By Browning Hemric
What’s better than a weekend fishing trip? Not much in our book. Those of you who live in the Southeast region of the United States are in a prime area for amazing fishing spots. Whether you like rivers and creeks or the open ocean, the Southeast has something to offer for any avid fisherman or fisherwoman! We’ve put a list together of what we think are the top 10 best fishing spots of this unique region.
1. Pamlico Sound, North Carolina
We usually like to start our top 10s with some local flavor, and the Pamlico Sound is most definitely a contender. The Sound is the largest lagoon along the North American East Coast, and is part of a network of other lagoon estuaries. A "sound" is a regional term for a saltwater lagoon and a wide variety of saltwater fish thrive happily in this area of the North Carolina Outer Banks. The Pamlico Sound offers different eco systems and fishing environments for any angler to enjoy. Here you’ll find an abundance of Speckled Trout, Redfish, Flounder, Striped Bass, Gray Trout, Spadefish, Sheapshead, Tautogs, Bluefish and Spanish Mackerel.
2. South Toe River, North Carolina
If you’re more of a flying fishing “River Runs Through It” kind of fisherman, the South Toe here in North Carolina is the river you’ve been dreaming about. The South Toe headwaters start near Mt Mitchell, the highest peak east of the Mississippi at 6,684 feet above sea level. The river then splits into three clear and cold sections that offer deep pools, boulder fields and areas of long and broad shoals. The scenery around the South Toe is gorgeous, and a perfect representation of what the North Carolina mountains are like. Here you’ll find beautiful Wild Brown, Rainbow and native Brook Trout enjoying the good life of a fish.
3. Florida Keys, Florida
No top 10 fishing spot list of the southeast can be complete without mentioning the Florida Keys. There are tons of different watery environments to explore in this region depending on what type of species you’re looking to hook and how you like to fish. There are flat and sandy areas, offshore reefs, and wrecks fish like to play hide and seek in, as well as deep sea fishing if that’s more your style. The year round warm and tropical temperatures and beautiful scenery all add to this Floridian fishing experience. With a 125mile long arc of islands to that make up the keys to explore, there’s a trophy fish for any angler. Here you’ll delight in Bonefish, Redfish, Yellowtail, Barracuda, and in the deep sea for Dolphinfish, Marlin, and other open-water predators.
4. Lake Hartwell, Georgia/South Carolina
If you’re a Bassmaster, then Lake Hartwell is your home away from home. This gorgeous 56,000 acre lake is cherished and renowned by anglers from all states across the southeast and the US. With over 962 miles of shoreline to explore, this area offers endless camping and fishing spots. Fish weighing in at 60 lbs have been caught on Lake Hartwell, but the most common range up to 20lbs. There are lots of environments to explore on Lake Hartwell and many species you can hook, but the most popular being the Striped Bass. You’ll also find Bream, Catfish, Smallmouth Bass, Walleye, and Largemouth Bass swimming in the lake’s depths.
5. Louisiana Bayou, Louisiana
The Bayou is unique in that it offers anglers both freshwater and saltwater settings to fish. This region of Louisiana offers wetlands, shallows, waterways and off-shore and deep sea fishing into the Gulf of Mexico. The Mississippi River and the Red River feed a system of smaller rivers, lakes, bayous and streams that criss cross and meander their way across the watery landscape. New Orleans and Shreveport often host the Bassmaster Classic which is a popular fishing tournament. This area truly has it all for any fishing junkie - freshwater fishing from the marshes, or saltwater fishing from the deck of your boat. Here you’ll find a wide variety of species including Striped Bass, Bowfin, Catfish, Largemouth Bass in freshwater and Chub, Grouper, Flounder and Snapper in saltwater settings.
6. Lake Guntersville, Alabama
Another popular lake for Bass enthusiasts, Lake Guntersville offers 70,000 acres of watery wonderland to skip work on Friday and delight in. This area is host to many of the top fishing tournaments including the Bassmaster fishing series. If you’re a novice fisherman, Lake Guntersville is home to many local guide services you can hire for trips and instruction. There’s also ample boat launches and rentals available. This is a giant body of water with tons of fish just waiting to test out your new super fancy bait or fly! Here you’ll be hookin Largemouth Bass (of course!) and also Bluegill, Redear Sunfish, Crappie, Sauger and Catfish.
7. Little River, Tennessee
The Little River area is located within the Great Smoky Mountain region of Tennessee. This beautiful area offers great fishing destinations for anglers of all skill levels and varieties. There are over 800 miles of fishable trout streams in Great Smoky Mountains National Park alone. There are beautiful mountain streams here to explore, and many who love to fly fish enjoy the Little River for it’s accessibility and multiple entry points. Wild fish live here, meaning they can grow as big as their little fins and hearts can take them. Unlike a stocked fish standard size, don’t be surprised if you manage to hook a whopper of a trophy trout here! The Little River is home to wild Rainbow, Brown and Brook Trout.
8. Smith Mountain Lake, Virginia
Smith Mountain Lake is a 20,600-acre lake located near Roanoke in Bedford and Franklin counties in the great state of Virginia. This reservoir is not as well known but is one of Virginia’s premier fishing destinations. The lake is a part of Smith Mountain Lake State Park, and offers many accessible boat ramps and marinas, as well as picturesque fishing piers. Smith Mountain Lake has hosted the ESPN Bassmaster Elite Series tournament for several years. There are many coves to explore along the lake with less boater traffic and shallower water that Largemouth Bass love to hide in. Striped Bass are also found here, as well as Crappie, Catfish, Sunfish and Shad.
9. Toledo Bend Reservoir, Texas/Louisiana
The Toledo Bend Reservoir was named the #1 bass fishing lake in the country for 2015 by Bassmaster Magazine. It’s not hard to see why with over 185,000 acres 1,200 miles of shoreline for fisherman to explore. Toledo Bend straddles the Louisiana and Texas border, and the Toldeo Bend Dam was created and began operation in 1969. This area is a haven for freshwater fish with many trees and stumps in it’s depths which create homes and environments for fish to thrive in. Though Bass fishing is by far the most popular activity on Toledo Bend, anglers will also find other species such as Crappie, Bream, White Bass, Striped Bass and the ever popular Southern Catfish.
10. Toccoa River, Georgia
The Toccoa River flows out of Lake Blue Ridge just east of Toccoa, GA. To fish here, your best bet is a drift boat, canoe, or kayak for covering the most ground. The trout you’ll find here are stocked, but they have flourished and many have grown quite large. There are upper and lower sections of the river to explore above and below the lake. There’s around 16 miles of fishable river to explore here, with ample opportunity to hook a glorious Rainbow or Brown Trout. There are also several small tributaries that are home to wild Trout.
Any of these fishing destinations are perfect for your next trip. Whether you want to cruise the Bonita run in the Gulf of Mexico near the bayou, or hook a champion Largemouth Bass while floating a top the waters of a good ole southern lake, these 10 options will give any angler the next fishing trip of their dreams.