Fishing on a dory drift boat on the Madison River
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6 Best Drift-Boat Fishing Trips in the Northeast

Right when you think that a drift boat fishing opportunity is out of your reach, these six places will change your mind.

When it comes to both types of fishing—conventional and fly fishing—we all have our preference, but in truth, drift-boat anglers can have the best of both worlds and not miss a thing. Whether you want to target trout and salmon or just want to find some backwater bass that no one else can reach, getting into a drift boat to do a little float fishing can get you there.

Expert drift-boat guides have all the experience and tackle to get you to fish that other anglers can't reach, keep you on them, and give you angling opportunities you're unlikely to find on your own. And if you've never had a big steelhead, king salmon, or brown trout stripping line off of your reel from the bow of a boat in the current of a river, then you don't know what you're missing.

Now you just need a place to go. In the Northeast, you have your pick of options in Pennsylvania, New York, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Vermont, and Maine for the opportunity to relax and fish. These waterways offer the six best drift-boat fishing trips in the Northeastern U.S.

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1. Salmon River, New York

The Salmon River flows through the woods on a summer day in East Hampton, Connecticut.

Getty Images, Jennifer Yakey-Ault

Back in the 1960s when salmon were introduced into the Great Lakes, the idea was to enhance angling opportunities for state residents while contributing to their economies by luring folks from other states to come and enjoy the great fishing. Ever since the stocking plans added brown trout and steelhead trout, along with supplemental stockings of lake trout and Atlantic salmon, the salmonid fishing in these states has become the stuff of legend.

In the northern part of New York State lies the iconic Salmon River, a 17-mile stretch that empties into Lake Ontario. It looks and plays the part of some of the greatest salmon rivers in North America, and you can fish it thoroughly from a drift boat. You can find yourself drifting down over 12 miles of fishable river with one or two people and enjoying what some call the best cold-water fishery on the east coast.

Drift boating the Salmon River generally costs about $400 to $450 for two anglers, or about $600 for three fishermen (for a full day) depending on the guide service.

2. Allegheny River, Pennsylvania

A landscape of a curve in the river water flowing around a bend of mountains covered with trees at the Allegheny Reservoir on a cloudy, autumn day in Pennsylvania, USA.

Getty Images, Boogich

Getty Images, BoogichStarting at the Kinzua Dam and drifting your way north towards the border with New York, anglers have the opportunity to catch brown trout for sure, but may also hook up with smallmouth bass, walleye, and muskellunge.

Taking a float fishing trip on the Allegheny affords the serious and the novice angler alike a chance to access areas that are difficult at best to reach by foot but also to fish from a mobile casting platform. Or you can stop, get out, and put your waders to use by sneaking up stealthily on trout resting in pools that get little to no fishing pressure.

Guide rates differ, but you can expect to pay about $500 to $600 for eight hours of fishing, or about half of that amount for a half-day's excursion.

3. Androscoggin River, Maine

Aerial shot of Androscoggin River flowing past forest and farmland near Turner, Maine on a clear sunny day in autumn.

Getty Images, halbergman

With all the possibilities for a drift-fishing excursion in Vacationland, you may need to reserve more than one trip per season. But if you choose the "Andro" for your drift trip, you won't be disappointed. Even with the immense fly fishing prospects that can be done in Maine, the Androscoggin River has a warm-water fishery for float fishing that is second to none.

You can target small and largemouth bass, northern pike, black crappie, and even pickerel, whether your preference is fly fishing or traditional fishing. As with most drift-boat excursions, you can expect to have all the fishing gear you need provided for you and even a shore lunch for a day on the water.

The cost of drift boating the Androscoggin will run you about $475 for a full day with two people, and the minimum age is 12 years old.

4. Winooski River, Vermont

A covered bridge crosses the Winooski River in a pasture.

Getty Images, bilbowden

Anglers on the Winooski can find themselves hooked up with everything from landlocked salmon, brown and rainbow trout, to pike, smallmouths, and walleye, just to name a few. For float fishermen, you'll typically target trout and bass in May and June or September and October while water levels support the best fishing and keep both the anglers and the fishery safe.

There may be no way better to fish in Vermont than on a drift boat, especially in the fall. The float alone is worth taking the trip to see the beautiful scenery that the Green Mountain State has to offer.

Rates for fishing on the Winooski River run in the neighborhood of about $375 for one angler fishing for a half-day—$425 for two anglers and about $500 for two fishermen to fish for a full day.

5. Connecticut River, New Hampshire

Fall foliage reflected in the Connecticut River, Vermont.

Getty Images, Veni

The Connecticut River is the longest river in New England and is widely known for its diverse fishery, including everything from trout and salmon to sturgeon and stripers, but float fishing anglers mainly look to target trout.

Even with that in mind, the strong currents of this fishery can hold smallmouth bass, walleye, and some big northern pike. For those who love the New Hampshire scenery as much as the fishing, you may have a chance to see bald eagles, moose, black bears, and dozens of species of waterfowl.

Guides' rates on the Connecticut River vary in the range of $400 to $450 for one angler to have a full day of fishing.

6. Penobscot River, Maine

Penobscot Narrows Bridge and Observatory in Prospect, Maine.

Getty Images, Ray Tan

Maine has such a plethora of drift boating, wading, and other guided boat trips—both freshwater and saltwater—that it would take a lifetime to try them all.

One of Maine's greatest attributes when it comes to angling opportunities is the fact that it not only supports an amazing trout fishery, it's still one of the best places in North America to catch and release Atlantic landlocked salmon. The west branch of the Penobscot River in particular has everything those coveted fish need to live a full and thriving life due to the smelt runs and the abundance of aquatic insect life.

The cost for a day on the Penobscot is around $600 for two anglers to have a full day of salmon fishing and the time of their lives.

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