The Top-Ranked Freshwater Fishing Destination In The US

From the rainbow trout of Colorado streams to the behemoth blue catfish of the Mississippi, the U.S. provides a spoil of riches for freshwater U.S. anglers. North America boasts over 800 freshwater species, and each U.S. state offers its own unique freshwater fishing experience. Choosing the "best" freshwater fishing destination is certainly subjective, but it's hard to argue with the experts.

Located in the St. Lawrence River on the eastern banks of Lake Ontario, the Thousand Islands region of upstate New York is a 50-mile stretch of waterway that almost guarantees freshwater anglers — novices and veterans alike — a varied and fruitful fishing experience. And even if the fish aren't biting, which isn't likely, the Thousand Islands area is still a breathtakingly beautiful place to cast a line. As you pass quaint villages, historic lighthouses, and stunning natural landscapes, you'll understand why it's been ranked as the best freshwater fishing destination in the U.S.

Fishing opportunities throughout the year

In 2019, Bassmaster magazine ranked the Upper St. Lawrence River as the top bass fishing destination in the U.S. While that publication specified bass fishing, the St. Lawrence River in upstate New York offers much more than that.

An abundance of diverse freshwater fish swim in the waters of the Upper St. Lawrence River and Lake Ontario, and the unique geography of the Thousand Islands region creates an ecology that attracts a range of species. True to its name, the area features around 1,800 tiny islands that create tributaries, streams, and intricate waterways for brown trout and salmon, while you'll find trophy bass, walleye, northern pike, and muskellunge in the mighty St. Lawrence.

While spring and early summer are the most popular seasons for fishing in the larger bodies of water, spring and fall usher in fish runs through the tributaries. For example, the Black River and Indian River Lakes, as well as other inland waters, will hold many of the same species of larger bodies during these shoulder seasons. Although the walleye and pike catch tends to tick down in the summer, as these species head for deeper and cooler water, the summer months are great for bass fishing. And for those brave enough, the ice fishing on the area's frozen bays is some of the best in New York, as walleye, pike, and perch bite throughout the winter.

Take a guide to hook trophy muskies

Due to the range of fishing opportunities in the Thousand Islands region, the destination is perfect for both new and experienced anglers alike. Depending on the seasons, you can fish from the shoreline, fly fish in shallow tributaries, take out your own boat, or drill a hole in the ice.

However, both recreational and seasoned anglers tend to take guided fishing trips to improve their chances when fishing at Thousand Islands. This is particularly true when fishing for the area's mammoth muskies, as these fish can grow as long as five feet. Muskies tend to stay in clear, deep waters, and unless you're an experienced muskie fisherman, they can be hard to catch. Most success comes from trolling in the right areas, which comes with the know-how of a fishing guide.

Along with the excellent fishing of Thousand Islands, the scenic backdrop you'll experience while on the water is pretty unmatched. After visiting these waterways of upstate New York, it's hard not to be hooked.