Joe Waters (Pesci) and Gus Green (Glover) are bumbling yet happy best friends who live modestly in Newark, New Jersey and have known each other since childhood. They share the hobby of fishing and win a stay in the Florida Everglades to go angling, but promise to return home in time for Thanksgiving.
On the way, however, while stopping at a bar, they meet an Englishman, Martin (Brimble), who discreetly steals Joe's car keys and leaves. Joe and Gus are forced to push their boat down the road until they are met by two women, Rita (Arquette) and Angie (Whitfield), who are after Martin and offer them a lift. During the ride, a bump causes the boat to disconnect from the car, leaving Joe and Gus stranded yet again, and the boat is accidentally hooked to a train and pulled away along with their beer and supplies. Joe and Gus hitch a ride with two men, but on the way, they see their car at a gas station and investigate. Joe goes to confront Martin inside the bathroom, but backs down when he catches Martin loading a gun. Joe and Gus flee the petrol station in their car, and discover a blood-stained knife in the dashboard.
Joe and Gus stay at a trailer park for the night, and while watching a documentary on television, they learn that Martin is actually Dekker Massey, a wanted criminal who has conned several women out of their riches and is implied to have stabbed his last victim to death and hidden her money and jewellery somewhere. The presenters offer a bounty for Dekker's capture, and Joe and Gus decide to turn in the knife after their fishing trip. Meanwhile, Dekker begins hunting Joe and Gus down.
Following a recommendation by the trailer park owner, Joe and Gus visit Phil Beasly's boatyard and rent a speedboat, but end up breaking almost every gadget on the boat, losing the knife and wrecking the boatyard by accident. Distraught, they decide to return home early, but end up with a flat tire. While getting the spare tire from the trunk, Joe discovers a map that leads to Dekker's fortune. They book a room in a nearby hotel, and while having dinner, they are found by Rita and Angie, who question them about Dekker and reveal that they are after him because Rita's mother was one of Dekker's victims. Joe and Gus promise to bring Dekker to justice, but that night, Gus sleepwalks and starts a fire in the hotel, destroying their suite and the map. They only barely manage to escape undetected, though their car breaks down on the road and Joe is struck by lightning while they try to fix it. Instead of killing him, the lightning boosts Joe's memory and he is able to lead the way to the cave where Dekker hid his fortune. Despite an altercation with an alligator, they retrieve the treasure and escape, but are accosted by Dekker. At gunpoint, Dekker forces them to push Joe's car into the swamp and ties them up inside a sheriff's office, intending to flee the country with the treasure.
After Dekker leaves, however, Joe and Gus are found and freed by their idol, Billy "Catch" Pool (Nelson), and they set out to stop Dekker. After a long chase across the swamp, Joe and Gus find and capture Dekker moments before his escape via plane and hand him over to the police. Though they claim the reward money, Joe and Gus are forced to spend it mostly on the damages they caused during their trip.Joe Pesci as Joe Waters
Danny Glover as Gus Green
Rosanna Arquette as Rita, the daughter of one of Dekker Massey's victims
Lynn Whitfield as Angie, Rita's best friend
Willie Nelson as Billy Pooler, a professional fisherman who is Joe and Gus's idol
Nick Brimble as Dekker Massey, a British conman
Gary Grubbs as Phil Beasly, the owner of a boatyard
Carol Kane as Donna Waters, Joe's wife
Edythe Davis as Cookie Green, Gus's wife
Jenna Bari as Gena Waters, Joe's daughter
Raynor Scheine as Glenn, the owner of a trailer park
Maury Chaykin as Kirk, a waiter who takes a shine to Joe and Gus
Louise Fletcher as a restaurant owner (uncredited)
When Gone Fishin' was in the early stages of development during the early 1990s, the roles of Joe and Gus were first offered to John Candy and Rick Moranis. Both turned it down as they were busy with other projects. Once the film was given the greenlight in 1995, Joe Pesci and Danny Glover were eventually cast as the leads. John G. Avildsen was set to direct the movie and had already filmed it for the first two weeks, but he was fired from Disney and paid his $2 million salary to the studio, and Christopher Cain immediately signed on to replace him.
During production of the film, stuntwoman Janet Wilder was killed when a boat that was made to jump a ramp in one of the scenes landed on top of her. Wilder's husband and father-in-law were also injured.
In its opening weekend, the film opened at #3 at the U.S. box office behind The Lost World: Jurassic Park and Addicted to Love, earning around $5.8 million USD. The film eventually made around $19 million domestically, making it a box office bomb. Film critic Leonard Maltin gave the film a "BOMB" rating, his lowest rating. He called it "an annoyingly unfunny gambit" and declared that it was a waste of Pesci and Glover's talent, and "this film really smells". Film critic Chris Hicks of Salt Lake City said after Gone Fishin' and 8 Heads in a Duffel Bag the Academy should have asked Pesci to return the Oscar he had won for Goodfellas. The film currently holds a 4% rating on Rotten Tomatoes based on 27 reviews with the consensus: "Sloppy, formulaic, and unfunny, Gone Fishin' marks a painful low point in the careers of its two talented leads."
In Red Lobster, White Trash and the Blue Lagoon, Joe Queenan says that he was "so embarrassed about Joe Pesci that he has been known to wait outside cinemas showing a film called Gone Fishin' and give those few customers who sat through it their money back, on behalf of the "American Celluloid Retribution Society".