To fish in the state of Texas, you need to purchase a fishing license. However, Texas State Parks are currently free to fish whether you are a Texan or not. This is an awesome perk that many states do not offer. Every state park where fishing is available does not require fishing licenses under the namesake program Free Fishing in State Parks. More details and FAQ are on the Parks and Wildlife site.
Although it doesn’t seem like a big deal, it really is. If you are not from Texas, fishing in all water systems will cost you $63. This is a considerable amount of money, so staying at those state parks is a huge perk.
Now, keep in mind that you will need a fishing license when fishing in other public areas. So, if you want to venture out of the state park properties, you will need to stop by a store or go online to pick up a license.
Buy or rent a boat
Because Texas is known for its fishing opportunities, there is a lot of bouncing around to be had. This fact is paired with the one that Texas is so big and spread out. So, you need to have a bit of strategy when trying to fish in Texas.
So, having your own boat is a huge perk that is leaps and bounds better than not having one. This seems obvious, but the fishing scene in Texas relies a lot on traveling and hitting many of the hotspots. Sure, you could spend many days at one state park, but it is more fun to see a wide range of options that are available.
Best case scenario is that you have your own boat and means to haul it around. This gives you the maximum freedom to fish all over the state. If this is not feasible, you could rent a boat for the duration of your stay. This will save you some money and still give you that freedom.
Obviously, getting your hands on a fishing boat may not be realistic. That is totally okay as there are lake-specific rentals and bank fishing opportunities out there. This will not give you the best opportunity to hit a lot of places, but it is an option that does not require a lot of cost.
Camp where you want to fish
Camping is not for everyone, but staying right at the state park where the fishing will be done is a great way to experience the area. If you are already an angler, you know that getting out super early can be very beneficial. If you are camping right where you want to fish, there is no added travel time before you can get on the water.
Camping and fishing do not always go hand in hand, but the opportunities at Texas state parks are there for the taking.
Seek out bank fishing opportunities
Not everyone can afford to buy or rent a boat. Although having a boat handy is definitely the ideal setup, this is not feasible for everyone. If this is you, keep in mind that many of these top options will have some bank fishing or dock fishing opportunities.
Especially with the smaller bodies of water, there are some great opportunities out there. This may require a bit of research, but the internet as well as local bait shops should have some fantastic information out there.
This is a tip that also applies to the saltwater fishing opportunities out there. It can be a bit harder to go in a boat yourself, so be on the lookout for fishing piers and rock banks that allow fishing.
Be ready to drive a lot
As you probably already know, Texas is a huge state and can be very deceiving for outside visitors. While many states only take a couple of hours to pass through, Texas is so large and spread out that it will take a long time to travel between hotspots.
Be ready to be in a car for long periods of time. If you are a serious angler who wants to make fishing a primary aspect of your trip, you will want to jump around and experience different opportunities. This is a great way to go about it, but you have to be prepared to spend a lot of time in the driver’s seat.
Have a solid lineup of lures
Although this blog does not have a specific section dedicated to lures and presentations, it is important to bring these up. Texas is such a haven for fishing that you need to have a solid lineup of lures to take advantage of the opportunities in front of you.
We can list a bunch of great lures, but it all depends on what you are fishing for. With bass fishing being the most popular for a ton of visitors, lures like spinnerbaits, jigs, worms, and more are at the top of the heap. With catfishing, another popular fishing opportunity, you can use a number of preset catfishing baits that can be bought right by the water.
The best way to gather more information, support small businesses, and get ready to fish all in one stop is by visiting the local bait shop. This will help you connect with the specific area and be ready to catch some fish.
10 top state parks to fish in
With over 70 state parks spanning over Texas, there are a ton of fishing opportunities in every corner. The diversity of fishing options also ranges from deep lakes to shallow creeks and everything in between. So, there are a ton of options out there.
Here, we will lay out the top 10 Texas state parks for fishing. This list will range between all of the species and will encompass a number of different aspects. So, let’s get into the top fishing state parks in Texas in no particular order!
Cooper Lake State Park
With nearly 20,000 acres of water, Cooper Lake is an awesome place to wet a line and try your luck. Located about 85 miles northeast of Dallas, you have quick access to the city while still having a great fishing lake right there for the taking.
Largemouth bass, hybrid bass, and certain types of catfish are the main species that are usually targeted here. So, you can target a few different species all on the same trip, which is always a perk. Of the three, Cooper Lake is known to have some great hybrid bass. So, keep that in mind if you want to shoot your shot here.
Lake Corpus Christi State Park
Corpus Christi is a well-known coast city that can be quite popular for vacationing and spring break. However, Lake Corpus Christi is a super underrated spot that harbors some really good fishing opportunities. Because the Gulf is right there, the freshwater fishing in the area is very overlooked. So, fishing at Lake Corpus Christi will let you take advantage of a severely underrated fishing spot.
This is also one of the best state parks for catfishing. Blues and channel catfish are king in the shallows, so keep that in mind. It also has largemouth bass, crappie, and a wide range of sunfish.
Choke Canyon State Park
If you are a largemouth angler, obviously, Texas is the place to be. In terms of state park opportunities, Choke Canyon State Park is one of the best for this species. Chocked full of hydrilla, the grassy flats and deep drop offs make for a bass heaven. Big Texas-rigged worms and topwater lures can produce some enormous bites here.
There is also a pretty solid catfishing scene here. If that is something you are into, keep that little tidbit in mind.
Lake Texana State Park
Although very close to the coast, Lake Texana is a great freshwater body that does hold some decent fishing opportunities. If you are a bass angler, this may not be your top option as the main options are blue catfish and crappie. If you still need your bass fix, there are some hybrid and striped bass near the dam end of the lake. This is a cool way to mix it up and also take advantage of some different opportunities.
Ray Roberts Lake State Park
With over 30,000 acres of fishing opportunities, Lake Ray Roberts is a fantastic fishing option that is in the Dallas/Fort Worth area. This is one of the better state parks for largemouth bass fishing, which is one of the most popular species to target. This is mostly because of the dense structure that is littered throughout the lake. This is where bass really thrive.
There are also some white bass fishing opportunities as well as catfish. Another great perk of Ray Roberts Lake is the abundance of shore fishing opportunities. Not all state parks lakes will have as many opportunities in this respect as Ray Roberts Lake does.
Lake Bob Sandlin State Park
One of the better trout options in the entire state is Lake Bob Sandlin. Just a few years ago, over 100,000 trout were stocked, and the current population is thriving. There are also a few bass, catfish, and a plethora of sunfish in this lake. Finding a spot in Texas that has such a great trout population on top of the other species can be a bit difficult. This is the big reason why you should go to Lake Bob Sandlin.
Having a number of fish available to catch is a huge perk and something big to keep in mind. Although a lot of state parks will also have camping opportunities, this one in particular has some fantastic camping opportunities with over 60 campsites available.
Eisenhower State Park
Although the state park itself is quite small, Eisenhower State Park butts up right against the giant Lake Texoma. This is where you will be fishing while staying at the state park. This is a great lake for striped bass, catfish, and even smallmouth bass. Smallmouth are not super common in Texas, so having the ability to hook up with them is a great perk.
Texoma is a very large lake that spans just over 90,000 acres. One of the cool aspects of fishing here is that the state record blue catfish was caught here a few years ago. Coming in at 121.5 pounds, there are some truly colossal fish to be caught here.
Abilene State Park
When it comes to fishing, bigger is not always better. Sometimes, the smaller lakes go under the radar and can provide incredible fishing potential. This is how we categorize Abilene State Park. Buffalo Wallow is this park’s fishing opportunity and is only 1-acre large. This is incredibly small, but it offers a great fishing opportunity for beginners and children.
This pond is stocked with bass, sunfish, and catfish. This is not the place for those with huge boats and hunting down a trophy. This is moreso for kids and families who want to relax and maybe catch a few fish along the way.
Although this entire entry is about fishing in state parks, these locations bring a lot more than just an opportunity to wet a line. Picking spots that bring different versions of value is a big part of the entire experience.
Lake Arrowhead State Park
We would be remiss without mentioning at least a couple of west Texas state parks that still have fishing opportunities. Lake Arrowhead State Park is one of the better options in this region of the state.
This is a crappie-heavy lake that really heats up with action in the spring and fall seasons. There are also white bass, black bass, and catfish that can be targeted in the summer months as well. There are some great bank fishing opportunities, which is a really good perk. If you do not have a boat, you can still partake in all of the fishing fun.
Falcon State Park
Falcon State Park is a camping destination that sits right on the Falcon International Reservoir. Although the lake saw a decline many years ago, it has rebounded in a fantastic way. Now, it is one of the best largemouth lakes in the entire state.
Now, this state park is located in Roma which is a town right on the border. The Mexico-America border even runs right through the giant lake that is attached to the reservoir. This is a super unique way to catch fish.
Because of that physical location, scorching hot temperatures are an issue. So, planning this around your trip is really important. Along with the bass, there are some great catfishing opportunities as well.
Martin Creek Lake State Park
Next up is the Martin Creek Lake State Park. This is an area with a body of water that harbors incredible catfishing opportunities. If you are one that likes to chase the cats, make sure to put Martin Creek Lake on your list. You can also camp right on site, so waking up, making some coffee, and hitting the water could not be easier.
There are also really great sunfish and crappie populations here, so there really is a bit of everything. Having a number of species options out there is a really great perk.
Lake Casa Blanca International State Park
Another one of the more versatile fishing lakes in Texas is Lake Casa Blanca. It is stocked with hybrids, and it is a natural home to huge largemouth. Other species include crappie, catfish, and white bass. As you can see, there are so many angling options in one area.
In terms of the actual state park, there are some great camping and bank fishing opportunities. With over 60 campsites, there is plenty of room to post up and get some fishing going. There is even a large fishing pier that shoots out into the lake. So, if you do not have access to a boat, you are not out of luck.
Lake Mineral Wells State Park
The final state park to fish in on our list is Lake Mineral Wells State Park. This is an awesome location that brings you much more than just fishing. In fact, this is a known spot for rock climbing and hiking. So, not only can you wet a line but you can do so much more, which is awesome.
In terms of fishing, there are a few decent opportunities on Lake Mineral Wells. Although it is best to have your own boat, there are a few okay bank fishing opportunities available to you. The hardcore anglers probably are not coming here, but there are so many extras that it may be worth a visit for a day or two.
Freshwater species in Texas state parks
Throughout the world, there are different species of fish that can capture the attention of eager anglers. Not all species are treated equally, and there are a few that are specifically targeted more than others for sport. Here are some species that can be found in Texas state parks!
In Texas, the largemouth bass is king. Some of the biggest largemouth in the entire world are located in Texas waterways. Especially at state parks, this is the top species that is targeted by locals and visitors alike. If you can only target one species while in Texas, this is the one to choose as the fish of a lifetime is in these state parks.
Although known to be all around the northern part of the country and into Canada, smallmouth bass can also be found in certain areas of Texas. These are generally found in flowing rivers and creeks and some state parks will have these swimming about.
One of the most unique species that can be found in Texas is the Guadalupe bass. This is a smaller type of bass similar to a smallmouth that can be only Texas. They are so sought after that they were named the state fish of Texas. This is absolutely a bucket list fish for any angling enthusiast.
Spotted bass are another species that can only be found in the southern United States and are really cool sport fish to chase. These are a mixture of smallmouth and largemouth bass and are designated by a spotted pattern on the lateral line.
Hybrid, yellow, and white bass
The rest of the bass family can also be found in Texas state parks. This includes striped, hybrid, white, and yellow bass. These are less sought after bass compared to the others, but they are still worth mentioning.
Of all of these types, white bass are specifically targeted for food. These are delicious fish that have pure, white meat that is excellent for great meals.
Although we listed all of the bass subspecies individually, we will not do the same with catfish as they are not as sought after in terms of sport fishing. However, catfish are still fantastic fish to chase after.
Some of the subspecies include blue, channel, bullhead, and flathead. There is a pretty wide range of options in Texas. It will not take long for you to realize how dirty Texas water is. This is the type of water catfish love to reside in, so there are plenty of opportunities.
Both black and white crappie can be found in Texas. Although these are targeted a lot in the northern United States and in clearwater lakes, these state parks do have crappie out there. Similarly to white bass, crappie are delicious and are usually targeted to fill the freezer.
Many fishing enthusiasts know how diverse sunfish can get, but it takes a specific angler to target them exclusively. If you find yourself in this category, there is an array of subspecies available in these parks. Some examples include, bluegill, longear, green, redear, warmouth, and many others. These are spread out in a wide range of areas and waterways, so they can be targeted all over the place.
All the others
The species of fish listed above are pretty popular to target in Texas state parks. However there are a few others that may not be as sought after but still are present. This “others” category includes carp, gar, walleye, and a few others. These usually aren’t as popular on the sport fishing hierarchy, but these are still some decent options.
Saltwater species in Texas state parks
In the saltwater world, there are so many species of fish that can be caught. We cannot list them all, but we will highlight a few of the top species that can be caught in Texas state parks that butt up against the ocean.
One of the more common species that can be found is drum. They come in a number of varieties, like red and black, and can be quite delicious over a grill. This is one of the easier species to target, so keep that in mind.
Similar to drum, snapper is another fishing favorite that tastes delicious. Red snapper specifically are fantastic fish to target and eat if you like fish. They love structure, so find an area with docks, piers, boats, and anything else to try your luck.
One of the most action-packed easy to get involved with fishing is by targeting sharks from the beach. There are a ton of different types to target, so you can make an entire experience out of it. This is a super wild way to fish, so it is very much worth your time to try it out.
Flounder is another saltwater sport fish that may be worth targeting while in a state park. This is the type of fish that you might end up catching when trying your luck for nothing specific, and that is totally okay! Flounder are interesting fish that will hang around the shoreline at certain state parks.
Although crabbing is far more common on the east and west coasts, it can be done in the Gulf of Mexico and on state park property. However, catching crab requires you to follow a number of rules and buy some specific permits. Make sure to do your research and get some help if you need it. Getting caught breaking crab laws can be detrimental.
These are the few saltwater species that can be fished from the shore or piers at Texas state parks. Another factor that varies greatly when fishing out of the ocean is the set of harvesting rules. Consult your local laws and regulations to see if you can keep your catch for dinner if you so choose.
As you can now see, fishing all over Texas can be done easily in state parks. With so many different options, you can plan entire trips around state parks and the various fishing opportunities that are spread around the state.
Whether it be freshwater, saltwater, bass, catfish, or so many other fishing options, Texas state parks have it all. As you now know, there are a plethora of species, both freshwater and saltwater, that inhabit Texas. This offers a huge diversity of options to catch.
There are also some fantastic state parks that offer great fishing opportunities. Unfortunately, not all Texas state parks are created equally in terms of fishing opportunities. So, reference back to our best state parks for fishing section to help plan your next trip.
Hopefully you can use all of this information to better set yourself up for success! Good luck, and happy fishing.