The crystal clear Guadalupe River, located near New Braunfels between San Antonio and Austin, is hands down the best trout fishing spot in Texas.
This river is not only home to the southernmost trout fishery in the U.S., it’s legitimately one of the top freshwater fishing in the Lone Star State, which, of course, is much more famous for its lunker largemouth bass and rich offshore fisheries.
Trout fishing is the main draw to this beautiful river, but only during the winter. In the summer, the fishing slows down in the warmer water. It also gets crowded with floaters.
Check out the following tips to catch Guadalupe River trout in the cooler months of the year.
Trout Fishing the Guadalupe River
Usually, in the late fall, the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department (TPWD) begins stocking trout in the tailrace area below Canyon Lake down toward the Camp Huaco Springs area closer to New Braunfels.
River Road will give you access to several promising spots to fish along the river, especially at popular crossings.
December is often a safe bet to kick off the best trout fishing below the reservoir, with the annual stocking likely to start sometime after Thanksgiving and more trout added through most of the winter.
You may have the potential of catching brown trout here, along with the hatchery rainbow trout commonly stocked around Texas in the late fall and winter.
The water released from the dam is cold enough to keep the trout alive throughout the year in this long stretch.
That said, trout fishing is challenging in the summer because the water temperatures get dangerously high, stressing any trout you might hook. Plus, there’s lots of traffic on the water since it’s a refreshing summer splash close to Austin and San Antonio.
This is why most anglers choose to fish this stretch of the river from fall to spring. It also helps that fishing is excellent during the cooler months.
While the tailrace area above New Braunfels up to Canyon Lake is the most famous water for trout fishing in Texas, a more limited number of trout will also likely be stocked in the upper river in Guadalupe River State Park.
If recent stocking schedules are an indication, January is your best bet for catching trout in the state park, one of several more moderately stocked locations near San Antonio.
If you’re new to trout fishing, I recommend hiring a guide to put you on the fish, but if you’re like me and love a challenge, here are some things to keep in mind while trout fishing at the Guadalupe River.
The first is to stay up-to-date on the local fishing regulations. One quick way to ruin a great day of fishing is to get a ticket for something easily avoidable.
At this writing, two trout zones below Canyon Lake Dam have special harvest size and lure restrictions. Those are great areas to pursue lunkers on a fly or lure, especially if you plan to release your catch to fight another day.
Farther downstream, the river below the second River Road crossing (counted heading upstream from New Braunfels), falls under state rules and harvest limits. If you want higher odds of trout for dinner, this section might be your best bet on the Gualalupe River.
That section where bait fishing and easier harvests are allowed includes the Camp Huaco Springs area, which typically opens to access around the start of the best trout fishing season.
Make sure you know the rules for any river section you fish.
Now, on to catching these fish.
Trout Angling Basics
Like most other predator fish, trout are as lazy as they can get away with, so they’ll often hang out in current breaks, waiting on their next meal.
Any time you see the water changing directions or, flowing around structures, or deepening on a bend, there’s likely to be a trout waiting there, so be sure to cast your lure or land your fly nearby.
I also catch many trout in deep pools between rapids. Trout will relax in these areas where the water isn’t moving as fast, and when they see an easy meal passing by, they can’t resist.
Because we’re catching hatchery-raised fish, they tend to be less picky than wild trout. However, hatchery trout that survive for months in the river tend to adopt some of the wily traits of their ancestors.
Most anglers use flies or artificial lures because of the two zones that require it, but trout will also hit various baits.
Now that we know where to fish let’s talk a little about what to use. Since fly fishing and spinning reel fishing are very different techniques, let’s discuss them separately.
The Guadalupe River is the best place to go fly fishing for trout in Texas. Home water to what’s billed as the biggest Trout Unlimited local chapter in America, each winter the tailwater section transforms into a fly angler’s mecca unlike any other found in a state that borders the Gulf of Mexico.
When fly fishing for trout in the Guadalupe River, you’ll need a 4-, 5-, or 6-weight rod. While sometimes it’s best to go against the flow and use different flies, there are favorites for a reason: they work.
I recommend starting with a Zebra Midge, Elk Caddis, Wulf Hairwing, Hare on Fire, or Wooly Bugger, depending on the time of year and conditions. Changing up the colors of these top-producing flies can also trigger some more bites.
Wade fishing is prevalent along the river. In the warmer months, standing in the water is tolerable without waders, but that’s not the case in the late fall and winter. You’ll need waders to fish effectively during the prime trout months.
Lure and Bait Fishing for Trout
My favorite way to trout fish is to use ultra-light spinning gear. These small rods and reels make trout fishing even more exciting.
For line, a 6-pound test is the heaviest I’ll go, but I primarily like a 4-pound test line for trout fishing.
Lighter lines help ensure I don’t scare off spookier fish in clear streams like the Guadalupe River. Thinner lines also produce the best lure action. Either way, the result of spooling lighter lines on your spinning reels is often more bites, but you’ll need to play your fish more carefully.
Speaking of lures, I love throwing small spoons, like a Super-Duper, as well as spinners and tiny crankbaits for big brown and rainbow trout. These lures require you to cast and reel, which is why I like them more than using gear and baits that need you to toss and wait.
In the areas on the river where it’s legal, you can also use baits, including worms, PowerBait, and others, to entice a hungry trout.
I recommend using small hooks since trout have excellent eyesight. Lighter hooks also allow your bait to float about a foot off the bottom of the river, right where stream trout often hold.
Guadalupe Record Trout
At last check, the Guadalupe River holds Texas state fishing records for all three species of freshwater trout TPWD tracks, including a huge 12.38-pound rainbow trout caught in October 2023.
The river’s state records for brown trout (7.12 pounds) and brook trout (0.67 pounds) date back to the 1980s.
Catch More Trout
Check out our Complete Guide to Rainbow Trout Fishing in Texas to find and catch trout across the state.
For more on the techniques that catch trout, read our simple trout fishing how-to article.
The primary predator of trout in the Guadalupe River is the striped bass. Anglers have hooked stripers over 30 pounds in this river system, but the vast majority are much smaller. Any striper is a ton of fun to catch if you get the chance.
Stripers are not native to the Guadalupe, but the TPWD stocks them for the enjoyment of anglers.
They require drastically different gear compared to trout, but your mindset should remain similar since they are predator fish, and they’re often found near a school of trout.
While schoolies are much smaller and can handle shallow water, generally, the deep holes will be where you’ll catch the most stripers.
Many guides catch them on large flies, which would be a thrill with these hard-fighting fish. Gear anglers often turn to swim baits and hair jigs to mimic the smaller fish that stripers eat.
Catching a big striped bass isn’t easy; after all, they didn’t get big by being dumb, but landing a giant is possible in the Guadalupe River if a bit of a long shot.
Catch More Stripers
Canyon Lake, a big reservoir on the Guadalupe River, rates an “honorable mention” on our list of the top striper fishing lakes in Texas. Check the link for more great Lone Star striper lakes.
Guadalupe River Bass Fishing
The Guadalupe River offers Texas anglers an incredible range of stream bass fishing, with five species of black bass calling this body of water home.
Largemouth, smallmouth, Alabama, Guadalupe, and spotted bass are all found in this Texas waterway.
Each species has varying preferences; however, it’s still bass fishing, so there’s no need to overcomplicate it.
In the slower portions of the river, especially along the edges, largemouth bass will be the primary species you catch.
Use larger lures that mimic baitfish or crayfish when targeting largemouth, which become more prevalent as the river widens en route to the Gulf.
The other species are generally found in the swifter-moving areas.
Spots thrive in the open water, while smallmouth and Guadalupe bass handle the currents better.
Smallmouths thrive in rocky structure and feed heavily on crawdads, so jigs and soft plastics including Ned rigs are especially effective, although like other bass they are opportunistic and will hit a variety of lures.
I recommend fishing the upper headwaters of the river for Guadalupe bass, which are a smaller species of black bass best suited for smaller rivers.
However, various species can be caught in different sections of the river.
Catch More Bass
We have lots of must-read resources when it comes to catching bass in Texas.
Be sure to check these out:
Other Guadalupe River Species
White bass are a close cousin of the striped bass and inhabit the Guadalupe River. They don’t grow as large as stripers, but they’re still a blast to catch.
A great place to catch white bass in this river is above Canyon Lake. These fish make their annual spawning run from the reservoir upriver starting in late winter and early spring.
When that run is heavy, the fishing here can be outstanding, while these fish tend to be harder to come by for much of the remainder of the season when they tend to stay deeper in Canyon Lake.
I recommend using spoons, spinners, or crankbaits to catch these fish, which I know as sand bass. They’re aggressive fish, especially towards anything shiny.
Catch More White Bass
We have a listing of the best white bass fishing lake and river combinations in Texas.
And I’ve written a guide to catching more white bass, which are among my favorite game fish.
Hybrid striped bass are also found in the Guadalupe River. They’re a cross between striped bass and white bass.
You’ll most often find them swimming with schools of white bass. They grow a little bigger than sandies but have very similar food and habitat preferences as their cousins.
Catfishing can be excellent in long stretches of the Guadalupe River.
Anglers can catch lots of big cats in the lower river below New Braunfels, including around Gonzales, Cuero and Victoria, but you’ll even find some catfish in the narrower sections above Canyon Lake.
This part of the river is wider and slower than the trout-fishing sections above New Braunfels. Boat or bank fishing can be excellent, especially in low-light conditions or at night.
Catfish also can be caught in the narrower sections above Canyon Lake.
Channel cats are the most common species, followed by blue catfish and flathead catfish. Fresh cut or live fish baits, punch baits, chicken livers, and other typical catfish fare should do the trick.
Catch More Catfish
Looking for that Catfishing 101 guide? Check out our simple catfish fishing techniques and tips.
While you’re at it, while Texas might be loaded with incredible catfishing, we’ve compiled our list of the best catfish fishing in the state.
One fish that should never be overlooked by anglers looking to fill a freezer is the crappie. Parts of the Guadalupe River are home to solid crappie fishing.
The river above Canyon Lake can be a good place to look for black or white crappie. Small and large reservoirs along the river are worth a try.
Any time you see a brush pile, lay down, or bridge pillar in the river, there’s likely to be crappie hanging out around it.
Ultra-light fishing gear with crappie jigs, live minnows, or worms is the best approach.
I prefer to use natural colors in crystal clear water like the Guadalupe River has because your lures and baits will look more like what the crappie eat.
Catch More Crappie
No need to overthink crappie, but to get a good bead on the where, when and how of it, read our simple crappie fishing guide.
Also, where is the best crappie fishing around? Why, in these great Texas crappie fishing lakes, that’s where.
Several species of gar call the Guadalupe River home; the largest and most prized is the alligator gar.
There are strict regulations on gator gar, so read the regulations before hitting the water.
Most anglers use heavy-duty rods and reels with live baits such as carp or giant chunks of cut bait, much like catfishing, when targeting gar.
An angler in Victoria, on the lower Guadalupe River, has caught several huge alligator gar in the 6- to 7-foot range through the years, at least some of the time while catfishing.
Catch More Gar
We’ve pinpointed the top Texas rivers and lakes to catch alligator gar, the best place to catch one of the biggest freshwater fish in America.
The best fish to introduce anyone to fishing is the sunfish. There are several sunfish species in the Guadalupe River, including redear, redbreast, bluegill and longear sunfish (,among others), and they’re all relatively simple to catch.
My favorite method is to use earthworms on a small hook with a bobber. Other natural baits, small lures, and artificial flies also will catch sunfish, which typically feed on insects, minnows and other small forage.
However, since sunfish are often food for larger game fish in the river, such as bass, look for them where there is cover nearby, such as brush piles, laydowns, and rock piles.
Catch More Sunfish
We’ve rated the Guadalupe River among the best sunfish fishing spots in Texas.
And we’ve boiled down the essence of catching more of these panfish in our easy guide to bluegill and sunfish fishing.
Planning Your Trip
Now that you have the upper hand when fishing the Guadalupe River, it’s time to begin planning your trip by learning about the public access areas and places to stay.
Public Access Areas
When trout fishing the Guadalupe River, there are a couple of free areas (depending on the time of year) to access the river: Guadalupe Park below the dam and farther downriver at Camp Hauco Springs.
There are also many resorts and camps that give paying guests access to the prime trout fishing section of the river below Canyon Lake.
Above the lake, Guadalupe River State Park is a good spot for upper river fishing access along with camping and other outdoor activities.
Places to Stay Nearby
Whether you’re looking to camp, stay at a hotel, or resort, you’ll have plenty of options because the Guadalupe River is a popular tourist destination.
New Braunfels has several hotels and private resorts are scattered down the river. There are also loads of campgrounds around Canyon Lake, a dammed portion of the river. Check the U.S. Corps of Army Engineers website for facilities with camping and other amenities.