Discover the Top 9 Spots for Salmon Fishing in the U.S.

Coho salmon
USFWS - Pacific Region / Flickr

Written by Larissa Smith

Updated: August 22, 2023

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Salmon fishing in glimmering freshwater rivers and cold waters of the deep blue is nature’s challenge that will leave you hooked! Picturesque locations, trophy catches, and a connection to nature are some of the reasons why salmon fishing in the U.S. is a rewarding adventure.

9 Spots for Salmon Fishing in the U.S.
Icy cold water makes these waterways prime salmon fishing spots.

Salmon thrive in cold, oxygenated water, which means they do well in the northern states of the U.S. From Alaska to New York and Maine, there is no short supply of sizeable silver catches.

Where are the best places to cast your lines in the U.S.? Let’s delve into the world of angling and discover the top 9 best spots for salmon fishing in the U.S.

1. Kenai River, Alaska

When talking about salmon fishing, Alaska is a top destination. The icy cold water provides the ideal conditions for salmon to thrive. The coastlines are filled with salmon prey, such as krill and plankton. But where in Alaska can you catch the fish of a lifetime? Kenai River.

Fish with views of snow-capped mountains surrounding you with waters loaded with king salmon. The Kenai River is home to the largest king salmon ever caught, which weighed in at 97.4 pounds. The average adult king salmon in the Kenai River weighs 37 pounds and up.

Find all five species of salmon in the Kenai River and witness the incredible chinook and sockeye runs that bring thousands of fish to the river. This is where world records are meant to be broken, so gather your fishing gear and head to the Kenai River for the adventure of a lifetime.

Kenai River in Cooper Landing Alaska fishing boat in fall

Kenai River is home to the largest salmon ever caught, weighing 97.4 pounds.

2. Lake Oahe, South Dakota

Lake Oahe is a 370,000-acre reservoir located behind the Oahe Dam. It has a maximum depth of 205 feet and is the fourth-largest reservoir by volume in the U.S. There are 51 recreation areas around the lake, with 2,250 miles of shoreline for anglers to explore.

Chinook salmon don’t reproduce naturally at Lake Oahe, so the Game, Fish, and Parks staff have an artificial spawning station where 1 million eggs are collected. This ensures a fully stocked lake next season.

The lake is not only a popular spot for salmon. Try your luck catching pike, bass, and other amazing sport fish. Just think about successfully catching one of your favorite fish at one of the best salmon fishing hotspots in the U.S.

Lake Oahe South Dakota

There is an abundance of bass, pike, and salmon for your fishing pleasure at Lake Oahe.

3. Lake Ontario, New York

Salmon was added to Lake Ontario in 1968 and has thrived each year. This massive lake is the 13th largest in the world, with 712 miles of shoreline, making it a popular spot for anglers who prefer trolling. The forests around the lake have an abundance of oak, maple, basswood, and beech. However, much of it is threatened by agriculture and the logging industry.

The views on Lake Ontario are impeccable. If you are an experienced fly fisherman, try your luck in the tributaries. When the temperature is right, you can find salmon rearing to bait.

With a stocked lake and your rod in hand, set your sights on a record-breaking coho salmon or chinook. Lake Ontario, New York, won’t disappoint.

Lake Ontario, Rochester, NY

Lake Ontario in New York is fully stocked with coho and chinook salmon.

4. Katmai, Alaska

If you’re an angler looking for an unforgettable salmon fishing adventure, look no further than Katmai, Alaska. Katmai National Park is located on the Alaska Peninsula and is the 4th largest national park in the U.S. Katmai is an essential habitat for salmon and brown bears whose numbers range in the thousands that call the park home.

Once summer starts, you can witness the incredible salmon run where millions swim upstream in the freshwater streams and rivers. This mass salmon migration attracts the brown bears you’ll compete with for your prized salmon.

Find the following salmon at Katmai National Park:

  • Chinook
  • Sockeye
  • Chum
  • Pink
  • Coho

The salmon caught here are 100% wild to make your catch brag-worthy.

Katmai National Park, Alaska

Katmai National Park has a massive salmon run with millions of fish, creating a breathtaking experience for anglers.

5. Penobscot River, Maine

Located in north-central Maine, the Penobscot River is 105 miles long. When the South Branch and West Branch connect, the Penobscot River becomes the second-largest river in Maine at 264 miles. The picturesque landscapes and winding rivers provide an experience for anglers like no other.

The rocky shores and evergreen forests are breathtaking and contain a very large Atlantic salmon population. The Penobscot River hosts the largest Atlantic salmon run in the U.S., so be prepared for adventure! The salmon run can be seen in June through early July. In addition to Atlantic salmon, you can fish for landlocked salmon too.

An Atlantic salmon leaps upstream to reach its spawning grounds

Penobscot River is one of the best salmon fishing spots in the U.S. and has incredible Atlantic salmon runs in June.

6. Bristol Bay, Alaska

Bristol Bay, located in southeast Alaska, is home to various salmon species, such as king salmon, silver salmon, and chum salmon, which are all seasonal in the area. In addition, Bristol Bay is known for its wild salmon runs and has the world’s most popular sockeye salmon fishery.

Twenty-five federally recognized tribal governments are supported by the Bristol Bay watershed, which also has large mineral resources.

The Bristol Bay salmon season is between June and July each year, offering abundant fish. Wild sockeye salmon is typically caught between June and August, as it’s a seasonal product.

The wild sockeye salmon harvest runs until September, and it’s predicted that 2023 will be one of the strongest harvests in the last 20 years. However, this year is no match for last year’s record of 6 million wild sockeye salmon harvested!

Views from Eagle Island in Bristol Bay, Alaska

One of the world’s biggest salmon populations is located in Bristol Bay, Alaska.

7. Kvichak River

The Kvichak River is situated in the Bristol Bay Watershed. The river has an abundance of fish, including sockeye and king salmon. This is one of the most productive salmon populations in Alaska. The salmon runs can bring millions of salmon to the area, adding an extra layer of excitement to your fishing experience.

The untouched landscapes of Alaska’s landscapes go unmatched by anything you’ve experienced. The area is rich in culture and wildlife, offering an exclusive opportunity to mix indigenous culture with your favorite sport.

King salmon

Kvichak River is stocked with sockeye and king salmon (pictured), with much wildlife in the area to enjoy.

8. Salmon River, New York

If you’re looking for the best sportfishing in the U.S., you must get to Salmon River in New York! Salmon River has 12 miles of shoreline available to the public for fishing and is abundant in three types of salmon, namely:

  • Chinook salmon
  • Coho salmon
  • Atlantic salmon (or landlocked salmon)

Salmon River is also the spot where two major records have been broken:

  • The Chinook salmon record for the Great Lakes (47 lbs. 13 oz.)
  • The world record for Coho salmon (33 lbs. 4 oz.)

The best time to get to Salmon River to fish is between October and March. Anglers are welcome to do conventional and fly fishing, so get your line out and enjoy a day at Salmon River!

Chinook Salmon Teeth

Salmon River is a chinook salmon (pictured) and trout fishing dream for anglers due to their numbers and size.

9. Lake Shasta, California

Lake Shasta is a reservoir in California and a popular fishing and hunting location. Anglers can fish for their favorite salmon species, such as chinook and kokanee salmon. Expect to see a lot of largemouth bass and rainbow trout while searching for salmon.

The best time to fish for salmon in Lake Shusta is spring when the water is still cool. As the weather warms, salmon swim deeper into the lake for cooler water. Expect to catch at least a 10-pound salmon while on your fishing adventure. Salmon breed naturally at Lake Shusta in addition to fish stocking programs.

Lake Shusta is not only a place to find prized salmon. Let your adventurous side out and go kayaking, hiking, and wildlife viewing. There is much to explore.

Lake Shasta landscape

Fish for salmon at Lake Shasta in the spring when the waters are cool.

Summary of the Best Spots to Fish for Salmon in the U.S.

Salmon Fishing in the U.S.Best Time to Fish
1Kenai River, AlaskaMay to August
2Lake Oahe, South DakotaJuly to August
3Lake Ontario, New YorkMay to September
4Katmai, AlaskaJune to August
5Penobscot River, MaineMay to August
6Bristol Bay, AlaskaJune to July
7Kvichak River, AlaskaJune to July
8Salmon River, New YorkOctober to March
9Lake Shasta, CaliforniaMarch to May
Summary of the best places to fish for salmon in the U.S. and when.

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About the Author

Larissa Smith is a writer for A-Z Animals with years of experience in plant care and wildlife. After years spent in the South African bush while studying Nature Conservation, she found her way to writing about animals and plants in her work. She hopes to inspire others to appreciate and care for the precious world around them. Larissa lives in Florida with her two sons, a miniature golden retriever named Pupples, and a colorful succulent garden. In her spare time, she is tending to her garden, adventuring with her kids, and hosting “Real Housewives” watch parties with her friends.

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