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Top 7 Most Popular Game Fish in America

Posted by Andrew Law (2/14/2023)
Top 7 Most Popular Game Fish in America

In this Article we will list out the Top 7 most popular fish targeted in the United States and discuss how to catch each one of them. We will share some interesting fish facts & recommended gear as well.


Rainbow Trout & Brook Trout These are a popular gamefish and are commonly used as stocking fish. They are great to catch either using casting gear or by fly fishing. There are a few species of trout located through North America including rainbow trout, brown trout, brook trout, cutthroat trout, and lake trout. Trout usually prefer more of clean, cold water. Originally found exclusively in the northern states and Canada, they have now been successfully stocked into the lower 48. The warmer waters in the southern states tend to be stocked with rainbow and brown trout as they are more tolerant of warmer water. Trout are usually synonymous stream and river fishing and are a common place to find these gamefish. Trout eat a variety of foods with a heavy focus on insects and larva. As they grow larger the fish switch up their diet to also include minnows and crawfish.

What method of fishing is most popular to catch Trout?

Fly fishing is what grew trout fishing's popularity and is the most popular method for catching trout. Spinning tackle would be a close second to fly fishing. small (size 1 or 2) spinners and spoons are effective lures at mimicking trout prey.


Channel Catfish Catfish come in a handful of species variety, but it is the channel, blue, and flathead catfish that are targeted by anglers the most. Blue catfish and flathead catfish can both weigh in over 100 pounds while the channel cat usually falls closer to the 10-20 pound range. Channel catfish also known as "channel cats" are the most abundantly found across America. Catfish can inhabit almost and kind of water including rivers, lakes, streams, ponds and are bottom feeding fish.

What method of fishing is most popular to catch Catfish?

Catfish are primarily caught by soaking cut baits on the bottom of the water. Catfish are primarily smell based eaters since they are live on the bottom where water is often murky. I would recommend a medium to heavy rod and reel. Baitcaiter if fishing from a boat primarily and a spinning reel if fishing from more often to allow for longer casts. a 7 ft. rod with a 3000 series size reel is what I recommend. It can be spooled with either 15 lb mono or fluoro or 20 braid. As for hooks, a 8/0 hook for cut bait is a standard choice.


Black Crappie These fish are considered to be part of the panfish group which also includes bluegill, & sunfish. They are a schooling fish and once you find one, you usually find a large group of them. They are growing in popularity and as such so are the Crappie fishing tournaments. They are great to catch with lightweight rod and tackle as they can put up a good and are terrific for eating. Crappies come in 2 varieties, white crappie and black crappie. They have small differences in color patterns but are overall pretty similar in habitat and can be caught with similar methods of fishing.

What method of fishing is most popular to catch Crappie?

Crappie are primarily caught casting spinning gear with small jigs and artificial grubs. 1/16 oz to 1/8 oz lures are typical for this kind of fishing. I would recommend a 6 ft light spinning rod with 6lb test. Crappie do well in cold water and as such are a common fishing target in the winter when ice fishing. Crappie are located in deep water for a majority of the year except in the spring for the spawn. Vertical presentations work best in deep water which translates to the use of jigs and live minnows to reach those depths.


Sturgeon Fishing at Night These are the largest of the fish on the list and can grow up to over 9 feet in North America. The record for sturgeon is 9'6" weighting in at 468 pounds caught back in 1983. Fights with a fish of this size can easily take over 1 hour. The largest variety of this fish can be found in the Pacific Northwest in large rivers. They are prehistoric fish that are bottom feeding.

What method of fishing is most popular to catch Sturgeon?

The use of cut bait is the most common method for catching these large fish. This typically involves a 18" snell composed of 65lb line attached to a 5/0 or 6/0 circle hook. Circle hooks are usually used here to prevent gut hooking these fish as they are usually caught in a catch and release manner. This sturgeon rig is paired with a no roll sinker somewhere between 3-5oz depending on the speed of the current. As the actual bait on the hook, it is common to see nightcrawlers, chucks of shiner or even a combination of both. It is important to make the bait large and smelly as sturgeon are another example of a highly smell dependent bottom feeder.


Walleye Fishing These game fish which are part of the Pike family are more locally found in the northern states and Canada. They are infamously known to be maybe the BEST tasting game fish. They are most commonly found in the Upper Midwest and can also be caught through the ice in the winter months. Walleye diet is mostly composed of small bait fish and craws. Walleye are known for being bottom feeders as well as nocturne feeders.

What method of fishing is most popular to catch Walleye?

Trolling for walleye is very effective while using live bait like a nightcrawler on a harness rig. Spoons and plugs can also be used with the help of a downrigger, planer board, and flat line. They can also be commonly caught on artificial lures similar to what you would use to catch bass. This includes jerkbaits, jigs, and crankbaits.


King and Steelhead Salmon While maybe not the quintessential example of a game fish salmon are a great game fish because of their sheer size and power. They are less popular mostly because of their limited availability across the US. Salmon come in a variety of species including Chinook / King, Coho / Silver, Atlantic, & pink salmon. It is good to note that it requires a separate permit to catch and keep salmon in the US.

fishing gear & lures

One of the best baits for salmon is live bait which includes the use of roe or fish eggs. These fish eggs are strung together in sacs and marinated for extra smell and then hooked onto drifting or trolling rigs. There are artificial version of fish eggs or you can use spinners as well. For salmon fishing a 8-9 foot rod is pretty standard and fishing line somewhere between 15lb for smaller salmon like pink salmon and 25lb line for king salmon.

What method of fishing is most popular to catch Salmon?

Both Trolling and Drift fishing are the most common methods for catching salmon are are used in different scenarios. Trolling for salmon consists of fishing out of a continuously moving boat. Trolling requires the use of weights, divers, downriggers, and flashers. This type of fishing is great for areas where salmon are more spread out like in lakes. Having the boat drive your bait around gives you an opportunity to cover water and find those salmon. Drift Fishing is a technique utilized when there is a strong water current and a good high concentration of salmon. Drift fishing in strong current is a natural presentation where a line is cast upstream and allowing your bait to drift down river past the salmon sitting in the current waiting for bait to swim by. As your bait drifts by where you are casting from, you slowly reel in and recast.


Largemouth Bass, SmallMouth Bass, Striped Bass Bass are the most popular gamefish in America because of their aggressive nature and can be found widely available all across America. Bass Fishing tournaments became popular back in the 1960's and are still fairly prevalent in today's world still. These bass fishing tournaments help develop and propel new fishing techniques for catching the massively popular gamefish.
The Largemouth bass need no introduction and are ambushing feeders that typically prefer slower moving water than other species. These fish are nicknamed "Largies" or "LMB." Smallmouth bass are usually found in more colder, cleaner water and are nicknamed "Bronzebacks" or "Bronzies" These fish are not as common as Largemouth bass in most part of the country as they cannot tolerate warm water as well as largemouth bass. Striped Bass are a originally saltwater fish species that are schooling open water fish. Striped bass are a popular seasonal choice during their spawning migrations towards warmer water and can easily each sizes much larger than that of the Largemouth or smallmouth bass variety. They are known for being aggressive top water feeders which is a highly desirable way for anglers to catch fish that is not as common with other species.

What method of fishing is popular to catch Bass?

While this is easily information that can be talked about in length for each type of bass, Bass are most commonly caught on spinning tackle that imitates small baitfish or craws. This is their natural forage. This includes, crankbaits, spinnerbaits, frogs, topwater walkers, jigs, jerkbaits, worms, etc.
If you are interested in knowing more about how to catch bass, we have full dedicated articles to catching Striped bass, largemouth bass, and smallmouth bass in much greater detail.

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