8 Best National Parks for Fishing

Man fly fishing in the middle of a stream surrounded by mountains and tall green trees on the Yellowstone River at Yellowstone National Park.
Within Yellowstone’s Native Trout Conservation Area, volunteer anglers remove non-native species to help native fish thrive.

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Whether you call it a sport or a hobby, fishing is an extremely popular activity. Fishing is all about the experience of nature, water, and the thrill of the catch.

America's national parks are great places to venture with rod and reel in hand. Depending on the national park, a fishing excursion can mean casting in the ocean, running a surface lure along the lakeshore, watching a bobber in the backwaters of the bayou, or mastering the art of fly-fishing while standing hip-deep in a cool stream. The bonus is the miles of trails, uninterrupted natural scenery, and each park's trademark landscape.

Here are the eight best national parks for fishing.

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Glacier National Park (Montana)

Man in a small white boat fishing on Lake MacDonald with the Snow Mountains in the distance under a clear blue sky at Glacier National Park Montana

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Glacier National Park lies in Montana, one of the most legendary fishing states in the nation. Well-known as the place for trout, Glacier teems with opportunities to cast for this prized coldwater fish. No fishing license is required to fish at Glacier, but all native fish caught must be released.

From postcard-perfect streams to hidden backcountry lakes with mirror-like surfaces, there are plenty of opportunities to cast inside this national park. As with many national park fishing spots, the actual act of getting a fish to take the bait is only part of the experience. At Glacier, the beautiful mountains and backcountry surroundings make a trip worthwhile, even for anglers who don't land a single trout.

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Great Smoky Mountains National Park (North Carolina, Tennessee)

water rushing over large rocks surrounded by trees in autumn shades of red and orange wit a fisherman in the distance

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Hundreds of miles of fishable waterways wind through Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Remote coldwater streams teem with trout, while larger streams are dominated by other species, such as smallmouth bass.

Fishing is permitted year-round in the park (with a valid license from either North Carolina or Tennessee). These forest-shrouded headwaters can be fished alone, or with a local guide who can give novice fly-fishers a crash course in casting. A handful of great fishing spots are accessible by trail. Great Smoky Mountain National Park is one of those places where reeling in your catch is only part of the experience of a fishing trip. The natural scenery that can be enjoyed streamside is as much a part of fishing here as the excitement that comes from having an oversized trout on the other side of your line.

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Yellowstone National Park (Idaho, Montana, Wyoming)

Man fly fishing on the Yellowstone River with tall green trees on both sides of the river on a sunny days under a blue sky with white clouds

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With several large and small lakes and miles of streams and rivers, Yellowstone National Park has plenty of worthwhile fishing options. The most sought-after catch in the park is the cutthroat trout. These native fish are protected, and all natives, including mountain whitefish and Arctic grayling, must be released unharmed. A Yellowstone permit is required to fish in the park. The park is popular with fishers, but those in search of solitude can visit some of the more remote sections of stream inside the park.

Though standard artificial lures and casting rods are usable in the park, the most popular method of fishing in Yellowstone is fly-fishing. The insect-heavy riverbanks provide perfect conditions for trout to thrive. Fishing guides can provide quick access to the best streams and reduce the likelihood of encountering grizzly bears, the park's most prolific nonhuman fish-seekers.

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Voyageurs National Park (Minnesota)

shores of Lake Kabetogama with lush green trees on both sides and blue skies above in Voyageurs National Park, Minnesota

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Voyageurs National Park sits in northern Minnesota, near the Canadian border. A popular choice with fish-seekers, the area is covered by lakes. Unlike many other national park fishing destinations, Voyageurs requires a boat. The park has four large lakes including Rainy Lake, the largest, and innumerable smaller bodies of water.

The fish population in these lakes is quite diverse, with northern pike, walleyes, muskies, smallmouth bass, perch, and bluegills found in most lakes. Travel here does not require a powerful motorboat, or even any sort of propeller power at all. Canoes are a popular non-motorized form of transportation and can be used to traverse the various lakes. Even the frigid winter can't stop anglers at Voyageurs, where ice fishing is a popular activity during the short days of the coldest season.

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Olympic National Park (Washington)

White water rapids on the Dosewallips River in Washington on the Olympic Peninsula surrounded by brown trees and a large, moss covered rock

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At Olympic National Park, most avid anglers are intent on hooking salmon. However, these long-distance-traveling fish, with their distinctly shaped mouths, are not the only species that will take a baited hook. With over 4,000 miles of rivers and streams, hundreds of freshwater lakes, and 75 miles of Pacific Coast shoreline, Olympic has an abundance of fishing options. Saltwater perch and Pacific cod are ocean-going species that are found on the Pacific Ocean side of the park.

To fish for salmon and steelhead trout, which populate the streams and lakes in Olympic's interior, anglers need a Washington state record card. All wild fish caught—including wild steelhead—must be released. Other trout species, such as rainbow and cutthroat, are found in streams throughout the park and are a favorite catch for fly-fishers.

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Everglades National Park (Florida)

Wetland habitat in Everglades National Park with smooth water under blue sky and white clouds

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Spanning 1.5 million acres, much of southern Florida's Everglades National Park is covered by water, meaning that there are excellent opportunities for fishing throughout the park. Everglades gives visitors a chance to cast in both fresh and saltwater (though a different license is required for each).

Largemouth bass are found in the rivers and feeder streams that run through the park. Adventurous anglers can paddle into these backwaters in the hope of hooking a largemouth. Snook inhabit the mangrove swamps of the Everglades, lurking under roots or patrolling river mouths for prey. Many experienced fishers come to the Everglades specifically for these fish. Other easier-to-catch species, like sea trout, swim in schools, providing a great cast-to-catch ratio for anyone who is fortunate enough to land on a school. And of course, larger ocean fish like tarpon sit in the open sea farther offshore.

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Acadia National Park (Maine)

Jordan Pond at Acadia National Park with wildflowers in the foreground, green trees surrounding the lake, and hills in the background under blue skies with white clouds

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Maine's Acadia National Park offers both freshwater and saltwater fishing options for anglers. In the summer, salmon and trout congregate in freshwater lakes, as do largemouth and smallmouth bass. The ponds and lakes on Mount Desert Island are home to sizable populations of fish. Saltwater species like mackerel, bluefish, and striped bass are found in the coastal waters of the Atlantic. Anglers must possess a valid Maine fishing license to fish in the park.

The rugged Maine coastline is one of Acadia's best traits. While it does not make fishing easy (casting is difficult from the sometimes slippery, craggy rocks), it certainly adds to the overall experience of fishing in this section of Maine.

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Katmai National Park (Alaska)

Two men fishing at sunset at Katmai National Park; one man is holding bent rod with fish leaping out of the water

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For a truly adventurous fishing experience, there is no place like Katmai National Park. Anglers can catch arctic char, rainbow trout, and Dolly Varden trout in addition to several species of salmon. Fishing in Katmai is regulated to prevent overfishing, and anglers are encouraged to catch and release fish.  All non-Alaska residents are required to have a sport fishing license to fish in the park. 

Keep in mind that the area has a large population of brown bears. Visitors are warned to stay at least 50 yards away from bears, and if a bear tries to take your catch, cut the line to release the fish.