I have been traveling the globe almost full time since 1989 as a member of the USA Whitewater Kayak Team as well as an adventurer that loves seeing new waters. I have fished on 6 continents and most of the states. While my travels have mostly been centered around whitewater kayaking, I have been very lucky to have organized a way for my family to travel with me, and to have the time to do some of my favorite activities along the way, such as fishing.
There are many exotic locations that I have been to that would go well on this list, and many more that I still have not fished, but ultimately, I always seem to enjoy the eastern fisheries the most. From Florida up to Canada, fishing warm water is my favorite, and I am always am looking forward to my next fishing trip.
Some of the fisheries I am going to mention are not large and can’t sustain large numbers of fishermen, so if you come to check them out, please practice catch and release! Thank you!
Ottawa River, Ontario
The section between Beachburg and Forester Falls in the Middle Channel is my favorite. This is a big, slightly chocolate-colored, warm-water river that has an awesome variety of bass species, northern pike, and walleye. You can easily put-in at the Owl Rafting public launch and either run or portage the rapids downstream until you get to the Black’s Landing which is 5 miles downstream and 5 rapids later.
McCoy road is the public take-out. Stay to the left the entire way to run the “middle channel” section of rapids that are smaller and the fishing is better as well. If you don’t want to deal with running or portaging rapids, you can fish upstream of the launch and there are lots of awesome bays with grass, lily pads, as well as deep rocky drop-offs.
Bring a Strike King Naked Rage Blade, buzzbait, frog, and a weedless wacky worm. You will catch bass and pike. You can also target Walleye there, the local’s favorite sport/eating fish. I always bring my Raymarine Dragonfly with me as the river has surprising drop-offs and deep sections that butt up against shallow grassy areas that always hold big bass and pike.
Potomac River, Maryland
There are two awesome sections above Great Falls and below Great Falls to Little Falls Dam. Either go to Spencer’s Lock in Poolesville, Md. and you can fish both up and downstream of the Seneca Creek confluence. Or if you want to run some Class II rapids on the way with much less fishing pressure, put in at Angler’s Inn and paddle downstream to Carderock Park.
There are two main rapids along the way, Yellow Falls and Carderock, but they are easy to portage on the left, or you can run them at low water if you have the skill.
Smallmouth bass are the primary target here. Light colored 1/2-ounce spinnerbaits with a white or yellow plastic trailer work great. The water is always a little muddy and dark, making fluorocarbon leaders unnecessary. Wacky worm and topwater stickbaits are also good to have on the line.
Caney Fork Water Shed, Tennessee
This is my hometown fishery, and one of the reasons I live there. The World Fly Fishing Musky Championships where held there in 2013 and for good reason. This is one of the best musky fisheries in the United States.
There are two main tributaries to the Caney Fork that are perfect for floating down in a kayak: the Collins River and the Calf-Killer River. Both are small, low-flow creeks unless there has been recent big rain, there aren’t any real rapids on either creek, but there is current and occasional downed trees that can sneak up on you if you are not paying attention, so be careful to watch out for them.
The Calf-Killer has several sections worth floating for spotted bass, smallmouth bass, and musky. Putting in at the 111 Bridge in Sparta and taking out at the next bridge down (6 miles) is a full day of fishing and a beautiful float as well.
During the summer and low flows you will have to drag your kayak down some small shoals, while most of the year you will float easily the entire way. The water is clear unless it is high from rain, so use a fluorocarbon or a fluoro leader. My favorite lures are the Buckeye Flat-Top jig, A Buckeye Spot Remover shaky head with a 4-inch Strike King Ocho in any green/brown combo.
While these might seem like unlikely musky presentations, I have had great lucky fishing for the spots, smallmouth and the musky seem to go for my smaller lures with as much success as those who target the musky with big plugs, spoons or spinners.
I also get to enjoy catching the bass this way. Try the Collins River about 5 miles upstream of the VFW. The VFW is an easy take-out and this is the favorite of the musky legend in the area—Jase Bouldin, who works at Jackson Kayak and targets and catches more musky in Tennessee than anyone else.
The Collins is not quite as clear as the Calf-Killer so your line is not as critical. I don’t bother with leaders either, even though anyone who targets muskey would say is a mistake. Occasionally they will cut your line instantly, but it is only about 1 out of 5 times in my experience. Again, I prefer to be able to catch lots of bass while I still have the chance of getting a musky, versus eliminating the bass potential in hopes of getting a musky.
Coosa River, Alabama
Moccasin Gap is a famous rapid on this river, and it keeps the power boats out of the target area. Put in just below the dam and take out at Southern Trails Outfitters for an amazing spotted bass and largemouth river. The Coosa has tournaments upstream of the dam, but kayak fishing is the ticket for downstream of the dam and the fishing is awesome.
Prepare for both spots and largemouth with a combination of spinnerbaits, a wacky worm, a buzzbait, a swimbait and a squarebill if you want. You’ll find the spots hunkered in mid-stream eddies and largemouth along the shore at the base of trees, laydowns and rocky outcroppings. Spots can be big in this section and can be aggressive as well. If you like fishing tournaments, check out the River Bass’n Tournament there which is super fun and you’ll get to meet lots of other kayak fisherman and compare notes, as it is a fun event with great camaraderie.
Green Swamp Lodge, Florida
While I wasn’t going to include this one, since it is a private series of lakes, I couldn’t help myself as it has been my Florida favorite since 1974. This was once owned by a farmer, and it was completely surrounded by woods, but in the late 70s it was purchased and a lodge was built on the property that makes for a perfect weekend or week-long, big-bass getaway.
The lakes are actually a series of old phosphate pits and have an awesome variation of habitats. Shallow grassy sections, deep drop offs, overhanging trees, brush and canals between the different lakes offer lots of options. Bring your fish finder if you want to find the deep fish and fish the ledges as it is harder to find than you would think without them, given the size of the lakes/ponds.
This is Florida pit fishing at its best with 100 acres of topwater heaven, ledge fishing with deep divers, drop-shots and more. I have 4-5 rods with me and always keep a frog, a Texas-rigged 10-inch red, black or purple worm with 1/2-ounce bullet weight, and a Strike King Caffeine Shad or Banjo Minnow. I like big baits as even the smaller fish will go for them here. You can sign up for the meal package or cook your own, and with a group of 4 or more, the cost is not unreasonable.
I hope you take the time to explore some of my favorite kayak fishing spots of the East! I am writing this from my RV which is currently parked at the launch of the Ottawa River section I described. I caught more than 250 fish yesterday, about 200 bass and 50 pike of various sizes. If you need a guide up here, you can call Wilderness Tours, and they’ll help you. But the adventurer in me recommends exploring it yourself!