Texas Shallow Water Fishing Guide
It’s true what they say: “Everything is bigger in Texas.” That’s why the state of Texas at large has become a hot fishing spot for anglers of all backgrounds and preferences, but especially shallow water fishermen. From giant largemouth bass to monster reds, the variety and quantity of fish in Texas’ shallow waters abounds. Ready to throw your line in Texas waters? Read below for our guide to shallow water fishing in Texas.
What You’ll Find Lurking in the Shallow Waters of Texas
Saltwater/Gulf Coast Shallow Water Fish
One of the most popular fishing spots in Texas, due to both its surface area of water in addition to its variety of fish, is the Texas Gulf Coast. Anglers have a lot of options when planning a fishing trip to the Gulf Coast, but you’ll see the best results if you target your trip toward a few species. This allows you to have a strategy highly tailored to the species you have chosen, greatly increasing your yield. Below, you’ll find the top species for TX saltwater fishing in shallows and when they’re most active:
Southern Flounder - Fall to early winter
Atlantic Croaker - Spring to summer
Black Drum - Found in shallows during summer months
Spotted Seatrout - Found in shallows during spring and summer (early morning and late evening)
Red Drum - Late summer to early fall
Freshwater Lakes/Marshes Texas Shallow Water Fish
Freshwater lakes and rivers are a popular destination for anglers living inland, and even some coastal anglers. The variety of fish abounds, and anglers have been known to catch sizeable monsters in these freshwaters havens. One man caught a record sized blue catfish in Lake Texoma, weighing in at 121.50 lbs.
Largemouth bass - Late winter to spring (early in the morning)
Spotted Bass - Spawn in shallow water during spring, otherwise found in shallow water only on days when sun heats the water
Striped bass - Native coastal species that moves upstream to spawn but have been introduced into many Texas Lakes; best fishing is at night or out of direct sunlight
Blue Catfish - Found in shallow waters after ice-outs
Black and Yellow Bullheads - Active in shallow waters when temperature is above 60 degrees
Bluegill (Sunfish) - Spring and early summer
Redbreast Sunfish - Early spring and summer
Crappie - Winter season
Carp - Year-round
Best Shallow Water Fishing Spots in Texas
Lake O’ The Pines
Lake O’ The Pines is located about 2.5 hours east of Dallas, Texas, and about an hour north of Longview, Texas. This lake features a significant amount of shallow water with good vegetation and lots of cover; perfect for bass and baitfish. Anglers fishing here can expect to be in the company of a variety of different fish, including largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, crappie, sunfish and blue catfish.
Cedar Creek Lake/Reservoir
Conveniently located just over an hour southeast of the Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex, Cedar Creek Reservoir is a great option for anglers of all backgrounds and interests. There are a variety of different environments to cruise through in this lake, including a sizable area of shallow water channels. In the Cedar Creek Reservoir, you’ll often find the following fish: largemouth bass, blue catfish, channel catfish, flathead catfish, crappie, bluegill, white bass, hybrid striped bass.
It’s no surprise that this lake is known as one of the best shallow water TX bass fishing spots, given that it’s dominated by primarily shallow water areas with bald cypress trees scattered throughout. Covered by around 95% of aquatic vegetation, Caddo Lake is the perfect habitat for many different types of prized fish species. Caddo Lake is located on the very eastern border of Texas, split between Louisiana. Among the most common fish caught at Caddo Lake are largemouth bass, catfish, crappie, white bass and sunfish.
When fishing at Toledo Bend, located less than two hours east of Nacogdoches on the Louisiana border, you can expect to find the most concentrated populations of fish near vegetation edges, edges, channels and shallower areas in general. The most common species of fish that anglers head to Toledo Bend for are largemouth bass, crappie, catfish, striped bass and sunfish.
Located on the border of Texas and Oklahoma, Lake Texoma is a popular fishing spot amongst Texas anglers due to the fact that it is made up of brackish waters. This means there is a much wider variety of fish than typical freshwater lakes might offer. When temperatures start to drop in the fall, you’ll find ample striped bass and catfish in the shallow waters of this lake, especially when stumps, logs or big rocks are present! Crappies are often hooked here as well.
West Matagorda Bay
Matagorda Bay is a particularly popular hotspot for anglers on the hunt for trophy red drums. West Matagorda Bay offers the opportunity for wade fishing in the shallow water, but anglers in boats see success as well as long as they are armed with the right equipment for shallow water. Matagorda Bay is located on the coast halfway between Galveston and Corpus Christi, with the West or East Bay being accessible via the Matagorda Harbor along the Intracoastal Waterway. Visit this area for your chance at hooking some trophy Texas redfish, seatrout, Atlantic croaker or southern flounder.
Laguna Madre is a shallow water anglers dream: a crystal clear lagoon with shallow water that provides the perfect habitat for extensive seagrass beds and, subsequently, nursery and feeding areas for some of the top Texas saltwater game fish. Laguna Madre is known for its high, active population of spotted seatrout. However, this shallow lagoon also provides some great opportunities for other prized fish as well, including red drums and black drums.
Texas Shallow Water Fishing: Equipment Inventory & Best Practices
While tackle often varies based on targeted species, there are a few items that any shallow water fisherman should have in order to stay in line with shallow water fishing best practices, regardless of the species they are fishing for.
Hydraulic Jack Plate or Kick-Up Jack Plate
While catching fish is one matter of concern when exploring shallow waters, protecting your boat and ensuring its performance is another. For avid anglers who venture in and out of shallow waters, we recommend investing in a hydraulic jack plate. There are two main advantages of using a hydraulic jack plate in shallow water. The first is the protection of your engine. When traveling through shallow water, underwater objects (sandbars, tree stumps, timber, etc.) are likely to be near the surface of the water as well as your engine. Neglecting to adjust your engine height in shallow water can lead you to cause damage to your engine and boat, costing thousands of dollars in repairs. If you are prepared to be diligent in searching for and locating objects prior to going near them, a hydraulic jack plate might suit your needs. For anglers looking for instantaneous response to objects as you are going over them, a kick and jack/breakaway plate might be a better solution.
The second advantage of having a jack plate in shallow water is the ability to get on plane. A jack plate allows you to lift your engine and propeller vertically, ensuring that the propeller is aligned with the movement of the boat. Being able to get on plane in shallow water will improve fuel economy while protecting your boat from being pushed down at the stern (which often happens with a dramatically tilted engine that is on a standard mount in shallow water).
When choosing the right jack plate for shallow water fishing, it’s important to keep in mind quality. While some jack plates on the market may be offered at lower prices, always be sure to verify that the plate was manufactured from a high-quality facility that heavily tests plates for efficacy. Having a jack plate malfunction in action can be tragic for your boat and difficult to recover from.
When fishing in shallow water, best practices include being stealthy so as to not alarm any fish or scare them away. Anglers are encouraged to move slowly and ensure that the equipment they are putting into the water won’t create a large splash or disruption. There are a variety of different lures and casting methods depending on species that you can choose to create a minimal disruption. However, in terms of anchors, there is a clear winner when it comes to shallow water fishing. Power Poles are the number one choice of shallow water anglers in need of an anchor that will hold them in a precise position without scaring fish away.
Power Poles were designed specifically for shallow water fishing, which is why they are extremely precise when deployed, incredibly quiet and non-disruptive, and sensitive to underwater ecosystems into which they are being deployed. While Power Poles come with a high price tag, the advantage they bring to your fishing strategy combined with their durability and extended lifetime make them a worthwhile investment for avid shallow water anglers.
Ultimately, shallow water fishing in Texas is an art that is best learned in practice. We encourage all Texas shallow water anglers to be bold and take chances to see what works best while having a good foundation that sets them up for experimental success.