Your Complete Guide to the Appalachian Trail in Southwest Virginia

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Ask almost any thru-hiker, and they’ll tell you, the 170 miles of the Appalachian Trail in Southwest Virginia are among the highlights of the trip. From the leafy banks of Whitetop Laurel Creek to the cloud-nestled high country of Mount Rogers to the ridgelines above Burkes Garden, Southwest Virginia is home to some of the most memorable portions of the legendary 2,190 mile footpath. Beyond the scenery, the region is also renowned for celebrating the culture of thru-hiking, famed for welcoming towns and kindly trail angels.

Overview

The Appalachian Trail saunters into Southwest Virginia from the Cherokee National Forest in Tennessee, crossing the state line just about four miles south of the town of Damascus. After moseying directly through the heart of the trekker-friendly town, the trail meanders into the into the 200,000 acre Mount Rogers National Recreation Area, part of the massive Jefferson National Forest. Once within the confines of the Jefferson National Forest, the footpath traipses through the lake-anchored Beartree Recreation Area, before entering the high country of Mount Rogers, the realm of panoramic bald peaks, montane forests, and pony-trod meadows.

In the high country, the trail skirts Virginia’s loftiest peak, 5,729 foot Mount Rogers, before snaking through a corner of Grayson Highlands State Park. After descending from the high country, the trail continues through the Jefferson National Forest, veering just seven miles from the hiker-friendly town of Marion. About 35 miles beyond Marion, the trail treats hikers to a bird’s-eye view of pastoral Burke’s Garden—Virginia’s loftiest valley and largest historic district—courtesy of the vantage point provided at Chestnut Knob. Just before meandering out of Southwest Virginia, the trail climbs Pearis Mountain to one of the footpath’s most iconic viewpoints, the rock outcrop dubbed Angel’s Rest, before descending to the New River, one of the oldest waterways on Earth.

You don’t have to be a thru-hiker to enjoy the Appalachian Trail in Southwest Virginia. Choose a scenic section for a day hike, or play a multi-day backpacking trip in the region. Here are just a few of the highlights to explore.

Abingdon and Damascus

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The Appalachian Trail Days is celebrated in Southwest Virginia every spring.

Waldo Jaquith

After the Appalachian Trail crosses into Southwest Virginia from Tennessee, one of the first stops is Damascus. Located 465 miles from the trail’s southern terminus, the town is an alluring haven for weary thru-hikers, with plenty of creature comforts, including places to load up on maps and repair or replace battered gear, like Sundog Outfitter and Mt. Rogers Outfitters.

Just twenty minutes northwest of Damascus is its sister city of Abingdon, which is an excellent base camp for anyone exploring the region. The two cities are connected by the Virginia Creeper Trail, another spectacular option for hiking, running and cycling. (Take a shuttle to the trail’s start at Whitetop Station and enjoy a mostly downhill ride all the way back to Abingdon.) Take advantage of Abingdon’s restaurants, many of which focus on locally produced products, like Jack’s 128 Pecan. After a day on the trail, a craft brew from the Wolf Hills Brewing Co. is a treat not to be missed.

In the spring, the Appalachian Trail Days festival features a rollicking, weekend-long celebration of the iconic footpath, featuring live music, tasty food, and vendor demos.

Mount Rogers High Country

A mishmash of airy Appalachian balds, highland spruce-fir forests, and mountain meadows nibbled by wild ponies, the high country of Mount Rogers is like no place else on the entire East Coast. Fortunately for thru-hikers, the Appalachian Trail offers one of the most spectacular routes through the vista-laden highlands. Besides the wandering ponies, the stunning upland realm supports a unique array of fauna, including Northern flying squirrels, pygmy salamanders, and high-elevation birds not encountered elsewhere in the state.

In the high country, the Appalachian Trail leads trekkers through the pristine Lewis Fork Wilderness and the trout-stream-braided Little Wilson Creek Wilderness, while also rambling past aesthetic gems like "The Scales," a vast alpine pasture that once functioned as a cattle-weighing station, and the braided cascades of Comers Creek Falls, a photo-worthy picnic stop.

Buzzard Rock on Whitetop Mountain

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Buzzard Rock features brilliant colors during the fall.

Virginia State Parks

Crowning a quintessential Appalachian bald, the panoramic crag on Whitetop Mountain dubbed Buzzard Rock is the fourth highest point in the entire state. Perched at 5,095 feet, the stack of rocks offers views of the ridgelines of Iron Mountain, the forest-shrouded summit of Mount Rogers, and weather-permitting, even 5,837 foot Grandfather Mountain in North Carolina.

Grayson Highlands State Park

Located in the heart of the Mount Rogers high country, Grayson Highlands State Park is a luxury-laden pitstop for thru-hikers, replete with perks like hot showers, fire-ring studded campsites, and a seasonal Country Store, perfect for grabbing treats for the trail. The park is also home to nearly 100 wild ponies, introduced to the park nearly a half-century ago to graze the highland balds and thwart reforestation. While the herd freely roams the park and adjacent Mount Rogers National Recreation Area, the sturdy ponies are regularly found grazing the upland meadows of Wilburn Ridge. Besides wild ponies and trailside amenities, boulder-strewn Grayson Highlands State Park is also a hotspot for climbers, loaded with more nearly 1,000 problems to tackle.

Partnership Shelter

One of the most-buzzed about shelters on the Appalachian Trail, the spacious Partnership Shelter has a reputation that precedes it—especially as a place hikers can order pizza on the trail, from the nearby town of Marion. Offering running water, and even a shower, the sturdy shelter is also a popular spot for socializing, especially following Appalachian Trail Days in the spring, when northbound thru-hikers pass the log-hewn lean-to on the path to Katahdin.

Burke’s Garden Overlook

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Burke’s Garden remains a bucolic time-capsule—and one of the state’s most unique historic districts.

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One of the best places to catch a glimpse of the stunning geological anomaly dubbed Burke’s Garden is from the Appalachian Trail, along Chestnut Knob above Walker Gap (marked by the Chestnut Knob shelter, at 4,409 feet). Nicknamed God’s Thumbprint, the high-elevation valley – sitting at 3,200 feet – is completely encircled by Garden Mountain, and was famously the top choice location for George Vanderbilt’s Biltmore Estate. Today, verdant Burke’s Garden remains a bucolic time-capsule, and one of the state’s most unique historic districts.

Practical Information

The Mount Rogers Appalachian Trail Club is tasked with managing about 60 miles of the Appalachian Trail in Southwest Virginia, beginning at the Tennessee border, and including section in the Mount Rogers National Recreation Area, the Jefferson National Forest, and Grayson Highlands State Park. The group is an invaluable source of information on the trail, and leads regular recreational hikes in the high country of Mount Rogers.

Maintained by the Southwest Virginia Citizen Science Initiative, the website High Lonesome Trails also provides detailed information on several regional sections of the Appalachian Trail and other hikes in Southwest Virginia.

For thru-hikers or day hikers, detailed maps of the Appalachian Trail in Southwest Virginia include National Geographic’s Trails Illustrated Map of the Mount Rogers High Country (which includes Grayson Highlands State Park), and the pair of maps available from the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, covering the Appalachian Trail in Southwest Virginia from the Tennessee border to the New River. So learn more and take advantage of one of the state’s most impressive outdoor resources.

Written by Malee Baker Oot for RootsRated Media in partnership with Abingdon.

Featured image provided by Virginia State Parks

5 Things Parents Should Know Before Choosing a Summer Camp

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Looking for a cure for the winter blues? Start making plans for the summer. Having something fun to look forward to — such as days off and family trips — can make those dreary days more bearable. One thing you'll want to add to your summer planning list is finding a great summer camp or two for your kids.

Even before leaves start appearing on the trees, many organizations begin announcing dates and enrollment for summer camp sessions. Get a jump start on the process with this guide to choosing an enriching summer activity, where your child will also have a blast.

First, know the best places to look

You may not be aware of the number of great summer day camps taking place around your community. Start with college campuses, parks and recreation departments, local school districts and churches. Be sure to tune in to nonprofits, like performing arts centers, museums and your local animal shelter or zoo. Finally, ask the other adults in your child's life for the inside scoop. The art teacher, soccer coach and scout leader may be in the know about the best camps in town.

Look for the immersive experience

When you think about it, "camp" is an odd word choice. But look at what sleep-away camp means to kids, and it makes sense. Yes, it's fun to sleep in a cabin and spend all day sailing, swimming and climbing. What's key is that these kids are immersed in a new reality that's different from the usual home and school routines. So when a local organization bills an activity a "camp," they promise an experience that lets your kid jump in and become a part of something. When choosing the right camp, look for that quality. Is there a clear theme or topic? Will kids be active and involved? Or is the "camp" just made up of a series of talks led by adults?

Make sure your child is on board

Consider your child's interests and how camp can make them stronger. Your play-acting child with a flair for drama will probably thrive and bloom at theater camp. However, if camp is a strategy to help them improve at something they struggle with, make sure the program is designed for these kids, or you're setting them up for a session of misery. After all, you wouldn't send your sports-loathing child to, say, a high-intensity wrestling camp, to make them more athletic.

Don't forget the fun factor

What makes camp truly memorable is having fun, so make sure the camp you're looking at takes fun seriously. For example, Blake Furlow, CEO of Bricks 4 Kidz, says kids keep coming back to their camps partly because these sessions bring building with LEGO Bricks to the next level of fun and exciting. But watching their enjoyment unfold during the camp is also massively rewarding. "Seeing the kids light up, get excited and make new connections during a Bricks 4 Kidz class is a heart-warming experience," Furlow says.

Consider longevity

When looking at various programs, a good question to ask is how long the camp has been around. New summer camp themes and programs can sound exciting and fresh, but it takes a few rounds to work out the kinks with any new organization. Choosing well-established programs with experienced leaders is one way to ensure that your child will get that worthwhile and fun experience with a new activity.

If you're looking for a camp experience from a trusted provider that fosters learning in STEM subjects, look for a Bricks 4 Kidz franchise in your community. Bricks 4 Kidz is celebrating its 10th anniversary of providing fun and enrichment for kids in schools and communities across the United States and beyond! At these camps, kids get to use LEGO Bricks along with specialized LEGO Technic pieces like gears, axles and electric motors to build unique and exciting models to help kids explore engineering and architecture — while having a blast doing it. To discover camps taking place in your area, visit Bricks4Kidz.com.

Written by Brandpoint for The Healthy Moms Magazine.

Featured image provided by Jonathan Petersson

A Guide to Keeping Last-Minute Travel Affordable

Keeping Last-Minute Travel Affordable

“Variety’s the very spice of life, that gives it all its flavour,” so wrote William Cowper in his 1785 poem, The Task, thus giving way to a phrase that would affix itself firmly to the modern lexicon. Of course he was wrong, for spontaneity is the true spice of life. That flavoursome fix of dropping all your conventions and winging it. Just Do It, as Dan Wieden’s iconic slogan goes.

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We Heart

Little can evoke the power of spontaneity like last minute travel. The finger on the map, the need for some sunshine to splash on your bones, or the want to ski the season’s last snowfall, whatever the motivation, taking momentary leave of the mental shackles that tie you to planned travel is a liberating experience. For regular travellers or once-a-year holidaymakers, the effects are the same: excitement and invigoration, a return to the primal essence that gives travel its desirability.

When all is said and done, you will only regret the things you didn’t do in life, with a last minute trip to a new or well tried-and-tested destination, there’s little can go wrong. Universally considered a cheap way to travel, the expenses of last minute excursions can soon mount—it is worth keeping these top tips in mind to make your last minute holiday as affordable as it is exhilarating …

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We Heart

Be flexible with your dates: an ideal situation for digital nomads and no-ties freelancers, should your schedule allow, you can save a ton of money by being flexible with your travel dates. When booking flights or hotels, days and weeks can vary greatly in price. Do your research in comparing both online before diving in at the deep end and making your booking. For obvious reasons, it’s often pricier to fly on a Friday and return on a Monday, so look into travelling mid-week instead, as it could save you some serious spending cash.

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We Heart

Go hand luggage only: You’ll often find with flights that the headline price seems reasonable, but soon be frustrated by the deluge of optional extras offered to you on the following screens. Before you know it, you’ll have paid out extra money just to be sitting with your travel buddy, enjoying an in-flight meal with extra leg room and luggage in the hold. Cut down on these extra costs by bringing your own snacks and taking only a cabin-sized bag on board. It may mean you have to cut down your holiday wardrobe, but it’s definitely worth it when you save a healthy chunk of cash that can be used on upping the design desirability stakes of your hotel instead. (And why not just take a book and enjoy a few hours apart from the travel companion you’ll be stuck to like glue for the coming days or weeks?)

Avoid staying in the city centre: Naturally, you won’t want to be too far from city attractions, but you also might want to avoid the epicentre of hustle and bustle too. If you’re heading to a city such as London, you’ll find the nightly rate increases astronomically for a hotel in Covent Garden, but look a little further afield in vibrant areas such as Stratford, Peckham, or Walthamstow, and you’re sure to find a more reasonable price per night. You’ll also be able to enjoy your travel experience like a local, so make sure you allow time to do your homework on the city’s emerging neighbourhoods. It’s always worth checking out different London hotel deals on a comparison website to weigh up your options and find accommodation that suits your needs and budget, searching with a map can help you pinpoint neighbourhoods that deliver on both style and savings.

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We Heart

Save on foreign currency: It might be tempting to tap and use your credit or debit card whilst you’re away, but you will need to bear in mind the fees associated with using your cards abroad. You’ll likely be charged for cash withdrawals on top of a commission fee for each purchase. Instead, think about seeking out the best currency deal and get your holiday money before you head off. You also want to avoid changing up your currency at the airport too, as the commission can be eye-wateringly high, meaning you won’t get as much bang for your buck. Savvy regular travellers might also want to consider signing up for a borderless bank account like N26, which can make travel purchases as cheap as those in your home country.

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Eat like a local: It goes without saying, the best spots to eat and drink whilst you’re abroad are wherever the locals are in abundance. Avoid the tourist traps and restaurants in popular areas, instead aiming to discover the backstreets and hidden gems that will astound your wallet as much as your stomach. If your hotel lays out a breakfast spread, make the most of it. Eat enough to see you through until the late afternoon, a hearty late lunch should mean you’re only forking out for one main meal a day, and you’ll be able to take advantage of cheaper lunchtime rates and special menu deals.

However you go about your last minute travels, it’s always worth remembering that pairing that intoxicating spontaneity with a few hours of research and a helping of common sense will ensure your experience is as rich in affordability as it is in much-needed stimulation.

Written by Amelie Jones for We Heart.

Featured image provided by We Heart

Weston Ski Track – Cross Country Skiing

Weston Ski Track

Intro

Weston Ski Track has great cross-country skiing for the whole family and beginners. Weston Ski Track offers a variety of trails. It has 9.3 miles of natural-snow trails, weather permitting, and 1.3 miles of trails in the snowmaking area. Here you will find four different tracks with various trail where you can enjoy, practice, and even take lessons on cross-country skiing without having to travel far from Boston. You won’t want to miss out on all the fun this place has to offer!

What Makes It Great

Weston Ski Track offers 1.5 miles of trails for a great cross-country skiing adventure in their snowmaking area. However, the trails expand to 9.3 miles of fun in their natural-snow trails with a good snow fall and with the help of their master groomers. When the entire ski area is open, there are four tracks in total. These tracks include John Hart Track, Red Tail Track, Coyote Track, and Fox Track. Each track is filled with different trails that loop and connect with one another. While on the tracks you can enjoy not only the fantastic activity of cross-country skiing, but also the beauty of the Charles River.

The track offers both adult and kid lessons. Adult lessons are 75 minutes classical or skate-skiing. During a classical lesson you will learn the basics of motions, turning, and negotiating small hills. During skate-skiing lessons you will learn the basics of weight transfer, edging, and V1 timing. There are also 75 minute kid lessons for age 6-10 where they will be introduced to the fun gliding on snow. Lessons are offered most weekends and holidays. Reservations recommended for the 10:30 am and 11:30 am lessons. Private lessons for children and adults are available as well. Weston Ski Track truly offers it all!

Who is Going to Love It

Families and friends will absolutely love cross-country skiing at Weston Ski Track. Skiers have four tracks to choose from and the various trail within them. The terrain in these tracks are fairly easy-moderate. Adding to the fun, the adult and kid lessons continue to make this place extremely beginner and family friendly. Or, if you want to learn in a more private setting, you can enjoy the private lessons offered by Weston Ski Track. There is truly something for everyone her and a lot to love about this place!

Directions, Parking, & Regulations

From Boston, Take the Mass Pike to exit 15. Stay left after the tollbooth. At the end of the ramp, turn left onto Park Road, following a sign for Route 16. Weston Ski Track is a quarter mile down the road on the left.

Hours are Monday through Thursday, 10 am to 9 pm, Friday 10 am to 6 pm, and Saturday and Sunday 9 am to 6 pm. Parking is free, however, lessons and trail passes are $33 for adults, $29 for children ages 13-16, and $20 for children ages 11-12.

 

Written by Danielle LeBlanc for RootsRated.

Featured image provided by Elizabeth Lloyd

Introducing the Beautiful, Barely Inhabited Island Off the Coast of Maine That You Need to Have on Your Travel Radar

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Though it sits just 10 miles off the mainland, Monhegan Island—whose name comes from an Algonquian word that means "out-to-sea island"—feels light years away from the hustle and bustle of the modern world. The island was once known as a prime fishing destination for the native Abenaki tribe, and today this 4.5-square-mile rocky retreat is home to around 75 people (give or take). It’s even smaller neighbor, Manana Island, isn’t inhabited at all. Monhegans’s tiny village is home to a fish market and a few shops, inns, and restaurants, but this isn’t a tourist trap by any means.

Monhegan keeps it simple and gives you a chance to slow down: no chain stores, not even a bank—but plenty of inspiring views. Get ready to fall in love with Monhegan Island’s New England charm and rugged good looks.

Historically, Monhegan had long been a prime fishing destination.
Historically, Monhegan had long been a prime fishing destination.

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How to Get There

Ready to make your way to Monhegan? The island is accessible only by boat, and you can catch a ride from one of three ports: Boothbay Harbor, New Harbor, and Port Clyde. Since cars aren’t allowed on the island, there are no car ferries, but parking is available at all three ports. The Monhegan Boat Line departs from the charming village of Port Clyde and runs trips to and from the island at least once a day (more during the busy season from the end of May through the beginning of October) for $38 per adult round trip. The Hardy Boat Ferry to Monhegan departs from New Harbor and takes under an hour. Daytrippers rejoice, this boat gives you five hours to explore the island before returning back to the mainland, plus pets can join for $5! Several outfitters also offer all-day cruises, circumnavigating the island or exploring nearby bays, at an additional cost.

The island is accessible only by boat, so make sure to book your ferry through Monhegan Boat Line.
The island is accessible only by boat, so make sure to book your ferry through Monhegan Boat Line.

Timothy Valentine

What to Do on Monhegan Island

If you want to learn more about the history of the island, make the Monhegan Museum of Art and History your first stop. You’ll find it in the Monhegan Light Station, and the museum features an annual art exhibit, artifacts from both the Native Americans and the settlers that later lived there, and information about the historical building that houses it all.

Monhegan is known for being home to a thriving artists’ colony. Drawing creative types from the far reaches of the globe, it’s been a major destination since the mid-19th century. Big names in American art, like George Bellows and Edward Hopper, were among the hundreds who have painted the island’s rocky cliffs and omnipresent seagulls. Local art is on display at several galleries in the village, including the Crow’s Nest Studio and the well-known Lupine Gallery.

There’s certainly a lot to see on Monhegan Island, but there’s plenty to keep you active, too. Monhegan Associates, Inc. maintains a 350-acre land trust on the island, which is home to 12 miles of hiking trails. Many of the trails on the island match its rugged terrain: narrow and rocky, often wet, with plenty of tree roots, sheer drops, and the occasional poison ivy—this tiny island packs a wallop in the adventure department.

These sea cliffs belong on a postcard, but stay back to avoid strong currents and fierce undertow.
These sea cliffs belong on a postcard, but stay back to avoid strong currents and fierce undertow.

Timothy Valentine

Grab a picnic for your pack at The Novelty or L. Brackett & Son. Take the Whitehead Trail (#7) for panoramic view of the headlands (stay out of the water here—tidal currents and undertow make for dangerous conditions). The strenuous Cliff Trail (#1) requires a longer time commitment, but its spectacular views are well worth the trouble. The Gull Trail (#5) is a great opportunity to see the postcard-worthy headlands from sea level. Several shops on the island sell detailed trail maps, with proceeds supporting trail maintenance and invasive species control within the preserve.

Sea kayaking is also a popular activity around Monhegan Island, but, like everything else here, it’s on the adventurous side. Surprise ocean swells frequently come in, sometimes capsizing boats, and it can be tough to land on or swim to. If you’re an experienced paddler but didn’t bring your kayak, don’t worry—you can rent one from Monhegan Kayak Rentals.

Monhegan Brewing Company is a great place to relax after a hike at Lobster Cove.
Monhegan Brewing Company is a great place to relax after a hike at Lobster Cove.

Monhegan Brewery

When you’re ready for a break, head to the village to experience the slow, pleasant pace of island life. Check out several quaint shops, including The Barnacle, which sits right on the wharf. Head to the Monhegan Museum of Art & History, which features special exhibits during the summer months, or relax with a beer at the Monhegan Brewing Company, just shy of Lobster Cove (where you can explore a shipwreck among the rocky shoreline). Whatever you do, don’t miss out on views of the Monhegan Island Light, the second-highest lighthouse in Maine, which has a light beam range of 20 nautical miles. There’s also a museum in the lighthouse keeper’s home that’s open for most of the summer.

Where to Stay

There are about a dozen places to stay on the island, ranging from quaint inns to seaside rental cottages. Keep in mind that rates vary by season. Plan your trip for a shoulder or off-season to get the most bang for your buck.

Written by Emma Walker for RootsRated in partnership with Maine's Midcoast & Islands.

Featured image provided by Navin75

How to Carve a Jaw Spear for Survival Fishing

How to Carve a Jaw Spear for Survival Fishing

This is a wicked D.I.Y. version of Poseidon's trident that's deadly on fish and frogs

Pacific Northwest natives devised salmon spears with sinew and bone that were brawny enough to hoist kings and silvers from roiling rapids. You can channel your inner Suquamish with this survival spear capable of snagging frogs, fish, and small rodents. All you need is a sharp knife and a bit of parachute cord. A bone from your last squirrel dinner isn’t required, but it will make for a beefier—and more savage—spear.

Step 1

Cut a 2-foot length of p-cord and tease out the inner core strands. They’re a perfect twine for lashing.

Step 2

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Cut a straight, green sapling of hardwood, such as hickory or maple, 1 foot longer than your height and with a strong fork on one end. Remove the bark from the forked tines. Trim the ends of the forks so each is 4 to 5 inches long, and angle each fork tip slightly by removing a few slivers of wood from the inside of the tip.

Step 3

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Step 3

Brown Bird

For a center spike, carve a 2-inch-long sharp stick—or better yet, a sharp spike of bone—and lash it to the inside of the fork. Start with a clove hitch about a half inch below the fork, and wrap the windings tightly toward the fork. When the lashing reaches the fork, continue by making a few more wraps to create a pocket for the butt of the spike. Place the spike in this pocket, then continue lashing by alternating the cord under and over the spike, tightening with each lash. Secure the lashing.

Step 4

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For the backward-pointing jaw spikes at the ends on the fork, carve two 2-inch-long spikes of wood or bone. Begin with a clove-hitch lashing about a half inch from the end of the jaw, and wrap six lashes. Place the jaw spike so it points backward, resting on the angle you carved into the jaw tip. The initial wraps will aid in setting the spike to a proper angle. Lash the tip down and secure. Repeat on the other jaw. Now that you have a wicked D.I.Y. version of Poseidon’s trident, it’s time to grocery shop for frogs and fish.

Written by T. Edward Nickens for Field & Stream.

Featured image provided by Field & Stream

How to Make a Fried Catfish Po’Boy Sandwich

How to Make a Fried Catfish Po'Boy Sandwich

In my opinion, there’s no recipe more representative of Cajun cooking than the po’boy. You’ll find fried catfish po’boys at almost any Louisiana deli, but it’s much more satisfying to make your own with the fresh summer cats you catch. Pair this sandwich with a side of sweet-potato fries and a cold Abita Light.

You Will Need

Ingredients

  • 6 8-inch catfish fillets
  • Beef tallow, lard, or
  • peanut oil for frying
  • 4 cups corn flour
  • 2 Tbsp. kosher salt
  • 2 Tbsp. black pepper
  • 1 tsp. cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp. paprika
  • 4 oz. yellow mustard
  • 1 oz. Tabasco
  • 6 po’boy-style bread loaves
  • 2 tomatoes, sliced thin
  • 1 red onion, sliced thin
  • Mayonnaise, lettuce,
  • and pickle slices,
  • for garnish

Directions

  1. Heat the oil in the fryer to 350 degrees.

  2. Mix all of the dry ingredients together. In a separate bowl, mix the mustard and Tabasco together to make the mustard batter.

  3. Working in batches, lightly coat the fillets in the seasoned corn flour, then submerge the fillets in the mustard batter and leave them there for 15 to 20 minutes. This will really add some depth of flavor to your fried fish. Don’t go longer than 30 minutes, though, or the vinegar will start to “cook” and toughen your fish. The smaller the fish or seafood, the less time it needs in the mustard batter.

  4. Remove the fillets from the batter and place them in the hot oil. Fry for 6 minutes.

  5. Remove the fish from the fryer and set on a wire rack or paper towel. Season with salt and a squeeze of lemon.

  6. Build the sandwiches: Smear the bread with mayonnaise, add a fried fillet, and dress the po’boy with tomato, lettuce, and pickles.

Written by Jean-Paul Bourgeois for Field & Stream.

Featured image provided by Field & Stream

How to Make a Fried Catfish Po’Boy Sandwich

How to Make a Fried Catfish Po'Boy Sandwich

In my opinion, there’s no recipe more representative of Cajun cooking than the po’boy. You’ll find fried catfish po’boys at almost any Louisiana deli, but it’s much more satisfying to make your own with the fresh summer cats you catch. Pair this sandwich with a side of sweet-potato fries and a cold Abita Light.

You Will Need

Ingredients

  • 6 8-inch catfish fillets
  • Beef tallow, lard, or
  • peanut oil for frying
  • 4 cups corn flour
  • 2 Tbsp. kosher salt
  • 2 Tbsp. black pepper
  • 1 tsp. cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp. paprika
  • 4 oz. yellow mustard
  • 1 oz. Tabasco
  • 6 po’boy-style bread loaves
  • 2 tomatoes, sliced thin
  • 1 red onion, sliced thin
  • Mayonnaise, lettuce,
  • and pickle slices,
  • for garnish

Directions

  1. Heat the oil in the fryer to 350 degrees.

  2. Mix all of the dry ingredients together. In a separate bowl, mix the mustard and Tabasco together to make the mustard batter.

  3. Working in batches, lightly coat the fillets in the seasoned corn flour, then submerge the fillets in the mustard batter and leave them there for 15 to 20 minutes. This will really add some depth of flavor to your fried fish. Don’t go longer than 30 minutes, though, or the vinegar will start to “cook” and toughen your fish. The smaller the fish or seafood, the less time it needs in the mustard batter.

  4. Remove the fillets from the batter and place them in the hot oil. Fry for 6 minutes.

  5. Remove the fish from the fryer and set on a wire rack or paper towel. Season with salt and a squeeze of lemon.

  6. Build the sandwiches: Smear the bread with mayonnaise, add a fried fillet, and dress the po’boy with tomato, lettuce, and pickles.

Written by Jean-Paul Bourgeois for Field & Stream.

Featured image provided by Field & Stream

The 10 Reasons You’re Not Catching Big Striped Bass in the Surf

The 10 Reasons You’re Not Catching Big Striped Bass in the Surf

Finding cow stripers from shore is much easier if you make a few small adjustments to your strategy

Of all the qualities that make the striped bass one of the country’s premier game fish—including its tremendous strength, its regal purple sheen and stately black stripes, and its ability to grow to large sizes—perhaps the best is the striper’s tendency to feed close to shore. The fish’s littoral nature means that even the shore-bound angler has the opportunity to hook a fish of 30-, 40-, or 50-plus pounds, but relatively few do.

Not having a boat is not a valid excuse for not catching large stripers. Nor is living far from striper hot spots like Block Island, Montauk or Cape Cod. The striped bass migration routes brush by some of the most populated parts of the country, meaning that at some point during the season, fishermen between Virginia and Maine have large stripers swimming near their homes. The key to catching big striped bass lies not in having a boat or fishing in storied locations, but in understanding the striper’s habits, and learning as much as you can about the waters where they swim. If you’ve been pounding sand looking for cow bass without luck, one or all of following reasons may be standing between you and your trophy surf striper.

Reason #1: You’re not losing sleep

If your surfcasting is taking place during banker’s hours, you’re unlikely to encounter trophy striped bass. Of course, there are exceptions. A few times a season, usually during the spring or fall, schools of migrating stripers collide with schools of migrating baitfish, resulting in an all-out feeding frenzy in broad daylight. When you’re lucky, it happens within casting distance of shore.

More often, however, big bass sulk in deep water when the sun is high, waiting for darkness to move into the shallows to hunt. Stripers feeding at night settle into a pattern. This makes them much easier to predict and the good fishing easier to replicate compared to sporadic daytime blitzes. Get comfortable with fishing at night, and become familiar with the areas you’re fishing during the day, so you know exactly where to cast when the lights go out.

Reason #2: You’re not fishing with fresh bait

Frozen bait is convenient. You can store it indefinitely, use it over multiple trips, and it’s almost always available at your local bait and tackle shop. Unfortunately, if big stripers are your goal, you’re better off fishing lures than bait from the freezer. Whether it’s chunk bait like mackerel or bunker, or shelled bait like clams, the freezing and thawing process results in a bait that’s too soft to hold a hook, and lacks the scent that attracts big stripers.

Most tackle shops supply fresh bait in season. You can call ahead to see when they get their shipments of surf clams or bunker, and even have them set aside some baits for you, if they’re likely to run out before you get there. Once you get the bait, you need to keep it fresh. This means keeping it cold, but avoiding direct contact with freshwater or ice. Using re-freezable ice blocks is one option, but it’s easier to place your baits in a zip-top freezer bag and then place that bag on ice.

Reason #3: You’re not fishing deep

Fishermen dream of big stripers smashing up the surface to eat a topwater plug, but the biggest bass do the vast majority of feeding on the bottom. There, stripers find large, slow-moving meals like lobsters, crabs, tautog, and flounder. Even when hunting schools of large, surface-swimming baitfish like menhaden, big stripers will lurk near the bottom, picking off the wounded baits left behind by bluefish or smaller stripers. That means large bass are less likely to swim to the surface to attack a lure. For the best odds of getting a behemoth bass, you need to get your bait to where they spend most of their time. To do this, select lures that swim deep (See Reason #8), or add weight to your baits to make sure they are getting down. While most fishermen use 2- to 8-ounce sinkers when casting cut baits or clams, many fishermen fail to realize that adding a small egg sinker or rubber-core sinker to the leader above a live bait will help drag it down to the strike zone. Making that small adjustment may mean the difference between success and failure when fishing in current.

Reason #4: You’re not okay with skunking

Culling through large numbers of small stripers is not a strategy for catching a big striper. Small stripers might as well be a different species from 25-plus-pounders. They eat different foods, live in different places, and feed at different times. Fishing for big stripers requires sacrificing quantity for quality. Each trophy striper caught in the surf is the culmination of many fishless nights. It requires faith that fishing big fish baits in places where big fish swim will eventually put a cow bass on the end of your line.

Reason #5: You’re not checking your tackle

Big fish get away more often than small fish. They straighten hooks, break lines, and swim around boulders and other structures. There are plenty of ways a big fish can escape that you have no control over, so it’s important that you don’t give it any more of an advantage than it already has.

Keep your hooks sharp, and change them frequently. Set your drag tight, but not too tight. You want to put enough pressure on a fish to slow it down and turn it quickly, but not so much pressure that you break the line or bend out the hooks. Bent hooks make for great fish stories, but more of them are caused by a drag that’s too tight instead of an unstoppable fish. Check your knots and leader. If you catch a bluefish or a bunch of small stripers, run your fingers along your leader to check for nicks or abrasions. The smaller fish may not break a chafed leader, but a big one will.

Reason #6: You’re not keeping a log

It doesn’t matter if you’re fishing for big stripers or big bluegills, keeping a log of your trips will help you dial in the conditions and locations that produce big striped bass. Your log should include:

  • Date
  • Wind Direction and Strength
  • Tide Phase
  • Moon Phase
  • Water Temperature and Clarity
  • Weather and Air Temperature
  • Baitfish Present
  • Recent Reports
  • Fish Caught
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Talk with other anglers about when, where, and how they’re catching fish, and share your own intel, to get a better idea of what you’re doing wrong or right.

Desing Pics Inc. / Alamy

Reason #7: You’re not working with other surfcasters

A group of like-minded fishing buddies will help you learn about the areas and conditions that produce big fish faster than you could on your own. By sharing information and observations, you’ll have a larger pool of experience to draw from when trying to predict where and when big fish will show up.

Reason #8: You’re not fishing bucktail jigs or needlefish

There are dozens of lures that will catch large striped bass, but for consistently fooling big fish, you need to have a selection of bucktails and needlefish. The simplest reason is because you can fish these lures with the most precision in the water column.

An experienced angler can skim a thickly dressed bucktail jig or a slow-sinking needlefish just above the rocks and grass where big bass do their hunting (see Reason #3). Diving plugs may not get deep enough, and they definitely don’t spend as much time in the strike zone as a bucktail or needle.

Both of these lures require a certain “feel” if you want to fish them well. They don’t thump or vibrate, like swimming plugs, and success may not come quickly. But stick with these lures, and they’re likely to become your top producers of large striped bass.

Reason #9: You’re not seriously fishing your home waters

The surfcasting Valhallas of Montauk and Cape Cod are well known for producing big striped bass, but most anglers are lucky to spend only a few days fishing these areas each year. I’ve known fishermen who put maximum effort into a single Montauk trip a year while overlooking the lesser-known waters close to their homes. After their Montauk trip ended, so too did their hopes of catching a trophy striper—but that shouldn’t be the case.

Odds are, the waters closest to your home have a prime time or set of conditions when big stripers move in to feed. And, because they are closer to your house, you can fish these locations regularly enough to learn them in all of their “moods.” Record the details of each trip (see Reason #6) and eventually you’ll crack the code on what wind direction, tide, and time of year brings the bass to your doorstep. When you do, you’ll start passing on road trips to Montauk to fish the can’t-miss conditions in the surf close to home.

However, knowing your home waters inside and out won’t help if you’re not using tackle and techniques suited for big fish (see Reason #4). I grew up fishing Cape May County in New Jersey, a stretch of shoreline much better known for weakfish and fluke than for big stripers. Most fishermen used light tackle and small lures, and as a result, most of the stripers caught were small. One fall, while still coming down from a great trip to Montauk, I tried the plugs and tactics that had been working for the bigger stripers at the end of Long Island. A funny thing happened: I started catching bigger stripers in South Jersey. That revelation extended my big fish opportunities far beyond my long weekend in Montauk.

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Unlocking the tricks to landing big stripers on your home waters improves your skill set for when you’re fishing unfamiliar territory.

Jimmy Fee

Reason #10: You’re not fishing whenever you can

It doesn’t matter if you can fish every day, once a week, or once a month, if you are serious about catching a cow striper, you won’t let lousy weather or bad reports keep you from hitting the surf. There’s something to be learned from every outing, even the fishless ones. In fact, without the (welcome) distraction of catching fish, you’re more likely to observe how the water moves through the area.

Fishing reports rarely tell the full story. Many times, schools of big fish move through an area unnoticed or unreported by the few anglers who find them. Even in this age of instant reports on social media, many surfcasters—at least the smart ones—still keep their secrets. The only way to get the full story is to get out there yourself, whenever you can.

Written by Jimmy Fee for Field & Stream.

Featured image provided by Field & Stream

The 50 Best New Fishing Spots in America

The 50 Best New Fishing Spots in America

We found the hottest new rivers, lakes, and streams—one for every state—to catch big bass, trout, walleye, catfish, and more. Road trip, anyone?

Everything in fishing changes. On the minutest level, that change can be as simple as fish suddenly turning off of green-pumpkin worms after they’d been hammering them for hours, or a slow bite ­suddenly going bonkers before a storm. In the grander scheme, what can also change is the overall quality of an entire fishery. Sometimes lakes or rivers that were hot for decades suddenly go cold. It can happen for any number of reasons. On the ­contrary, removal of dams, a revival of water ­quality, or a regulation change can revive a struggling fishery or turn what was a little-known body of water into a big-time destination. To get the most up-to-date skinny on which bodies of water are trending now, we reached out to biologists, conservation officers, guides, pros, and local sharpies in every state. Here are their picks.

Alabama

Water: Lewis Smith Lake
Targets: Largemouth Bass and Striped Bass
Alabama is home to some of the best bass lakes in the U.S., but Lewis Smith Lake wasn’t one of them until recently. The deep, clear lake that seemed lifeless for years currently has a thriving fishery thanks to the newly flourishing blueback herring population, which largemouths and stripers are chowing down on.

Alaska

Water: Situk River
Targets: Sockeye and Pink Salmon
The Situk gets less attention than some of Alaska’s other rivers, and while it sees its share of traffic during the spring and fall steelhead runs, anglers all but disappear in the summer. Big mistake, because the Situk has strong runs of pink and sockeye salmon waiting for anyone seeking solitude.

Arizona

Water: Saguaro Lake
Target: Largemouth Bass
A fish kill in 2005 decimated Saguaro’s largemouth population. However, with rejuvenated grass growth, clean mountain water flow, and a resurgence of baitfish, the bass population has rebounded big time. Saguaro is now a top trophy lake in Arizona, and one that the locals consider a hidden gem.

Arkansas

Water: Lake Ouachita
Targets: Striped Bass and Walleyes
Lake Ouachita has seen a recent boom in its shad population, and with it came a boom in the number and size of stripers and walleyes. The state also recently lowered the minimum possession length of bass to 12 inches in an effort to urge anglers to fill their coolers with smaller fish and let the bigger ones go.

California

Water: Skinner Reservoir
Targets: Largemouth and Striped Bass
California is known for its big bass lakes, but Skinner Reservoir is a total sleeper. Local sticks refer to it as the “SoCal Clear Lake” for its similarities to the famous Clear Lake farther north. Its lunker largemouths and stripers get fat on the abundant trout.

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A healthy trout from Colorado's Eagle River.

Tim Romano

Colorado

Water: Eagle River
Targets: Rainbow and ­Cutthroat Trout
Eagle River was sadly rendered lifeless by heavy metals from mine runoff in the 1980s. Eventually, the mine water was diverted to holding ponds, and after years of recovery, the populations of rainbows, cutthroats, and cutbows have made an incredible comeback.

Connecticut

Water: Mill River
Targets: Brook and Brown Trout
Though the state of Connecticut has some very notable wild trout streams and rivers by East Coast standards, you may not have heard of this tailwater. Improved year-round flows, new catch-and-release regulations, and an extended Wild Trout Management Area have all contributed to a major bounce back for the Mill, where wild brook and brown trout numbers continue to climb.

Delaware

Water: Nanticoke River
Targets: Blue Catfish and Northern Snakeheads
Blue catfish and northern snakeheads are both invasive species in Delaware, but love or hate them, they’ve made the Nanti­coke the state’s hottest fishing spot. Delaware has even ­established a state-record slot for snakeheads thanks to their abundance here. The current record weighed just over 12 pounds.

Florida

Water: Harris Chain of Lakes
Target: Largemouth Bass
Fertilizer runoff wiped out the hydrilla in the Harris Chain in the ’80s, resulting in algae blooms, low oxygen, and multiple fish kills. Fast forward to 2018: After numerous rejuvenation projects, you’d need almost a 40-pound bag to win a bass tournament here.

Georgia

Water: Upper Chattahoochee River
Target: Striped Bass
The striper fishing in Georgia’s Lake Lanier is no secret. But the fish that make their way up into the Upper Chattahoochee get much less attention. The stripers follow the plentiful shad schools, feeding in true blitz fashion.

Hawaii

Water: North Fork of the Wailua
Target: Smallmouth Bass
Bass fishing doesn’t jump to mind when you think of fishing Hawaii. But the North Fork of the Wailua on Kauai has surprisingly good smallmouth action that continues to improve due to a lack of fishing pressure. Those in the know routinely hit smallies over 3 pounds.

Idaho

Water: Pistol Lake
Target: Rainbow Trout
Idaho’s trout get a ton of pressure. Because of this, the best new hotspots have come at the end of short hikes in the ­McCall area. High-mountain waters such as Pistol Lake are somewhat remote and filled with rainbow trout that don’t see many flies or lures.

Illinois

Water: Lake Springfield
Target: Crappies
According to local sharpies, Lake Springfield is up and coming as a serious panfish producer. Other area lakes get the majority of the pressure, but tighter restrictions on Springfield have created a superb crappie fishery. A 10-inch size limit and a 10-fish creel limit ensure plenty of fish stay in the water.

Indiana

Water: West Boggs Creek Lake
Target: Largemouth Bass
The state of Indiana renovated the fish population in West Boggs Creek Lake in 2014 due to an overabundance of gizzard shad and carp. Gamefish like largemouth bass and channel catfish were removed and later returned. Since replanting, the bass are growing fast, as are the catfish and panfish populations.

Iowa

Water: Little River Watershed Lake
Targets: Bass, Bluegills, Walleyes, and Channel Catfish
Little River Watershed Lake has undergone recent renovations, and the improved structure and expanded access have helped establish it as one of the best lakes in Iowa. Massive bluegills, above-average bass, and trophy-class walleyes complement a population of lesser-known giant channel cats.

Kansas

Water: Milford Lake
Target: Blue Catfish
Blue catfish were first stocked in Milford Lake in the 1990s. Since then, continued stocking efforts and strict regulations have resulted in a true trophy fishery. Fish over 40 pounds are very common, and blue cats over 80 are being caught with increased frequency.

Kentucky

Water: Dewey Lake
Target: Muskellunge
Kentucky’s Cave Run Lake has drawn national attention for its muskie fishery and created a demand for others like it in the state. A stocking program was started five years ago in Dewey and is shaping up very well. The lake has a huge forage base of shad, and the structure-rich shallows are perfect muskie habitat.

Louisiana

Water: Toledo Bend Reservoir
Target: Largemouth Bass
Toledo Bend is a well-known body of water, but it made our list of new hot spots for a specific reason. Just over 10 years ago, the reservoir was stocked with Florida-strain largemouth bass. Being a big lake with lots of threadfin shad, Toledo Bend is producing an exceptional number of hawg bass today.

Maine

Water: Sebago Lake
Targets: Northern Pike and Crappies
The overwhelming majority of anglers who travel to Sebago are itching for lake trout and salmon. That means the lake’s pike and crappie populations have been left virtually untouched. There is little fishing pressure for these species, which explains why bait shops are routinely weighing in pike and crappies that surpass the current state records.

Maryland

Water: Upper Potomac River
Target: Walleyes
While the lower Potomac gets attention for its blue cats and stripers, the walleye fishing on the upper river is hush-hush. Surveys of marked fingerlings show half the surviving fish are from stocking and the other half are naturally reproducing.

Massachusetts

Water: Wachusett Reservoir
Target: Smallmouth Bass
This pristine, bait-rich ­reservoir is limited to shore fishing only, which drastically reduces the pressure, in turn helping the massive bronzeback population thrive and kick out plenty of quality fish.

Michigan

Water: Silver Lake Basin
Target: Northern Pike
In 2003, the dam at Silver Lake Basin failed, releasing 9 billion gallons of water. Low water levels following the failure and several years of repairs wiped out the trout population, but the northern pike that found their way in during the breach have taken a strong hold. Mid-40-inch fish are there for the taking.

Minnesota

Water: Big Stone Lake
Targets: Yellow Perch and Bluegills
Big Stone Lake has become a panfish mecca. Sitting on the border of South Dakota and Minnesota, it benefits from both states’ stocking programs. Thanks to tight bag regulations, many perch grow over a pound and bluegills exceed 11 inches.

Mississippi

Water: Lake Lamar Bruce
Target: Largemouth Bass
Construction on the Lake Lamar Bruce Dam was completed in 2012, and ever since, the bass fishing has exploded. In addition to the dam work, the state added in the formation of underwater islands. It’s a whole new lake, where largemouths weighing 6 to 10 pounds are common.

Missouri

Water: Bull Shoals Lake
Targets: Largemouth Bass and Walleyes
Bull Shoals Lake is a storied body of water with a new tale to tell. In the past six years, the lake has seen three 100-year floods. The high water has given walleye and largemouth fry lots of hiding places, helping to promote incredible spawns.

Montana

Water: Upper Madison River
Targets: Brown, Rainbow, and Cutthroat Trout
After the completion of the lower spillway on Hebgen Dam, the Upper Madison River is running considerably cooler than it has in the past. These cooler temps are bringing back explosive caddis and salmonfly hatches, and the river is estimated to have up to 3,000 trout per mile.

Nebraska

Water: Elwood Reservoir
Targets: Walleyes and Striped Bass
Elwood Reservoir saw a drastic reduction in its walleye and hybrid striped bass populations from 2009 to 2015 due to low water. In the past two years, however, improved water levels have led to a resurrection of these fisheries. In 2016 and 2017, the largest samples of fish to date were recorded, including loads of 25-plus-inch walleyes.

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Casting long on Pyramid Lake.

Arian Stevens

Nevada

Water: Pyramid Lake
Target: Cutthroat Trout
Cutthroat trout in Pyramid Lake were fished nearly to extinction. In the last few years, however, the state started releasing Pilot Peak Lahontan cutthroats into the Truckee Basin, which helped repopulate Pyramid Lake with trophy cutties. This fishery is now on the rise and expected to reach new heights in the next few years.

New Hampshire

Water: Connecticut River
Target: Walleyes
The Connecticut has had its ups and downs over the years, but in the New Hampshire stretch, walleye fishing is on a huge upswing. This stretch sees little pressure outside of the locals, which helped the walleye fishery to redevelop largely unmolested. Thirty-inchers are appearing with more regularity.

New Jersey

Water: Raritan River
Targets: Striped Bass and Smallmouth Bass
Several dam removals on the Raritan’s lower end have boosted runs of shad, herring, and striped bass over the last few years. The river also boasts a healthy smallmouth population, as well as some of the biggest carp in the state in its tidal section.

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A view of the upper Rio Grande.

Tim Romano

New Mexico

Water: Rio Grande River
Target: Walleyes
After a seven-year drought, improved flows and a booming baitfish population have pushed walleye fishing in the Rio Grande through the roof. Best of all, virtually no one knows about it. Walleyes to 34 inches and 12 pounds are not unheard of, and anglers can limit out fast.

New York

Water: Wappinger Creek
Target: Carp
The streams of the Catskills and Hudson River Valley are famed for their trout fishing, but when the water warms in summer, fly enthusiasts have turned to a newly recognized carp fishery on Wappinger Creek. The composition of the river makes it perfect for stalking and sight-fishing.

North Carolina

Water: Badin Lake
Target: Blue Catfish
When it comes to North Carolina blue cats, lakes Gaston and Kerr get all the attention. Their popularity, however, has let Badin Lake and its trophy fishery develop. With the lack of pressure and a healthy supply of baitfish, Badin blue cats are growing big. In fact, state biologists and local sharpies agree Badin may produce the next state record.

North Dakota

Water: Lake Sakakawea
Target: Northern Pike
Beginning in 2008, improved water levels in Sakakawea began fueling great northern pike year classes. With prime habitat and a solid forage base of smelt, the lake has blossomed into a top-shelf heavyweight pike fishery.

Ohio

Water: Clear Fork Reservoir
Target: Muskellunge
Ohio muskie fisheries don’t get much attention from outsiders, and with other state muskie waters getting the majority of the pressure from local anglers, Clear Fork Reservoir has developed into the new honey hole. Studies show that only a small percentage of Clear Fork’s muskies have been caught more than once, indicating a strong population.

Oklahoma

Water: Lake Tenkiller
Target: Smallmouth Bass
The smallmouth population in Lake Tenkiller has recently gone off the chain thanks to stockings of Great Lakes–strain fish. In addition, an infusion of nutrients from the Illinois River Watershed has resulted in more vegetation. This has strengthened the food chain with a larger forage base, helping the smallmouths reach top-end weight quickly.

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A Craine Prairie Reservoir rainbow.

Arian Stevens

Oregon

Water: Crane Prairie Reservoir
Target: Rainbow Trout
Crane Prairie Reservoir is a comeback story. An introduction of largemouth bass changed the reservoir’s dynamics, and stickleback infestations decimated fly hatches that supported Crane Prairie’s rainbow trout. With the stickleback gone and the lake in balance, the trout have bounced back big time.

Pennsylvania

Water: Lake Erie
Targets: Walleyes, Smallmouth Bass, and Steelhead
Lake Erie has been more historically known for pollution than quality fishing. Slowly but surely, that has been changing, and Erie is currently firing on all cylinders. The lake now supports healthy populations of numerous freshwater species, including panfish, walleyes, smallmouths, and steelhead. The flourishing fishery is a direct result of better water quality, which boosted the forage base.

Rhode Island

Water: Blackstone River
Target: Carp
Ironically, the Ocean State is home to the some of the largest freshwater fish in New England. Among carp anglers, mirror carp are special and sacred, and the Blackstone River may have the most plentiful population of them in the country. Because carp fishing is still not as popular in the U.S. as elsewhere, the Blackstone’s monsters also aren’t overly pressured.

South Carolina

Water: Lake Wateree
Targets: Blue, Channel, and Flathead Catfish
Lake Wateree is another body of water that has benefited from the popularity of other local waters. With Santee Cooper drawing massive catfish crowds, less-pressured Wateree has seen a boom of blues, channels, flatheads, white cats, and bullheads. The lake is teeming with threadfin and gizzard shad, propelling the kitties to massive sizes.

South Dakota

Water: Deerfield Lake
Targets: Lake Trout and ­Yellow Perch
Deerfield Lake has traditionally supported good numbers of rainbow and brook trout, in addition to a huge perch population. To create a second lake trout fishery next to well-known Lake Pactola, the state has been stocking adult-size lakers. This not only established an immediate lake trout fishery but also culled the perch population, allowing a lot of the remainder to grow huge.

Tennessee

Water: Watts Bar Lake
Targets: Blue Catfish and Striped Bass
Watts Bar Lake is an impoundment of both the Tennessee and Clinch rivers. In 2008, life in the lake came to a halt after 1.2 million tons of ash were accidentally spilled. It took years to recover, but Watts Bar is now chock-full of shad and skipjack that provide plenty of protein for the lake’s big, hungry cats and stripers.

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A summer lunker.

Keith Sutton

Texas

Water: O.H. Ivie Reservoir
Target: Largemouth Bass
It can take time, strict regulations, and a healthy forage base to set a lake ablaze, but that’s exactly what’s happened at O.H. Ivie. A change in regulations that prohibited keeping fish above 18 inches has led to a spike in big bass. Texas records trophy catches through entries into its ShareLunker program, and currently, only Lake Fork is producing more double-digit fish than O.H. Ivie.

Utah

Water: Pineview Reservoir
Target: Muskellunge
Utah may be considered a trout state, but Pineview Reservoir has one of the best tiger muskie fisheries in the country. The size and number of tigers in Pine­view was already astounding, but a 2017 stocking of an additional 20,000 of these fast-growing fish has made your odds of sticking a trophy tiger better at Pineview than anywhere else in the U.S.

Vermont

Water: Lake Champlain
Target: Muskellunge
Champlain has always had a world-class bass and pike fishery, but we bet you didn’t know about its muskies. The muskellunge was native to Champlain until they were wiped out by overfishing and poor conservation efforts. The state reintroduced the fish in the northern reaches of the lake, and the effort is paying dividends.

Virginia

Water: James River
Target: Muskellunge
While the muskie fishing in the James is no secret, it has never been better. The state discovered muskies were reproducing in the James in the ’90s, and the population of fish is now abundant and self-sustaining. The James is also not as big and deep as other rivers, which greatly increases your chance of encountering a fish.

Washington

Water: Columbia River
Target: Walleyes

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Wall-Hanger: The Columbia River is synonymous with salmon, but it also holds some massive walleyes.

Bill Lindner

The Columbia River is famed for its salmon, but with recent salmon runs being subpar, ­anglers are enjoying the ­incredible walleye population that has developed. Walleyes have been in the Columbia since the ’60s but have really taken off in the last decade. With an abundance of salmon and steelhead smolt to gorge themselves on, it doesn’t take the Columbia’s walleyes very long to grow massive.

West Virginia

Water: Cheat River
Target: Smallmouth Bass
The Cheat was once a dead river due to severe mine drainage. That began to change after 1972 with the passage of the Clean Water Act. The process has been slow, but in recent years the smallmouth population has bounced back strong. Annual state surveys are finding that from year to year, the smallmouth population is increasing dramatically.

Wisconsin

Water: Lake Geneva
Target: Muskellunge
Wisconsin has no shortage of muskie water, but Lake ­Geneva has recently become a new ringer. Muskies were first stocked in Geneva in 2010, and the fishery is now taking hold. With deep water, shallow flats, and plenty of weed growth, the habitat is prime for growing muskies. Geneva is also loaded with panfish and ciscoes to help fatten them up.

Wyoming

Water: Salt River
Target: Brown Trout
The Salt is one of the few ­rivers in Wyoming that doesn’t get much fishing pressure, largely because it’s bordered mostly by private property as it flows through a valley in the Salt River Mountain Range. This limits anglers to fishing the fertile, spring-fed river by drift boat, but those who row it have a serious shot at browns measuring better than 30 inches.

Written by Mark Modoski for Field & Stream.

Featured image provided by Field & Stream