Us trout fishermen know that there’s nothing quite like the thrill of casting a line into pristine waters, surrounded by breathtaking scenery, and waiting for that telltale take. From the jagged peaks of the Rocky Mountains to the tranquil rivers winding through lush forests out east, the United States is blessed with a plethora of trout fishing opportunities.
But which states offer the most exceptional experiences? Ranking the best trout fishing states is no easy task, as it’s a subjective endeavor influenced by personal preferences, regional differences, and the ever-changing dynamics of fish populations. Plus my knowledge is not absolute, I am certain to overlook some areas which could influence the rankings.
Just how can someone compare the experiences as diverse as blue lining for native brooks in an unnamed stream in the Great Smoky Mountains to reeling in steelhead in the Great Lakes to battling cutthroats in Yellowstone. Three totally different, but still memorable experiences. Nonetheless, we embark on this adventure fully aware of the subjective nature of compiling such a list.
As we delve into the rankings, it’s important to note that each state offers its unique charm and allure when it comes to trout fishing. Factors such as the abundance and variety of trout species, the quality of fishing locations, the accessibility of public lands, and the overall fishing culture come into play. Additionally, the presence of wild trout populations, as opposed to solely relying on stocked fish, adds an extra layer of excitement and authenticity to the experience.
So, let’s cast our lines and embark on this journey through the top trout fishing states, acknowledging that each state has something special to offer anglers, whether it’s the remote wilderness of Alaska or the scenic rivers of Colorado. Let’s explore the trout fishing opportunities that await in each state, knowing that the true beauty of this pursuit lies not only in the destination but also in the joy of the chase and the memories made along the way.
Florida: Florida’s tropical climate and lack of suitable habitats make it an easy choice for the state with the worst trout fishing. Apparently, there is one privately run stocked pond in the north of the state. Stick to the salt or warm water species.
Louisiana: Trout fishing in Louisiana is limited to seasonal stocking which occur in a handful of ponds. Like Florida the water is simply too warm.
Mississippi: Mississippi is not known for its trout. There is limited seasonal stocking.
Kansas: Despite sharing the same longitude as Colorado, the lower elevations and hot Summers make Kansas, like most prairie states unsuitable for trout. Kansas offers limited trout fishing opportunities, mostly consisting of seasonal stockings in select lakes and ponds.
Oklahoma: Oklahoma’s trout fishing is primarily centred around seasonal stocking in a few ponds, although there are a couple of rivers that are stocked year round when conditions allow. There has even been reports of natural spawning.
Delaware: Due to the small size of the state and hot summer temperatures, Delaware’s trout fishing opportunities are limited to a few small streams largely located within the New Castle County.
North Dakota: The Prairie states typically have poor trout survivability and North Dakota despite its far north location and low population density is no exception. North Dakota offers limited trout fishing opportunities, with most fishing based around stockings in some 55 lakes, the best fishing the state has to offer is likely in the Garrison Dam Tailrace where trout of trophy size can be caught.
Texas: Texas has some trout fishing and over 170 locations receive seasonal stocking. The Canyon tailrace offers the only wild trout fishery in Texas. Texas only population of native cutthroat trout have likely gone extinct.
Hawaii: Surprisingly, Tropical Hawaii does have a few wild trout streams, although accessing them can be challenging. These streams are situated at high elevations on Kauai. Additionally, there is a stocked reservoir that offers more convenient access for locals. The presence of wild trout, in my opinion gives it a higher ranking compared to states that primarily rely on stocked fisheries.
Alabama: Alabama has a few small trout streams, mostly close to its border with Georgia, but the state lacks significant trout fisheries, reducing the overall quality of trout fishing. Native brook trout are known to occur in the Sipsey Wilderness Area, and spawning might take place in the Little River.
Rhode Island: Rhode Island, despite its small size, boasts several small streams supporting trout populations, this includes native brook trout. The best fishing is predominantly found in the western and northwestern regions.
Indiana: Indiana offers trout fishing in a few designated streams and lakes, but the state’s trout fisheries are largely stocked, with a few wild fisheries primarily in the northeast.
Maryland: Maryland provides diverse trout fishing opportunities, featuring both stocked and wild trout fisheries. Anglers can enjoy catching rainbow, brown, and golden trout in stocked waters, as well as target wild brown and brook trout in designated areas.
Kentucky: Kentucky has a few trout streams, but the quality and quantity of trout fishing opportunities are relatively limited compared to other states. The Cumberland River “tailwater” likely offers the most consistent fishing and a chance to catch a trophy.
Nebraska: Nebraska’s trout fishing opportunities are limited primarily to a few lakes and streams, making it less prominent for trout fishing compared to other states. In total there is 38 streams classified as class A.
New Jersey: New Jersey has some trout fishing options, including a few excellent streams, but the state’s relatively small size limits the extent of its trout fishing offerings.
South Dakota: South Dakota offers trout fishing in its Black Hills region, with beautiful streams and lakes.
Missouri: Missouri offers a good selection of trout fishing, for both stocked and wild fish. The best fishing is particularly in the south of the state, and is largely focused around Lake Taneycomo and the associated tailwaters.
Iowa: Iowa has over 50 self sustaining trout fisheries, complimented with many stock fisheries. With that said Iowa’s trout fishing opportunities are relatively limited compared to other states.
Georgia: Georgia offers some surprisingly good trout fishing with over 4,000 miles of streams to explore. The native trout populations in these streams face challenges due to calcium-deficient soils, necessitating stocking and special regulations to maintain healthy catch rates. There is also larger rivers, tailwaters and stocked lakes to explore.
Massachusetts: Massachusetts has some excellent trout fishing opportunities in its rivers and streams. Most of the trout tend to be on the small side.
Illinois: Trout fishing in Illinois is largely centred around Lake Michigan and the Illinois river. Due to the less amount of shoreline, probably the lowest rank of the Great Lake fisheries. Some quality fishing for large Rainbow and even Browns can be had. With the exception of a few streams, most other trout fishing opportunities are centred around stocked trout programs, which may limit the overall quality of the fishing experience.
Arkansas: Arkansas has some excellent trout fishing opportunities in its cold water tailwaters, but its overall ranking is lower due to the limited natural trout habitats within the state. This placement is difficult because the tailwaters have produced some impressive trout over the years.
Ohio: Ohio provides some excellent fishing for lake run steelheads. This is also complimented by a reasonable trout fishery in the states rivers, streams and lakes. One such example being the spring fed Mad River. While most of the fisheries are stocked there are a few wild trout to be discovered.
Nevada: Nevada provides trout fishing in a few high-elevation lakes and streams, particularly in the eastern part of the state, but the overall trout fishing experience is not as extensive as in other regions.
Tennessee: Tennessee has several rivers and streams that support trout populations, with the Great Smoky Mountains National Park offering some exceptional fishing experiences for adventurous anglers.
Connecticut: Connecticut offers trout fishing in numerous rivers, streams, and lakes, providing anglers with diverse opportunities,
Virginia: Virginia provides diverse trout fishing opportunities, particularly in its western mountainous regions, with a mix of stocked and wild trout streams. Mossy Creek is likely the states most well known fishery which has been known to produce some of the biggest brown trout in the mid Atlantic region.
West Virginia: West Virginia is known for its wild and scenic trout streams, particularly in the Allegheny Mountains, offering excellent fishing experiences for anglers.
New Hampshire: New Hampshire offers trout fishing in its numerous lakes, rivers, and streams, including the famed trout waters of the White Mountains and the Merrimack River.
Arizona: Arizona offers a unique trout fishing experience, particularly in its high-elevation lakes and streams, including the iconic trout fisheries in the White Mountains.
Minnesota: Minnesota provides excellent trout fishing opportunities, particularly in its northeastern region along the North Shore of Lake Superior and the inland trout lakes.
North Carolina: North Carolina offers diverse trout fishing opportunities, including its famous tailwater fisheries, wild trout streams, and stocked waters, attracting anglers from around the country.
Washington: Washington has numerous productive trout fisheries, including iconic rivers like the Yakima and Methow, as well as high-elevation lakes, providing anglers with fantastic fishing experiences.
Vermont: Vermont is known for its beautiful trout streams, particularly in the Green Mountains, offering anglers a combination of wild and stocked trout fishing opportunities.
Utah: Utah offers exceptional trout fishing in its alpine lakes, reservoirs, and streams, including the renowned Provo River and the Green River tailwater, attracting anglers with stunning scenery and diverse fishing options.
Michigan: Michigan offers diverse trout fishing opportunities, particularly in its Upper Peninsula and northern Lower Peninsula regions, with scenic rivers like the Au Sable and Manistee attracting anglers.
New Mexico: New Mexico boasts exceptional trout fishing opportunities, particularly in its high-elevation lakes and streams, including the famous waters of the Rio Grande and the San Juan River.
Oregon: Oregon offers diverse trout fishing opportunities, including its iconic rivers like the Deschutes and the McKenzie, as well as high-elevation lakes, attracting anglers with its scenic beauty and abundant fish populations. The Deschutes River is one of the most popular and productive fly fishing waters in Oregon, with the stretch from Warm Springs to Trout Creek being particularly popular.
California: California, partly due to its large size offers a wealth of trout fishing options mostly in its mote mountainous interior. The famous Sierra Nevada streams and high-elevation lakes, providing anglers with memorable, although crowded fishing experiences. Selecting the right baits, lures or flies can certainly make or break a trip while fishing in the sunshine state.
New York: New York offers exceptional trout fishing in its rivers, streams, and lakes, including the famous trout waters of the Catskill Mountains, the Finger Lakes region, and the Adirondacks. Although keep in the mind the fisheries are often private, crowded or both. The state is home to abundant populations of brook trout, brown trout, and rainbow trout, both wild and hatchery-raised, that are stocked every year
Pennsylvania: Pennsylvania is known for its excellent trout fishing, with numerous productive streams, including the famous limestone streams of Central Pennsylvania and the wild trout waters of the Allegheny Mountains. To put it into perspective there is over 86,000 miles of streams and rivers to explore, with nearly 1,500 miles of Class A wild trout waters.
Wisconsin: Wisconsin provides a wide range of trout fishing opportunities, including its Driftless Area with spring creeks, Lake Superior tributaries, and stocked trout waters. Wisconsin boasts over 13,000 miles of trout streams, with over 5,000 miles classified as high-quality, class I trout streams, providing ample opportunities for anglers.
Idaho: Idaho is a paradise for trout fishing, offering over 3,000 miles of wild trout streams and more than 600 alpine lakes to explore. , including the famous waters of the Henry’s Fork, Silver Creek, and the South Fork of the Snake River.
Maine: Due to its largely unspoiled rivers, streams, and lakes that harbor thriving populations of brook trout and landlocked salmon, Maine is widely acclaimed as the ultimate destination for brook trout fishing among all 50 states.
What sets Maine apart is not only its extensive river and stream network but also its impressive collection of around 6,000 lakes and ponds, which greatly enhance the range of trout fishing possibilities available throughout the state.
Colorado: Colorado is renowned for its trout fishing, offering a combination of wild and stocked fisheries in its scenic rivers and high-altitude lakes, including the famous waters of the South Platte River and the Gunnison River.
Colorado is home to over 6,000 miles of streams and rivers, providing abundant opportunities for trout fishing enthusiasts. The crowded waterways prevent Colorado from reaching the top three.
Montana: Montana’s combination of pristine waters, abundant trout populations, diverse fishing locations, trophy-sized trout, commitment to conservation, and accessible public lands make it the best state for trout fishing. Anglers seeking unparalleled fishing experiences, breathtaking scenery, and the opportunity to catch trophy trout will find their dreams fulfilled in the wild and beautiful waters of Montana.
Montana’s rivers provide a diverse range of fishing opportunities. The legendary Yellowstone River is one of the most iconic trout fisheries in the world, offering both challenging and rewarding angling experiences. The Madison River is known for its impressive numbers of trout, and the Missouri River offers exceptional tailwater fishing. Additionally, Montana has numerous alpine lakes and smaller streams that provide excellent options for those seeking solitude and remote fishing adventures.
Wyoming: Wyoming’s for the quality of the fishing is simply less busy than the likes of Colorado or even Montana. This allows it to rank above such great competition. Wyoming offers a combination of pristine waters, diverse trout species, world-class fisheries, public access, serene atmosphere, and supportive fishing culture make it the best state for trout fishing. Whether you are a seasoned angler or a novice enthusiast, Wyoming offers an unparalleled fishing experience that will create lasting memories.
Wyoming is home to world-class fisheries that attract anglers from around the globe although given the quality of the fishing, it is no where near as crowded as many other states on this list. This means, the chances are higher that you are not fishing in the footsteps of others.
Sure, famous waters such as the North Platte Rivers renowned for its trophy-sized brown and rainbow trout or the Snake River are still busy, elsewhere in the state, especially during the week the chances are higher you will get a hole or run to yourself.
The real jewel in Wyoming crown might be the pristine rivers and lakes found within Yellowstone National Park. They provide an unparalleled fishing experience amidst some of the most stunning natural beauty anywhere in the world.
Alaska: It is hard to argue that Alaska does not provide the best trout fishing in the country. The number of large rainbow and steelhead are in a class of its own. The fishing is simply spectacular.
The state’s vast and untouched wilderness offers a unique fishing experience, with remote lakes, rivers, and streams. Where other states offer struggle with water temperatures that are too high for trout, Alaska at times face the other extreme. The extreme cold can make them sluggish and difficult to catch. For this reason, by far the most popular time to fish Alaska is over the warmer months, where famous rivers can even become crowded with guides and locals.
But the downsides are few, and the quality of the fishing speak for itself.