Lake fishing is a great way to spend time over the summer when the kids are out of school or the calendar gives us long weekends and warm, clear weather. It’s a less expensive alternative to saltwater fishing and won’t take as much of a toll on your fishing gear. For that matter, it doesn’t necessarily require as much fishing gear when it comes to the big stuff. Anglers can cast a line from a canoe, shoreline, or dock just as well as they can from a boat. In addition, the fish found in freshwater sources don’t have the same “fishy,” briny taste that saltwater fish usually have. While both freshwater and saltwater fish are rich in protein and omega-3, lake fish tend to have more calcium and healthy fatty acids than saltwater fish.
In addition to the health and taste benefits, fishing on a lake is less stressful and more easily done for most people who live far away from the coast. Fishing charters are available as much on the many beautiful lakes in the United States as on its coastlines. The populations around fishing lakes in the United States are frequently less concentrated than those surrounding popular harbors for ocean fishing and the fish themselves are smaller in lakes. That may sound like a disadvantage, but for families or solo anglers who are just trying to catch enough to eat themselves or casting out for the pure sport of it, lake fishing can be the less complicated option.
Lakeshores have a wider variety of natural features that make searching for the perfect fishing spot a lot more fun than the miles of uniform coastline that often line the nation’s oceans. The shallows accessible from the shore of a lake will probably warm up considerably during the hottest part of a summer day unless there’s shade, so lake anglers should make sure they have a way to get out to the deeper part of the lake or else head out to cast early before the sun can warm up the shallows and chase the fish to cooler waters.
The lakes in the United States each have their own unique history and attributes particular to their climate, state, and region. It can be difficult to differentiate and select the best lake for your next fishing trip in such a large country, which is why we’ve prepared this guide to the best lakes in the United States for fishing in the summer. It can be crowded at some of the most popular fishing spots during the summertime, but there are still many lakes that are large enough to accommodate the large number of anglers drawn there to cast out without causing them to run into each other.
Read on to get a sampling of the types of lakes available in the U.S. and a rundown of the best lakes in America to fish in summer.
1. North Delaney Lake, Colorado
About 3 hours north of Denver, North Delaney lake is well-known for its brown and rainbow trout but also gets regular stocking of cutthroat/rainbow hybrid trout. The best time to visit this lake is in the middle of summer or toward the end of it when the fish are feasting in preparation for the coming winter and much more likely to bite. Shoreline anglers will want to get their fishing in early in the day or late, when the insects are out in droves and attracting the fish to the surface to feed. Make sure you protect yourself with some insect repellent while you’re trying to snag a few trout! The surrounding scenery is breathtaking and the lake itself is far enough away from other major tourist attractions so anglers can be left more or less free from interruption.
There are a few ways to fish North Delaney Lake to the greatest advantage since there is such a good variety of places to fish there. Anglers can fish off the dam on the south side of the lake, from the western shore to take advantage of morning sun early in the day, the windward side in the shallows where the fish are feeding, or from a boat in the middle of the lake during the middle of the day when the fish go to the cooler waters. There are two boat launches in each of the separate lakes to prevent overcrowding in either one. Anglers can choose to fly to Laramie, Wyoming and stay in the nearby town of Walden or at a campsite nearby. Everything you need for a great bass fishing trip is available around North Delaney Lake.
- Great bass fishing
- Variety of locations to cast out
- Nearby accommodation
- Multiple boat launches
- Bass fishing primarily
- Lots of insects
2. Lake Austin, Texas
Less than an hour from the cultural capital of Texas and bearing the same name, Lake Austin has a high population of largemouth bass, catfish, and sunfish. Triploid grass carp can also be freely fished and kept at Lake Austin provided they have been gutted and beheaded before they are transported away from the lake. Crappies, gars, paddlefish, shad, and trout are also available at Lake Austin. There is a wide variety of other recreational activities on the lake and in the immediate surrounding area, so fishing from a boat can be difficult in the warm summer months. Anglers should take care to go out early or stick to the weed beds that line the shoreline.
With such a wide variety of fish and its location near to Austin, this lake is ideal for anglers who want to make an entire vacation out of their fishing trip. A longer-term fishing trip is possible with several trips to fish in Lake Austin and accommodation in the city itself or somewhere between the city center and the lake. Its 1,600-acre size means there is usually enough space for everyone, but its nearness to Austin does make it a significant draw of non-fishing activity, especially during summertime. Canoes and kayaks are available for short-distance transport to fishing spots and there are boat ramps for larger speed boats.
- Wide variety of fish
- Canoe and kayak rentals
- City nearby
- Shoreline fishing possible
- Lots of non-fishing activity in summer
3. Lake St. Clair, Michigan
Lake St. Clair is a massive 275,000-acre lake in Detroit, Michigan, that has tons of boat ramps on the Michigan shoreline and fishing charters for every kind of summertime fishing trip. Largemouth and smallmouth bass, catfish, crappie, walleye, rainbow trout, bluegill, pumpkinseed sunfish, bass, yellow perch, muskie, northern pike, and sturgeon are all available in this big fish lake. Campgrounds, RV parks, and other forms of lodging are available incredibly close to the lake. Looking at the map, you may notice that Lake St. Clair is not nearly as large as the surrounding lakes, but it is nonetheless responsible for about 50% of the sport fishing in the Great Lakes region.
It may not be the most remote lake, and indeed might be one of the most famous, but that’s for good reason. The massive population of bass and trout makes Lake St. Clair a must-see for anyone interested in freshwater sport fishing. Detroit has its own international airport which makes Lake St. Clair really easy to get to and anglers won’t want to miss it as it is the biggest smallmouth bass fishery in the world. A pro-tip for anyone heading to Lake St. Clair: head 1 to 2 miles out from the shoreline where the water is about 14-19 feet deep if you’re chasing those bass.
- Huge lake
- Wide variety of fish
- Accommodation nearby
- Bass hotspot
- Easy access
- Possible crowds
4. Lake Tahoe, California/Nevada
At a little over 122,000 acres, Lake Tahoe is a famous lake for fishing. It’s on every American angler’s bucket list but it can be a challenging excursion. With such a large size and so many great fishing spots, Lake Tahoe can be overwhelming. Anglers might traverse many miles of the lake throughout a long fishing day and not catch anything at all. It’s useful to have a local guide along, which is why there are so many fishing charters available for Lake Tahoe fishing trips. The lake is open year-round but the best fishing out in the middle of the lake is in the summertime. Unfortunately it may be difficult in some places to do shoreline fishing since there are rules in place that forbid fishing within 300 feet of any of Lake Tahoe’s tributaries. There are still plenty of places for shoreline fishing but not as many as in other lakes in the U.S.
There are tons of hiking trails around Lake Tahoe that can round out a fishing trip and turn it into a more general vacation. Mackinaw, kokanee salmon, brown trout, and rainbow trout are the most popular fish in Lake Tahoe, although there are many others. There is a five fish limit per angler to maintain the health of the fishery.
- Large lake
- Outfitted with accommodation
- Non-fishing activities
- Variety of fish
- Catch limit
- Difficult fishing spot
5. Lake Okeechobee, Florida
This is the largest lake in Florida and the second largest body of freshwater in the contiguous United States. For anglers who have always been curious about fishing in the Everglades, this is a great place to start. The lake averages a depth of 9 feet which makes it less threatening than some of the larger lakes we’ve included on this list. There is a 100-yard wide rim of canal that surrounds the lake and between this canal and the lake itself there are plenty of places for anglers to cast out on this lake. Lake Okeechobee is at its highest level in the summer months, which will make boating and fishing much easier and more productive during that time.
Charter fishermen know all the best spots on this lake but they are industry secrets that are kept well-hidden from non-local anglers. Locals can get a lot of fun out of learning these spots themselves, but visitors to Florida who are on a shorter fishing trip will probably want to hire a professional to show them where to fish. Largemouth bass, bluegill, and redear sunfish are available to catch in this lake, but bear in mind that there is a personal catch limit of 5 bass per day with a size limit of 18-22 inches. The other species are restricted to catch-and-release.
- Greater concentration of fish species
- Tons of fishing spots
- Great for bass fishing
- Low depth
- Catch-and-release for the majority of species
6. Lake Champlain, New York & Vermont
A whopping 93 different kinds of fish have been identified in this lake. Commercial fishing is not permitted in Lake Champlain, which means the large and smallmouth bass, walleye, northern pike, lake trout, and landlocked salmon are all for sport fishermen and individual anglers. Panfish are the only types that can be caught and sold in a commercial capacity or cooked and served in a restaurant. Luckily, if you know the right recipes, you can catch and cook your own fish at Lake Champlain. Mountains adorn this lake on both the east and west side, which make it a beautiful place to cast out.
The central and southern parts of the lake are known as bass regions. Walleye and pike season starts in May, so summertime anglers should aim to catch some of those kinds. Ample amounts of fishing charters and boat rentals are possible on this lake, and its location between New York and Vermont make it really easy to reach for visitors who want to take a fishing trip there.
- Tons of fish species
- No commercial fishing
- Great bass fishing
- Plenty of boat options
- Mountain views
- Hotspot for fishing tourism
7. Lake of the Woods, Minnesota
Lake of the Woods is a huge lake with a wide variety of fish available to anglers. Walleye, sauger, lake sturgeon, tullibee, smallmouth bass, northern pike, and crappies are just some of the fish you can try to catch on this lake. Private and public boat access points are both available on this lake’s 7 boat landings, presenting many options for anglers of all types to get out on the lake. The key depth for walleye is at about 18-30’ in the summertime. Anglers who want to catch walleye and sauger should try out the mud flats in Big Traverse Bay.
Lodging is plentiful around Lake of the Woods, as are fishing charters that can show visitors to the area all the ins-and-outs of fishing there. Warming waters in early summer bring out certain species of fish and make them much easier to catch at that time of year than in later summer or in the cooler months. There are some fishing limits on this lake, though. Crappie season is continuous with a limit of 10 per angler and yellow perch is continuous with a limit of 20 per person. Compared with other national lakes for summer fishing, these limits aren’t too constricting.
The United States has many lakes across its wide diversity of terrains. Each is filled with different species and offer anglers a completely different experience on their fishing trip. While many fishing enthusiasts concentrate on bass or trout, there are other seasons for other fish that are every bit as challenging and rewarding to catch. There’s no better way to get a feeling for the sheer size and changing landscapes of the United States than to fish your way across it. While that may not be possible for most anglers, a longer-term project to hit some of the best fishing spots in the United States is an essential undertaking for anyone who wants to round out their fishing skills.
In every region of the country, anglers will find new challenges. From Lake Tahoe in the west to Lake Champlain in the North and on down to Lake Okeechobee in the south, there is no shortage of landscapes and fish species to catch. Just like anywhere else in the U.S., these lakes are going to have some catch limits and regulations to protect their fish populations and remain viable fishing destinations into the future. Luckily, the people in charge of these regulations seem to enjoy fishing just for the sport of it as much as the rest of us do, so these catch limits are by and large reasonable enough not to curtail anglers’ enjoyment on a fishing trip. If you’re looking for the best lake to fish in America in summer after the thaw and the flower blooms of spring, cast a line out at one of these lakes. You’re sure to enjoy it.
Bonus tip: Interested in bass fishing? Check out this video to see bass fishing on Florida’s Lake Okeechobee!