Okay, so we keep hearing a lot about the tough economy. Boat sales are in the tank and some manufacturers report sales down as much as 60 percent. More than a few of the more remote and high-end fishing lodges didn't even open their doors in 2009. That's the bad news. The good? Not all is not all doom and gloom in the fishing world. Several of my colleagues in the tackle and gear business say their sales are up. Why? Because people can go fishing without spending a ton of money. That got me thinking. Where are my favorite fishing destinations? You know, the ones that won't kill the bank account? Here are five of my favorite picks.
1. Bassin' and Walleyes
There are a ton of options for bass fishing in North America. Heck, more people fish for bass than any other single species. I'm all about big fish and small crowds. Exactly why Roy Lake, South Dakota comes to mind. Roy is a 1,500 acre lake created 20,000 years ago by the glaciers. It sits in the heart of what's called South Dakota's Glacial Lakes Region; an area full of walleye, bass and crappie lakes. If you like smallmouth bass fishing, there aren't a lot of lakes that compare to Roy. Jig and minnows work wonders on Roy, as do soft plastics pitched around the lake's submerged timber. Come late July and August, the topwater bite takes off. Don't be surprised if you catch a couple fish in the 5 pound range. Oh, and don't be surprised if you also hook a few nice walleyes and pike. The lake has another big lure. Roy Lake State Park surrounds a good chunk of the lake, so visitors can beach their boats and camp right next to the beach. If you're looking for fancier accommodations, Roy Lake Resort is another great option.
Fishing license $32 (3 day non-resident)
State Park Campsite $16 (per night)
State Park Vehicle Fee $6 (per day)
Closest Major Cities
Sioux Falls, SD 2 ½ hours
Minneapolis, MN 4 ½
2. Trout fishing
If you're into fly fishing and the trout game, better pack your bags for Colorado. There, you can find plenty of great places to chase plenty of fish without having to pay expensive rod fees and private access rates. One of my favorite public spots is a place called Cheesman Canyon. The South Platte River runs through Cheesman Canyon just an hour from Denver and holds as many as 5,200 rainbown and brown trout per mile. If you visit, be sure to bring along your best pair of hiking boots. Anglers must hike a minimum of a mile on the Gill Trail to find good water. The key to Cheesman Canyon? Stick to small mayfly and midge patterns.
Fishing License: $21 (5 day non-resident)
1 Pair hiking boots $100
Closest Major City: Denver 60 minutes
3. Saltwater Oasis
If you're looking for saltwater action without the hassle or price of a big-time fishing trip, then you need to check out the Padre Island National Seashore just outside of Corpus Christi, Texas. Anglers there have access to nearly 70 miles of beach along the Gulf Coast. Here's the catch. The National Seashore is open to cars and trucks. Locals cruise the beach, looking for feeding Pelicans. If you find the birds, you'll find the baitfish and the feeding sea trout, pompano, drum and crevalle jacks. On my last trip, surf casting Berkley Gulp on a long-shank jig worked like a charm. If you'd like to up the ante, you can hire a local guide and fish for sharks from the beach. Be warned, even a small five foot black tip will turn your arms to rubber.
Fishing License: $16 (non-resident per day)
$10 Saltwater stamp
$10 Beach access charge per vehicle
Corpus Christi 15 minutes
4. A Winter Getaway
I may be a little bit biased, but the Mississippi River runs darn near through my backyard, just north and west of Minneapolis, Minnesota. Come the snowy season, I grab my waders and winter hat and head to the river. Just upstream of the city of Monticello, two power plants use river water to cool plant turbines. That warm water allows that stretch of the river to remain open, even during the coldest winter months. That means anglers can chase big smallmouth bass, walleyes and even a few channel catfish in the dead of winter. The river, at its widest point around here, might be about 100 yards, so wade fishing is easy. Drifting a jig and minnow under a shallow slip bobber is deadly. Your best access point is Montisippi Regional Park, where you can park right at the river and hike upstream to the best water.
MN Fishing License: $28.50
Closest City: Minneapolis 30 minutes
5. The White and North Fork
For some reason, I like fishing rivers. Exactly why I suggest you make a quick trip to Arkansas and the White and North Fork Rivers. After all, the White is home to at least one 38 pound brown trout, which was, at one point, a record fish. Yes, a lot of really big trout call the White and North Fork Rivers home and anglers have plenty of public access. I prefer to wade fish when I visit. I also tend to spend a lot of time on the North Fork, where I've found some awfully big rainbows. Jerk baits are a good choice for big fish. So are streamers. The River Ridge Inn and Gaston's are two of my favorite family resorts.
Fishing License: $11 (3 day non-resident)
Trout Stamp: $10
Hotel on River $99 (per day)