Fishing on Lake Travis Guide
Fishing on Lake Travis is a great way to get away from the city and enjoy a good time on the water. The authorities may claim that Lake Travis, on the outskirts of Austin in central Texas, was built as a Colorado River flood control reservoir.
But, we anglers know the real reason this body of water exists is for the fishing opportunities it provides. At least, that’s what counts to us, because fishing on Lake Travis is an excellent way to feel a tug on the end of your line.
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Is Lake Travis good for fishing?
Lake Travis isn’t just good for fishing—it’s great! In fact, this is a lake on the upswing.
An extreme drought about a decade ago hurt the bass populations, but that was followed by the reservoir filling back up and a population boom among the fish.
The most recent fishery survey (published in 2019) showed increased black bass and catfish populations, and stable crappie and white bass populations. This same survey stated that when fishing on Lake Travis for largemouth bass, anglers reported that catch rates had been “phenomenal.” And although many anglers did complain the fish’s average size was small, in 2021 angler Trace Jansen set a new lake record for largemouth bass after catching a 15.32-pounder.
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What kind of fish are in Lake Travis?
The fish most commonly pursued by anglers at Lake Travis is the largemouth bass.
- With over 18,000 acres of surface area there are nearly endless shorelines and underwater structure, so finding fish-attracting habitat is not a problem.
- Spring and fall are the prime seasons, but bass can be caught here year-round.
- And since there are plenty of other species also swimming around in the lake, when the bass aren’t biting there’s still lots of fishing to be done.
Catfish are reported by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department to be the second-most common target of anglers fishing on Lake Travis.
- Unlike the bass, which are targeted mostly with lures, catfish anglers generally fish with cut fish (shad are often preferred) or minnow for bait.
- While the catfish caught here generally aren’t monsters—the lake record blue cat is 49.7 pounds as compared to the state record of 121.5 pounds—they can easily top 20 or 30 pounds and often good numbers of two- to three-pound eating-sized catfish can be caught.
Lake Travis has a variety of species that are all quite tempting to anglers, which also include:
- Bass (largemouth, smallmouth, white, and Guadalupe)
- Catfish (channel, blue, and flathead)
- Freshwater drum
- Stripers (striped bass)
5 Pro Tips for Fishing on Lake Travis
Plenty of people walk the banks of Lake Travis and fish from the public access points at numerous parks. But Lake Travis is rather huge, stretching over 65 miles long, and fishing from a single spot will cut you off from countless hotspots. So, most anglers prefer to fish it from a boat. If you don’t own a boat, fortunately, there are plenty of Lake Travis boat rentals available. Those who are new to these waters may also opt to hire a Lake Travis fishing guide.
As is true with any lake, the fish here will prefer different baits and lures depending on the season and the weather. However, there are a few rule-of-thumb factors to keep in mind as you fish.
- First, remember that this lake has a lot of rocky shorelines and bottom, so crawfish are prevalent. Generally speaking, lures that mimic crawfish and their color patterns tend to be effective.
- Other major forage species here are threadfin shad and gizzard shad. Again, using baits and lures that imitate these species is often effective.
When is the best time to go fishing on Lake Travis?
- As we just mentioned, seasonality has a big impact on the fishing here. Spring and fall offer peak action, particularly as water transitions through the 60- to 75-degree range.
- During the heat of summer, fishing for bass can get tough, as the fish feed more at night and tend to move deep to cooler waters during daylight hours.
- During the winter, fish usually move deep as well, often to water over 20 feet, where water temperatures are more stable. However, these fish can usually be tempted into striking if you work your lures down deep around structure, ledges, and drop-offs.
One other seasonal item of note: during the summertime, portions of Lake Travis can get crowded. Very crowded. Watersports are popular here, as is cruising and coving on pontoon boats or zipping around the lake on speed boats. As a result, serious anglers sometimes avoid fishing on Lake Travis during the summer, especially on weekends and holidays.
If you’ll be at the lake when it’s busy and you still want to fish, your best bet is to get a very early start, begin casting before sunup, and plan to head back for the dock in the mid-morning hours when most of the other boaters are just beginning their day.
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With over three decades of experience in marine journalism, Lenny Rudow has contributed to dozens of boating and fishing publications and websites ranging from BoatU.S. Magazine to BDOutdoors.com. Rudow is currently the Angler in Chief at Rudow’s FishTalk, he is a past president of Boating Writers International (BWI), a graduate of the Westlawn School of Yacht Design, and has won numerous BWI and OWAA writing awards.