If you live outside of Texas, you may not think the Lonestar state (1 star on their state flag) is filled with freshwater lakes, ponds, and rivers or that much of the coast borders the Gulf of Mexico. But it has a lot of water for fishing! Texas is home to a variety of different fish species and it's one of the top places to fish in the United States!
If you're considering fishing Texas waters you will need to get familiar with their native fish populations, where they can be found, what they eat, and how to catch them. This article highlights some of the top 25 Texas fish species and where to find them.
You may have fished some of the east coast already, maybe headed down to Florida or Georgia. You may be wondering whether Texas is worth the stop for a fishing trip. We can assure you that Texas is in the top 3 states for fishing in the United States with many species to catch! Whether you're an expert or just beginning to experience freshwater and saltwater fishing, you'll enjoy the heck out of Texas! Read below to find our fishing tips, locations, and Texas state fishing regulations.
How Many Fish Species Are in Texas Waters?
With 8,000 different fish species in the waters of the United States, Texas has a considerable percentage of that with 300 saltwater and freshwater species that are fished recreationally and commercially.
Top 25 Texas Fish Species
These top 25 Texas game fish species are by no means a complete list but they include species you’ll find across the entire state.
1. Largemouth Bass
The most popular sport fish nationwide is easily the largemouth bass. Their range covers the USA from top to bottom and east to west. Texans love bass fishing as much as Floridians! Maybe more?
Texas is home to a number of bass species you can catch in the freshwater lakes, rivers, and streams of the state.
Largemouth Bass. This is easily the most sought-after gamefish in Texas and is known for its large size and aggressive territorial behavior as it defends its nest. They have a wide range.
Smallmouth Bass. This species is known for its distinctive markings and feisty personality. It can be found in most large lakes and rivers.
Guadalupe Bass. Super rare and native to Texas, these bass are found in the clear and cool streams and rivers of the Hill Country.
Spotted Bass. Found predominantly in eastern Texas it is known for its black spots and aggressive strikes.
Yellow, white, striped, and hybrid bass can also be found in the state.
Because they are the biggest and the best eating fish in freshwater, it's no wonder that largemouth bass is one of the most popular game fish in Texas. If you've never eaten fresh-caught largemouth bass, you should add it to your bucket list. They are absolutely delicious.
Lake Fork in Texas is the best place to catch huge largemouth bass. The record stands at 18.18 pounds caught on January 24, 1992. The fish was 25.5 inches long and caught by Barry St. Clair on rod and reel.
Largemouth bass can be found in many ponds, lakes, streams, and rivers in the state. Top lakes for largemouth include these lakes.
Lake Fork - Located in Northeast Texas, Lake Fork is known as the best lake to catch huge bass.
Lake Sam Rayburn - Found in East Texas.
Falcon Lake - On the Texas-Mexico border, Falcon Lake is known for its large population of largemouth bass and many other fish species.
Lake Conroe: Located just north of Houston.
Lake Amistad: Located on the Texas-Mexico border, Lake Amistad is a popular destination for bass fishing tournaments.
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2. Smallmouth Bass
Smallmouth bass fishing is also quite popular in Texas. Though not as common as largemouth, smallmouth bass are common and often targeted by Texans and visiting anglers. They prefer the cool and clear water found in the north of the state, especially running (moving) water in streams and rivers.
Some good areas to find smallmouth include the Sabine River, Guadalupe River, Brazos River, Colorado River, and the Llano River. These are also filled with other fish worth targeting too.
The biggest smallmouth bass was caught in Lake Meredith near Amarillo, TX and was 7.93 lb. The big fish was 23” long and caught on March 13, 1998 by Timothy Teague on rod and reel.
If there's one fish that defines Texas saltwater fishing, it's the redfish! Red drum are a favorite target of anglers fishing inshore around the Texas coast for many reasons, but you don't need to know more than they get big and they are always tasty!
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Redfish has a firm flesh with a clean and unique taste that you'll fall for immediately if you're a fish lover. These are also stunning looking fish, their colors are mesmerizing and they are plentiful enough to catch some every time you venture out on the flats or in a boat.
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Heading out to find some redfish is a great way to experience Texas surf fishing with a rod and reel. All you need is some minimal gear and fresh shrimp, squid, or baitfish and a flat bottom with oysters or crabs to find them.
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Flounder are great tasting fish that can be found inshore around the coast and they are not that difficult to catch. If you put a shrimp or squid on the bottom, or even any dead fish, and drag it along through the sand you will be triggering the flounder's natural predatory attack response and you'll have one hooked in no time.
It's really not more difficult than that to catch flounder on rod and reel. They have teeth and yet you probably won't break off, so you can use mono or fluoro line as light as 8-10 lb. with success.
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Another technique for harvesting flounder is gigging. It’s legal all months of the year except November and the first two weeks of December. It's a controversial method around PETA types, but anglers have been spearing fish with spears, arrows, and gigs since the 1700's and you can be sure the Native Americans in the USA were doing the same prior to that with sharpened sticks and stalks of cane.
Flounder lay sideways just under the sand and don't move. They lay in wait to ambush prey that is on the bottom. They strike very fast and they can catch most baitfish without a problem.
Click here for tips on catching flounder from the beach.
If you're in a boat, you can catch flounder easier using a rod and reel. Use some weight to get your live or dead bait on the bottom and drag it right through the sand, dragging and stopping often to trigger a strike.
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5. Striped Bass
These bass are the fourth most popular fish targeted by Texas anglers and are found in saltwater and freshwater waterways. In a different genus than largemouth and smallmouth bass which are sunfish, these are marine-based bass that grow quite large and put up a strong fight.
The taste is light and these fish are becoming more popular with diners with each passing year.
The largest saltwater striped bass was caught on Galveston Bay on January 26, 1991 by Calvin Hinderman Jr.. The big fish was 33.5 inches long and weighed 28 lb.!
6. Yellowfin Tuna
Fishing in Texas has been a key part of the economy for a long time, and now oil plays a big role in the fishing industry. How? Oil platforms provide great structure for holding baitfish of all sizes. Big yellowfin tuna stalk these areas for baitfish.
Yellowfin are some big fish, some reaching over 6 feet in length and over 400 lb.
Late autumn, winter, and spring are the best times of the year to get out there off the coast and try your hand at landing some of these massive fish. July through September is generally regarded as the best time of year to target this species. Find them off the coast of Corpus Christi, Galveston, and Port Aransas.
Yellowfin tuna is prized as table fare and makes great sushi.
The biggest yellowfin caught in Texas waters? Caught October 11, 1998 in the Gulf of Mexico off the state coast the fish weighed in at 260 lb. and was 80 inches long.
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7. Wahoo (Texas Torpedo)
Wahoo is one of the fastest fish in the sea and is nicknamed the Texas Torpedo. Some say they hit speeds of 48 to even 60 mph in short bursts. Sailfish can hit 70 and even 80 mph, so they're not the fastest fish but they're super quick!
Wahoo is one of the finest tasting fish on the planet. They have a unique taste that is worth whatever your favorite restaurant charges. Try it and see what you think!
Wahoo is a slim, torpedo shaped fish that isn't very heavy. The average weight is around 25 lb. which gives you plenty to eat. These are very strong fish and pound for pound one of the great fighting fish. Some wahoo reach 8 feet in length but the common length for adults is about 5 feet long.
8. Alligator Gar
Alligator gar is the biggest fish in Texas rivers. They can grow to 300 lb. and 10 feet long in some other areas and they are fierce fighters once hooked. They have a long snout like an alligator with an overbite and very large teeth, which make them look intimidating.
Alligator gar love crystal clear water. You can find them on or near the bottom most times as they hover there motionless and waiting for food to drift by.
Alligator gars have an average lifespan of between 20-30 years. They are considered a delicacy in some cultures.
The biggest alligator gar taken in Texas was by Johnny Gilbert in Galveston Bay on October 14, 1995 when he hooked a 186.19 lb. 96.25" long fish!
9. Red Snapper
Red snapper is a popular fish to catch anywhere across its range. The reason is they have an exceptional taste that is highly sought after. Their firm and light flesh is delicious and can easily be prepared with grilling, frying, or baking in an oven (broiling).
Their range is vast, including all the way from North Carolina down to Brazil. Including the Gulf of Mexico and around Texas.
If you want to catch them you're going to have to fish deep from around 100 to 200 feet. These fish are carnivorous and feed on smaller fish, baitfish, and crabs and other crustaceans.
The biggest red snapper caught in Texas was a 40” long 38.75 lb. fish caught by Joseph L. Beaver using squid in the Gulf of Mexico on June 1, 2014.
10. Texas Catfish
Everyone has caught catfish, but the difference is, in Texas they try to catch them! This is a very popular focus for Texas anglers. Part of the fascination is that you can catch them anywhere and it's a lazy way of fishing that lends itself to conversation and little focus on technique. It's not difficult to catch them, just put something smelly on the bottom and a catfish will get it before too long.
Best baits are smelly things like chicken livers, dead fish, dead squid, or shrimp. Really just about anything dead works.
There are heaps of catfish in Texas' rivers, lakes, streams, reservoirs, and coastal waters. Native species include channel cats, blue cats, flathead, and bullhead catfish. Three non-native species can also be caught, the yellow, black, and brown bullheads.
11. Speckled Trout
Speckled trout (specks or spotted seatrout) are some of the best tasting fish swimming the ocean, and Texas anglers know it! These are some of the most popular fish for anglers looking to put something delicious on their plate.
Speckled trout can be found along the coast, in bays, and estuaries. The Upper and Lower Laguna Madre, East Matagorda, Baffin Bay, and South Padre island are some of the best places in Texas to fish for these trout.
Catching them is not that difficult, they prefer sea grass and can be caught easily with a shrimp floated with a popping cork at the right depth to reach them. Pop that cork and make the shrimp dance and that will get the bite going.
Some people use DOA Shrimp or other artificials, but to me there's nothing like live shrimp. If you want to catch the biggest trout use a big pinfish or a small mullet.
The best time for spotted trout in Texas and neighboring states is when the water cools down a bit. Trout become more active in these conditions.
Speckled trout are a saltwater species and not to be confused with freshwater trout like the brown trout.
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12. Texas Spotted Bass
Spotted bass are sometimes called 'Kentucky bass,' and are a species of freshwater bass that are native in Texas. In appearance, they resemble largemouth bass but they are smaller and thinner with a less fat and more elongated body shape. They have black/gray spots along the body from the gills to the tail on the sides.
Spotted bass feed on insects, crayfish, and smaller fish. They can be caught on live or dead bait as well as small artificial lures mimicking their natural prey.
Like all bass we're familiar with, they are delicious tasting fish that are well worth your efforts to land some. They can be found in streams, rivers, lakes, reservoirs around other bass like largemouth and smallmouth.
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Bluegill are sunfish that are plentiful in most lakes and other freshwater environments. We caught bluegill in Pennsylvania as I was growing up and you can catch them in Texas and all over most of the USA.
These are aggressive little fish that love small live worms as bait but will take a chunk of nightcrawler just as fast if it's the right size.
Bluegills can be caught by fly fisherman who present them with convincing-looking flies and poppers. Some Texas bluegills can be found in the 1.5 lb. and heavier range! The biggest one caught was over 2 lb.
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If you haven't eaten bluegill, you absolutely should try a couple of big ones that make it worth broiling them. Broil them and pick out the bones carefully, they have many very small bones that can get stuck in the throat. Only serve to adults.
There are a number of different sunfish species in Texas with the redear (red eared) sunfish being the most targeted because it can grow bigger than the others and keepers can be had more often than with the other smaller species. The record size of redear sunfish is 2.99 lb. caught at Lady Bird Lake by John Runnels on April 1, 1997 and was 14 inches long. That’s a keeper for the frying pan for sure!
Sunfish Species in Texas Freshwater
- Crappie (white and black)
- Green Sunfish
- Hybrid Green Sunfish
- Longear Sunfish
- Other Hybrid Sunfish
- Redbreast Sunfish
- Redear Sunfish
- Warmouth Sunfish
Carp have been a trash fish for decades and then someone decided that it would be a good idea if more people ate them because they aren’t going away. Carp were introduced to clean up the vegetation in lakes and other water bodies and they reproduced successfully and pushed other fish out of their habitat. Bass and carp in particular have an antagonistic relationship.
There are 3 species in Texas waterways - bighead, common, and grass carp. It can be hard to catch these fish because they eat plants. They can be caught on corn and other vegetation or even cut bait. They can grow to huge proportions. The Texas state record for carp is a 55.5” bighead carp weighing 90 lb. caught in Kirby by Timothy Connor on pieces of cut carp on July 22, 2000.
Carp can endure low levels of oxygen and near stagnant water in rivers and lakes. To be honest, we have never targeted carp but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try it! Catching a 50 lb. fish can be fun regardless, just don’t eat it!
16. White Bass
White bass is a cousin of striped bass and Texas has large populations of both fish. White bass are commonly found in lakes and rivers. They migrate upstream to spawn. White bass are not big but are fun to catch just the same as they can put up quite a fight for their small nature. Use ultra-light fishing gear for the best experience.
White bass are silver with some dark horizontal bars that look like computer screen pixels running down the body from the gills to the tail. They spend time in large schools and feed on smaller fish, crawfish, and worms. You can also tempt them to strike jigs, spoons, and some crankbaits.
These are delicious fish to eat, as are all bass.
The Texas state record for white bass was caught on the Colorado River by David Cordili on March 31, 1977. David caught the big bass on rod and reel and it was 20.75” long and weighed 5.56 lb.
17. Freshwater Striped Bass
Striped bass (aka rockfish or stripers) are typically thought of as saltwater fish, but in Texas we have freshwater striped bass you can catch in lakes, rivers, and saltwater. They are silver with dark horizontal stripes along the sides. Besides the pattern, they look similar to amberjack or snook in body shape.
They eat smaller fish and crustaceans and have sharp teeth. You can catch them on artificials and even fly rods for some real excitement. Use streamers like a Clauser Minnow to target Texas striped bass with fly rods.
They can be found in Lake Texoma, Lake Conroe, and Lake Ray Roberts among other places. Striped bass are known for their size, strength, and aggressive attacks on lures and live bait.
The Texas state record was caught by Ron Venerable at the Brazos River on May 27, 199. Ron caught a 48” fish weighing 53 lb.
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18. Hybrid Striped Bass
Hybrid bass is a genetic mix of white and striped bass that can be found in reservoirs most often. Some call them hybrids or wipers. These are sterile fish that cannot spawn. They grow very fast and are a fun fighting fish. They are great for eating and can be fried, broiled, grilled, baked, or smoked.
The Texas state hybrid striped bass record was caught by John Haney on Ray Hubbard Lake on June 20, 1984. John’s record was 35.16” long and weighed 19.66 lb.
19. Channel Catfish
Catfish species are not hard to find in Texas and prefer slow, deeper water that isn’t moving too quickly. Worms, minnows, crawfish, or something dead on the bottom is the best way to fish for these big lethargic fish.
A typical adult size is 18-36 inches long and around 25 lb. People eat them, and some Texans love them and primarily target catfish during fishing trips.
Channel cats are typically brown or gray in color with a number of dark spots on their body and a distinctive forked tail. Their body is long and thin with a large head and wide mouth with teeth.
The biggest channel cat caught in Texas was by Mrs. Joe Cockrell fishing the Pedernales River on March 7, 1965. She caught a 38” fish weighing 36.5 lb. This record has stood for 57 years!
20. Blue Catfish
Blue catfish are large with adults weighing around 100 lb. and with a range of length from 30-50 inches. This is average! These are big fish and prized catches. Some anglers focus on these fish exclusively. They’re also not bad for eating, if you like eating catfish.
Blue cats are blue-gray in color with many dark spots on the body. They have a long, slender body with a big head and wide mouth.
The biggest blue catfish ever caught (on record) is one caught by Mr. Cody Mullennix using shad as bait on the Texoma River on January 16, 2004. His blue cat was 58” long and weighed 121.5 lb.!
21. Flathead Catfish
Flathead catfish, sometimes known as yellow catfish, can grow large - approaching that of the blue catfish described above.
Flathead catfish are a bit harder to catch than other catfish species that suck up whatever is dead on the bottom. The big ones also prefer live bait like a big sunfish. To catch smaller flatheads use minnows.
The biggest flathead catfish caught in Texas was caught on a minnow by Mr. James Laster fishing Lake Palestine Lake in northeast Texas on December 2, 1998. He caught a big 53” fish weighing 98.5 lb.
22. Texas Panfish
Panfish as a group include crappie, bluegill, and a few other sunfish. These fish are very popular with anglers all over the United States, and Texas is no exception. Water conditions in Texas are great for breeding large numbers of panfish. These are delicious fish to eat but they have many small bones that are difficult to pick out. Children love targeting panfish of all kinds and if you’re considering taking kids out - make these your focus using ultralight tackle for the most fun.
Crappie (craps) are one of the larger panfish and highly targeted and coveted by some anglers. Some people go crappie fishing week after week just to focus on them. They are wiley and fun to catch on minnows or jigs. Texas has the white and black crappie species. Both grow to around 4 lb. maximum weight and around 17” at their longest.
Some of the best spots to catch crappie include Lake Fork in northeast Texas, Lake Sam Rayburn in east Texas, Lake Conroe in the southeast, Falcon Lake between Texas and Mexico, and Lake Tawakoni in the northeast.
Texas has 5 gar species, one of which, the alligator gar reaches massive sizes over 200 lb. The other species are considerably smaller with the hybrid gar reaching 70 lb. and the rest considerably smaller. Gar all have a similar body, torpedo shaped with long snouts. They prefer slow-moving water like rivers and streams and can be found in many water bodies throughout Texas.
Species of Texas gar include alligator, short-nose, spotted, hybrid, and long-nose.
Walleye have been stocked across Texas in lakes and reservoirs for their gamefish qualities. They grow to over 10 lb. and are predatory fish, attacking smaller baitfish, worms, and artificial lures. They are gold to olive green in color, with a number of distinctive, vertical bars running along their sides. Their body is slender with a large triangle-shaped head, and a wide mouth filled with small sharp teeth.
Best locations to fish for walleye are the Red River, Sabine River, and the Trinity River.
What is a game fish in Texas?
Game fish cannot be caught in a net or used as bait for other fish. Some fish that are deemed game fish by the National Parks and Wildlife Service include bass, catfish, crappie, dorado (mahi), marlin, mackerel, mako, pickerel, sailfish, speckled trout, sharks, tarpon, and walleye.
What kind of fish can you catch off the Texas coast?
Both inshore and deeper ocean off the coast into the Gulf of Mexico hold many kinds of game fish. Here are 15 common ones.
- Red drum (Sciaenops ocellatus)
- Speckled trout (Cynoscion nebulosus)
- Flounder (Paralichthys spp.)
- Tarpon (Megalops atlanticus)
- Red snapper (Lutjanus campechanus)
- King mackerel (Scomberomorus cavalla)
- Amberjack (Seriola spp.)
- Grouper (Epinephelus spp.)
- Cobia (Rachycentron canadum)
- Shark (Selachimorpha spp.)
- Bluefish (Pomatomus saltatrix)
- Black drum (Pogonias cromis)
- Sheepshead (Archosargus probatocephalus)
- Pompano (Trachinotus spp.)
- Spanish mackerel (Scomberomorus maculatus)
Are there barracuda in Texas?
Barracuda are common on offshore platforms and wrecks in deep water and are not typically found in shallow water.
Are there bluegill in Texas?
Yes, plenty! This is the result of some intentional and unintentional introductions of the species. Bluegill are found throughout the state of Texas.
We’ve only covered 25 fish you can target during your fishing expeditions. There are hundreds more species in Texas waters and surrounding the lonestar state. We hope this list gives you some ideas of new fish you can catch on your next thrilling fishing expedition! Let us know how it goes!