Fishing Destinations

Ever-changing and admittedly incomplete, this space provides quick-hit looks at some of Jeff Samsel's favorite fishing destinations. Locations, which are listed alphabetically, range from regions to rivers and lakes to specific fish camps and lodges. Follow links for more information and remember to check back regularly.

Blacks Camp - South Carolina
Located at the mouth of the canal that links lakes Marion and Moultrie (Santee Cooper lakes), Blacks Camp serves up year-round opportunities for cats, crappie, largemouths, stripers, bluegills and shellcrackers. Family run, Blacks offers everything from lodge rooms to fresh bait to guide service to great information about what has been biting in what parts of both lakes, plus great country cooking. The birthplace of landlocked striped bass and home of the long-standing world record channel catfish, Santee Cooper is best known today for steady catches of quality blue catfish with occasional giants blues and flatheads in the mix. The canal also has produced South Carolina's last three state-record shellcrackers, one of which stood for several years as the world record.

Blue Bank Resort - Tennessee
Formed two centuries ago when massive earthquakes caused the Mississippi River to jump its channel and to flood a series of lowland basins, Reelfoot sort of looks like a giant farm ponds. It also fishes like a giant farm pond, with giant bream, chunky largemouths and super abundant channel cats and crappie, all of which relate to visible cover. Blue Bank Resort, which is perfectly position beside the lake's biggest and deepest basin, equips fishermen with everything from lodging to wonderful food to bait to boats that are well suited for navigating the lake's stump-filled waters in its all-inclusive fishing packages. Blue Bank guides know Reelfoot like no one else, and they happily share good fishing information with guests who are headed out on their own.

Historic Deadwood - South Dakota
OK. Most of the fishing isn't right in Deadwood, but this historic Wild West town makes an incredible base camp for an outing to any of the cool little mountain lakes that dot the rugged Black Hills region and yield great fishing for a host of fish species, including various panfish and trout. Trout, which are the main attraction, include rainbows, browns, lakers, brook trout and splake. The lakes are all different, but fine fine fishing opportunities and striking scenery are universal. I've only fished through ice in this area, but the same lakes would lend themselves perfectly to fishing from a canoe or float tube, with tumbling trout streams that drain the same mountains adding another fun element.

Gaston's White River Resort - Arkansas

More than half a century old, famous for its pink cabins, and spread along 2 miles of Arkansas' legendary White River, Gaston's provides everything you need for a trout-centered vacation. Depending on water levels, you can wade or bank-fish from right behind the cabins; however, Gaston's also offers a fleet of rental boats and a team great guides who can help you find fast action from heavily stocked rainbows or target a trophy brown. Gaston's shore lunches are unparalleled in my experience, but don't let the lunches keep you from eating dinner in the restaurant, which stretches out over the river with huge picture windows and has a decor that you really just have to see for yourself.

Niagara River - New York
The Lower Niagara River, from a few miles downstream of the river namesake waterfall to the Niagara Bar, where the river feeds Lake Ontario, provides year 'round opportunities for excellent fishing, with the species mix, spots and techniques changing with the seasons. Cool months, generally speaking, are best for brown trout and steelhead, while the warm months are better for smallmouth bass. Giant muskies and walleyes also use the lower river at times. The delightful riverfront town of Lewiston provides direct access to the best fishing in the river, and the Buffalo section of Lake Erie, which May be the world's finest destination for trophy smallmouth bass in the spring, is only about 1/2 hour's drive from Lewiston.

Penobcot River - Maine
Angry-seeming smallmouth bass that cannot resist topwater plugs are the main attraction on Maine's Penobscot River, where Doug Teel of Northridge Outfitters leads clients by jetboat and runs a fishing and hunting lodge. However, don't forget about the "Maine" attractions -- big fresh lobsters, moose and black bears sightings, separation from the rest of the world in a generator-powered backwoods lodge...  A large river, the Penobscot offers a mix of shoals and gentle runs as winds through thick woods. Its clear but dark waters are loaded with thick-sided and aggressive smallmouth bass.

Pickwick Lake - Alabama
Pickwick is most famous nationally for its heavyweight smallmouth bass, and that's certainly understandable; however, this big impoundment of the Tennessee River is currently one of the hottest largemouth lakes around, and I've enjoyed great days over the years fishing for everything from slab crappie in creek arms to stripers, hybrids and white bass in the Wilson Lake tailwater. Adding appeal, the Muscle Shoals area is a true fishing community. Enjoying the outdoors is a way of like in that part of Alabama, and folks who run local businesses obviously appreciate the value of visiting fishermen. Folks are always welcoming in the Shoals area, they want to know if the fish are biting well, and someone usually has a tip to offer about how and where to catch a few more fish.

Pymatuning State Park - Pennsylvania
Lake Pymatuning is a true fishing lake, with crappie, walleyes, largemouths, smallmouths, catfish and more serving up great angling opportunities. The lake is shallow and full of cover, so the fishing tends to be fun and simple, with the fish hanging out where it looks like they should hang out. Pymatuning's banks are mostly public, with fabulous access for shore-fishing or wading in several areas. Boats are limited to 20 hp motors, which makes this an ideal lake to fish if you only have a small boat or if you don't own a boat at all. The state park offers cabins and hundreds of campsites that are convenient to a ramp to and to some of the best bank access areas.

Venice - Louisiana
Located as far South as you can travel into the Gulf of Mexico on a spit of land, Venice puts you in the heart of the best fishing country in the fertile Mississippi River Delta. Quite a few of my favorite fishing days ever have occurred in the marshes or along the jetties around Venice, with big and powerful redfish attacking topwater lures or bulldogging subsurface offerings and serving up doubles and triples. Of course, inshore waters also offer big speckled trout, voracious jack crevalles, sometimes-abundant sharks and much more. I won't even tough the offshore stuff, which is supposed to be outstanding, because I've spent all my Venice days in the Marsh. Woodland Plantation, which is about an hour out of Venice along the same highway, offers first-rate Cajun cuisine and a seriously comfortable place to rest your head at the end of  a long day on the water and guide service by Capt. David Iverson.

Vermilion River - Minnesota
Feisty and seldom-pressured smallmouth bass are the main attraction on Northern Minnesota's Vermilion River, which mostly  cuts between rice fields and northwoods forests, but occasionally courses steep rocky gorges. A light canoe, which can be portaged around rapids and falls, is the ideal craft for the Vermilion, which runs wild and beautiful and serves up fast action throughout the summer. Aggressive northern pike and occasional largemouths and walleyes add to the mix, but fish will be mean smallmouth bass that absolutely cannot resist a topwater plug. Guide Billy Rosner does much of  his spring and summer fishing for walleyes and muskies in Lake Vermilion, which the river flows out of, but the river provides the setting for Rosner's favorite summer fishing trips.


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  3. Nice list but what about Texas?