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30 Photos of Fish Jumping Out of Water You Want to Fish In

Check out these 30 leaping gamefish species to kickstart the spring angler in  you. 

Our favorite fish species to chase, target, and otherwise try to catch can be found from the Great Lakes to the Mississippi River and from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean.

Whether they are native fish or an invasive species, we want to catch them, one way or another, and if they can leap out of the water to tantalize and sometimes traumatize us, so much the better. 

Being that we've spent most of our lives doing just that, we've all become veterans at identifying them, right? Well, not so fast! Having a fish in the hand is one thing, but how many times have you and I seen a great fish come to the surface, leap, and then suddenly be gone after spitting the hook?

Now the argument begins. Any time you go fishing, it's bound to come up once or twice.

Was that a muskellunge, a tiger muskie, or a northern pike? They have distinct characteristics while being in the same family. Since the United States is the greatest country on Earth and has a plethora of gamefish that jump, leap, or otherwise try to spit your bait right back into your face, here is your opportunity to finally settle that argument with your fishing buddy over which fish it was that fish broke your line.

Seeing these pictures of fish that strike, jump, leap, rip line off of the spool, and sometimes get lost for good will remind you of why we do it. There's plenty of video out there, but sometimes it just takes some good photography to remind us of why we learned to go fishing in the first place.

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Do Fish Jump?

Of course they do, that's why we're sharing so many awesome pictures of 30 different kinds emerging from the water surface. Even goldfish and other aquarium fish are known to do it. Some experts say a fish jumping out of water may be trying to escape predators or get rid of parasites, but when they're hooked in the mouth by something sharp that won't let go, they'll use it as a last resort. Hopefully a vigorous shake and a big water splash knocks the hook loose.

But not always...

Watching fish jumping from Kentucky Lake to the Illinois River gets our blood up. We see a body of water, any body of water, and we immediately want to fish it. Seeing fish leaping from the shore can also have an unusual and unintended effect: emptying our wallets at the the local fishing tackle store.

Here are a few big fish jumpers that you will recognize right off the bat.

1. Largemouth Bass

Cool pic!! Largemouth Bass jumping out of water and catching a pair of dragon flies. <Jeff>

Posted by Chasin' Game Outdoors on Tuesday, June 9, 2015

The largemouth will pulverize your bait and then spit it right back into your face without a second thought. They live in most of the states and are as willing to bite your lure as we are into a cheeseburger. 

2. Smallmouth Bass

Derek S. says: "My girlfriend took this picture of a 18" smallmouth bass caught in the Nith river outside Kitchener...

Posted by Rapala on Wednesday, August 8, 2012

The smallmouth haunts the depths looking for a bit cooler temperatures than their cousin, but they are just as fierce when it comes to the strike. Crawdads, minnows, worms, and their imitations don't stand a chance against this great fighter.

3. Asian Carp

ASIAN CARP JUMP https://www.facebook.com/pages/International-Fishing-News/293218760783101

Posted by International Fishing News on Sunday, April 7, 2013

Most carp in the U.S. are like a gamefish's evil alter ego; in many ways, they're a scourge of our waterways. First introduced over 100 years ago, they breed like rats and take over areas where our favorite gamefish live. If there is a fish that many anglers would like to see disappear, it's this one.

But they've become popular as bowfishing targets, and their leaping qualities are among the best and most frequent.

4. Dorado

This dorado decided to do one last jump before he jumped into our tortillas!#JustAddSalsa #AndCheese #AndThatIsHowDinnerIsDone#Quepos #CostaRica #ManuelAntonio #MarinaPezVela #Fishing #outdoors360fishing

Posted by Quepos Fish Adventure on Tuesday, May 15, 2018

The dorado is mostly known as the mahi-mahi and is one of our most prized gamefish whether for fighting or for eating. Found in tropical and sub-tropical waters around the world, this ray-finned fish is one that we would all like to do battle with.

5. Peacock Bass

Cool pic of a Peacock bass jumping.

Posted by CaptTony Fowler on Friday, August 16, 2013

The peacock bass, or Cichla ocellaris, is to the Amazon and Orinoco basins of Brazil what the largemouth is to Florida, but now it also haunts the American south. This is one of the few non-native species to have won us over as anglers.

6. Brown Trout

Brown trout jumping at Moses gate country park Bolton

Posted by Peter Hunter on Thursday, October 16, 2014

The famous brown trout is its name and haunting our dreams is its game. They are found from New Zealand to Arkansas and in all of the Great Lakes. A 41-pound slob caught in Lake Michigan in 2010 stands as the Wisconsin state record. 

7. Northern Pike

This Epic Handmade Lure has the pike jumping out of the water to grab a hold of it. You dont even need to lure in the...

Posted by Darren Connolly on Monday, November 4, 2019

Pike are nuts and will strike anything that moves. The Esox lucius will be happy to eat your favorite lure and swim away with it only to leave you crying. They are found throughout the British Isles, France, and especially the Scandinavian country of Sweden. But the Northern pike from Canadian and northern U.S. waters can get huge and be quite ferocious.

8. Steelhead

Steelhead rainbow trout are starting to jump the Willoughby River falls in Orleans on their spring spawning run. Warmer weather this weekend should increase the activity.

Posted by Vermont Fish & Wildlife on Saturday, May 2, 2015

The steelhead is an anadromous version of rainbow trout and has the same scientific name, Oncorhynchus mykiss. Native to the Northwest U.S., steelhead live in freshwater rivers and streams, including estuaries and marine environments, but have thrived in the Great Lakes.

9. Rainbow Trout

Rainbow #trout were rising to the surface and jumping out of the water. #fishes

Posted by FISHINGSIR on Sunday, December 21, 2014

Rainbow trout have been in the hearts and minds of anglers everywhere they exist since the first time they watched one rise to a fly. They can be offered the lightest dry fly or an eight-inch plug. They can satisfy in their 10-inch length while other, 20-pound members of the same species will destroy your gear.

But every time we see one up close we want to catch it.

10. Walleye

Who says walleye don't jump or hit top water!

Posted by Tomky Fish Farms on Sunday, April 5, 2015

The walleye has a similar quandary to the rainbow trout: they can come in small packages or be as big as the boat. They don't often jump when they're hooked up, so a photo of a walleye hitting a topwater lure is about as good as we could find.

They may be as popular as they are due to the fact that they are such good table fare. Or it could be due to their desire to take a worm or a leach as much as your favorite casting plug.

11. Chinook Salmon

Chinook Salmon jumping Dead Line Falls, North Umpqua River Oregon.

Posted by Marvin Knox on Thursday, October 5, 2017

Maybe the most profound leaper of them all, the mighty king salmon is such an amazing draw for anglers. You can use a fly rod to try for a fish that can grow up to 60 pounds or more, or troll with heavy gear that is saltwater ready and have the same amount of fun.

And anyone who has ever been fortunate enough to eat some properly smoked salmon understand completely why they are referred to as the king.

12. Brook Trout

Brook trout born in a cross-fire hurricane. Jumping jack flash.#keepemwet #puremichigan #madeinmichigan #fishthetruth #mangledfly

Posted by Mangled Fly on Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Many a fly fisherman's dream, the brook trout is a favorite among angling purists all over North America. They're arguably the best eating trout of them all, but a lot of brookie fishermen prefer to let them swim. Maybe the best thing about this fish is the fact that it lives in some of the most picturesque, pristine areas. They'll take the fisherman on a different experience every time. 

13. Tiger Muskie

The ‘ol jumping Tiger Muskie photo...#RepYourWater #FishExploreConserve #flyfishing #fishing #tigermuskie #tigermusky #musky #esox

Posted by Rep Your Water on Sunday, November 10, 2019

The tiger muskie is a sterile cross between a natural muskellunge and a northern pike. They are one of the most beautiful fish that we target and one of the best fighters, too.

14. Coho Salmon

Coho salmon jumping Sol Duc River falls.

Posted by Kerry Tremain on Monday, September 24, 2018

Another anadromous salmonid, the coho is a fabulous fighter and leaper. Silver salmon, as they're also known, can often grow as big as 18 pounds, but the record is a 33-pound beast caught in New York's Salmon River in 1989. Even though their natural range is around Alaska, they have done quite well as a stocked fish in the Great Lakes.

15. Tarpon

It’s a Tarpon jumping.......#shallowwaterexpeditions #orvisflyfishing #acuratefromanywh3re #orvisambassador #h3...

Posted by Shallow Water Expeditions on Saturday, July 6, 2019

These crazed leapers will test every bit of your rod and reel combo, not to mention the line that you put on it. The Atlantic tarpon is the one we hear about, and probably target the most.

The IGFA all-tackle record--a 286-pound monster--was caught off the tiny nation of Guinea-Bissau in 2003. Knowing that there are tarpon like that swimming somewhere in the ocean, how could we ever stop trying to catch them? 

16. Muskellunge

Great shot of a jumping Muskie in Lake Wingra by @j.j.raap

Posted by The Camera Company on Thursday, April 18, 2019

The muskie is the freshwater fish that dreams are made of. The largest member of the pike family is a natural resident of North American waters and one of the most sought after. They can reach speeds of up to 30 mph and live for 30 years.

This great gamefish can be found from the upper Niagara River to the mighty St. Lawrence, all the way to the Mississippi River basin and as far north as the Red River of Hudson Bay.

17. Alligator Gar

Alligator gar jumping into alligators mouth.-#41strange #alligator #gar #jump #mouth #follow @41.strange #photograph...

Posted by 34strange on Sunday, November 24, 2019

The alligator gar is a fish with a face that only a mother could love. Since they can live for 50 years, reach around 10 feet long, and weigh as much as 350 pounds, they certainly can't leap from the water very high or far. But when you see that head come out of the water, you know you're in for a fight. 

18. Atlantic Salmon

https://www.facebook.com/hookeqc/photos/a.294384867331989/1737249683045493/?type=3

We've talked about Pacific salmon and tarpon up to this point as gamefish that can stun an angler by their leaping ability, so now it's time to discuss the Salmo salar. Found in the northern Atlantic Ocean, and in rivers that flow into the ocean, the Atlantic salmon is also known a the landlocked salmon

Some of these stunning gamefish are even found in Scotland's infamous Loch Ness, but most North Americans target them from eastern Canada to Maine.

19. Red Drum

Fat red mullet jumping #saltyshores #redrum #redfish #fishing #fish

Posted by Saltyshores.com on Saturday, January 24, 2015

Redfish, red mullet, and even spottail bass are some of the affectionate names for the Sciaenops ocellatus. Most well-known from the Carolinas and the Florida Atlantic coast all the way to Northern Mexico, anglers ply the shallower waters of creeks and even the Gulf of Mexico with crabs and shrimp hoping to entice these tasty fish to bite. 

20. Snook

https://www.facebook.com/wingooutdoors/photos/a.644888632307080/2536506383145286/?type=3

Also known as sergeant fish and robalo, the Centropomus undecimalis is found from the Carolinas to the Gulf of Mexico, and all the way to Central America. The IGFA all tackle world record is a 53-pond monster taken in Costa Rica. 

The remaining 10 are mainly saltwater species and not always simple for those of us who remain loyal to the county's splendid freshwater fisheries. 

21. Blue Marlin

Nha Cretcheu 1-2 on Blue Marlin, crazy jumping around the boat. Both fish came to the Marlin Magnet by Pulsator Lures Pelagic

Posted by Nha Cretcheu, Cape Verde, Blue Marlin Charters on Friday, June 30, 2017

Another massive leaper, the Makaira nigricans might be one of the scariest, being that little fish of this species can reach the 200-pound mark, all while sporting a scimitar for a beak and breaking the surface over and over while fighting your arms off for over an hour. 

The really big ones come in a size class that is almost too big to describe; sometimes surpassing the 1,300 t0 1,500-pound mark and more. Sometimes a successful angler can win a bundle by catching one.

22. Yellowfin Tuna

Check out this yellowfin tuna jumping with an albatross behind. Thanks puerto Vallarta fishing for sharing such a beautiful photo.

Posted by Orange Beach Fishing Charters on Monday, July 7, 2014

Tuna, any tuna, are some ferocious eaters when a school of these fish start to tackle a shoal of baitfish, and the Thunnus albacares is no exception. Yellowfins are seemingly all muscle and the speed at which they can turn coupled with their leaping ability is spectacular, especially to an angler fortunate enough to hook one. 

23. Wahoo

#Wahoo jumping out of the water from Inside Sportfishing "The bait was 25 feet in the air when he exploded and ate it...

Posted by Fishcrack on Sunday, November 15, 2015

One of the great things about the Acanthocybium solandri is the fact that they are commonly found throughout the world in tropical and sub-tropical regions. The wahoo is one of the fastest gamefish in the world, reaching speeds of up to 60-mph, making it no wonder when one seemingly sprouts wings and begins to fly through the air

24. Thresher Shark

Love this shot

Posted by The Lure Box on Saturday, February 29, 2020

Maybe an uncommon foe to some, but the Alopias are caught from kayaks, and sometimes right off of the pier. It's not so much a question of if a thresher shark can jump, but how high? Some estimates reach as high as 20-feet or more! These sharks are known for killing their prey with their amazing tails so an angler can only imagine what one would do to his or her bait. 

25. Bluefin Tuna

Massive Bluefin tuna 300kg+ jumping out of the water!

Posted by Seazores on Sunday, February 16, 2014

A veritable monster of the Atlantic fishery, the Thunnus thynnus can reach weights of up to 500-pounds or more. American anglers target bluefins mainly in North Atlantic waters, such as Prince Edward Island, where they grow to incredible size and rip line off sportfishing spools at rates only imagined. 

It wasn't that long ago that even the Sunshine State had a new record bluefin caught in their waters showing just how many different fisherman could have the possibility of battling one of the strongest fighters in the ocean.

26. Sailfish

Panama - (TSL) Beautiful Sailfish jump by Chester Podd.

Posted by BillfishReport.com on Saturday, June 22, 2013

Istiophorus may sound just like a Jurassic era dinosaur, but it's science's name for one of the most beautiful gamefish that an angler can target. Atlantic sailfish, like the tuna, also seek-and-destroy schools of baitfish such as sardines, anchovies, and mackerel by swatting at them with their bill to try and wound them.

Since many sailfish run from around 30-50-pounds, almost anyone can try to tackle them from the upper Florida Keys to the Yucatan Peninsula.

27. Giant Trevally 

Hurry, hurry little tern! The hungry trevally is hot on your trail.

Posted by Jodi Lea Stewart on Monday, May 6, 2019

How would you like to target a fish that actively tries to eat sea birds? Well, the Caranx ignobilis does all that and more. Maybe one of the best fish to target from shore; sometimes straight from the rocks, while many other anglers wade for them with flyfishing gear.

28. Mako Shark

Gotta alive a high flying mako. Heading out tomorrow I reckon #makoshark #hangingforafish #strikezone #sunset #shark

Posted by Al McGlashan on Friday, August 22, 2014

Not many gamefish that we we desire has the insane leaping ability of the Isurus oxyrinchus, but one look at some of the video and you'll be a believer. Makos are like most sharks in that they are readily fooled by anglers due to their voracious appetites. Many that target this shark's crazed leaping ability use fly gear as well.

29. King Mackerel

Y'all Check out this king mackerel jumping out of the water next to the Distraction Charter boat today. You can see it's reflection in the water beneath.

Posted by Orange Beach Fishing Charters on Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Fishing for the venerable Scomberomorus cavalla includes deep sea excursions using live bait and slow trolling for "smokers" or fish that routinely approach the 60-pound level. Once you've hooked up, be ready for them to not only come out of the water, but defy gravity and sometimes fly right over the boat

30. Sturgeon

Jumping Gulf sturgeonThese large, prehistoric-looking fish are an important part of our ecosystem. But their large size...

Posted by MyFWC Florida Fish and Wildlife on Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Acipenseridae may be a scientific name for the greater family of sturgeon, but knowing that fish from that family have been around for over 200-million years makes one think that they are here to stay. Sturgeon fishing in places like the Fraser River in British Columbia can yield brutes upwards of eight-feet long and having a girth of some 44-inches. 

We don't always know every species of gamefish as well as we thought, and certainly not by their scientific names, but it stands to reason that if it swims, we want to catch it, and if it jumps then even more so. 

Whether you are catching brown trout in Arkansas or targeting some other native species near where you live, anglers everywhere should be able to identify the kind of fish that they are after. One of the greatest natural resources that we have are our fisheries and the water quality they have to swim free in, but knowing how to correctly identify what we can or cannot target is extremely important as well.

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30 Photos of Fish Jumping Out of Water You Want to Fish In