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7 Top-Rated Fishing Spots in Austin

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Best Fishing Spots in Austin:

So you want to go fishing in Austin and the central Texas area?

Well, you’ve picked the right spot. The Texas Highland Lakes — a chain of six freshwater reservoirs on the lower Colorado River — are home to some of the best bass fishing in Austin and all of Texas.

Hybrid stripers, striped bass, white bass, largemouth bass and Guadalupe bass ply these waters. Avid anglers come from all around to ply them too.

As far as where to go fishing in Austin and the surrounding Texas waterways? That’s a matter of great debate.

Bass fishing is the area’s biggest selling point. Lake Austin is known for its prize eight to 10-pound catches, trophies of which populate many mantles and man caves in the surrounding area.

Trout fishing in Austin and nearby Texas waters is more complicated. All fishable Texas rivers are too warm for native trout… but that doesn’t mean there’s no trout in them. The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) stocks hundreds of fishing spots across the state with more than 300,000 trout each year.

Want to know about fly fishing in Austin and central Texas? Austin is one of the best fly fishing areas in the state, with rocky, spring-fed rivers like the Llano, Blanco and Guadalupe.

It makes sense for an area with as much natural beauty as Austin to be great for fishing. After all, it’s the journey not the destination… even if the destination can occasionally prove to be record-setting.

Just remember, everyone fishing public waters over the age of 17 needs a fishing permit. That is, unless you’re fishing at a state park, which is another prime Austin option.

Lake Austin

fishing under bridge in lake austin

Image credit: retrobassin

Access: Several points

Biggest catch: 70.5-pound smallmouth buffalo

Lake Austin is one of the stars of the Texas Highland Lakes. Weighing in at 1,600 acres, this 75-foot-deep freshwater reservoir is chock-full of largemouth bass, catfish and sunfish.

While the lake has a healthy population of postcard catches, record book setters aren’t unknown. The largest bass ever caught in Lake Austin weighed over 43 pounds.

The reservoir also has some good quality bluegill, redbreast and redear sunfish — aka, the “shellcracker.” These are all labeled as bream, a sometimes catchall designation for narrow-but-deep-bodied panfish — the type of fish you can put in your frying pan.

They feed at all levels of the lake, and are artful fishing-line fighters. Some fishers consider bream to be the best pound-for-pound fighters out there!

They are also good to feed on, with the bluegill earning most of the cooked-up credit.

To avoid the summertime boat traffic, many anglers fish at night. Boats also cause other problems for the fishers of Lake Austin.

Especially on summer weekends, pleasure boating activity makes fishing from a boat difficult, if not impossible. Instead of fishing from a boat, many largemouth bass anglers aim their rods at the edges of weed beds that line the shoreline.

During the spring spawn, which runs from February to April, sight fishing can work well.

Because cold water is released from Lake Travis just upstream, bass will spawn later in the year on the upper end of the lake. Look for them in the backs of major creeks, around marinas and in the numerous boat bays that line the lake.

In the summer, the fishing is best early in the morning or at night. The clear water conditions make this an excellent night fishing lake for bass.

Lake Buchanan

Lake Buchanan - fishing in texas

Image credit: rafaeljaramillo4012

Access: Several points

Biggest catch: 65.2-pound blue catfish

Lake Buchanan has the biggest populations of crappie, stripers, black bass, catfish and hybrid stripers in the Highland Lakes chain… which makes sense when you consider its 22,333-acre size!

The fishing is made more complicated by the variety of underwater structures. There are some wild landscapes under the water, from steep cliffs and rocky banks to trees and underwater mounds. These last are a favorite spawning ground for largemouth bass, which also gather and feed in the flooded vegetation.

If you’re interested in more than just fish, you might enjoy the Highland Lakes’ version of the lost city of Atlantis. Buchanan Dam’s construction in 1937 flooded the town of Old Bluffton, which has been left to molder under the waterline.

During droughts, parts of the old town peak out. There’s a hotel foundation, schoolyard, mill and graveyard for fish to circulate in.

As is the case for Lake Travis, Lake Buchanan’s water depth varies from year to year because it’s a reservoir. In 2013, the lake reached a near-record low of 985 feet. Heavy rains in 2016 brought it back to full capacity for the first time since 2008.

Lake Buchanan is notable for more than just aquatic life. Bald eagles migrate here in the winter, and ospreys, blue herons and egrets can also be spotted. Pleasure cruisers have their choice of rustic cabins, lakeside parks — and one remote waterfall.

But we’re here for the fishing, and Lake Buchanan has plenty to go around.

Bright Lake

Access: Old Settler’s Park, Round Rock

Biggest catch: 7.2-pound largemouth bass

Bright Lake is a stocked pond in Round Rock’s Old Settler’s Park. It has a beautiful sunset view from its fishing pier and regularly-stocked populations of catfish, bass and perch.

The 600-acre park that surrounds it is also home to dozens of sports fields.

Walter E. Long Lake

Access: Three-lane concrete boat launch

Biggest catch: 65.5-pound smallmouth buffalo

Walter E. Long Lake is a 1,270-acre power plant cooling reservoir on Decker Creek, just east of Austin. It’s surrounded by the similarly-named Lake Walter E. Long Metropolitan Park, and plenty of distinct creek channels, drop-offs and submerged tank dams.

When the plant is generating, the water remains warm — good news for the largemouth bass, hybrid striped bass, catfish, sunfish and crappie that trawl its 55-foot depths. Water used to cool the plant’s turbines is drawn from one side of the lake then discharged on the other at a slightly higher temperature.

The water level is consistent year-round.

Due to its being public land, only about 20% of the shoreline is developed. Bank angling is nevertheless limited, with bulrushes covering much of the lake’s undeveloped shallows.

Eight to 10-pound largemouth bass aren’t rare, but slot-sized bass between 14 and 21 inches are more common. There are annual stocks of hybrid striped bass, along with ample amounts of bluegill and redbreast sunfish — many topping eight inches. Channel and flathead catfish are also present.

Brushy Creek Lake Park

Access: 3300 Brushy Creek Rd, Cedar Park

Biggest catch: 8.6-pound largemouth bass

If you’re into kayak and bank angling, Brushy Creek Lake has 38 acres of it! No trolling motors or motorized boating allowed.

(Boat rentals are available by calling 512-718-1000.)

This is a great lake for light or ultralight fishing. Fly fishers also rave about it.

Bank fishing can get quite crowded — but the opposite shore to the boat launch typically gets little pressure as it borders the golf course. Fishing under the bridge also gets good reviews!

Lady Bird Lake

fishing at lady bird lake in austin - picture of night time fishing

Image source: miguelmreyes

Access: Shore access, several boat ramps

Biggest bass: 45.5-pound striped bass

Called Town Lake until long-time Austinite and former First Lady Lady Bird Johnson died in 2007, Lady Bird Lake is one of Austin’s prime fishing spots.

This Colorado River-fed reservoir has some of the best bass fishing in the Austin area, with an ample supply of five to eight-pounders roving its 468 acres. It’s not unusual to come up with trophy 10-pound catches, or for a day’s work to produce the legal limit.

At a maximum depth of 18 feet, bass can be caught shallow all year long. A shoreline thick with vegetation offers great four-season big bass fishing.

Barton Creek flows into the south side at the mid-lake point. This last gem of the Highland Lakes chain remains warm all winter.

All that plus it’s surrounded by some great views of downtown Austin!

Laydown logs and trees, overhanging brush, cypress tree roots, bulrush and cattails offer cover along the bank. At the lower end of the lake, Longhorn Dam has a good amount of submerged aquatic vegetation. On the upper end, fishers will find plenty of weed beds.

Pedernales Falls State Park

Access: Several points

Biggest catch: 48.9-pound flathead catfish

Pedernales Falls State Park is just one of the access points for the versatile Pedernales River, 10 miles from Johnson City.

The entire river has been mapped by the fly fishing luminaries at TexasFlyFishing.com. They list drive-up river crossings and prime spots accessible by walk up, wading and paddling.

The falls themselves have some good live bait fishing. Anglers most commonly catch catfish, bass, sunfish and carp. Catfishing is especially good after a riverrise.

There’s a big pool below the falls to fish off the bank of, filled with perch, catfish and gaspergou (known as freshwater drum in other parts of the world). Downstream of the falls, there are scads of largemouth bass, Guadalupe bass and Guadalupe/smallmouth hybrids.

The river is also awash with live bait — river minnows that can be easily seined, and rocks hiding hellgramites and crayfish.

Bass Fishing in Austin

When CJ Oates from Lago Vista reeled in a 13.02-pound largemouth bass while fishing in Lake Austin in January 2021, it caught the attention of the whole state.

“There are only a few other states that have produced a fish that’s larger than that,” Kyle Brookshear of the TPWD said. “Texas is unique, and we really are a destination for personal record class sized fish, and 13 pounds is abnormal. It’s a world-class sized fish. It doesn’t happen very often.”

The fish was brought to the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center in Athens, where TPWD biologists attempted to spawn the bass. Their hope is to enhance fishing in Texas lakes with stockings of the large fish. Ambitious interventions like this are one of the reasons that Austin fishing continues to hook anglers.

Largemouth bass in Texas are special, but they’re not what Austin is most known for. The Highland Lakes — including Lake Austin, Lake Travis and Lake Buchanan — are home to Guadalupe bass, a native Colorado River fish found only in Texas. They top out at 3.5 pounds because of their adaptation to small streams, which has also made them agile and a desirable sports fish. They are at home in fast-flowing water and tight spaces, often using the water to their advantage when hooked. Guadalupes are the official state fish.

These are some of the best spots for bass:

  • Lake Austin
  • Pedernales Falls State Park
  • Lake Buchanan
  • Bright Lake
  • Llano River
  • Blanco River
  • Brushy Creek Lake Park
  • Lake Pflugerville
  • Walter E. Long Lake
  • Lady Bird Lake
  • Lake Bastrop

Trout Fishing in Austin

The Lower Guadalupe is known as the southernmost trout fishery in North America, a tailwater fishery that comes from the bottom of Canyon Lake. It runs through the town of New Braunfels, 50 miles southwest of Austin, which is home to another road trip-worthy water activity — visiting the Schlitterbahn New Braunfels Waterpark & Resort.

That said, the Lower Guadalupe maintains its trout population through TPWD stockings. Like most of the rest of Texas, it warms up past trout-friendly temperatures in the sweltering summer months.

Trout prefer to swim in sub-70-degree waters, and it’s tough to find year-round conditions that will sustain them through the summer. In fact, there’s only one waterway that makes the list according to Texas Monthly — McKittrick Creek, which runs through the New Mexico-bordering Guadalupe Mountains, which are not near the Guadalupe River.

And since it’s located within Guadalupe Mountains National Park — where fishing is prohibited — it can’t be considered an actual fishery.

Luckily for trout lovers, the TPWD does an admirable stocking these fish throughout the colder months. Here’s the current stocking schedule and a full list of locations.

We recommend the following spots in the Austin area:

  • Canyon Lake
  • Bright Lake
  • Mills Pond
  • Guadalupe River
  • Kingfisher Pond
  • Bullfrog Pond

Fly Fishing in Austin

For those targeting the total outdoors experience, fly fishing might be your ticket.

“The easiest way to catch fish is with dead bait,” Austin fly fishing expert Shane Townsend told RootsRated. “You don’t fly fish just to catch fish; you fly fish for the whole experience, to be in nature.”

It’s this experience which has gathered devotees through the Austin region. There’s even a recent guidebook published on this niche pastime, Fly Fishing Austin & Central Texas. This 2020 National Outdoor Book Award-winner is the work of former TPWD employee Aaron Reed, and contains 100 legal access points on 19 rivers and creeks in Central Texas.

Reed and Townsend are two of the many fly fishing enthusiasts who are working to demystify the sport, which used to be viewed as an insider activity.

“There’s still a widespread perception that it’s an elitist sport that’s expensive and hard to do,” Reed told the Austin American-Statesman. “We certainly at one time deserved that reputation, but hopefully not so much now.”

Entry-level rods cost around $100, and many shops offer rod, reel and line kits for close to $200. There are three fly fishing shops in Austin, and as many dedicated clubs in the region as there are in all of Colorado.

“Sure, you’re trying to catch fish,” Townsend added. “But it’s also about hiking through the woods to a hidden stream, reading the water and the flats. It’s about all the smaller skills involved in the greater practice. You have to be aware of everything around you, the rhythm of your casting, the action of the fly, water texture, wind, tree cover, bank shape, everything.”

These are some of the hotspots:

  • Colorado River
  • Llano River
  • Guadalupe River

Conclusion

Hopefully this roundup has given you some insight into a great Texan pastime, which comes in as many varieties as there are reasons to practice it.

There are ample boat tours waiting to be chartered, and off-road access points ready to be waded in and paddled up. There is nature to contemplate and trophies waiting to be mounted.

Whatever your reason, you can find an outlet on Austin-area waterways.

Just remember not to let your defenses down too much when enjoying this relaxing sport. The TPWD requires that you “CLEAN, DRAIN AND DRY your boat, trailer, livewells/bait buckets, and other gear before traveling to another water body.”

This isn’t just preventative maintenance against the downstream effects of cross-contaminating breeding populations of fish. It’s protection against further incursions by the invasive zebra mussels, which have real economic, recreational and environmental impacts and have infested most Austin-area lakes and rivers.

They damage boats by encrusting their hulls, clogging water systems and by causing navigation buoys to sink, making lakes more dangerous. They disrupt water supplies by colonizing pipelines and damaging water intake structures that provide public water. They take over habitats from native species.

All that plus they can cut your feet really badly.

As always, practice safety first — and then go out there and enjoy a prime Austin activity!