From inland lakes, rivers, and reservoirs to coastal waters along the Gulf of Mexico, Texas offers some of the best freshwater and saltwater fishing opportunities anglers could hope for. As the second most popular state for fishing, behind only the sunshine state of Florida, Texas is home to popular fish species such as largemouth bass, crappie, speckled trout, redfish and more.
This guide will help you discover which species you can target, where, when, and how. Read on to learn about some of the top saltwater and freshwater fish to catch in Texas.
Top Saltwater Fish to Catch in Texas
One of the great things about Texas is that you do not have to go offshore to enjoy a day of rewarding fishing. This section focuses specifically on the top saltwater fish species that you can catch in the shallow bays inshore along the Texas coast.
Speckled Trout (Spotted Sea Trout)
Speckled Trout are one of the most popular saltwater species to fish in Texas. Known for their aggressive strikes, they have been a long-time favorite for locals looking to enjoy a day of active fishing with little downtime.
Best Time to Fish for Speckled Trout:
You will be able to fish for speckled trout year-round with more success than most other game fish species. In Texas, the best time of year will be between late fall and early spring, with December offering some of the best sea trout fishing if you can make your way to Baffin Bay.
Where to Fish for Speckled Trout in Texas:
The Texas state record speckled trout was hooked in the Lower Laguna Madre, but there are plenty of other habitats to fish in the shallow bays along the entire Gulf Coast from Houston to South Padre Island. In the summer, anglers often fish the oyster reefs in Sabine Lake, Hannah’s Reef and the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge.
Recommended Bait for Speckled Trout:
Speckled trout feed on crustaceans and bait fish and are attracted to noise. Aim for vocal baitfish that can be fished along the bottom or a noisy cork paired with a live shrimp.
Redfish (Red Drum)
Redfish are a big, beautiful fish that every angler should add to their list of fish to target in the inshore waters of Texas
Best Time to Fish for Redfish:
Redfish strike most consistently in summer and fall when they spawn, but they slow down in the winter. September is the best month for large redfish, and targeting them is an excellent opportunity to try night fishing.
Where to Fish for Redfish in Texas:
You can find redfish in shallow bays and passes. Look for them in oyster bars, rock jetties, and under docks and bridges. In summer, look for them in open bays, and in late summer, check for schools in the flats. In general, you will be able to find them between 200 yards and two miles from the shore along the Gulf of Mexico.
Recommended Bait for Redfish:
Redfish tend to go for the same baits as speckled trout, which makes it easy to pack your tackle box. Bring some small bait fish, live shrimp and popping corks, and experiment with jigs and gold spoons (but keep in mind artificial bait will only work inshore, so you will need more live bait if you plan to go offshore).
Flounder are an interesting side-lying fish that can be found buried in the sand with most of their body covered, except for their mouth and eyes. Both of their eyes look up and they always swim with one side down, making them one of the more fascinating fish on this list.
Best Time to Fish for Flounder:
The best time to target flounder is during outgoing tides. For the best fishing, head out to the intercoastal waterways of the Gulf the mornings or late evenings of October, though you can find flounder throughout the day.
Where to Fish for Flounder in Texas:
Because they bury themselves, you will need to look for flounder along the ground. They can usually be found around structures where there is transition from sand to hard bottom.
Recommended Bait for Flounder:
Because they lie in wait along the floor, you will likely need to bring sinkers, especially if you plan to fish when the tides are going out. Live prey is best, so bring bait fish and shrimp.
King Mackerel (Kingfish)
King mackerel are a popular saltwater game fish that can be caught off the Texas coast. The best way to catch them is by locating areas with larger concentrations of baitfish and trolling through the waters, either inshore or offshore.
Best Time to Fish for King Mackerel:
You will have the most success fishing for king mackerel from April through October.
Where to Fish for King Mackerel in Texas:
The best inshore locations to fish for big king mackerel in Texas are Port Isabel and Sabine Pass. If you are looking to change things up with some offshore fishing, you can head out to the Flower Gardens or Stetson Rocks in the winter.
Recommended Bait for King Mackerel:
Because they will strike almost anything, you have a wide variety of options when it comes to fishing for king mackerel. Try trolling with a topwater plug or use live bait fish, shrimp, or dead shad.
Cousins to the redfish, black drum are one of the best fighting fish on this list, making them an exciting species to target in Texas coastal waters. Although they are not a very attractive fish, they are easy to find and offer an excellent meal after a successful day on the water.
Best Time to Fish for Black Drum:
Black drum can be found year-round, but the best time to target them is winter, from December to March.
Where to Fish for Black Drum in Texas:
You will be able to find black drum around the same locations as redfish. Although they are larger, they can be found in shallow water or further off the coast in deep water and passes. For better chances at landing a strike, fish for them around structures such as bridges, docks or oyster bars.
Recommended Bait for Black Drum:
The best bait for black drum is fresh cut blue crab, though some anglers do find success with shrimp. Add a sinker to get your line down to the bottom, especially if you can find a rocky structure with vegetation.
Top Freshwater Fish to Catch in Texas
From largemouth bass to carp, some of the best freshwater sport fish call Texas home. This section focuses on some of the most popular freshwater species you can target in the Lonestar state’s lakes, rivers, and ponds.
Every freshwater angler should target largemouth bass when fishing in Texas. Just as they say, everything in the Lonestar state is bigger, and largemouth are no exception! Popular bass fishing competitions, like Bassmaster, often take place in Texas because of their larger size compared to what you can find up north, making them a highly sought trophy fish.
Best Time to Fish for Largemouth Bass:
You can fish for largemouth in Texas year-round, but you will catch the larger trophy fish in warmer months and get the most strikes in spring and fall.
Where to Fish for Largemouth Bass in Texas:
Largemouth can be found in many of the lakes, streams, and rivers across Texas. They are structure-oriented, so look for them around man-made structures or fallen brush.
Recommended Bait for Largemouth Bass:
Largemouth are aggressive fish that can be caught with live bait or artificial lures. Plastic worms, spoons, and jigs are some go-to angler favorites.
Crappie are a fun, popular fish for the whole family. Because they do not put up much of a fight, kids will have fun catching this starter fish. Adults, on the other hand, will appreciate how beautiful they are. In Texas, you will find two different types of this pan fish, black and white crappie.
Best Time to Fish or Crappie:
You should target crappie from the spring into summer, where they can be found in brush piles. Alternatively, you can look for them around piers and docks when the weather is warmer.
Where to Fish for Crappie in Texas:
Some of the best crappie fishing in Texas takes place at the Toledo Bend Reservoir at sunset any day in February.
Recommended Bait for Crappie:
Crappie primarily feed on minnows, but you can also use artificial lures that mimic this baitfish.
Freshwater anglers looking for some saltwater action will enjoy targeting the strong, large striped bass, a popular freshwater game fish. Striped bass were brought to Texas inland waters in the 70’s, and have since offered fisherman exciting fights worth telling stories about.
Best Time to Fish for Striped Bass:
For consistent action from striped bass, fish for them in May. The best time of day is late afternoon to early evening.
Where to Fish for Striped Bass in Texas:
Striped bass are an open water fish, so you will find them in lakes and rivers around man-made structures, such as docks. Because it is self-sustaining, some of the best striped bass fishing can be found on Lake Texoma.
Recommended Bait for Striped Bass:
Opportunistic eaters, striped bass are known for eating a wide variety of other fish, clams, and crabs, but you can also use jigs or plugs.
Another popular freshwater fish, catfish are a Texas classic for sit-and-wait fishing. In Texas you will find a range of catfish types, including flathead, channel, and blue catfish. Catfish are large, often growing to over 100 pounds, and put up quite a fight.
Best Time to Fish for Catfish:
Catfish can be caught most easily when water temperatures are cooler. Most anglers have the most success in February and the earlier part of March, but you can find them throughout the year. Although they are most active at night, you will also be able to fish for them during the day.
Where to Fish for Catfish in Texas:
You will find catfish in almost any lake, pond, stream, or river in Texas. They prefer to feed around the bottom and seek natural cover from structures such as trees or rocks. The Sam Rayburn Reservoir is known for competitive catfish fishing.
Recommended Bait for Catfish:
Live bait works best for hooking catfish, and you can experiment with a broad range including nightcrawlers, chicken livers, minnows, or crayfish.
If you are looking for a challenge, you may want to try fishing for carp. Carp in general may not be one of the most popular fish to target, but they can grow large and put up a fun fight. The difficulty in finding and hooking this fish makes it worth mentioning for anglers looking to change things up on the water.
Best Time to Fish for Carp:
The best time of year to fish for carp is in spring, when they move to warmer water. They can be caught any time of day, but feed more aggressively when it is dark, so you may find they bite more in the early morning or night.
Where to Fish for Carp in Texas:
You are more likely to find carp in deep, slow-moving water in areas with vegetation. Some of the most popular locations to fish for carp in Texas include Lake Fork, Hubbard Creek Reservoir, and Richland Chambers Reservoir.
Recommended Bait for Carp:
Carp are herbivorous and hesitant to bite, making them one of the most challenging fish on this list. They mostly eat plants and tend to feed along the bottom, so you will want to use a weighted hook. The most popular bait is corn, but you can also try dough balls, worms, crayfish, and minnows to see what is working best.
Fishing in Texas
There is no shortage of places to fish in Texas, so whether you are local or a visitor looking for some of the top fish species in the Lonestar state, you have plenty of water to choose from! If you make your way through this list and find yourself wanting more, we suggest using this fishing map to explore locations to toss out your line.