Eight Aquatic Havens for the Angler in Your Life

Katherine RivardPursuits
National park ranger teaching fly fishing at Saint Croix National Scenic Riverway
Saint Croix National Scenic Riverway —NPS

Rivers, lakes, creeks, and oceans are historic and natural paradises for skilled fishermen and novices alike. Fishing in national parks provides a calming way to soak in majestic views at a slower pace. Watch the water ripple or the current sweep past as you rest beside the shore at these eight national parks with excellent fishing opportunities.

Prehistoric Bones and… and Fish

Home to the Green and Yampa rivers, Dinosaur National Monument is a favorite spot for whitewater rafting. These rivers also create miles of rugged river canyons and the perfect spot for fishing. Take delight in this park’s many fishing opportunities, but be aware of the four native fish that are endangered. Before or after your trip to the rivers, head to a visitor’s center or the Quarry Exhibit Hall to learn more about the dinosaurs that once called this area home.

The Mississippi of the East

A man standing in a lake fly fishing at Upper Delaware Scenic & Recreational River
National Park Service

Funny to think that a place so peaceful and beautiful can also be so exciting! As the longest and one of the cleanest rivers in the eastern U.S., the Upper Delaware River has long been a favorite for recreational activities. Winding between New York and Pennsylvania, the river is filled with fish, ranging from walleye to American eels. There are many access points to the river throughout the park, making boating another popular way to enjoy the water. Given Upper Delaware Scenic & Recreational River’s location in two states, be sure to have the correct fishing license, then grab your pole and get fishing.

Trout Galore in the Blue Ridge Province

A park ranger demonstration fly fishing at a booth at Catoctin Mountain Park

Fly fishing demonstration

National Park Service

The first creek in Maryland to be designated as a fly-fishing only stream, and then as the state’s first catch-and-return trout stream, Big Hunting Creek in Catoctin Mountain Park has long been a fishing destination for anglers. Three trout species spawn in the stream, all of which must be released if caught. Arrive early for some morning fishing while the fish are still nibbling. Then spend the afternoon hiking or horseback riding through the park’s lush forests.

Some Like It Cold

A school of herring swimming at Sitka National Historical Park in Alaska

A school of herrings at Sitka National Historical Park

Bethany Goodrich/NPS

Alaska’s rivers mirror the state in general: wild and beautiful. The Indian River is no exception. It has long been an integral part of life for those who inhabited the area, beginning in the mountains north of the park, continuing into the Sitka Sound. Today, visitors can also enjoy fishing in Sitka National Historical Park’s Indian River, though be sure to follow all regulations as this incredible waterway is an integral part of the local spawning activities of various species. This is just one of several parks to fish in America’s northernmost state.

First-Class Fishing on the Border

A haven for water lovers, Amistad National Recreation Area is perfect for boating, paddling, scuba diving, and fishing! Within the U.S. portion of the International Amistad Reservoir (the park is split between the U.S. and Mexico), Texas fishing regulations apply, while if you head into Mexican territory, you’ll need to have a Mexican fishing license. This park is no stranger to anglers. Fit with fish cleaning stations and boat launch ramps, and the destination of several fishing club tournaments, this is an excellent spot to cast a line.

Streams, Meadows, and Trout

A caught fish held in a hand at Valles Caldera National Preserve
National Park Service

Imagine pools and overhanging banks filled with thousands of trout formed from meandering rivers. Quiet grassy mountain meadows abound creating a peaceful serenity in a part of New Mexico that once witnessed an incredible volcanic eruption. This setting lies waiting for those who visit Valles Caldera National Preserve, ready to try their hand at fly fishing. Visit year-round to take advantage of the fishing opportunities alone, or contact one of the permitted fishing guides to plan a pleasant day trip. The park’s streams never freeze, making this a perfect spot to fish all year long before hiking or snowshoeing, depending on the weather.

The Best of Southern Appalachia

Tucked in the Southern Appalachian’s forests and filled with waterfalls, pools, and canyons rims, Little River Canyon National Preserve is a beautiful spot for fishing in Alabama. The Little River is home to many fish, including the Redeye Bass and the endangered Blue Shiner. Boating is not allowed, largely to help protect the Blue Shiner, so expect a quiet spot free from the hum of a distant boat motor. Coming or leaving the park, be sure to also coast along the Canyon Rim Drive to travel beside the rim of the canyon and soak up the stunning scenery.

Take the Bait and Head to the Midwest

A man holding up a fish he caught while fly fishing on a boat at Saint Croix National Scenic Riverway
National Park Service

Formed from the Namekagon and St. Croix rivers, Saint Croix National Scenic Riverway includes over 200 miles of rushing waters, moving quickly through the forests of Wisconsin and Minnesota. The park’s clean waters are recognized nationally for their brown and brook trout and smallmouth bass fisheries. Check in advance of your visit to learn where fishing is legal, and then enjoy these waters, filled with catfish, carp, walleyes, northern pike, and more. Once there, keep an eye out for the diverse wildlife that call this park home, from eagles to raccoons and everything in between. 

Though these stunning settings create peaceful fishing getaways amongst mesmerizing landscapes, always be sure to check the regulations and permitting details for each park before preparing your bait. Once you’ve received your permit and selected your bait, you’re ready to enjoy your national parks at a slower pace. Next time you opt for a #FindYourPark/#EncuentraTuParque adventure, consider leaving the bike and boots behind and grab your fishing rod instead!


I think you should also think about protecting fisheries in more urbanized parks. I avidly fish the Cuyahoga Valley National Park including the Cuyahoga River. Five to eight years ago I could always wade the river and catch 5 to 10 smallmouth bass in a few hours. This year I have yet to catch a fish in 5 trips. I believe the river is now over fished, especially with the boom in kayak fishing. Many of the smaller ponds have suffered the same fate. I would support a change to the regulations to be similar to Lily Lake in Rocky Mt. National Park - catch & return, artificial lures only, barbless hooks.

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