Galveston County, TX
South Padre Island, TX
Texas is known for big things, and one of the biggest is the fishing charter opportunities the Lone Star state has to offer. Texas ranks sixth in the nation in terms of how much coastline it has, with 367 miles along the Gulf of Mexico and over 3,350 miles of tidal shoreline. There are both inshore and offshore opportunities ranging from trolling for big-game pelagics far off the coast, to fishing live baits in quiet backcountry waters. And Texas is no slouch in the freshwater department, either, sitting in the number-eight spot when ranking states by fishable freshwater with over 7,000 lakes that create more than 1.2 million acres of casting territory. On top of the sheer number of options, fish of certain species also tend to be bigger here thanks to the mild climate and a longer growing season than many other parts of the country enjoy.
Along with the fantastic fishing, Texas has the infrastructure and business base that make it easy to book a fishing charter or rent a fishing boat in countless angling hot zones. You say you want to go deep sea fishing and target tuna at the oil rigs? You’ll have your choice of big luxurious sportfishing boats, speedy center consoles, and everything in-between. Chasing redfish near South Padre Island is more your style? Choose among the countless light tackle or fly fishing guides. Casting for bass in Sam Rayburn Reservoir is something you’ve always wanted to try? There are plenty of captains and boats ready to schedule the trip.
Just about every port along the coast of Texas offers charters both out in the open Gulf and inside of the inlets and bays that feed it. On the freshwater scene, the large reservoirs and many waterways near population centers have both guided fishing trips and fishing boat rentals available.
Most charters running to deep sea fishing grounds are on relatively large boats of 30 to 60 feet, which carry up to six anglers for a flat day rate (a tip for the mate of 20 to 25 percent is also expected). The cost will vary by boat size and type. On offshore trips, you can expect to hunt for big pelagics like tuna, billfish, and mahi-mahi, but charters that stay closer to port and fish for reef and wreck species like snappers and groupers are also available.Browse Texas fishing charters
Inshore guides generally run boats in the 21- to 28-foot range and carry up to four passengers, though you will find some guides who can take up to six. Casting lures or baits to popular species like redfish, speckled sea trout, and flounder is the norm. Pricing will vary by the boat and captain, but inshore charters usually don’t carry a mate, and the boats burn far less fuel than bigger boats, so cost is substantially less than offshore charters.Browse Texas fishing charters
Most freshwater charter fishing in Texas will target largemouth bass, although in some lakes, other fish like landlocked striped bass, crappie, or even catfish could be the main quarry. Dedicated bass guides running bass boats usually take just one or two anglers out for the day, but some guides do run boats with more seating and capacity and may carry up to four anglers per trip.Browse Texas fishing charters
As we mentioned earlier, Texas is a big place and there are countless fishing hotspots in the state. That said, these three areas would make anyone’s Texas fishing bucket list.
Located 75 to 100 miles off the coast, there’s not a Texas angler alive who wouldn’t be thrilled to spend a day or two fishing Flower Garden Banks. This area is a marine sanctuary, so no commercial fishing occurs here, but recreational angling is still allowed. While all sorts of deep sea species can be caught at Flower Garden Banks it’s particularly well-known for epic wahoo action, especially during the winter months.View fishing boats
South Padre Island and the Laguna Madre behind it are famous throughout Texas and the entire world for redfish and speckled trout fishing. On top of that, a huge range of species like snook, flounder, sheepshead, black drum, and even tarpon are caught here. Added bonus: with around 300 square miles of shallow water opportunity, fishing in this protected waterway mean you can almost always find hotspots that are sheltered on breezy days.View fishing boats
Anglers may argue over which lake in Texas has the very best bass fishing, but Lake Fork will show up on the list of top-tier lakes for just about everyone. The state record 18.18-pound largemouth was caught here, and Lake Fork is also responsible for three other state record fish. Sitting about two hours east of the Dallas-Fort Worth area, it covers 27,000 acres and averages 12 to 15 feet of depth. Tip: Crayfish patterns are known to work wonders here.View fishing boats
Here are three recommendations for preparing for a fishing trip out of Texas.
Texas requires separate licenses for saltwater fishing and freshwater fishing, and a salt or freshwater endorsement is also needed. The state also offers “All-Water” packages covering both. Separate red drum tags are required to keep a fish over 28 inches. Note that a state license is required to possess a fish in state waters even if it was caught in federal waters. More details can be found at the Texas Parks & Wildlife Fishing Regulations webpage.
If you’re taking out a fishing charter, bait and tackle appropriate for the target fishery will generally be provided. However, if you’re renting a boat, you’ll want to visit a local tackle shop. Be sure to get chatty with the person behind the counter before making any choices, because bait and tackle shops are generally staffed by local anglers who will know what baits, lures, and tactics have been hot lately.
Some charter operations will clean your fish, but many don’t consider it part of the deal so check with the captain beforehand. Some large marinas and resorts have services where you can pay by the pound to have your fish cleaned and packaged. Fillets can be packed in a Styrofoam-lined box with chill-packs, taken on an airplane as baggage, or shipped home via FedEx or UPS. (FedEx has an informative webpage on How to Ship Perishables).
Although they may not boast the fighting abilities of mahi-mahi nor the sheer size and strength of tunas, the most popular gamefish in the Texas Gulf is the red snapper. These fish are found on wrecks and reefs, readily take live and cut baits, and fight hard. But their main attraction is how they taste. Red snapper have sweet, flavorful, flakey fillets that are considered by many to be some of the best in the sea.
Redfish, also called red drum, are not only an incredibly popular target species for inshore anglers in Texas, but they’re also one of the most popular in all of the Gulf and can be found in countless inlets, bays, and bayous along the coast. These fish score high for their delicious fillets, but they’re also known for their amazing fighting abilities — many anglers swear that a five-pound redfish tugs harder than 10 pounders of most other species.
In freshwater, largemouth bass rule the roost. This is true nationwide, and it certainly goes for Texas, too. Although few people consider bass a food fish (most are released immediately after snapping off a picture or two), their battling abilities, topwater strikes, and adrenaline-inducing leaps out of the water make them a fan favorite. Plus, they can be found in virtually all of the lakes and reservoirs in the state.
There are plenty of fish species in Texas, so if you have several days, you'll have lots of options. Here are three types of fishing that you might want to try.
In the waters of the Gulf, many anglers bottom fish or fish with live bait, but overall trolling is the type of fishing used more often simply because it produces bites from such a wide range of fish. Offshore it’s the best way to hook into pelagics, and closer to land species like Spanish and king mackerel, jacks, cobia, and many other fish will strike rigged baits and flashy spoons towed through the water.
When it comes to fishing the shallows in inshore waters, sight fishing is incredibly popular. Not only is it highly effective, the thrill of spotting a fish, making the perfect cast, then watching the predator attack your bait or lure is the pinnacle of angling excitement. Whether you’re on a charter and have a guide to help you to spot fish, or you’re renting a boat and have to find them for yourself, be sure you’re armed with atop-notchh pair of polarized sunglasses. They’re a critical tool for cutting glare and seeing through the water.
When bass are the target many anglers choose to fish topwater. It’s not always the most effective way to hook a fish, but it certainly is the most exciting way to get one on the line — when a bass explodes out of the water and smashes the lure, even the most experienced anglers have a tough time keeping their wits about them. Tip: When it’s rough and windy, chuggers and poppers will create sounds that fish can hear over the background noise and home in on.
The different months of the season bring different fishing opportunities in Texas. In saltwater, migratory species come and go. And in freshwater, while the fish don’t go anywhere, they may become more or less active or move to different environments in their waterways.
Many fisheries go into a lull in the middle of winter, but redfish and speckled trout will hunker down in deep channels and drop-off edges in the bays and bayous. Flounder will strike a bait here and there, as well. Slow your presentation down to match the fish’s metabolism, and you can enjoy some excellent action throughout the month.
Many anglers will continue looking for those reds and specks as February begins, but at some point this month, black drum and sheepshead will begin to make their presence known along rocky jetties and passes. Think: live shrimp fished on a jighead.
This is a prime month for bass anglers, as the largemouth shift into prespawn mode. Bass spawn when the water reaches 60-degrees, and up to that point they’ll be looking to fatten up.
This month it can be tough to make up your mind as you decide what to fish for — just about all of the popular inshore species are chewing, bedded bass are a tempting target, and offshore angling is ramping up as well. Good luck deciding which fishery to focus in on!
May is a great month to target landlocked striped bass. Lake Texoma is probably the most famous for this late spring bite, but plenty of other reservoirs in Texas have been stocked with striped bass, and this time of year, they’re often found in open water chasing schools of baitfish.
In June red snapper dominate the attention of countless Texas anglers. True, they’ll bite well through the summer, but the season for federal waters (where fishing is often best) is closed from early September through June — so when it opens up, people flock to the snapper grounds.
Mid-summer is a great time to go after kingfish, and many fishermen in Texas will be gearing up for trolling spoons or slow-trolling live baits. Just remember to rig up with that wire leader, or those toothy critters will bite you off every time
The kings will still be biting strong in August, and along with them, more cobia will be showing up along the coast, as will several species of sharks. In freshwater venues, on the other hand, look for the fish to move deep to escape the heat.
This month is prime-time for redfish. As the waters begin to cool off from summer, their activity level kicks up a notch, and mature fish begin moving from the backwaters to the Gulf passes. As they go on the move, they’re fattening up for winter and feeding as much as possible. Specks will be feeding strong in the inshore waters, too.
As fall sets, freshwater anglers will enjoy fantastic action from bass and crappie in many different Texas lakes. On top of that, this is when the catfish bite is often at its strongest, freshwater stripers feed hard, and just about all the species of gamefish do their best to pack on the pounds before truly cold weather sets in.
November is a great time to target speckled sea trout, especially if you want to catch trophy-sized fish. As fall cools the waters, the specks feed hard, and while you may catch fewer numbers of fish than you did earlier in the season, when it gets chilly is when the biggest fish of the year generally show up.
As winter sets in, many fisheries will be dropping in intensity, but the catfish bite in the reservoirs will be going great guns. And on the saltwater scene, expect water clarity to get better and better as the temperatures drop, which gives you a leg up when sight fishing in the shallows.