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Where Can I Find the Best Fishing in Texas?
Over the past year, Premier Angler has researched and compiled lists of some of the best freshwater fishing lakes in several states. When profiling states likes West Virginia, Kentucky, Michigan, South Carolina, and Ohio, the research was considerable but largely navigable.
When trying to put together a list of the best fishing lakes in Texas, however, our team undertook perhaps our most significant challenge to date.
When fishing Texas, if you discount rivers, streams, ponds, or any coastal fishing, then you’ve got about 7,000 spots that could classify as a “lake” or “reservoir.” Of those 7,000, a reasonable argument could be made that roughly 200 would at least deserve consideration for “top fishing lake in Texas.”
So, how do we narrow the list down?
How We Decided Where to Find the Best Fishing in Texas
Well, that’s simple: lots of research, lots of reading, and lots of polls.
Also, it involves keeping an open mind and remembering that even the most detailed and comprehensive lists will ultimately be subjective.
While subjective, our aim is to provide the most comprehensive and representative list on the internet. In order to determine where to find the best fishing in Texas, we looked at the following factors:
- History of Success: Anyone who is even slightly familiar with the world of fishing knows that Texas is home to some of the best fishing lakes in the country — in the world, even. Of the nearly 200 lakes we looked at as potential candidates for the top spots, many have produced multiple state records and countless trophy fish over the years.
- Professional Reputation: Many of the lakes on our list have played host to some of the most competitive and reputable regional and national fishing tournaments in the country. This includes a pair of Bassmaster Classics (Lake Texoma in 1979 and Lake Conroe in 2017). We consider the major events (and even smaller, local tournaments) each lake has hosted, placing particular emphasis on large tournaments held within the past decade.
- Quantity and Quality of Species: We also looked at data provided by Texas Parks and Wildlife to determine the quality, variety and availability of species across qualifying lakes. As with all states, we found that some lakes offer incredible diversity but don’t particularly excel in any one species. Likewise, some lakes have world-class fishing for one or two species but are fairly average otherwise. Preference is definitely given to lakes that produce consistently high quality and quantity of popular game fish (such as black bass, crappie, catfish, white and striped bass, and even sunfish).
- Accessibility: Texas is enormous. It’s absolutely huge. One positive is that the majority of the top fishing lakes in Texas can be found in the eastern part of the state. This offers anglers from major metropolitan areas like Dallas-Forth Worth and Houston a fairly reasonable commute. It also invites anglers from nearby Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Louisiana easy access. The bad news is that anglers from West Texas usually have a considerable drive ahead of them — with a few exceptions.
- Social Signals: Each year, between 2.5 and 3 million anglers purchase a Texas fishing license. That’s a lot of people, and a lot of perspective. We looked at data across Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and numerous fishing forums. We also polled anglers from the popular Texas Fishing group to add a distinctly human element to the rankings.
What Lakes Were Considered For this List?
In reality, some lakes are quantifiably better for fishing than others. For instance, no one is going to argue that Lake Fryer in North Texas (at only 86 acres) is a superior fishery to Sam Rayburn or Lake Fork. That’s not a knock on Fryer is any way — just the truth.
That said, we considered data from 178 different lakes across Texas to at least give an honest comparison and breakdown.
Those lakes are:
|Corpus Christi||OC Fisher|
|Bonham State Park||Richland-Chambers|
|Wichita||Fort Parker State Park|
|Davy Crockett||Toledo Bend|
|Lake O' The Pines||Raven|
|Findley (Alice City Lake)||Pinkston|
|Belton||Amon G Carter|
|Baylor Creek||Hords Creek|
|Lyndon B Johnson||OH Ivie|
|Granger||Cleburne State Park|
|Meridian State Park||Abilene|
|JB Thomas||Palo Pinto|
|Winters-Elm Creek||Coffee Mill|
|Big Creek||Bob Sandlin|
|Brandy Branch||Buffalo Springs|
|E V Spence||Averhoff|
|Walter E Long||Coleman|
|Ray Roberts||Ray Hubbard|
|Marble Falls||Fort Phantom Hill|
|Hubbard Creek||BA Steinhagen|
|Monticello||Town Lake / Lady Bird Lake|
|Tradinghouse Creek||Alvarado Park|
|Colorado City||Fayette County|
|Mineral Wells||Houston County|
|Choke Canyon||Marine Creek|
The Best of the Rest: Some Great Texas Fishing Spots
While our list consisted of nearly 200 possible contenders, that number was quickly trimmed down to 48.
Of that 48, there were about seventeen (17) that were given strong consideration for inclusion into the list of best fishing lakes in Texas.
A few lakes that came close to making our Honorable Mentions list include:
- Lake Whitney
- Lake Lewisville
- Lake Ray Hubbard
- Eagle Mountain Lake
- Lake Lady Bird (notable for holding eight current Texas state fishing records — warmouth, common carp, northern pike, American eel, gray redhorse, Guadalupe/spotted bass, redear sunfish, and gizzard shad)
Honorable Mentions: The Lakes That Just Missed the Cutoff
As we shortened the list, it became increasingly difficult to decide which lakes would make the cut, and which lakes would be cut.
In reality, trying to narrow this list down to a mere eight lakes was always going to be difficult. Doing so would be negating some spots that would easily be among the top in practically any other state.
To give credit to some fine fisheries that absolutely deserve recognition, we decided to add an Honorable Mentions category that looks at five excellent fishing lakes that just missed out on a top spot.
- Cedar Creek Reservoir: Located in northeast Texas, Cedar Creek Reservoir was impounded in 1965 and covers and impressive 32,623 acres. It has a maximum depth of 52 feet. Cedar Creek is known to have excellent hybrid and white bass fishing, as well as excellent catfishing. Anglers looking for crappie, largemouth, and smallmouth bass will also find good quality and quantity here.
- Possum Kingdom Lake: This curiously named lake, which sits in Palo Pinto County on the Brazos River, was impounded in 1941. It covers roughly 16,000 acres. The average depth of Possum Kingdom is 37 feet, with a max depth of 145 feet. The name is said to come from Ike Sablosky, an early 20th-century businessman who dealt in possum fur trading. White Bass fishing on PK is some of the best in the state. Largemouth and striped bass are also popular species here. Possum Kingdom also offers decent panfishing, including various species of sunfish and crappie.
- Ray Roberts Lake: Another popular fishery out of northeast Texas, Ray Roberts is located slightly north of the city of Denton. It was impounded in 1987 and covers over 25,000 acres. The lake has a maximum depth of 106 feet. For anglers looking for excellent largemouth bass and white bass, the fishing here is known to be excellent. Ray Roberts also offers some fantastic crappie fishing. Catfish and numerous sunfish species can also be found in good quantity on Ray Roberts Lake.
- Caddo Lake: Located in East Texas on the Louisiana border, the lake gets its name from an early Native American culture called the Caddoans. The group is believed to have settled in the area between 200 BCE and 800 CE. Caddo’s first dam was built in 1914, with a replacement being built in 1971. It has a maximum depth of only 20 feet but covers almost 27,000 surface acres. Caddo is recognized for having quality fishing across numerous species. Largemouth bass, crappie, sunfish, and white bass are all excellent. Catfish and chain pickerel fishing on Caddo are also considered to be very good. For anglers targeting spotted bass, Caddo is also considered a fine fishery.
- Falcon Reservoir: Of the lakes on our Honorable Mentions list, Falcon Reservoir was the closest to earning a spot on the Top 8 Lakes list. Formally known as Falcon International Reservoir, it is a reservoir of the Rio Grande and sit in southern Texas near Laredo. Falcon, which was impounded in 1954, covers an impressive 83,654 acres of surface area. It has a maximum depth of 110 feet at its dam. Falcon is considered to have some of the finest bass fishing in Texas. Channel catfish are also known to be sizeable and abundant here. The lake is also known to house decent flathead and blue cats. White bass and crappie — two popular species in the area — are considered “poor” on Falcon, however.
The 8 Best Fishing Lakes in Texas
And now, we will look at what we believe are the eight best fishing lakes in Texas. Please note that the lakes listed below are not ranked in any particular order.
Toledo Bend Reservoir
Toledo Bend Bass Fishing Video
If you have followed the competitive bass fishing circuit for any reasonable length of time, then Toledo Bend is probably on your radar. Even for anglers who may never fish anywhere near the Lone Star State, it’s one of those highly reputable names that never seems to be too far from the spotlight.
Numerous BASS, MLF, and FLW tournaments have been held on Toledo Bend over the past decade. High-profile pros like Greg Hackney and Mike Iaconelli have even filmed from Toledo in recent years as well.
Toldeo Bend rests in the southeast corner of the state on the border of Texas and Louisiana. As a reservoir of the Sabine River, Toledo Bend covers over 181,000 acres of surface area. It has a maximum depth of 110 feet with an average depth of 24 feet. The lake was impounded in 1967.
In terms of quality fishing, both largemouth bass and various species of sunfish — especially bluegill and redear sunfish — are excellent on Toledo Bend. The lake is known to have quality catfish and striped bass. Toledo Bend is also home to some of the best crappie fishing in the country.
For white bass, which are unable to achieve a natural spawn due to the lake’s conditions, annual stocking allows for a fair yield.
As of this writing, Toledo Bend is currently home to a pair of Texas state fishing records: grass carp (53.5 pounds in 2006) and redfin pickerel (0.66 pounds in 2006).
Lake Conroe Bass Fishing Video
Another entry from southeast Texas — albeit a little deeper into the state than Toledo Bend — is Lake Conroe. This 20,118 acre lake was impounded in 1973. It has a maximum depth of 79 feet with an average depth around 20 feet.
Lake Conroe is one of two Texas lakes to have held the Bassmaster Classic, with popular angler and Auburn University alum Jordan Lee winning the first of his back-to-back titles there in March 2017. Over the years, the lake has played home to numerous high-level tournaments, as well as the local Conroe Bass series.
Outside of bass fishing — which is incredibly popular — many anglers visit Lake Conroe for its excellent channel catfish. Efforts have been made in recent years to increase the stock of Conroe’s black and white crappie as well.
Since 1995, hybrid striped bass have been a popular and abundant species on the lake. Sunfish — and particularly bluegill — are also another Lake Conroe gem. Texas Parks and Wildlife have reported anglers regularly pulling bluegill around 12 inches from the lake.
Currently (as of this writing), only one Texas state fishing record comes out of Lake Conroe, however. That record belongs to Jesse Ashley, who landed a 44 pound, 38.5 inch freshwater drum in May of 2011.
Lake O’ the Pines
Lake O’ the Pines Crappie Fishing Video
During the early months of this website, our team consistently found that Lake O’ the Pines seemed to be synonymous with massive crappie. With the sheer amount of giant slabs being pulled from nearby Oklahoma and Arkansas, it’s no surprise that this northeast Texas lake is also so highly regarded when it comes to crappie fishing.
Situated in Marion County (and parts of Upshur and Morris), Lake O’ the Pines was impounded in 1958. It covers around 19,000 acres of surface area (more during the summer pool, and less during the winter pool). The lake has a maximum depth of 49.5 feet.
In addition to its reputable crappie fishing, Lake O’ the Pines is home to many other popular game fish. White bass, flathead catfish, and blue catfish can be found in good size and quantity. Largemouth bass fishing is also excellent here. Channel catfish are abundant, as are numerous species of sunfish (especially redbreast, redear, and bluegill).
As of this posting, the current Texas state record spotted bass belongs to Lake O’ the Pines. At 5.56 pounds and 21 inches, this catch by angler Turner Keith in 1966 has comfortably held its place for over half a century.
Choke Canyon Reservoir Crankbait Bass Fishing Video
Moving down to the southern part of the state, Choke Canyon Reservoir is the next spot on our list of best fishing lakes in Texas.
Impounded in 1982, Choke Canyon sits in Live Oak and McMullen Counties and is managed by the city of Corpus Christi. It spans 25,670 acres and has a maximum depth of 95.5 feet.
With over a dozen popular species available in its water, Choke Canyon is known to be one of Texas’s top fisheries for largemouth bass and numerous species of catfish.
For bass lovers, Texas Parks and Wildlife receives regular reports of 10+ pound bass being landed on Choke Canyon. If you’re looking for channel, blue, or flathead catfish, the lake is also known to produce excellent size and quantity.
Choke Canyon also offer quality white bass, crappie, and sunfish.
Surprisingly, though, Choke Canyon does not currently own any Texas state fishing records (as of this posting).
Amistad Reservoir Bass Fishing Video
Taking its name from the Spanish word for “friendship,” this popular fishery is often referred to colloquially as “Lake Amistad.”
Regardless of the name, however, it is undoubtedly one of Texas’s premier fishing destinations.
Situated in Val Verde County (in the southeastern Edwards Plateau), Amistad covers an impressive 64,900 surface acres. The deepest point on the lake is 217 feet. It is a reservoir of the Rio Grande river (at the confluence of the Devils River).
Amistad is consistently considered one of Texas’s top bass fishing destinations. Located further west than many of the other top fisheries in the state, it consistently produces both excellent size and numbers. The current Amistad Lake record largemouth (as of this writing) was caught by Tom Sutherland in 2005. It weighed an impressive 15.68 pounds and measured 28.3 inches in length.
Outside of largemouth bass fishing, however, anglers can find several other species. Both white and striped bass are abundant here, and the lake even plays home to smallmouth bass.
Channel and blue catfish are also popular on Amistad. Anglers frequently report good numbers of both species, with flatheads occasionally being caught as well.
Like Choke Canyon, Amistad also does not currently own any state fishing records for Texas.
Lake Texoma Striped Bass Fishing Video
An impoundment of the Red River that sits on the border of Texas and Oklahoma — hence the name — Lake Texoma has established itself not just as one of North Texas’s premier fisheries, but one of the best fishing lakes in the entire state over the decades.
Spanning almost 75,000 acres of surface area, Texoma’s max depth sits at 100 feet. It is the local lake to many anglers near Denison, Sherman, and Gainesville, and is visited by thousands of Oklahoma anglers each year.
Like Lake Conroe, Texoma is one of two Texas lakes to have held the prestigious Bassmaster Classic. September 1979 played home to the first of Hank Parker’s two victories (the other being in 1989 on Virginia’s James River, which hosted the event in 1988, 1989, and 1990).
In terms of quality, quantity, and variety, it’s hard to argue against Texoma’s offerings and reputation. It is a bit of rarity in the state (and the entire nation) as Texoma has one of America’s few landlocked, self-sustaining populations of striped bass (whereas most other fisheries rely on stocking).
Texoma also plays home to numerous species of black bass (smallmouth, largemouth, and spotted bass). Both the Oklahoma and Texas sides of the lake have recorded previous smallmouth state records, and the lake maintains some of the best smallmouth fishing in the state. Blue catfish are also caught in excellent quantity.
Outside of these species, Texoma is also home to good white bass, crappie, and channel catfish. While not quite as abundant, flathead catfish are also a popular species on this lake.
As of this posting, Lake Texoma currently owns a trio of Texas state fishing records:
- Blue Catfish: 121.5 pounds by Cody Mullennix in January 2004
- Black Buffalo: 34.88 pounds by Ricky Stephenson in May 2004
- Goldeneye: 2.31 pounds by Mandy Richmond in May 1996
Sam Rayburn Reservoir
Sam Rayburn Reservoir Fishing
We’ve got yet another entry from eastern Texas, and many anglers would claim that this might be home to the best fishing lake in the state.
Sam Rayburn Reservoir — named for the former United States Speaker of the House — is located across four counties (Angelina, Nacogdoches, Jasper, Sabine, and San Augustine). It spans an impressive 114,500 acres of surface area and has a maximum depth of 80 feet. At its longest, the lake spans 36.43 miles. At its widest, it spans 4.29 miles.
Sam Rayburn has hosted countless tournaments over the years, including everything from FLW events to “working man’s” tournaments. As one of the top largemouth bass fisheries in the state, anglers are able to consistently catch quality fish year-round. Hank Harrison, a 2020 FLW College National Champion from Stephen F. Austin University, regularly fishes Sam Rayburn due to its proximity (to Nacogdoches) and excellent fishing.
When it comes to finding excellent size and quantity, both catfish and crappie are abundant. Sam Rayburn also offers numerous species of sunfish and decent white bass fishing.
Despite being such a high-profile fishery, however, Sam Rayburn currently holds only a single Texas state fishing record: Allen Chesney’s 1994 bigmouth buffalo. Chesney’s catch weighed in at 58.75 pounds and measured 40.75 inches in length.
Lake Fork Bass Fishing Video
While this list is intended to profile the eight best fishing lakes in Texas, it would be easy to make an argument for Lake Fork being the best fishing lake in Texas.
At only 27,264 acres, Lake Fork certainly isn’t the largest lake in Texas. With a maximum depth of 70 feet, it also isn’t the deepest.
So why does this northeast-Texas lake have such a strong reputation?
Well, in a state that is big on bass fishing, some of the biggest bass in the state tend to come from Lake Fork. According to Texas Parks and Wildlife, over 65% of the top 50 largest bass in Texas have been pulled from this lake. This distinction alone makes Lake Fork one of the top bass fishing lakes in the entire country.
Outside of largemouth, however, Lake Fork still offers some fine multi-species fishing.
The popularity of channel catfish on Lake Fork has grown in recent years due to its excellent yield. Panfish aficionados also report high quality crappie and sunfish on the lake.
White bass, while not particularly as high-level, are still popular on Lake Fork.
In terms of Texas state records, however, Lake Fork (as of this writing) currently holds an impressive five:
- Largemouth Bass: 18.18 pounds by Barry St. Clair in January 1992
- Bowfin: 17.65 pounds by Brenda Walsh in February 1993
- White & Yellow Bass: 4.75 pounds by by Curtis Campbell in March 2005
- Black Crappie: 3.92 pounds by George Ward in April 2003
- Yellow Bullhead: 3.2 pounds by Herschell Spears in March 1997