Ultimate Guide • Updated Mon, Nov 6, 2023
Learn about how to find guides and fish the waters on the millions of acres of U.S. public land for your next adventure.
From sea to shining sea, federal public lands and waters offer some much opportunity for fishing and exploration. Courtesy Allan Allnoch
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National Parks are great for enjoying natural beauty in complete solitude and immersing yourself in the landscape. These parks help comprise the tens of millions of acres of land meant for public use across the United States. The National Parks system has over 423 federally designated parks and monuments, of which 63 are national parks. These parks span the varied ecosystems and biomes from the Florida Keys to the Alaskan tundra and offer both hunters and anglers amazing opportunities to experience untouched landscapes, often free from the intrusive marks of human civilization. The uninterrupted expanses of Yellowstone, the Everglades, and other national parks hold miles of trails and waterways to explore — harboring some of the most pristine habitats for wild fish. Rather than settling for views of “windshield wilderness”, traveling anglers looking for truly wild experiences should explore all that these areas have to offer — either under the expert guidance of a professional fishing guide, or solo. In this article, we’ll walk you through some of the basic info on fishing in some of the most productive national parks, and provide information on the best guided fishing trips to experience these fabled waters.
7,800 square miles of southern Florida is largely untouched and remains a haven for wildlife and unmatched fishing thanks — to Everglades National Park. Fishing this vast and varied ecosystem requires extensive knowledge of its fish species, not to mention its labyrinth of waterways. Grass and white sand flats, dense mangrove forests, and brackish inshore creek systems provide an ideal habitat for many gamefish.
Changes in the seasons often dictate what fish are biting. In general, the fall, winter, and spring produce the best fishing for redfish, snook, black drum, and sheepshead. Spring, summer, and early fall are great for targeting resident and migratory tarpon, and a variety of sharks like bulls and black tips. Tarpon, bonefish, and permit are most commonly found in Everglades National Park’s southeastern reaches near Islamorada, Florida and Biscayne Bay — which holds a national park of its own.
AnyCreek works with several of the premier Everglades fishing guides who know how to navigate and fish these waters better than anyone. Contact your guide today, as these trips are in high demand, and calendars fill quickly during peak fishing season.
Roughly 70 miles offshore of Key West, Florida, Dry Tortugas National Park is a haven for populations of shallow and deep sea-dwelling fish. As one of the few parks only accessible by air or sea, Dry Tortugas is well-protected and preserved. The park consists of several islands and crystal clear water surrounding them. Fort Jefferson, one of the nation’s only 19th-century forts, is a must-see and is park headquarters on Garden Key. Famed explorer Ponce de Leon once sailed by the islands and praised them for their abundant marine life, which is still true today due to their remote location.
The seven islands within this park are home to schools of vibrantly colored mutton snapper, black grouper, red snapper, wahoo, sailfish, kingfish, and several species of tuna. Almost any species of fish in South Florida is available in the thousands of square miles surrounding this national park. Fishing around the Dry Tortugas is productive most of the year, with October through May being ideal for large mutton and red snapper fishing. The cooler waters bring these fish much shallower than normal, and they put up quite a fight when hooked.
Fishing is allowed within the park boundaries, as long as private boaters file for a boat permit beforehand at Garden Key. Both guided trips and solo anglers are welcome to fish within the National Park waters. For more information on additional regulations, visit the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s website.
Wyoming is an angler’s dream, with miles and miles of rivers and streams to pursue beautiful native cutthroat trout, arctic grayling, and other freshwater game fish species. The waters of Grand Teton National Park also hold healthy populations of brown, rainbow, and endemic fine-spotted Snake River cutthroat trout. These freshwater game fish are undoubtedly a major attraction for anglers and wildlife in this region — as it’s not uncommon to fish alongside otters, eagles, and bears. Fishing in Grand Teton National Park typically peaks in the summer and fall months. Many anglers focus on fishing for cutthroat trout between Jackson Lake and Palisade Reservoir. Hiking up tributary streams will help you avoid crowds and immerse yourself in this wilderness. Be sure to always take proper precautions for bear safety when fishing in Grand Teton National Park.
Anglers may encounter cutthroat trout, brown trout, lake trout, brook trout, mountain whitefish, and other species, depending on the season. You can catch trout year-round in the Tetons, although heavy snowfall and spring runoff will limit your access points to the area’s waterways. Thus, it’s best to wait until spring runoff subsides to plan your fishing trip. The early season of May and June will yield fewer crowds, and the late season of September and October are great for experiencing some epic fishing as trout put on the feedbag before the bitter cold of winter sets in. For more information and local regulations, check out the Grand Teton National Park website.
Guided fishing trips within Grand Teton National Park are only allowed through authorized concessioners, such as River Range Adventures. If you are planning to legally fish within Grand Teton National Park, make sure you have a Wyoming fishing license first.
Crystalline blue-green water, snow-capped mountains, and one of the highest altitude populations of bears in North America are just a few natural wonders of Glacier National Park. The watershed surrounding Glacier and its towering peaks creates some of the best fishing in the country at elevations over 3,000 feet. Fishing on these waters is both incredibly scenic and highly rewarding for those willing to get off the beaten path.
The icy waters of the Middle Fork and North Fork of the Flathead River are home to Yellowstone cutthroat trout, rainbow trout, brown trout, brook trout, bull trout, and kokanee. There are no stocked fish in these waters in order to maintain the natural health of the ecosystem. Be advised that fishing for bull trout is illegal as they are endangered in Glacier National Park. Fishing is best done in the summer and fall when the rivers begin to settle after glacial melting subsides in late spring. In the winter months, ice fishing for whitefish and lake trout are popular targets as well - however, it may be difficult to access the park unless properly equipped or guided.
Guided fishing is only available through permitted fishing guides approved by the National Park. Solo anglers do not require a fishing license or permit to fish within park boundaries. Make sure to check local regulations, wildfire data, and weather patterns when planning your trip - or speak to your fishing guide about best practices for your Glacier National Park adventure.
Lying on the picturesque, rocky coastline of Downeast Maine, Acadia National Park combines the best of both worlds for both freshwater and saltwater anglers. The park also offers adventurers a rugged, mountainous landscape to explore. There are also a number of quaint, New England coastal communities to explore for dining, lodging, and other amenities.. Acadia National Park encompasses Mount Desert Island — which offers some of the most challenging and rewarding fly fishing in the area. Given the cold water temperatures, this environment is a well-suited habitat for 29 species of freshwater fish, as well as coastal striped bass, bluefish, bluefin tuna, haddock, and cod.
The lakes, ponds, and accessible beaches of Acadia National Park provide ample fishing opportunities for both fly and spin anglers. Pursue the landlocked salmon and brook native to this park in Long Pond, or grab a bass bug in the heat of summer and fish for largemouth and smallmouth bass. Brown trout, lake trout, and chain pickerel are also found in Acadia’s freshwater lakes and streams. Summer and fall are great seasons to target native salmon and trout. Saltwater anglers can try their hand fishing oceanside for mackerel, bluefish, and striped bass.
Guided fishing is allowed by permitted guides within Acadia National Park boundaries, and solo anglers are required to obtain a fishing license from the State of Maine. Alternatively, if you find yourself coming from the Portland area, you can fish with Capt. Eric Wallace in Casco Bay for an excellent day on the water!
A natural gem dotted with coral reefs, mangrove forests, and ocean views, Biscayne National Park is an inshore explorer's dream fishery. Nestled between the vastness of the Everglades and the bustling cultural hub of Miami, you can fill a day easily in this tropical paradise. Biscayne Bay National Park is also the largest marine sanctuary in the U.S. National Parks System, with more than 172,000 acres of natural beauty.
Biscayne Bay is regarded as one of the best fishing spots in Florida. The crystal-clear waters here are home to bonefish, tarpon, permit, sharks, snapper, and grouper - just to name a few of its many game fish species. The park is a popular starting point for tarpon fishing and bonefishing in South Florida. The peak season for these species is typically March through June. Biscayne Bay is a marine sanctuary protected by natural barrier islands to its east, and its healthy fish population has many regulations as well.
Fishing within the waters and flats of Biscayne Bay is legal. Try a guided charter with Capt. Honson Lau or Endless Flat Charters for a proper Biscayne Bay fishing experience. If you’re angling solo in the National Park, a valid Florida fishing license is required to fish these waters. Visitors can also dive for lobster during the open season with proper permitting. Check here for the most up-to-date rules and regulations. Biscayne Bay also is surrounded by excellent deep sea fishing experiences out of Miami, and unique angling out of the Everglades National Park.
Though Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the most visited U.S. National Park, it still yields excellent fishing to visitors, and harbors one of the last flourishing wild brook trout populations in the American East. One of the joys of fishing in this area is the abundance of locations to fish, from the serene lakeshore of Fontana Lake to remote, high-elevation brooks — “blue lines” on the map, ripe for hiking in to explore. This area is bathed in precipitation year-round, and flows at high altitudes remain relatively consistent. Great Smoky Mountains National Park is a great fishing spot for novice and experienced anglers alike.
A multitude of streams stemming from the mountains are home to large brook, rainbow trout, and brown trout, as well as smallmouth bass and rockbass. The Little Pigeon River, Abrams Creek, Oconaluftee River, and Deep Creek are just a few notable fishing locations to seek these fish out using fly fishing gear or light tackle. Late summer to early fall are great times to target these fish, though anglers can find moderate success year-round.
Guided fishing trips are allowed through authorized guide services with proper permitting. If you’re fishing alone, you can fish within park boundaries with a valid fishing license from either North Carolina or Tennessee.
It goes without saying that Yellowstone National Park is highly esteemed for its excellent fishing opportunities. Encompassing sections of 3 states — Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming — this park is in prime trout fishing country with rich, oxygenated waters and a thriving natural ecosystem. As one of the most visited national parks in the nation, the waters within Yellowstone’s park gates can get crowded unless you know where to look. A great way to see the park properly is to backpack up the many streams in search of fishing holes, but be sure to check with a Yellowstone park ranger for local conditions and regulations.
Yellowstone Lake is a popular spot to seek native cutthroat and non-native lake trout. The lake holds healthy numbers of fish and sits against beautiful mountain views. Yellowstone Lake is also the largest lake above 7,000 feet in the United States.
Are you looking for your trophy Yellowstone cutthroat trout? The waters within the Lamar Valley and Soda Butte Creek are ideal habitats for these monster fish. Known for readily feeding on a well-presented dry fly, streamer, or nymph rig, these fish are quite striking and native only to waters around Yellowstone. As a reminder, these fish are allowed for catch-and-release only.
Guided trips are available through permitted outfitters and guides, though if you are planning to fish in park boundaries without a guide, anglers 16 years or older must have a Yellowstone National Park Fishing Permit. Check with your guide about best practices while fishing, and how to target these fish properly. If you are looking to fish outside of park boundaries, Capt. Braden Powell offers guided float trips on the infamous Madison River.
When discussing world-class fishing destinations in Alaska, Katmai National Park & Preserve is frequently mentioned, and for a good reason. This volcanic area is esteemed for its world-class angling experiences and requires a chartered boat or air taxi to even enter this wilderness. Untethered from society and teeming with a healthy fish population, it’s hard to believe fishing like this is possible in a U.S. territory.
Arctic char, dolly varden, arctic grayling, lake trout, trophy pike, huge rainbow trout, and five species of native Pacific salmon make this a world-renowned fishing destination. Summer and early fall are great times of year to target these species though travel and accommodation get sold out well in advance so be sure to secure your spot early.
Guided fishing trips are permitted within park boundaries by approved angling outfitters. However, if you are fishing without a guide, an Alaska sport fishing license is required to fish within Katmai National Park & Preserve.
The rivers and vistas of Rocky Mountain National Park are iconically Western. While this is one of the most popular national parks in the nation, it boasts incredible fly fishing opportunities for beginners and experienced anglers with the added bonus of easy access and incredible mountain views.
Fishing is ideal between July and August for native trout, so be sure to book your guides and travel in advance of peak season. Brown, brook, rainbow, and cutthroat trout are found in Rocky Mountain National Park’s waters, where they feed on sculpin, darters, and the 100s of species of insect larvae that hatch from the rivers each season.
One of the best ways to have a true Colorado fishing experience is to hike one of the many trails in the park upstream towards quieter waters. Fishpacking, or backpacking, is a great way to see the park with fewer crowds and find solitude in this wilderness. Guided fishing trips are permitted in Rocky Mountain National Park by approved outfitters. If you’re planning to fish without a guide, a valid Colorado fishing license is required to fish within park boundaries.
Perfect for trail-savvy, adventurous anglers, Wrangell-St. Elias National Park & Preserve is one of the most remote and unscathed natural areas in the country with few visitors. Cast your line into these coastal waters which feed the Pacific while watching glacier chunks crash into the ocean, or find unmolested fish in an alpine 5000 feet above sea level.
Stretching from the Pacific Ocean to Canada’s Yukon Territory in southwestern Alaska, Wrangell-St Elias’ waters are home to healthy populations of arctic grayling, arctic char, brown trout, rainbow trout, pacific salmon species, burbot, and much more. Fed by two of Alaska’s largest watersheds, the wide open landscape unfolds itself into the Pacific and is dotted with many prime fishing areas with little pressure.
While most of the park is only accessible via air taxi, private charter, or otherwise, the fishing is unmatched. Fishing guides are permitted within Wrangell-St. Elias as long as they have proper permitting through the Alaska Department of Fish & Game, and fishing solo requires a valid Alaska Fishing license. If you’re looking for a truly unforgettable and challenging fishing experience, place Wrangell-St. Elias National Park & Preserve on your list of fishing trips.
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