdoorsmen a wealth of fishing and hunting information.
Virginia, 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.
Montebello/Kenauk Preserve, Quebec: Bass, Trout Kenauk Preserve near the town of Montebello in southern Quebec, just east of the Canadian capital of Ottawa, offers good daily-fee fishing “north of the border” for largemouth and smallmouth bass, as well as trout. Summer is prime, and boaters and canoeists have plenty of elbow room, with 70 private lakes on the 65,000-acre preserve. In addition, excellent bass, walleye and muskie fishing is available in the nearby Ottawa River. Montebello Lodge is a spectacular resort facility, located just minutes away from Kenauk’s fishing. Lakeside housekeeping cottages also are available on some Kenauk lakes, and special cottage-boat rental fishing packages are priced right. Lakeside camping also can be done beside Kenauk’s Lake Papineau. Guide Claude Cromp ( protechnique.ca/html/fishing) can answer outdoorsman questions.
North America is loaded with great and diverse summer fishing opportunities, and every region in America has a healthy variety of waters ideal for every angler. Here are some good ones to consider visiting this summer.