A Guide to the Best Family Fishing Vacations in the Midwest

A family fishing on Mille Lacs Lake in Minnesota, one of the best places for a Midwest family fishing vacation.
Photo Courtesy: Minnesota Department of Natural Resources

Growing up, my family loved to fish and go camping, so over the years, I’ve compiled a list of the best family fishing vacations in the Midwest. Between Missouri, Michigan, and Minnesota, the Midwest offers all kinds of fishing opportunities for families. I still take my family to as many of these locations as possible throughout the summer months to enjoy time together on the water. It’s an especially great opportunity to enjoy the outdoors, bond with your kids, and learn more about nature. If you’re wondering how to plan a family fishing vacation to the Midwest, I’ve also included some tips, plus what to pack on your next family fishing vacation. Keep reading to find out where your next family vacation fishing destination should be and how to catch that fish of a lifetime! 

Best Family Fishing Destinations in the Midwest

The Midwest is filled with spectacular fishing opportunities. Whether you’re looking to catch muskie, northern pike, walleye, smallmouth bass, crappie, or bluegill, the following fishing spots won’t disappoint. Keep reading to learn more! 

Missouri 

The beautiful Lake Table Rock on a sunny summer day.
Photo Courtesy: Visit Missouri

I’ve lost count of the times I’ve traveled to Missouri to fish with my family! This midwestern state boasts lots of acres of water, offering all kinds of families a fun vacation. Table Rock Lake, located in the Ozarks near Branson, is an ideal place to rent a boat for the day and chase some smallmouth bass. Table Rock is one of the largest lakes in this part of the country and has many different types of fish to catch and other water sports to partake in, like paddleboarding, kayaking, boat rentals, tubing, and cliff jumping. Family camping is available at Table Rock State Park, which offers spectacular lake views and lakeshore access from many campsites.

If one of the nation’s best fishing lakes is too daunting or trout fishing is more of your family’s preference, Taneycomo is oh so close and home to monster brown trout and is regularly stocked with rainbow trout. Plus, there are many fishing resorts nearby. You’ll need to stay for a month or come back multiple times to enjoy all the fishing opportunities around Branson, Missouri; that’s why it’s the best family fishing vacation in the Midwest!

Also, Elk City Reservoir in Kansas, which is just a few hours’ drive away from Branson, is known for producing monster flathead catfish, and if you head in the other direction to the Mississippi River, you’ll enter giant blue catfish territory. I’m telling you, Missouri is an angler’s paradise! 

Look for a home stay near Table Rock Lake here through Vrbo!

Michigan 

A beautiful view of the waves along Lake Gogebic.
Photo Courtesy: Skye Marthaler via Wikimedia

I strongly recommend heading to Michigan waters for your next family fishing trip! My father-in-law is from Michigan, so every summer, we take a long car ride to the Mitten State to meet up with family, play some disc golf, and wet a line. Honestly, Michigan is a bit of a sleeper state for fishing. The first time I fished in Michigan, I thought the smallmouth bass were nearly jumping into the boat. Part of that was beginner’s luck, but the fishing is also incredible here.

It’s tough to pick just one location in Michigan because the Great Lakes surround it, and there are small lakes filled with fish all over the state. For instance, one morning, I woke up and caught some smallmouth bass and a northern pike, and my father-in-law caught a walleye. Then we drove about an hour to meet up with a guide and caught giant lake trout. Lake Michigan is a popular spot, particularly in Grand Haven, St. Joe, or Ludington, which has a great variety of fish, including Yellow Perch, salmon, and trout. 

Speaking of trout, the state is working hard to restore the trout streams to prominence. So, no matter what type of angler you are, you’re sure to find what you’re looking for in Michigan.

Wisconsin 

A view of Lakeshore State Park in Wisconsin, one of the best destinations for a family fishing vacation in the Midwest.
Photo Courtesy: Visit Milwaukee

A large portion of my wife’s family also lives in Wisconsin, and they’re big perch anglers. Lake Michigan stretches just past Chicago, Illinois, and into Indiana, so technically, you don’t have to head to Wisconsin to fish it. Still, Wisconsin DNR does a tremendous job of stocking millions of fish annually, allowing anglers to catch Coho salmon, Chinook salmon, steelhead, brown trout, walleye, and largemouth bass. 

There are tons of places to fish close to Milwaukee for a quick getaway. Lake Shore State Park is one of the most popular spots because it has bank fishing opportunities throughout the park. If fishing around Milwaukee is too crowded, Wisconsin has plenty of other places to visit with fewer crowds, especially as you head north toward the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. 

Save on your hotel stay in Milwaukee through the Families Love Travel booking site! Sign-up is free!

Minnesota

A family enjoys a fishing charter experience on Mille Lacs Lake.
Photo Courtesy: Explore Minnesota

Minnesota is another one of the best family fishing vacations in the Midwest! Whether you’re looking for great fishing opportunities on a small or large body of water, this sprawling state won’t disappoint. For one of Minnesota’s best family fishing destinations, head to Mille Lacs Lake. It’s located about 2 hours north of the Twin Cities, Minneapolis/St. Paul on US 169 and east of Brainerd on Highway 18. Mille Lacs is one of the Gopher States’ best walleye fishing destinations that offers an opportunity to catch the fish of 10,000 casts, a musky. Plus, Mille Lacs Kathio State Park on the lake’s southern end is a favorite campground for many outdoor enthusiasts.

As you head north from Mille Lacs, you become aware of why Minnesota is nicknamed the Land of 10,000 Lakes and why it has to be one of the top family fishing states in the Midwest. Many of these lakes are filled with panfish like bluegill, crappie, and bass, making for the perfect place for kids to use live minnows, worms, or lures for an epic freshwater fishing experience.

South Dakota

A grandfather and his grandson fishing in South Dakota, one of the best destinations for a family fishing vacation in the Midwest.
Photo Courtesy: SouthDakota.com

Another sleeper state for fishing is South Dakota. Many might complain that I didn’t list Iowa, North Dakota, or Nebraska, which all have great fishing in their own right. Still, since nearly 98% of South Dakota’s waters are public, this gives your family loads of opportunities to go fishing while on vacation in the Midwest. Most fishing will take place on the Missouri River, which cuts the state in half from east to west and along the eastern border, as this is where most of the water is located in the ‘Mount Rushmore State.’

However, the Black Hills in the western portion of the state have unique trout fishing opportunities for brook, brown trout, and rainbow trout. 

Search here for your vacation rental in the Black Hills with Vrbo!

What To Pack on Your Next Family Fishing Vacation 

A family gathered around a campfire after a fishing trip in the Midwest.
Photo Courtesy: Coty Perry

Now that you’ve picked the best family fishing vacations in the Midwest, it’s time to begin packing! The following list is not an end-all-be-all list, but merely some suggestions that I’ve picked up throughout the years traveling and fishing across the Midwest. Here’s what to pack on your next family fishing vacation! 

5 Lures That Work ANYWHERE You Go 

A young girl holding fishing bait during a family fishing vacation in the Midwest.
Photo Courtesy: Coty Perry

I always have these three lures in my tackle box, no matter where I’m fishing, because I know I can get a bite with them whether I’m walleye, crappie, catfish, bass fishing, or any other game fish species.

Last Cast 

A woman showing off a fish she caught fishing in the Midwest with kids.
Photo Courtesy: Coty Perry

Taking your family to the best fishing locations in the Midwest will forge close bonds with your family and create memories that will last multiple lifetimes. I don’t have enough space to list all the fishing spots we’ve fished at as a family. Therefore, many places were left off this list, but that doesn’t mean we didn’t make unforgettable memories at these spots. So even if you can’t get to the “best locations,” it’s still worth taking your family on vacation and wetting a line! I hope to see you on the water with your family! 

Tight Lines!

We hope you liked this Guide to the Best Family Fishing Vacations in the Midwest by our contributor Coty Perry! From Michigan to Missouri, there are lots of exciting places to enjoy your next family fishing vacation in the Midwest. Happy travels! 


Author’s profile: Coty Perry
As a third-generation angler and the Managing Editor of Anglers, he possesses a wealth of knowledge and experience in outdoor activities. He frequently enjoys fishing and camping outings with his wife and children.

*This post may contain affiliate links that may earn us a small commission, at no additional cost to you. Affiliate links in no way inform the hotels, sights, products, or other recommendations included in our articles. All opinions and recommendations expressed here are compiled from submissions submitted by the generous members of our Families Who Love To Travel community.

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