This Saturday marks Texas Parks and Wildlife’s annual Free Fishing Day. Every year on the first Saturday in June, fishing enthusiasts across the state, avid and novice alike, can pack a cooler and cast a line—all without any of the usual required licensing, permits, or endorsements. Free Fishing Day applies only to public, state-owned bodies of water; that doesn’t include federal waters in the Gulf or on privately owned properties. Fishing is always free at Texas state parks.
If you’ve never angled before in your life, you’re the exact audience Texas Parks and Wildlife is hoping to (I’m sorry) reel in. By freeing up licensing requirements for a day, TPWD intends to make it easier for people to try the hobby for the first time and encourage them to purchase licenses. “We hope those trying fishing on this special day will also learn that purchasing a license is an act of conservation,” said Craig Bonds, the agency’s inland fisheries director, in a press release. “A fishing license purchase is one of the simplest and most effective way[s] people can support fisheries science and management.” In Texas, fishing license fees go directly toward funding TPWD and help with the department’s conservation efforts and fish stocking.
No matter your experience, your age, or the size of your Animal Crossing fish collection, TPWD has an extensive list of resources and tips to help anglers of all levels have an enjoyable day on the water. Below, we’ve compiled a short list of a few favorite fishing spots across Texas, but this is, as you might know, a fairly large state, with a staggering number of lakes, ponds, streams, and piers where you can reel in a prize catch. TPWD has a comprehensive Lake Finder, which maps Texas lakes by region and provides helpful information such as water conditions, common species, and any local regulations you might need to know before heading out.
Not to be confused with Balmorhea State Park’s beloved pool six miles to the southwest, Lake Balmorhea doesn’t likely top many Texas fishers’ lists, but it’s a friendly West Texas option for those who haven’t previously dipped their toes into angling. Like its sister pool, Lake Balmorhea is fed by San Solomon Springs. Historically, the lake served as a prime spot for reeling in bass, crappie, sunfish, and catfish, but for the last twenty years or so, it’s seen regular toxic algal blooms that have thwarted marine life. Despite this, however, the mouth of the spring-fed lake remains in good shape, and nearly the entirety of the lake’s shore is accessible for bank fishing. Additionally, the spot boasts birding opportunities and picnic areas.
The water conditions at Lake Buchanan, which sits fifteen minutes west of Burnet and about an hour and a half from Central Austin, are reportedly “GREAT” this week. Managed by the Lower Colorado River Authority, the lake is the perfect place to seek largemouth or white and striped bass. It’s also beloved for its excellent catfishing scene. Those with a boat (or a buddy with a boat) can access Lake Buchanan from a number of public docks.
Buffalo Springs Lake
If you’re casting your line from the Panhandle this weekend, consider Buffalo Springs Lake, just east of Lubbock. The lake is home to a lesser-known population of largemouth bass, crappie, and channel catfish. Although a dense cattail cover can be found along the lake’s shoreline, a longer cane pole can be used to cast over and reach crappie. Buffalo Springs is also known for its beaches and camping, providing Panhandle residents with a convenient weekend getaway.
Itching for a big catch? East Texas’s Lake Fork, about an hour northwest of Tyler and two hours from Dallas, boasts a nationally recognized bass reservoir. More than half of the largest bass ever caught in the state, including the current record holder (a 25-inch-long behemoth from 1992), were from Lake Fork. Managed by the Sabine River Authority, Fork is also teeming with catfish. No boat, no problem, as bass are most often found congregating around submerged piles of brush and trees near the lake’s bank entry points and docks.
Saltwater fishing along the Texas coast might feel like another ball game, but as a TPWD video about pier fishing puts it, “Everybody’s got the equal chance to catch the fish.” Public fishing piers can be found along Galveston Bay, and many are situated near stores offering pole rentals and fishing lessons. This week’s fishing report for Galveston Bay says Texans have had good luck reeling in speckled trout and black drum using live shrimp.