Some of Our Favorite Freshwater Fish to Catch
People fish not only for the food but also for the fun of it. Part of the reason we all love fishing is to experience the thrill of a hard-fighting fish. There are thousands of freshwater fish worldwide, but some are more exciting to catch than others. Perhaps it's the rarity, size, or difficulty to catch them, but the factors are endless. Here are our top five favorites to catch.
#1 – Cutthroat Trout
Trout are one of the most popular types of fish with anglers. They are found in freshwater streams, rivers, lakes, ponds, and even in some cases, in saltwater. Trout are an exciting fish to catch because they can put up a fight. No freshwater fishing goals list would be complete without some species of trout. We picked the Cutthroat Trout because it has a recognizable orangey-red jaw stripe and is a particularly resistant little guy. He will fight you every step of the way.
If you want to go find him, you'll need to head over by the Rocky Mountains. You'll discover Cutthroat trout in rivers and smaller streams from the Southern United States to as far north as Alaska. Don't use bait, though— that's usually not allowed, as the trout will then go straight to the hook. You'll want to opt for fly fishing. Which, if you've never tried your hand at it, can be a delightful world full of challenges. It really opens up your world to a whole new way of fishing.
Cutthroat trout are usually opportunistic feeders. They mainly eat aquatic insects when they're young and even as adults in some habitats and with some species.
#2 – Striped Bass
Fishing for a Striped Bass is not for the faint of heart. These guys are beasts. Striped Bass are notoriously tricky fish to catch. You have to figure out what works for your particular situation. Striped Bass fishing is a great way to get in touch with nature, your own mental processes, and, more importantly, what the dang Striped Bass is thinking.
Striped Bass will take several live and fresh baits, sandworms, herring, bluegills, worms, crayfish, bucktails jigs, silver spoons, and sassy shad baits, with the last being an excellent bait for freshwater fishing. They will hit on most live bait that is smaller than them in size. The key is Live and Fresh bait. If you need more aspirational goals than just catching a Striper, try for the record. The biggest striped Bass is just under 82lbs.
#3 – Chinook Salmon
The Chinook Salmon, one of North America's most iconic fish, dwells in lakes and rivers of Alaska and all down the West Coast of North America. For thousands of years, these fish have been a primary food source for many indigenous cultures in the region. The total number of Chinook Salmon captured in the wild in 2010 was 1.4 million! It's the largest species of Pacific salmon, and its range covers all of Alaska and all down the West Coast to California.
According to the 2017 stock assessment, the Eastern North Pacific Far North Migrating stock is not overfished and not subject to overfishing. These are the Alaskan variety, but in 2020, two other populations of Chinook salmon were listed as endangered, and seven were listed as threatened under the ESA.
But not our King Salmon. King or Chinook Salmon feed primary on other fish species, avoiding smaller foods such as insects and small fish. Some experts recommend using specific colors such as green or blue. Once you've fought the King in, you're in for an absolute delectable feast.
#4 – Alligator Gar
This prehistoric-looking animal will make most a little timid to mess with it, but it's a fun fight. This species' remains date from a million years ago, so it's called a "living fossil." What's really cool is the Native Americans used this fish's strong scales as arrowheads and shields. Now Alligator Gars hang out in rivers of the Southern United States. Terrorizes inattentive bystanders with its alligator-looking, name-giving snout. It's not a reptile, but that doesn't make this fishless imposing. It's up to 6 feet long and weighs up to 330lbs; it can be enjoyable to mess with!
It feeds on a wide range of prey, and its diet depends on its size and location. Fish make up the vast majority of its diet, but it eats just about anything. If you're up to the challenge, just be aware of those fangs. They'll catch an arm really quickly if you're not careful.
#5 —The Sturgeon
And last but not least, The Sturgeon. This prehistoric beast makes most other fish look like toys. There aren't many fish that can match the sheer power of a giant sturgeon. You combine that with crazy movement that's a fun ride for any angler, new or old. They range along with the Atlantic Coast from the Gulf of Mexico to Newfoundland. Still, they are also in the Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence, Missouri, and Mississippi Rivers. It's not uncommon for them to jump from the water the entire length of their body several times during a fight.
Fighting a sturgeon takes all the stamina an angler can muster. Some fights last for hours with multiple people taking turns while The Sturgeon below barely breaks a sweat. Your average rod and reel won't be enough to tango with sturgeon. You'll need a stout rod with a solid backbone and a sturdy reel spooled with at least a 30 to 50-pound test.
When fishing in the tropics, the Arctic, or anywhere else, there's always a fish species that will excite you. I hope these get you excited about all the freshwater options out there. All you need is your trusty equipment and the excitement of fishing. With enough patience and discipline, you might nab one of these top five freshwater fish. Be sure to bring an ice chest aboard your boat and consider chowing down on a few of these fish for dinner. I'm sure you guys have some favorites to catch. Let us know what your hardest fight was down in the comments.