Imagine, if you will, that COVID-19 is behind us. You’re downtown in some state capital—hopefully for a day of advocacy with the BHA family, or maybe just for conference with a bunch of knuckleheads you really need to escape. Either way, it hits you: I need to catch a damn fish. ASAP.
Your kayak’s on the pickup. Your fishing bug-out bag is behind the seat. And, you have 60 minutes for lunch coming your way.
Like many folks, we travel for work. So, we wanted to know where a body could make the most out of a lunchbreak with this loop:
Leave a downtown meeting (State capitals are about as downtown as you get and downtowns are home to a lot of meetings. So, that’s home base.)
Pick up tackle or intel from a fishing store.
Drop into the water and catch a fish.
Swing by the taxidermist’s shop (of course, not everyone uses taxidermists, but some folks want to commemorate a fish through a mount, a replica, a print, or just a bullshit session with somebody who’s intimately connected to the local outdoors.)
Get back to the meeting before the devil knows you’re gone.
To figure where we’d have the best chance of pulling this off (or some variation thereof), we measured the distance from the state capitol to each of the destinations and figured an average. Smallest average wins. We figured this would be a halfway decent stand-in for the state that’s friendliest to fishermen.
Note: Is this scientific? No. Is it perfect? Nope. It’s just for fun. So, if your state or favorite spots aren’t listed or listed inaccurately and you want justice, please just shake your fist at Google’s algorithm and tell your friends and favorite business folks to hire a better SEO team.
Capital cities with less than a 4-mile average distance between the capitol, a fishing store, a boat ramp, and a taxidermist are:
5) Frankfurt, Kentucky
3.9-mile average between the destinations
The Kentucky Department of Fish & Wildlife Services says near here you can find some of the more overlooked and productive fishing in central Kentucky for black bass, crappie, bluegill, catfish, striped bass, and massive muskellunge. After you get off the water you can go pay your respects at Daniel Boone’s grave—even though he may not be in it.
4) Tallahassee, Florida
You could fish on Lake Munson and some folks do, but a 2016 blog from WFSU Public Media says this is possibly the most troubled water body in Leon County, Florida. So maybe instead of fishing it next time we’re in Tallahassee, we can get some buddies together to do something about the state of the lake.
3) Columbia, South Carolina
Bait up with catalpa worms on the Congaree River and you can expect to catch blue, channel, and flathead catfish in one trip—and you might just catch a new line-class world record. Change tactics and you might hook into a big striper, too.
2) Austin, Texas
Lady Bird Lake (known by locals as Town Lake) has produced a 13.5-pound largemouth, 45.5-pound striped bass, 44-pound blue catfish, monster carp, and many other impressive catches. Just in case you ever need it: Hudson’s Meat Market & Deer Processing is also just 2 miles from the capitol.
1) Pierre, South Dakota
Pierre is on my bucket list now. From the Missouri River tailrace to Lake Oahe, Pierre will give you access to world-class walleye fishing, landlocked salmon, northern pike, smallmouth bass, and loads more.
It’s tougher to pull this off in Santa Fe, New Mexico (19-mile average); Cheyenne, Wyoming (19-mile average); and Salt Lake City, Utah (25-mile average). That’s probably no surprise. But you may be surprised by who’s dragging up the rear end: Washington, D.C. A 68-mile drive to a taxidermist pulls the average to 26 miles.
Americans took about 500 million business trips per year ahead of COVID. So, we should remember that this too shall pass, and pretty soon we’ll all be back out there burning up the road. When we are, we may as well get our feet wet on lunch break and maybe swing through Montgomery, Alabama, to visit what may be the best-named bait shop in the country: Nawfside BYOB Live Bait.
Feature image via Jim Noetzel.