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?

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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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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 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

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

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

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 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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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 

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

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

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

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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