Best States for Fishing

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Best States for Fishing

Whether an angler prefers to fish on the banks of a rural stream or by boat on a lake or ocean, recreational fishing has continued to increase in popularity throughout the United States.

The best states for fishing are seeing a jump in participation. According to Statista, in 2020, 55 million Americans participated in freshwater, saltwater and fly-fishing activities, marking the highest fishing participation rate in over a decade. 

The study cited the increased interest in fishing because people can spend time with friends and family, try a new hobby and go on an adventure. Some fishing enthusiasts enjoy doing it alone, but the social aspect has drawn people to the activity.

The study notes 40% of the people surveyed said their fishing group included three to five people, and the largest share of participants went on one to 11 trips during the year.

With the newfound growth, the American Sportfishing Association estimates there are now 74 million anglers in the U.S., with 50 million fishing each year. Recreational fishing generates $51.2 billion in retail sales each year and produces $16.4 billion in state and federal tax revenue and helps support more than 826,000 jobs. If fishing were a company, the amount spent by anglers at fishing-related retail stores would rank No. 51 on the Fortune 500 list.

Fishing has established itself as an economic necessity in the country and its recent increase in interest will only see the activity continue to grow. With new people potentially looking to get into fishing, we wanted to find out the best states for fishing. We looked at five sets of data to rank each of the 50 states to see how they compare for fishing. 

Louisiana Tops the List of Best Fishing States

Our findings found Louisiana to be the best state for fishing, with an overall score of 83.6. Louisiana graded well in license cost ($10) and water area with 9,174 square miles. 

The state also produced over $1.9 billion in fishing retail sales last year, making it one of the few states scoring at least 89 or higher in three categories. 



The Top Five Stretch Across the Country

Wisconsin came in second because of its consistency across all five categories, with 11,338 square miles of water, a $20 annual fishing license fee, 1,434,816 licenses paid for, an average charter cost of $143 and over $1.4 billion in retail fishing sales.

Wisconsin’s neighbor, Minnesota, ranks third after excelling in similar categories. 

Oklahoma’s relatively cheaper charter fees ($100) and the number of fishing sales ($1.8 billion) boosted it to No. 4. 

Unsurprisingly, Alaska, the biggest state in the country, had the most square miles of water at 94,743 and came in at eighth in the final list. 




Worst States for Fishing

Connecticut’s lack of water area (701 square miles), low number of paid fishing licenses (169,484) and license fee ($32) were the biggest contributors to the state ranking as the worst state for fishing, with an overall score of 22.4. Its $250 charter cost and only $381 million in retail fishing sales also pushed it further down the list. 

Despite California’s large square mileage for water (7,915), it ranked as the second-worst because it scored poorly in the other four categories. California features the highest-priced annual resident fishing license fee of $59 and saw its charters on the pricier side at $243. 

Being landlocked kept Kansas’ overall score low, with the state having just 519 square miles of water. This resulted in just $240 million of fishing retail sales. 

New Jersey features one of the lowest paid fishing licenses count at 193,618 and has more expensive charters at $325. 

Nevada was tied with New Jersey for the fourth-worst score at 29, because of its low fishing sales. The state recorded just $206 million in sales and has 183,839 registered fishing licenses. 



To examine the best states for fishing, examined five factors to determine which cities are, right now, the best for fishing. 

  • Water area: Square miles of fishing area in a state, from USA Today.
  • License quantity: Number of fishing licenses purchased, from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
  • License cost: Cost of a fishing license. We used numbers from
  • Charter cost: To find prices for a full-day fishing charter, we used figures from, and
  • Fishing Sales: Cost of equipment for fishing, from American Sportfishing Association.
    • All data was collected and corrected on May 25, 2023.
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