Seven Great Texas Fishing Destinations
How to make the most of the country's best – and most diverse – fishing opportunities.
Summer is the perfect time for a road trip to some of the state’s best fisheries.
Early summer, in particular, is not only a great time to put a stringer of fish in the boat but the fish of a lifetime could be as close as the next cast. Texas is known for some of the best fishing in the country, making it a great time to take a look at a variety of species of fish and the best locations to put them in the boat.
It is hard to beat Lake Fork for largemouth bass and June is one of the best months of the year to catch a lot of them. In early summer, target bass in shallow water. Bass are still spawning and the huge bluegill spawn is in full swing. Bass are gorging on bream and they tend to feed all day. Try to be on the water at daybreak with a buzz bait or swim bait ready to go. Bone and bluegill colors work the best.
The rising water temperatures has grass forming in the shallow creeks. Midmorning is prime time to hit these areas with a jig and craw and other soft baits. A great combo is a 5/0 hook and watermelon Ring Fry. The big hook will penetrate the plastic but it can still be fished it in shallow-water weed beds if worked slowly and with patience.
Later in the summer, James Caldemeyer of Lake Fork Trophy Bass moves to the deeper water of the main lake. He is looking for points and islands, often finding fish in 18 to 25 feet of water where he targets them with crankbaits in blue chartreuse and honey shad. The big bass can’t resist these colors and good electronics keep him over bass all morning.
If You Go
No trip to Lake Fork is complete without a visit to Lake Fork Marina and Motel. They have a two-story bait store that is open seven days a week.
Lake Amistad is another can’t-miss destination for largemouth bass. Located on the Texas/Mexico border, the famous Lake Amistad topwater bite is something every bass angler should experience. Early summer finds a lot of hydrilla in the lake and bass love it. Early morning is best when topwater baits do well.
Guide and lifelong bass hunter Bryan Estes will use a shad-patterned Sexy Dawg this time of year. He prefers to put in at Box Canyon to hit the San Pedro and Caballo areas of the lake. There, Estes is looking for hydrilla in shallow water. Later in the morning, he will switch to a 1/8-ounce belly weight with a caffeine- or shad-colored swimmer. He is not afraid to throw a Texas-rigged watermelon Power Worm either.
Just 12 miles from Del Rio, Lake Amistad is known for its large number of bass. During the spawning season, the lake’s large variety of fish are moving in and out of the creeks and pockets of shallow water with waves of fish found from 3 to 50 feet. Because bass follow these fish, anglers who prefer to fish shallow can fish shallow; anglers who prefer deep water can fish deep.
If You Go
Besides world-class fishing, there is a lot to see around Lake Amistad. The Indian pictographs in the Devil’s River and Seminole Canyon areas are not to be missed and give an interesting glimpse into the area’s history.
June and early summer are great times to head to the Texas coast for speckled trout when the Padre Island area can’t be beaten for big specks. Captain Jack Cooper of Team Liberty Guide Service employs a weightless croaker rig this time of year and finds that trout 18 to 22 inches are very common. But 30-inch trout aren’t uncommon.
Trout are found in shallow grass beds and near sandbars. Cooper said he goes to great pains to keep his approach as quiet as possible staying as far as away as possible while casting into the grass beds. A rig that can be easily cast long distances and still free-line shrimp and croaker is a winning combination. A Corky or a paddle tail will work but aren’t as effective as live bait.
It does not take a huge surf rod to fish for trout. A fast action six-and-a-half-foot rod plus a higher-speed reel spooled with 20-pound braided line works well. Anglers should be prepared to do long-distance casts to reach the grass beds without spooking fish as well as moderate hook sets this time of year.
If You Go
Roy’s Bait and Tackle Outfitters in Corpus Christi is a great local option for bait. After filling the boat, there’s Scuttlebutt’s Seafood Bar & Grill for dinner where the restaurant will cook an anglers’ catch while they are there.
For hard-fighting action, striper fishing on Lake Texoma draws anglers from all over. It’s a big lake with a lot of stripers so I went to one of the striper experts, Bill Carey, for advice on catching these popular fish in early summer. Carey owns and operates Striper Express, and with more than 35 years of guiding striper anglers on Lake Texoma, he is a wealth of information. According to Carey, it’s all about quantity. He said he has seen schools of stripers a half mile long and quarter of a mile wide.
Topwater is where it’s at in early summer to find surfacing fish chasing shad early in the mornings. Most anglers find the hot bite by spotting the flocks of birds following the shad breaking the top of the water trying to escape the stripers.
If You Go
Cordell Pencil Poppers work well when thrown into the churn of shad on a bass rig with a 15- to 20-pound-test line. Spoons work well after the stripers tire of the Pencil Popper. They often hit the spoon on the way down, but bites are more likely while ripping the spoon up the water column.
There is a casino up the road in Oklahoma and Dallas is not too far south. But serious anglers know to be on the water as long as possible this time of year. Catching a large number of fish this size is hard to beat.
Pound for pound, there are few fish that fight as hard as smallmouth bass and Belton Lake is one of the top smallmouth bass lakes in Texas.
After putting in at Live Oak Park or Frank’s Marina, many successful anglers will work the rocks on each side of the dam towards the Cedar Ridge area. The rocks and bluffs hold a lot of smallmouth as do some of the long, low points often found along the way. Red and black crankbaits running 3 to 6 feet deep work great along the bluffs. Smallmouth prefer a slow and steady retrieve here and will hit hard.
Many anglers use a blade bait for smallmouth. They work well; swim the lure by pulling up on the rod tip then drop the rod tip slightly before reeling in the slack. The vibration created in the upward motion followed by the flutter of the fall gives the appearance of a wounded baitfish. Often, smallmouth hit it on the fall and fight to all the way to the net.
If You Go
A nearby CEFCO convenience store located on FM 439 offers some bait and tackle selections and is a quick place to stop for anglers in a hurry. If there’s time to stop and eat, Crawfish Express is located on FM 2483.
TOLEDO BEND LAKE
Anglers in need of a mess of crappie for a fish fry should head over to the Louisiana border and fish Toledo Bend. June is an excellent month for crappie and the reservoir is known for producing big ones, which can often be found around brush piles this time of year. The brush piles are easy to find with modern electronics. They are all over Toldeo Bend, especially near areas where creeks feed into the lake.
Anglers who don’t want to search out brush piles can put in at Pendleton Harbor and try Pendleton Bridge, a well-known crappie haven that’s easy to find. Anywhere near the first 12 pilings on the Louisiana side hold fish through June. Anglers should be prepared to get there as early as 5 a.m., if possible, as this is one of the hottest fishing spots on the lake, often resulting in a traffic jam during peak times. Jigs and shiners work well there; guide and lake expert Butch Covington recommends red-headed jigs with chartreuse bodies. His favorite technique is running a double-bridle set of two ridge runners past a brush pile. This rig is a deadly combination and will often result in a double.
If You Go
Fisherman’s Galley is easy for hungry anglers to find near the lake, as are the several good tackle stores like Toledo Tackle, which is also on the Louisiana side near Many.
SAM RAYBURN LAKE
Lake Sam Rayburn sand bass are known for providing fast action and a good fight. When they are in a topwater feeding frenzy, there is nothing else like it in the world of Texas fishing. One of East Texas’s best-known lakes, few can find them as fast as veteran guide Randy Dearman.
When sand bass are churning the top water for surfacing shad, fish can be caught on every cast. Dearman likes to drop a 3/4- to 1-ounce slab spoon right in the middle of the frenzy. He prefers a silver or white spoon with no swivel and monofilament line. He recommends putting in at Humphrey Pavilion and fishing the deep humps and river channels on the southern end of the lake. Good electronics can quickly find fish in about 20 to 22 feet of water or anglers can rely on their eyes to watch for sand bass surfacing after shad.
Sam Rayburn boasts not only great overall numbers but also large sand bass, often 2 pounds or better. Many are shocked by the fight these fish put up.
If You Go
After a hard day’s fight, The Stump in Brookeland, Texas, is ideal for hungry anglers. The restaurant features a collection of tournament angler jerseys that will take professional bass-fishing fans down memory lane.
Texas seemingly has it all when it comes to fishing. No matter the species of fish, it can likely be found in The Lone Star State. A road trip to any of these seven destinations will allow anglers to take advantage of some of the best fishing in the United States.