Photo: Jim Holland/
25 Best After-Work Kayak Fishing Spots

WEST 1–6


1. Anchorage

Ship Creek in downtown Anchorage has been called “the most accessible salmon stream in the world.” King salmon can be caught from June to mid-July while smaller—but equally spry—silver salmon run from late-July to late-October. While the creek’s fishable section below the Chugach Dam is less than a mile long, casting from a kayak gets you away from the crowds on shore. Use larger Vibrax or Mepps spinners or salmon eggs beneath a bobber. Fish the incoming tide for kings or a changing tide for silvers.


2. Oakland

San Francisco Bay is a good choice anytime of the year for Silicon Valley kayak anglers, but the real action takes place in the fall when Jurassic-sized white sturgeon congregate in the brackish estuary just off the launch at Newark in the south end of the bay. Drift fish with a nightcrawler under a bobber. Be aware of special slot-size regulations for sturgeon, a sensitive, long-living species.

3. Sacramento

There’s hardly a time of year when the fishing isn’t good in Sacramento. From January to mid-April, the American River on the east side of town is alive with steelhead trout. Paddle the 10-mile section between Sunrise Boulevard and Watt Avenue and cast spinners and Little Cleos, or back bounce roe beneath a bobber. Striped bass fishing is also good on the American for much of the year. Topwater lures and live bait like anchovies work well.

4. San Diego

Kayak fishing is hot minutes from downtown San Diego. Fishing San Diego Bay is different from the California norm in that you don’t have to brave surf. When he isn’t fishing at nearby La Jolla, local outfitter Jim Sammons catches “everything from bass and halibut to bonefish” in San Diego Bay. Sammons says it’s possible to score 100-fish days year round. Use light tackle to up the excitement factor.


5. Denver

Close to Denver, the Gross Reservoir is cradled between snow-capped peaks of the Rocky Mountains. Besides scenic, quiet paddling—motorized boats are prohibited—the Gross Reservoir is home to thriving lake trout and muskie populations. Troll with spoons for lakers in open water or cast crankbaits for muskies in the shallows. Gross Reservoir is only open to paddlecraft May through September.


6. Seattle

The East Waterway (Duwamish River) of Seattle’s Elliott Bay is bumper-to-bumper with migrating pink, chum and Chinook salmon July through September. Avoid the boat traffic of the Don Armeni Ramp and get closer to the action by putting in from one of the many beaches along Harbor Avenue. Locals say less is more when it comes to luring trophy salmon: Fish an anchovy under a bobber and wait for a hit.



7. Chicago

The Fox River flows into the Illinois River northwest of the Windy City and is a solid spring and fall choice for anglers looking to hook walleye, northern pike and small- and largemouth bass. Launch from Geneva and paddle upriver to the St. Charles Dam or access the South Elgin pool from Blackhawk Park—both are local favorites. Crankbaits are a good catch-all while flashy spoons are best for trophy pike.


8. Indianapolis

“Indianapolis has been called the largest city in the U.S. that is not on a navigable waterway,” says local kayak angler Dan Sutton. But that’s not taking kayaks into account. Broad Ripple and Riverside Parks in downtown Indy provide access for motor boats and host bass fishing tourneys, but several dams further downstream mean that water levels south of the city are reserved for kayaks. Put in at the Raymond Street crossing to chase 18- to 22-inch smallmouth and 10- to 20-pound carp and catfish.


9. Detroit

Walleye fishing heats up early in the Motor City. In April and May, Walleye gather to spawn along the gravel bed of the Detroit River. Launch from Wyandotte’s BASF Waterfront Park—it features a kayak-only put-in and access to a slow moving backwaters. Fish bottom structure like drop-offs and shelves with jigs.


10. Minneapolis

The Land of 10,000 Lakes is home to some of the best fishing in the United States. Of the countless places to wet a line in the Twin Cities, Lake Calhoun in uptown Minneapolis is one of the best for kayak angling. Catch muskie and bass in the narrows leading to Lake of Isles. Crankbaits work well for both species. On early summer evenings, catch after work walleye with a fathead minnow rigged beneath a bobber.


11. Las Vegas

The odds of hooking into great largemouth and striped bass fishing are high on Lake Mead. From February to April, sight cast for trophy largemouth in shallow coves with topwater lures and crankbaits. Striped bass action heats up shortly thereafter with the early summer hatch of fingerling shad—stripers’ main food source. Cast topwater lures into a frenzied school of feeding stripers and get ready for explosive results. There are several good launches near Boulder City and the Hoover Dam, about a half-hour drive from the strip.


12. Austin

Side-by-side carp hotspots on the Colorado River highlight the kayak fishing scene in Austin, Texas. Austin’s best fishing holes—Lake Austin and Town Lake—are separated by a dam and feature convenient launch sites from the Fritz Hughes Park and Rosebud Isle, respectively. Flyfishing from a kayak adds a new dimension to carping. Local pro Aaron Reed says its possible to land 30-pounders on high floating, bomber-pattern dry flies.

13. Houston

The jetties of Galveston Bay, near Houston, Texas, have long been a favorite among shore-based anglers. Fishing from a kayak gets you further into this myriad of grassy flats and gives you a better shot at landing trophy speckled trout, redfish and flounder. Entice trout with a croaker dragged along the bottom; it’s possible to catch specks year round. Shrimp, finger mullet and mud minnows work well for flounder; spring is best. And use flies like clousers for redfish in the summer and fall.



14. Mobile

Kayak anglers in the Deep South need not stray far from home to catch a diversity of inshore gamefish. The waters of Mobile Bay serve up a bounty of redfish, speckled trout and flounder. Launching from the Causeway Ramps at the north end of the bay gives kayak anglers access to both the open waters of the bay and the braided estuary of the Mobile River. Fishing is good year round.

15. Jacksonville

The braided saltwater estuary of the Intra-Coastal Waterway was appropriately called the “place where waters meet” by Native Americans. Today, Jacksonville’s Timucuan National Preserve is a kayak angler’s dreamscape. There are 30-plus launches within city limits making it easy to hook into 5:01 redfish, trout and flounder. Spring and fall are best, and locals cast shrimp on a jig head or flies (clousers, toads or gurglers).


16. St. Petersburg

Spring is the best time to fish the shallow flats of Miguel Bay, near St. Petersburg. Launch near the Sunshine Skyway Bridge on the west side of I-275. This is kayak fishing at its best—the snook, redfish and speckled trout you stir up in the shallows may have never seen a lure before. Use floating plugs, Rapalas and weedless crankbaits.


17. Atlanta

Fishing is hot on the Chattahoochee River near Atlanta. You’ll be sure to hook into rainbow and brown trout while drifting the section between Buford and Morgan Falls dams. Cast small spinners into woody structure for browns and toss flies for rainbows in moving water. Fishing is good late spring through late fall.


18. Louisville

Solid striped, white and hybrid bass fishing can be had at the base of the McAlpine Dam on the Ohio River in Louisville. Louisville is called “The Gateway to the South” and it shows—the fishing is good year round, even in the winter when bass lurk in the warm water discharges of the dam outflow. Cast shad raps and rattle traps from the pools. Just beware of swirling currents and moving water.


19. Norfolk

Local guide Cory Routh calls fishing at the Hampton Roads Bridge-Tunnel (HRBT) a “striper slam.” The lights of the HRBT attract a striped bass buffet of baitfish, and Routh says the action is so hot that 100-fish evenings are possible. Fishing is best in the winter, though it’s possible to catch stripers year-round. Launch from Willoughby Bay, sight cast between the bridge pilings with light line and get ready to land lots of fish.



20. Washington

One of America’s favorite afterwork whitewater play spots is also a good bet for kayak anglers. The Potomac River flows through Washington, D.C., and is a bass fishing paradise spring through fall. Cast crankbaits, spinners or plugs for small- and largemouth bass, or flyfish for stripers with clousers. It’s all within a short drive from Capitol Hill.


21. Boston

Boston Harbor is an ecological success story that’s become one of the finest spots for kayak angling on the eastern seaboard. An ongoing multi-billion-dollar cleanup has made for burgeoning populations of sport fish, including striped bass, cod, flounder and bluefish. Launch at City Point in South Boston and fish with a shad on a jighead, Kastmasters or tubes and worms, says local Adam Bolonsky. Fishing is best in the fall.


22. New York

The best kayak fishing in the Big Apple is amid the sheltered islands of Jamaica Bay, within sight of the JFK Airport. Striped bass, weakfish and bluefish lurk in the shallow flats and at the dropoffs and hit imitation eels, spinner baits and flies in the spring and summer months. Launch from Cross Bay Boulevard.

23. Syracuse

Syracuse’s Onondaga Lake is a little known secret that’s brimming with smallmouth bass and carp. Cast spinnerbaits and live golden shiners for smallies—Willow Bay near the mouth of the Senaca River is said to be a hot spot. Experts say Onondaga’s carp population is thriving and grossly underfished. Catching massive carp is easy: Simply bait your hook with corn and keep an eye on the bobber. Launching facilities are available at Onondaga Lake Park.


24. Philadelphia

There’s good reason why Marsh Creek Lake has been designated a “Big Bass Lake” by state authorities: It has the best largemouth fishing in Pennsylvania—yet it’s only a half-hour drive from Philadelphia. It’s also home to thriving populations of other warm-water species, including trophy tiger muskie (a muskellunge—northern pike cross), catfish, walleye and a variety of panfish. Fishing is good all summer long. Lure largemouths out of the weeds with topwater lures; crankbaits work well for muskie. To get to the put-in, drive to the village of Eagle and follow the signs to Marsh Creek Lake State Park.


25. Toronto

Of the dozens of places to fish in the Toronto area, only a few yield quality catches from break-up to freeze-up. The Toronto Islands are one such place, and their protected channels and views of downtown offer a scenic backdrop for kayak angling. Cast spinners and spoons in shallow lagoons for northern pike in the spring, fish the canals for bass and perch in the summer and drift with live bait for carp year round. Launch from Cherry Beach and paddle 1.5 kilometres to the archipelago.

This article was first published in the Summer 2008 issue of Kayak Angler. Subscribe to Kayak Angler Magazine’s print and digital editions, or browse the archives.



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