I was writing a blog about a new trout stream in Kentucky and I found a photo of anglers out fishing in the rain. I know a little rain is nothing to a dedicated angler, but I started thinking: “Is there a particular fish that anglers really love to fish for? Is it different depending on where you are? What makes that fish that fun?” I reached out to Service anglers and some partners across the country to find out what their favorite fish to catch is.
Dan Magneson, Assistant Hatchery Manager at Quilcene National Fish Hatchery in Washington state
For me, it is flathead catfish hands-down. For me, it is the equivalent of trying to hunt a trophy bull elk with a bow. It is big -- with a current rod-and-reel flathead record of more than 123 lbs.-- and there are generally not many of them inhabiting a given location. Add to that their proclivity for live prey, strong homing instincts and chiefly nocturnal activity, and those elite anglers who can consistently land trophy-sized flatheads belong to a very select and skilled fraternity.
Kelly Oliver-Amy, Fish and Wildlife Biologist and Grant Manager for the Sport Fish Restoration Program in our Southwest Region Kelly is the photographer in the family, but here are her daughters last summer on the upper Cebolla Creek in New Mexico.
My husband and I like to take our girls fishing in the Santa Fe National Forest on the Rio Cebolla, which has Rio Grande cutthroat trout. It is catch-and-release fishing on a fly rod. This fish is really fun for us because it is a native New Mexico cutthroat, is quite lovely and unique. As a fish biologist, I love to see the native species.
Julie Timmer, Administrative Officer at Pendills Creek National Fish Hatchery in Michigan
Ever since I can remember, my grandpa and dad both enjoyed perch fishing, and I would always tag along. We'd fish in the summer and winter. I have more memories ice fishing. Perhaps because we'd have to snowmobile in to Pendills Lake. Grandpa would ride on the four wheeler once we had a good enough path out to the lake, and dad and I would be on his old Elan snowmobile. There'd be numerous ice shanties out on the lake, seemed like the whole neighborhood from Dollar Settlement [in Michigan] would come out. Some days, if the weather was fair, even grandma, my mom and younger sister would come out. The three of them would be in one ice shanty, and dad, grandpa and I would be in the other, waiting for perch and/or pike.
Mike Piccirilli, Chief of the Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Program for the Southeast Region
Yellowstone River cutthroat trout are beautiful, and they're found in beautiful places, it’s a bonus to maybe get a glimpse of a wolf or a grizzly bear when fishing, and finally I never tire of releasing them to live another day.
Chris Smith, Supervisory Fish and Wildlife Biologist at the Lake Champlain Fish and Wildlife Resources Office in Vermont
I enjoy angling for walleye because of the numerous techniques used to catch them. Walleye put up a tremendous fight and are excellent table fare.
Volunteer Michelle Van Den Heede of Riverdale, North Dakota, seconds the walleye vote.
As Chris says: "Walleye is excellent table fare."
Mike Goehle, Deputy Complex Manager of the Lower Great Lakes Fish and Wildlife Conservation Office in New York
Mike also "votes for walleye as my favorite fish to catch. They're a beautiful fish with a great fight. As for table fare, they don't get much better either!”
Shane Hanlon, Hatchery Manager at North Attleboro National Fish Hatchery in Massachusetts
Why it's the brook trout, of course – with its miraculous coloration, its wonderful taste and representation of the places I love most--the mountains and upland streams. A good catch helps me forget about the blood-sucking mosquitoes and black flies.
Steve Klein, Chief of the Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Program for our Alaska RegionSteve Klein (third from left) and friends with five Chinook salmon from Prince William Sound.
My favorite fish to catch is the mighty Chinook salmon, especially trolling for them in beautiful places like Prince William Sound and Resurrection Bay. They give you a great fight and taste so good! And when a hot bite is on, it gets real exciting!
Richard "Kip" Bottomley, Project Leader at Jones Hole National Fish Hatchery in UtahKip (right) and cousin.
Kip also picks Chinook salmon.
The excitement begins when you leave the dock and head out into the beautiful Pacific Ocean. Oftentimes there will be several boats trolling the area where fish are being caught, and the excitement increases. At times the fish are in deep water (> 200 ft. depth) where trolling is best or they move in with the bail to shallower waters (<100 ft. depth) where a technique called mooching works well. While mooching,a sliding egg-hape sinker is used so that when the fish picks up the bait (anchovy or herring), it can swim freely, or at least for a 10 - 15 feet before the hook is set, and then it can get very exciting! More often than not the water is colored deep blue and the fish are such dedicated swimmers that they will run in any direction, left, right, as well as surfacing! Strong and powerful fish. And of course there is always that urge to fulfill one’s desires to consume all the OMEGA - 3s possible from what I consider to be my favorite table fare.
Matt Baun, Public Affairs Officer in our Pacific Southwest Region
I enjoy catching half-pounders on the Klamath River each autumn. There's quite a bit of lore and legend surrounding these small but mighty fish. Among steelhead, half-pounders are unique. They are found in the Klamath River and a few other places in Southern Oregon and Northern California. For reasons not completely known, they are hard-wired genetically to return to the river within months after reaching the ocean whereas other steelhead are programmed to spend up to three years in the Pacific before returning to their natal rivers. When these immature steelhead come back into the river as half-pounders they are only about 16 inches long, but are very strong and are known for their aerial acrobatics when hooked on a fly.
Bob Clarke, Fisheries Program Supervisor for our Pacific Southwest Region
My favorite is the California golden trout, because you catch them in beautiful parts of the Sierra Nevada mountains, they are a really pretty fish, and they are the state freshwater fish of California, my home state. A close second on the list is the Lahontan cutthroat trout, because of the awesome role the Service has played in bringing the Pilot Peak strain back to the Truckee watershed, because they are the largest inland trout in North America, and because, despite catching many Lahontan cutthroat, I still have yet to catch a floy-tagged [An external tag placed for one reason or another.] Pilot Peak fish from the Service’s Lahontan National Fish Hatchery.
Denise Wagner, Conservation Education Coordinator for the Fish and Aquatic Conservation Program
Living in Oklahoma most of my life, I loved catching crappie with my dad. They were fun to catch, great memories from our times together and fried crappie is delicious! Now living in Montana, of course I had to start fly fishing. Beautiful surroundings, love being on the water and I’m pretty happy when I catch anything. But getting a nice trout on the line and successfully bringing it in, amazing!
A few folks couldn’t pick just one.
Chad Brown, owner, creative director and designer of Soul River Runs Deep, a fishing and outdoors outfitter, and Soul River Inc. Runs Wild, a nonprofit that connects inner city youth and U.S. veterans to the outdoors
It’s kind of different on where you are at on the river and location. Here in the Northwest it is the forever-lucent steelhead or the unicorn of the Northwest, which is a goal to anglers and the heartbeat of the Northwest! On the East Coast, depending where you’re at, it can be stripers. Go down to Texas, you’re looking at redfish and bass. In the middle like Montana you have the blue ribbon trout or the Midwest, musky. So it really depends where you are and what type of water.
Christopher Dean, Fish Biologist at Pendills Creek National Fish Hatchery
Christopher (shown with a steelhead) agrees it depends on the location. “The Midwest seems to be set as the walleye is the prize possession, while in the Pacific Northwest it's all about the Pacific salmon. The thrill of the chase (not easy to catch), the fight, and the table fare afterwards really makes the sport fun.”
Dr. Mike Millard, Director of the Northeast Fishery Center in Pennsylvania
• Coho salmon are a good fighting fish that show up in the early fall, an absolutely beautiful time of the year to be in Alaska.
• Rainbow trout fishing in Alaska’s Kenai River can be the most visually appealing fishing you'll ever find.
And the best catch may not the fish itself but the memories made on fishing trips.
Susan Sawyer, Visitor Services Manager at Stillwater National Wildlife Refuge Complex in NevadaDad, me holding fish I just caught, my sister on left, brother behind - Kern River, California, in 1964.
My dad taught me to fish when I was 3 (golden trout, Merced River, Yosemite National Park) and it’s something I continue to this day whenever I get the chance. Hard to say a favorite fish, it was always about the experience that my dad and I shared over the years - catching a fish wasn't that important, but it sure added to the memories and stories. My favorite part was being outdoors, from oceans to mountains, doing something we both enjoyed, together.
What’s your favorite fish or fishing memory?