Fish await your bait at Texas State Parks
Camp and fish and hike — all in the same place
Did you know you can try fishing for free and without a license at Texas state parks? Bring your fishing gear and friends to a state park, pay the entry fee and you’re ready to fish. Many parks even offer free loaner tackle.
A river runs through some state parks; others offer shoreline around all or part of a lake. Some state parks sit right on the Gulf of Mexico. Here are just a few that boast some pretty good fishing across the state.
Chase Fountain | TPWD
Inks Lake State Park (above)
Live oaks cover pink granite hills around pretty Inks Lake, northwest of Austin. Wildlife is abundant, as are the fish.
Almost anyone with a pole and bait can catch a mess of fish throughout the year.
A constant lake level ensures that fishing is always available, especially for striped bass, white bass, sunfish and catfish; crappie and black bass are abundant, too. Fly fishing for sunfish commonly produces sunfish the size of your hand. White bass are excellent during the spring and fall and will hit just about anything that shines.
The park has two lighted fishing piers, and bank fishing is good anywhere in the park. Rent canoes and kayaks and buy tackle and bait at the park store. Loaner tackle’s available, too.
Brazos Bend State Park
It shouldn’t surprise anyone that there are lots of fish in a park where alligators roam. They like to eat fish as much as we do.
Brazos Bend State Park near Houston offers three small lakes, a medium-sized creek and a river that provide good fishing for largemouth bass, crappie, channel and blue catfish and sunfish. Fishing piers are located at 40-Acre, Elm and Hale lakes. Fishing from the piers is a good idea to avoid contact with the alligators.
Lake Brownwood State Park
The state park sits on the shore of the 7,300-acre Lake Brownwood in the heart of Texas. White bass and hybrid striped bass are a big deal from early May through October. “Slabbing” along creek and river channels produces lots of fish.
When sandies school in the main lake, follow the birds to get in on the action. When days are hot, night-fish for white bass around lighted boat docks.
Chase Fountain | TPWD
Lake Corpus Christi State Park (above)
Many anglers on their way to fish the bays around Corpus Christi overlook the fishing in 18,256-acre Lake Corpus Christi. Catfishing is rated excellent; fish for largemouth bass, crappie, white bass, bluegill and redear sunfish as well.
Channel, blue and flathead catfish are all present. Try for blue and channel cats with cheese bait in flooded brush in shallow water. Big blues and flatheads prefer live bait and can be caught on trotlines or jug lines in the main Nueces River channel.
Fish for crappie with small jigs off the park’s two lighted fishing piers; one pier is 400 feet long and wheelchair accessible. There are two boat ramps and two fish cleaning shelters as well.
White bass running in the river like a variety of small minnow-imitating baits as well as the real thing.
Ray Roberts Lake State Park
Try your luck with largemouth bass at this 30,000-acre lake near Dallas/Fort Worth.
Texas-rigged plastic worms are good bait in the summer, as are topwater baits early and late in the day. In fall and winter, try slow-fishing crankbaits or heavy jigs. Fish the bottoms of standing timber, even in deep water. The fishing pier on the Isle du Bois Unit is good for largemouth bass as well as for crappie, white bass and sunfish. The Johnson Branch Unit has great shoreline access.
Ray Roberts has good white bass fishing in spring and summer; look for schools of sandies surfacing near the dam and drop heavy jigs or slabs into the schools. Channel catfish are plentiful in the lake. They will take live shad, cut shad, blood bait or shrimp drifted along the bottom in 12 to 15 feet of water.
Eisenhower State Park
Despite covering only 423 acres, charming Eisenhower State Park near Denison offers some of the most scenic campsites in the state. The park is perched on the shore of 89,000-acre Lake Texoma.
The lake boasts excellent populations of striped bass, blue catfish and smallmouth, spotted and largemouth bass. The state record blue catfish — 121.5 pounds — was caught from the lake in 2004. Striped bass fishing peaks in May and June and again from October through December.
At night, fish off the ADA-accessible lighted fishing pier for panfish, bass and catfish; striped bass fishing off the pier is at its peak from fall to spring. Try the point below Armadillo Hill for striped bass when northwest winds blow.
Earl Nottingham | TPWD
Martin Creek Lake State Park (Above)
The catfishing at Martin Creek Lake is exceptional. Both blue and channel cats have been stocked into the lake. The preferred method of catching them is with stink bait over holes baited with soured grain.
The lake also has a healthy population of sunfish and crappie. Catch crappie with jigs and minnows fished over brush piles and around bends in creeks. Sunfish bite aggressively during the late spring and early summer spawn. Small jigs or spinners, earthworms and crickets will all produce lots of action.
Lake Arrowhead State Park
Known for superb spring and fall crappie fishing from the pier and floating docks, 15,000-acre Lake Arrowhead (in a namesake park near Wichita Falls) also produces very nice limits of white bass, black bass and catfish year-round. They’ll even let you borrow some tackle.
Try using a 1/16th-ounce chartreuse jig with in-line spinners off any of the rip-rap areas. Drift-fish for blue catfish with shrimp; use punch bait near standing timber where cormorants roost. White bass school near the flats early and late in the day and bite silver spoons or shad-imitating crankbaits.
Largemouth bass fishing can be very good at times, depending on water turbidity and lake elevation. Abundant numbers of white bass cruise the lake throughout the year.
Choke Canyon State Park
Reel in largemouth bass and catfish from your boat or the shore at the 26,000-acre reservoir of Choke Canyon State Park south of San Antonio.
Looking for bass? Find the grass, or hydrilla, where the bass gather in the morning and try some crayfish-imitating lures. Later in the day, switch to Texas-rigged soft plastic floating worms.
Many catfish anglers on Choke Canyon use cheese baits to go after blue and channel cats in shallow water with flooded vegetation. Local guides target catfish under cormorant roosts. The Calliham Unit has a jetty near the boat ramp that gives access to deeper water, where you can target catfish in 20 to 40 feet of water.
There’s also a 75-acre lake within the park for bank fishing only; it’s stocked with catfish, bass and sunfish. Use dead shrimp with a 1-ounce weight on a drop line.
Earl Nottingham | TPWD
Cooper Lake State Park (Above)
Jim Chapman Lake (formerly called Cooper Lake) is a 19,000-acre impoundment northeast of Dallas with 31 miles of shoreline. There are opportunities for largemouth bass, catfish, white and hybrid striped bass and crappie.
Standing timber, brush piles, islands and fencerows provide structure for largemouth bass and crappie. White bass school in summer around main-lake points and humps. Fish for crappie within the park along “the wall” at the Heron Harbor day-use area in the South Sulphur Unit.