A Guide to Kayak Fishing Through Texas

A man fishing on a river, surrounded by aquatic grass and green sky.

Texas is a huge state that holds a little bit of everything, from mountains to desert, from rivers to coastline. Such a vast landscape with so many different ecosystems makes for incredible fishing. In dirty water, you’ll find redfish, trout and flounder, the perfect fish for a spicy Cajun-inspired dinner. In the clearer waters off the coast where Texas meets Mexico, the ocean teems with trophy fish just waiting to be caught; sailfish, blue marlin, wahoo, grouper and shark are a siren song for those looking for glory. All over the state, you’ll find world-class bass fishing—some of the best in the country, with only Florida and California that can come close. 

With so many incredible rivers, lakes and miles of coastline, any angler can find what they love to do most, somewhere in Texas. Spring and fall are the sweet spots for fishing there. The weather isn’t quite so hot, and a lot of different breeds of fish are spawning during those times. All you need to get started is a fishing license, and a few times a year, Texas has free-fishing days where you don’t even need that much.

And even though I’m originally from Texas, I think it’s one of the finest states to visit. There are tons of campgrounds, the highest concentration I’ve found in any state I’ve visited so far, and I crossed 20 states off my list just in the last year. Texas isn’t as crowded as other states and the number of camping options is truly mind-blowing. It also seems like there’s availability, year-round, so you can be more flexible or spontaneous planning a trip. Personally, having to plan a year in advance to book an accommodation just doesn’t jibe with my method of traveling. 

That being said, Texas is absolutely colossal, so I like to think about two or three places I want to fish and find a campground located somewhere in the middle of them all. It’s much easier to drive out an hour to a river from a central location without the responsibility of hauling my trailer to every new, unpredictable location. 

Here are three of my favorite fishing destinations across Texas: 

1. Devils River

A shot of Devils River winding across the landscape in golden light.

I like to fish in places that are more remote and wild. When I first started kayak fishing, I came across a video of a guy going down a river in southwest Texas–Devils River, which is a legendary spot for kayak fishing. The crystal clear, spring-fed waters cut through the middle of the desert, surrounded by all kinds of wildlife, including largemouth and smallmouth bass, and also rattlesnakes and scorpions. As I watched the guy in the video hike his kayak out to Devils River, one thought came to me, as crystal-clear as the waters: I want to do THAT. Not just as a weekend trip, but as a lifestyle. 

The next day, I bought a kayak, a fishing rod and a Go Pro, and I hit the road. One year later, almost to the day, I went down to Devils River on a five day trip. I filmed the entire, incredible journey and put together a 40-minute short film that won Video of the Year in the The Kayak Anglers Choice Awards, bringing me one step closer to realizing my dream of fishing full time. 

Devils River is very regulated, permit-wise, so you’ll want to do your homework before you go. It’s out of the way, and you’ll need to prepare to be totally out of reach of almost everything. Pack supplies for several days off the grid, your cell phone will become useless. Even though the river winds through remote territory, much of the land on the banks is private property with only a few sanctioned put-in and pull-out spots. Failure to plan ahead could result in some old-fashioned showdowns with landowners. The Dolan Falls, a beautiful and majestic 15-foot waterfall, requires paddlers to take their kayaks out of the water and strategize the best way to descend. 

So what’s the reward for all this trouble? Untouched scenery, more bass than you can count and the experience of a lifetime. 

2. Lady Bird Lake

Two people canoeing on the placid blue waters of Lady Bird Lake.

In downtown Austin, there’s a 416-acre lake that used to be called Town Lake, but was renamed Lady Bird Lake in honor of the First Lady of the United States, Lady Bird Johnson. It’s accessible to anyone in the city, laying in wait as an unexpected oasis in the middle of a concrete jungle. And it’s full of fish. 

In Lady Bird Lake, people regularly pull ten, twelve pound bass out of the water. With the skyline in the background and graffiti visible on nearby structures, fishing on Lady Bird Lake is a fun way to get a nature fix while you’re in the city. Although gas motors aren’t allowed on the lake, it’s very kayak friendly, making it an easy choice for anybody who has the urge to go fishing—novices and experts alike.

3. Corpus Christi

An overhead shot of a marina in Corpus Christi.

Off the coast of Corpus Christi are a number of shallow-water oil rigs just a few miles off shore. The rigs act as an artificial reef, making it a haven for red snapper, mackerel, cobia, sharks, sailfish and more. It’s simple to launch on the beach and paddle out into open water. Some of the rigs are as close as 1.8 miles offshore, or you can make an adventure of going to rigs seven miles out (just make sure the weather holds because there’s no express-track back to dry land).

Red snapper make an easy catch, as abundant as they are near the rigs. What they lack in size, they make up for in population. Yellowfin tuna might take you for a bit of a ride if you happen to snag one. At least once, I had so many king mackerel biting that I didn’t know how I’d reel them all in. 

So there it is, my guide to fishing in Texas. There’s nothing like the feeling of grilling freshly-caught fish over a campfire after a long day on the water. Even though I throw back 90 percent of what I catch because I fish so much, whenever I’m in Texas, I love nothing more than redfish on the half-shell. Just filet a juicy redfish, leave the skin and scales on one side and throw it on the grill, skin-down. With some garlic, butter, salt and pepper, it’s just about good enough to convince anyone to become full-time fisherman. 

Take this trip yourself:

See all the stops mentioned in the article plus a few more along the way.

Photo Credit: Robert Field; Charles Kruvand / flickr; my leap year / Shutterstock; Roschetzky Photography / Shutterstock.