The Top 10 Bucket List Kayak Fishing Destinations

Kayak fishing is not just for small, local lakes or farm ponds. You can fish from these vessels on almost any body of water ranging from large rivers or great lakes.

On top of that, you’ll find there are so many benefits to kayak fishing that you can’t get from a larger vessel. For instance, you have the ability to go just about anywhere you please and can access water that boats may not be able to get to (it’s also much easier on your wallet!).

With that being said, we’re now going to talk about the best places that you can go kayak fishing. Each of these destinations has something about it that makes it “bucket list” worthy.

Below, we’re going to go over in detail exactly what makes it a great kayak spot, how to fish it, and what kind of fish you’ll be catching. 

The spots we’ll speaking about are as follows:

  1. Shenandoah River
  2. Wando River
  3. Toledo Bend River
  4. Sunset Bay State Park
  5. Susquehanna River
  6. Lake Estes
  7. Devil’s Rivers
  8. Kona Coast
  9. Lake Erie
  10. Pompano Beach

Let’s get started!

Shenandoah River

Aerial view of the Shenandoah River in the fall with autumn colors on the trees

The Shenandoah River flows mostly through the state of Virginia. It begins in the southeast corner of West Virginia near Charlestown then begins to move south and crosses the border into Virginia. The water zigzags its way through the western half of the state and cuts through the Shenandoah Valley.

There are many spots that you can launch from as West Virginia and Virginia have numerous docks placed along the river. The south fork alone has over 20 public access spots.

Because of this, you can determine exactly how long you want to be on the water for. If you only have time for a 3-hour ride then there are areas that will allow you to do so. Same with weekend long float and camping trips.

Here you’ll be catching smallmouth, largemouth, panfish, catfish, crappie, and you might even find muskellunge. 

Smallmouth are the most popular gamefish on the river and the Shenandoah is known for having one of the best smallmouth fisheries in the state. You can catch these pretty much year-round on crawfish and moving baits during the fall and spring when the bass are active. 

The views on this river are beautiful. You are nestled close to the water in your kayak while you float through the valley with mountains on either side of you. There are also several class I rapids that can be enjoyed in your kayak as well.

Wando River

Map of the rivers that flow into Charleston, South Carolina, including the Wando River

Just north of Charleston, South Carolina, the Wando River is a great spot to hook into some nice redfish, and speckled trout. The Wando is not a very large river, but it provides great habitat, as there are creeks, ledges, and plenty of structure to hold fish. 

There are several feeder creeks that you launch your kayak from, as well as a handful of spots on the main river itself. Below are some of the spots.

Speckled trout and redfish can be caught on shrimp for most of the year. Feel free to use either live or lure.

The fish will be feeding in ambush spots that are facing up current. You should key in on oyster beds, grassy points, and pilings. 

When the water hits the high 60 to low 70 degrees mark that means it’s time to start throwing some topwater plugs. Experiment with a few different ones to see which ones the fish are keying on that day. This is especially true for trout.

Having a kayak means it’s easier to meander through the backwater creeks that connect to the Wando and you can easily maneuver your kayak into spots where fish could be hiding.

Toledo Bend Reservoir

Toledo Bend Reservoir on a sunny, calm day

Located on the border of Texas and Louisiana, this reservoir has excellent panfish and largemouth bass fishing. Not only can you catch fish in large quantities but they can be quite large too. They can be caught year-round thanks to the mild southern winters.

There are multiple locations that you launch your kayak from. Look for anywhere that has a public shoreline and a parking lot. You’ll also find several boat launches. 

Largemouth bass are the main species targeted but you can also find striped bass. These are popular due to their size.

Using a kayak on this reservoir allows you to get back into those narrow creek channels. This is perfect when targeting bass that are either coming in shallow to spawn or leaving their spawning areas for deeper water.

Sunset Bay State Park

Kayak fishing destinations Sunset bay state park
Park at the beach and launch your kayak from the shore

Located on the Oregon coast, this is the perfect spot for the angler who is looking for calm ocean water to fish. A nice, stable saltwater kayak is recommended, but staying in the coves along the park will allow for easy floating. If you choose to head into deeper water then you can find lingcod, Cabezon, as well as Halibut.

Feel free to launch your kayak at any of the beach locations where parking for the public is open. Fishing in the coves can be successful but deeper waters are where the lingcod like to hangout.

If you are targeting lingcod, there are a number of different ways to catch them. If using live bait, you can use a mackerel. Hook it through the nose and allow your bait to free fall to the bottom. Once your weight has hit bottom, give your reel a few turns and allow your bait suspend freely. If strikes are hard that day then try jigging your live bait.

Susquehanna River

Lush green trees on hilly landscapes line the shallow, rocky bottom shores of the Susquehanna River.

The Susquehanna primarily flows through Pennsylvania but is also in southern portions of New York and northern Maryland.

The river itself is not the best for large motorized craft making it perfect for kayaks, canoes, or other small boats. 

Kayak anglers have the ability to float over the shallow portions of the river and can easily maneuver around any rocky edges that may jut up from the river. It’s perfect kayak angling territory. 

The Susquehanna is known as one of the better smallmouth fisheries in the US and especially the Northeast. These fish might not get as large as lake-born smallmouth, but they put up a strong fight. These fish are used to fighting against the flow of the water and a 3-pound smallmouth could lead to the fight of a lifetime.

Crawfish are always a safe bet for catching smallmouth. You can use spinnerbaits, swimbaits, or fly-fishing tackle. Fall and spring will be the best times to get out on the river and catch a big fish.

Lake Estes

Kayak fishing destinations Lake estes
Sarbjit Bahga [CC BY-SA 4.0 (]

Nestled in Rocky Mountain National Park just north of Denver, Lake Estes provides beautiful scenery as well as great fishing.

The lake is only 185 acres which means it’s easy to cover a lot of water in a kayak. Good news is if you don’t have one then you can rent one from Lake Estes Marina

The primary game fish in Lake Estes is going to be trout. Rainbow and brown are the two most prevalent. However, in 2013, 2014, and 2015 they did stock Tiger Muskie.

Trout are most successfully caught on a variety of flies as well as spinners and power bait while muskie can be caught on larger hardbody or soft body lures.

You’re also allowed to keep some of your catch. You are allowed 4 trout a day per person, and you may keep one Tiger Muskie as long as it is over 36 inches.

Devil’s River

Winding through Texas, the Devil’s River is not for the faint of heart. It is in a remote area with very few access points, which plays into the hand of the kayak angler. 

This 94-mile river is broken down into two parts: rapids and pools. That means that the river is full of deep and shallow pools that are connected by rapids. 

There is a wide variety of fish in the river, but the most surprising is smallmouth bass. Thanks to the fact that this river is primarily spring fed means that this is one of, if not the most, southern point in the US where you can catch smallmouth. 

Topwater lures can work great in the morning and evenings, while during the day it is best to go subsurface. Look to throw jerkbaits, wacky rigged soft plastics, and Texas rigged soft plastics.

Kona Coast

Sunset photo of waves lapping the shore of the Kona Coast

The Kona Coast is just off the big island of Hawaii. There are steep drop offs within a mile of the coast and people are pulling monsters out of the deep water.

You launch from the harbor and if your kayak is equipped with a depth finder, you’ll be surprised with how quick the drop off is. Some spots that are within 100 yards from shore can register up to 300 feet deep.

The most popular gamefish here is tuna, but billfish have been known to be caught here as well. Live bait is the most popular way to catch them. these are usually rigged up and jigged.

Lake Erie

Bordering Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, and New York, Lake Erie is not your typical lake.

Aerial view of the great expanse of Lake Erie
Lake Erie Coastal Ohio, Inc. [Public domain]

Standing on the shoreline you may feel you’re about to cast off into an ocean, instead of a freshwater lake. There are several boat launches where you can take your kayak, although if you get permission I’m sure a landowner on the lake will allow you to launch from their property.

Erie is known for its great smallmouth fishing. The best way to catch these fish is with the popular dropshot rig. You can fish this rig in shallow or deep water. Check your sonar for deep brush piles or drop offs where the fish will be waiting to ambush prey.

Pompano Beach

On the East Coast of Florida, Pompano Beach is a year-round fishing destination for anglers. There are plenty of public access spots on the beach where you launch a kayak and there is even the possibility of you hooking into wahoo while there.

Not only could you hook into a wahoo, but you could also catch Mahi Mahi as well as sailfish. 

Kayak angler holds up a huge Mahi fish he just caught off the shores of Pompano Beach, FL
Joseph Hector [CC BY-SA 4.0 (]

You can catch these fish on a number of different methods, but trolling live bait and jigging seem to the most popular. Remember to hang on tight because when you hook into one of these fish you’re bound to go for a ride.


Hopefully some of the locations listed above have inspired you to do some traveling of your own.

If any of these places are within a few hours of your home, then it might be worth the time and effort to check it out yourself.

What do you think? What are some spots you think should have been included on this list? Let us know in the comments below!

The Top 10 Bucket List Kayak Fishing Destinations
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The Top 10 Bucket List Kayak Fishing Destinations
If you live to kayak fish, then these top kayak fishing destinations should be on every angler's bucket list of spots to fish before you die.
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Board and Kayak Life
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2 thoughts on “The Top 10 Bucket List Kayak Fishing Destinations”

  1. This is something I looking for, thanks for sharing… I am adding into my list and would complete it by the end of next year 🙂

    • Haha, I doubt you’ll be able to complete all 10 but hopefully you’ll be able to cross at least one off the list this year!


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