How to Choose Between an Ocean or Lake Fishing Vacation

Woman in gray tank top with fishing rod standing on shore

So you want to get another fishing trip in before the end of the year, huh? The cooling weather makes fall a great time for fishing—but if you’re tired of the same old fishing holes in town, it’s a great opportunity to make a vacation of it.

Now, the hard part about planning a fishing vacation is that there are just so many great places to choose from. So to help you narrow down your list, we’re going to outline how you can choose between an ocean or lake fishing vacation.


The first thing you should consider is your experience level with both ocean and lake fishing techniques. For many, a successful fishing trip is measured by how many fish you bring home and the size of those fish. As such, you’ll probably be more successful fishing in the environment in which you have the most experience.

That said, remember that this is a vacation! Not all fishing trips can be measured on how many fish you bring home, and you should also consider whether this is a good opportunity to try something you’ve never done before. Besides, there are many guide companies you can look for that’ll help you make the most of your vacation and send you home with enough fish to feel plenty satisfied.


fishing with net

Travel is going to be one of, if not the most, expensive part of your fishing vacation. Is this specifically a fishing vacation? Or is fishing just one small part of your larger goal to see and experience a new destination?

This consideration boils down to how far you want to travel for your vacation. Staying a bit more local often means looking for a new lake to fish, especially if you live in the interior of the States. If you’re already planning a vacation to destinations like Maui or Florida, on the other hand, what’re a few more dollars to get out on the ocean and try your luck at hooking into something big?

Sport-Fishing or Catch-and-Keep?

You should also consider your end goals for this fishing vacation. If you’re looking for an all-day experience hunting and fighting a big species (like Marlin!) that you’ve never fished before, then you’re probably looking for more of a sport-fishing vacation.

If, on the other hand, you want to bring a cooler full of meat home at the end of the day, you might look for something a little different. Fortunately, both lakes and oceans offer both of these options.

When choosing between a sport-fishing expedition or one that gives you the chance to come home with full pockets, you should also be careful to investigate fishing regulations on any lakes or waterways that you’re thinking of visiting.

Some may have limits on the amount of fish you can take home in a day, which can easily spoil your best-laid plans if you don’t know that until you arrive. It’s also important to remember that if you encounter any situations in which there is a conflict between an adopted state regulation and the general federal regulation, the federal regulation will be applied. This is especially important to consider if you’re planning a fishing vacation within the boundaries of a national park.

Charter or No Charter?

Many lake-fishing vacations might not require a charter vessel. These types of locations often offer great shore or inlet fishing. However, some of our nation’s largest (and coldest) lakes offer better fishing a couple miles offshore. In these cases, you’re going to want to hire a charter if you want to see some real success. In the case of ocean fishing, of course, a charter is absolutely necessary and it’ll also connect you with local guides who know where to fish and how to best catch whatever you’re looking to hook into.

One tip on hiring a charter, whether it’s for a lake or ocean vacation: get a solid group of 4 to 10 buddies together to split the cost. According to Fish Maui, the average cost of a private charter on the island is about $850 for 4 hours, $1,100 for 6 hours, and $1,400 for 8 hours. While these prices don’t include harbor fees or state taxes, it’s clear that more heads means a lower cost per person. Keep in mind that some charters will actually have limits on how many people they take out at a time, so be sure to check up on this in the booking process.

Cooking the Catch 

cooking fish on grill

The last consideration when choosing an ocean or lake fishing vacation comes down to the type of fish that you like to eat and how you like to prepare it. Every fish is a little different in bone and fin structure, so knowing how to properly prepare your catch when you get home is a great way to round out your experience.

Fortunately, many local fishing guides will happily offer advice on how they prepare their fish at home. Our tip: unless you’re very experienced cooking the fish you’ve caught, take that advice!

Lakes and oceans offer very different environments for a fishing vacation. Whichever you choose, just know you’re going to be in for an experience. We hope you thoroughly enjoy your next trip. Fish on!

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