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5 of the Best Fishing Spots Near Memphis, Tennessee

Memphis is one of the most fishing-friendly cities in the United States. While it may not boast the same quality and quantity of fish species as Florida, there are many great options within the city limits and just outside the city.

Before You Go:

To fish in this state, you need to purchase a Tennessee fishing license, unless you qualify for one of the following exemptions:

  • You are under 13 years old.
  • You are a resident under 16 fishing on farmland owned by your grandparents or great-grandparents.
  • First cousins who jointly own farmland may fish on the farmland without a license.
  • You are on military leave.
  • It is a free fishing day.
  • It is free Fishing week.

You can check out a full list of regulations on the Tennessee Wildlife Resource Agency Website.

Shelby Farms Park

Located 12 miles outside of Memphis and still in the city limits lies Shelby Farms Park. This 4,500-acre park in the city of Memphis boasts over 20 lakes and ponds that you can fish in. It’s rare to find such a large stretch of wilderness and so many fishing opportunities in an urban city.

The 20 lakes and ponds are home to a healthy population of catfish, crappie, bream, largemouth bass, striped bass, smallmouth bass and carp. Just make sure you throw back any carp you catch; they are strictly catch and release. If fly-fishing is more your speed, Jones Pond is stocked with trout every December and January. The park sports some great bank fishing and deepwater fishing off of the Beaver Lake and Pine Lake piers. You can also fish off of a boat — you just can’t take a motorboat on any of the lakes. Fair warning: While you can boat, not all of the bodies of water are easy to launch into.

Mississippi River

The mighty Mississippi is home to over 200 different species of fish, but in Memphis, catfish are king. While you can catch walleye, crappie, largemouth bass and smallmouth bass, the main attraction of the Mississippi along Memphis is the five species of catfish that call the area home. The Mississippi along Memphis is home to five species of catfish: blues, yellows, flatheads, channels, bullheads and spoonbill catfish.

The Memphis stretch of the Mississippi has some of the best catfishing in all of America. Prior to the 1800s, it wasn’t uncommon to bring in a 6-foot blue catfish weighing a whopping 150 pounds. While you might not be able to catch a 150-pounder, the introduction of invasive Asian carp has helped the catfish population grow quite large both in size of fish and population density. It’s now fairly common to bring in a 50-, 60-, 70- or even 80-pound catfish along the Mississippi.

Martin Luther King Riverside Park

Located along the Mississippi in Memphis, Martin Luther King Riverside Park is home to some great urban fishing. Whether you're a fly fisherman or a cast master, you will have a great time on this lake. The lake is home to largemouth bass, various catfish species, trout and bream.

You can fish off the bank or use an electric motorboat, kayak or canoe. Some quick fishing regulations to keep in mind: (1) All largemouth bass caught in this lake are catch and release only, (2) your daily catfish limit is three, (3) you can take five trout a day as long as you have a trout permit and (4) you’re allowed to keep 25 bream a day.

Fort Pillow State Historic Park

Fort Pillow is located about 13 miles from downtown Memphis and has a great fishing reservoir. The lake is home to redear sunfish, flathead catfish, carp, largemouth bass, bream, bluegill, crappie and bullhead catfish. The lake is great for both casting and fly-fishing depending on what species you’re after.

It’s easy to fish off of the bank, wade in the water or take a boat. You can rent canoes and kayaks on site all year round, so if you want to fish from a boat and don’t have one, no need to worry. Motorboats are permitted at Fort Pillow State Historic Park, but you’re required to adhere to the no-wake policy.

Meeman Shelby Forest State Park

Located 17 miles north of Memphis, Meeman Shelby Forest State Park houses two lakes perfect for fishing. Piersol Lake and the 100-acre Poplar Tree Lake are home to bass, bluegill and catfish. While not very common, anglers have been known to pull sizable largemouth bass from the lakes.