Top 15 Texas Freshwater Game Fish Species
This article will list the top 15 Texas freshwater game fish species. The state of Texas offers anglers some outstanding freshwater fishing opportunities! Tips, locations, and the Texas state record will be included where possible.
Top 15 Texas freshwater game fish species
This list of the top 15 Texas freshwater game fish species is by no means a complete list of game fish found throughout the state. However, it is a list of the most popular and abundant freshwater fish species available to Texas anglers.
Texas bass species
Texas is home to several species that are in the Bass family. These include largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, spotted bass, white bass, striped bass, and hybrid bass. Only the striped bass and white bass are truly bass species, the others are really in the pan fish family.
1) Largemouth bass
There can be little doubt that the largemouth bass is the most popular freshwater game fish in Texas. In fact, it may just be the most popular fish species in the entire state. Florida strain largemouth bass were stocked into larger Texas reservoirs decades ago. The climate and habitat in Texas lakes is ideal and these Florida largemouth have done very well.
Read Capt Jim’s detailed article on largemouth bass fishing
The Texas state record largemouth bass is 18.18 pounds. While most anglers target largemouth bass in the larger Lake and River systems, largemouth bass are found in creeks and farm ponds as well. In fact just about any fresh water body of water probably has a population of largemouth bass. Top lakes include Lake Fork, Toledo Bend, Sam Rayburn, Lake Conroe, Falcon, Lake Texoma, and Amistad.
2) Smallmouth bass
Smallmouth bass are quite popular in the state of Texas as well. However, they are not nearly as widely distributed as their cousins the largemouth bass. Small mouth bass prefer cool clear water which is more common in the northern part of the state. Smallmouth Bass have an affinity for running water, making them excellent quarry for anglers fishing streams and rivers.
Read this article on smallmouth bass fishing
Cool, clear, deep lakes and reservoirs will hold decent populations of smallmouth bass as well. The top smallmouth bass fishing spots in Texas are Lake Merideth, Lake Texoma, Belton Lake, AmistadLake, and Devils River. The Texas state record smallmouth bass is 7.93 pounds.
3) Spotted bass
Spotted bass closely resemble largemouth bass, however they are more like smallmouth bass in habits. They do not grow as large and are often found in schools in deep water over structure such as channel edges and submerged islands. The Texas state record spotted bass is 5.56 pounds. They are found in many of the same lakes as largemouth and smallmouth bass.
4) White Bass
White bass are true members of the Bass family. They are diminutive cousins to the striped bass. Texas has an excellent population of white bass. They are found in lake and river systems, migrating up into tributary rivers to spawn. They don’t grow large, the Texas state record is 5.56 pounds. However, what they lack in size white bass make up for in tenacity and aggressiveness. They are often caught when located feeding on the surface, which is great fun.
5) Striped bass
Striped bass were introduced into Texas lakes with great success. These are an unusual fish species, which can thrive in both freshwater and saltwater environments. They are an open water species that does well and large reservoirs. The primary forage for striped bass is herring inch shad.
Read this article on how to clean and cook fish
Many anglers catch striped bass in Texas by trolling or drifting with live bait, particularly herring. Anglers certainly catch plenty on artificial lures as well. The state record striped bass is 53 pounds. top lakes in Texas include Texoma, Tawakoni, Toledo Bend, Buchanan, Amistad, Ray Hubbard, and the Guadalupe River.
6) Hybrid striped bass
A hybrid bass is a mix of a white bass in a striped bass. They are known throughout the country by several nicknames including hybrids and wipers. They are a sterile fish that grows very quickly. Hybrid bass are an aggressive species and put up an excellent fight. The same lakes that have good populations of striped bass are the best to target hybrid bass. The Texas state record hybrid bass is 19.66 pounds.
Catfish are an extremely popular Texas freshwater game fish species. They have become sought after by anglers throughout North America. Texas has an excellent population of the three primary catfish species; channel catfish, blue catfish, and flathead catfish. Channel catfish are the most numerous while blue catfish and flathead catfish grow to over 100 pounds.
Read more about catfish rigs and baits
7) Channel catfish
Channel catfish are the most numerous and widely available catfish species in the state of Texas. They are the smallest of the three major catfish species, averaging around 5 pounds. However, they do grow large with the state record being 36.50 pounds. Channel catfish have a varied diet and are caught on many different baits including worms, cut bait, though balls, and commercially prepared baits. They are found in ponds, lakes, and river systems.
8) Blue catfish
Blue catfish were introduced into Texas waters to provide anglers with a trophy sized fish to catch. They have become controversial in some areas as they are apex predators that are quite aggressive with large appetites. Blue catfish are mostly found in the larger reservoirs and river systems. They feed mostly on bait fish, with shad and herring being the top forage species. Most anglers use fresh cut bait such as suckers or herring. The Texas state record blue catfish is 121.50 pounds.
9) Flathead catfish
Flathead catfish, also known as yellow catfish, grow large as well. The Texas state record is 98.50 pounds. Flathead catfish tend to be more solitary than other catfish species. They prefer slow-moving sluggish rivers and can be caught and surprisingly shallow water. The top bait by far is a live sunfish. Most flathead catfish are caught by anglers specifically targeting them.
Panfish are very popular among anglers all over North America, and Texas is no exception. The weather and water environments are very conducive to growing good populations of large panfish. These species include crappie, bluegill, and various sunfish. They are game fish in their own right when pursued using ultralight tackle. Panfish are also fantastic eating, which is certainly part of the appeal!
Check out these top panfish fishing lures!
Crappie are the largest members of the pan fish family. There are two types of crappie, white crappie and black crappie. While there are slight differences in appearance and habits, for the purposes of this list they will be lumped together. Several Texas lakes have excellent populations of crappie, including White Lock, Conroe, Daniel, Granger, Coleto Creek, Sam Rayburn, Twin Buttes, and Lake Fork.
Read more about crappie fishing tackle and lures
In recent years, trolling with long rods has become very popular. It is an efficient way to cover a lot of water in a short amount of time in search of fish. This is called spider rigging by some anglers. The two top baits used by anglers targeting crappie are live minnows and small jigs. The state record white crappie is 4.56 pounds and the record black crappie is 3.92 pounds.
Bluegill are the most recognizable in numerous of the pan fish species. They thrive in just about every freshwater body no matter what the size, as long as it isn’t too cold. Bluegill are very aggressive and will hit tiny lures with gusto. They are a favorite among fly anglers casting buggy looking flies and poppers. Of course, live bait including worms and crickets is extremely productive as well. The Texas state record bluegill is 2.02 pounds.
Along with bluegill, Texas offers anglers the chance to catch several species of sunfish. These include redear sunfish (also known as shellcrackers), green sunfish, red breast sunfish, long air sunfish, and warmouth. While each has slightly different habits, most are found in shallow weedy areas and along shell bottom. Redear sunfish are the largest and most desirable. The state record is 2.99 pounds.
More Texas freshwater game fish species
There are several other Texas freshwater game fish species that do not fall into any real category. These include gar, carp, and walleye.
Carp used to be considered a trash fish, but are earning the respect of more and more anglers. They can be frustratingly difficult to catch at times and they grow quite large. The Texas state record carp is 43.75 pounds. Most anglers catch them bottom fishing with corn, though balls, worms and prepared commercial baits. They are generally caught in the slack waters of rivers and lakes. They are not considered good to eat.
Gar are another species that are gaining respect as time goes on. These fish grow very large, with the Texas state record alligator gar being 279 pounds. There are four species of gar found in Texas; alligator gar, along those gar, short nose gar, and spotted gar. Serious anglers chasing giant gar use very heavy tackle and big chunks of cut bait. Slow-moving rivers such as the Trinity River are the top spots.
Walleye are another species whose range has been greatly increased by stocking efforts. These delicious members of the perch family are originally from the Great Lakes region and have a dedicated following in that area. They are becoming more and more plentiful in Texas lakes and reservoirs where they have been stocked. Walleye are not the greatest fighters in the world, but are among the best tasting fish that swims. Most anglers catch them drifting with live nightcrawlers or trolling with plugs. The Texas state record is 11.88 pounds
In conclusion, this article on the top 15 Texas freshwater game fish species will help anglers catch more fish in the Lone Star State!