When you think about the best places to catch rainbow trout Texas probably doesn’t make the list. Texas is famous for exceptional bass fishing on lakes and rivers across the state but there also happens to be plenty of trout if you know where to look. Texas Parks and Wildlife stocks rivers, ponds, and lakes with rainbow trout every year during the winter months to increase fishing opportunities. While there are numerous spots to catch rainbow trout in the winter, only one of these bodies of water has high enough holdover rates to consider it a year round trout fishery.
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The Guadalupe River has become a hot spot for fly fishing, float fishing, and anyone who loves trout. The rainbow trout usually live in cold, clean, and clear mountain streams so it would seem impossible that they could survive in a Texas river year round. The part of the river with the best rainbow trout fishing opportunities is just below the Canyon Lake Dam an hour southwest of Austin. The water released from the dam comes from the bottom of the lake which is cold and gives the river a remarkably low average temperature of about 63 degrees. This cool water allows these fish to survive the hot summer temperatures that kill trout in other rivers.
This river has consistent holdover populations of trout which is a big reason it held all three state records for trout up until 2010. In 2010 an angler caught a new state record rainbow trout in the Nueces River but the Guadalupe River still holds the record for brook and brown trout.
As of 2019 holdover populations of rainbow trout were increasing in the Guadalupe River. While the goal is not entirely clear it seems evident that most trout anglers in Texas would be in favor of more and large trout. Studies are beginning to show that the rainbow trout in the Guadalupe River are spawning every year but the fry are having a hard time surviving the tough conditions due to a variety of reasons. Rumors are floating around that some of the trout in the river are wild and come from stocked rainbow trout spawning in the river. If this is true it could be the start of a more self-sustaining fishery.
TPWD stocks over 100 spots with rainbow trout ranging from 8 inches to 12 inches. These spots include rivers, neighborhood ponds, and lakes. The biggest fish are stocked in the ponds with 10-12 inch trout and almost everywhere else gets 8-10 inch fish. Some of the most popular places besides the Guadalupe River are the Trinity River, Possum Kingdom tailrace, Frio River, and Llano River. All of the rainbow trout stocked in Texas come from Crystal Lake in Ava Missouri and are placed across the state for put and take fishing.
Put and take fishing for rainbow trout in Texas works well because they will not survive the warm water temperatures in summer. Anglers catching these fishing toward the end of winter or into the spring should keep the fish they catch because they may not survive much longer. Having rainbow trout stocked across the state provides amazing fishing opportunities for anglers all winter long. With the current stocking schedule totaling 352,663 rainbow trout, anglers are allowed to keep 5 fish per person per day with no minimum size except on the Guadalupe River where special regulations are in place.
Rainbow trout are one of the top 5 freshwater game fish in the U.S. but what about their less popular cousins? According to the TPWD record book the only trout that have been caught in Texas are the brown, brook, and of course rainbow trout. While brown trout are known to tolerate slightly higher temperatures than rainbow trout and seem to do well in cool rivers when stocked. Brown trout do compete with native fish and can be problematic but it doesn’t seem to be a problem in Texas.
While there is a Texas state record for brook trout there is almost no information available as to how these fish were stocked or why. Brook trout do not tolerate high water temperatures and are easily out competed for resources by both rainbow and brown trout.
While there is no state record for the extremely elusive and fickle Rio Grande cutthroat trout, recent research has shown that there may be some evidence to support that this could be the only native trout to Texas. If this can be proven there could be an effort to re-establish this fish in its native range of west Texas and would be a big deal for anglers in the state.
The only saltwater trout in Texas is the speckled sea trout and it's one of the most popular fish in the state. These gorgeous silver fish with black spots have a cult following by anglers with both conventional and fly fishing tackle that seek out giants during the spring run. The Texas Coast is popular among anglers who love to catch specks but in recent years these fish have been negatively affected by weather events and increased pressure. For more information on Texas speckled trout including seasons and bag limits or the changing regulations across the country check out our blogs.
While Texas may not have the best trout fishing opportunities compared to other states with cooler climates, with clever water management and stocking programs the Guadalupe River has become a successful trout fishery. If you love to catch trout whether it's rainbows or brown trout the winter stocking program at TPWD has plenty of opportunities to catch them if you know where to look. If you want to catch any trout then the Coast is a sure bet and it will be an experience you won't forget.
Updated on December 24, 2022
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