Complete Guide to Rainbow Trout Fishing in Texas (2023-24)

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This complete guide to catching freshwater trout in Texas will show you where, when, and how to catch these fish in the Lone Star State. Be sure to check out our list (below) of Texas lakes and rivers stocked with the most trout.

Right around the time Thanksgiving rolls around, it’s time to get out rainbow trout fishing in Texas.

Texas Parks & Wildlife stocks hatchery-raised trout by the hundreds of thousands in more than 200 lakes, ponds, rivers, and other fresh waters across the state during the coolest months.

The 2023-24 season is shaping up to be another great one, with the first waters getting stocked as early as November 22 and lots more being delivered for anglers during December, January, and February.

The final trout stockings in Texas wrap up by March 1. Trout cannot survive in most of the state’s waters well before summer rolls around, so bundle up and chase those rainbows between Turkey Day and St. Patrick’s Day.

Rainbow trout are an excellent fish for anglers of all skill levels, whether you plan to soak a bit of bait or fling a fly. Like panfish and catfish, they are fairly easy to catch and are a great option for taking the kids out fishing.

This article will point you to some of the top freshwater trout fisheries in Texas, from the nationally famous Guadalupe River to that lake just down the road. I also built a chart of the most heavily stocked trout waters in Texas down below.

But before we talk about where to catch trout in Texas, let’s take a look at how to catch them.

If you already know the how part, feel free to use the Table of Contents to jump to the best spots.

How to Catch Trout in Texas

With a few exceptions, most freshwater trout you catch in Texas will be fairly fresh out of a hatchery. I’ve fished for stocked rainbow trout across multiple states, and it’s pretty much the same wherever I go. These are not sophisticated fish that have seen it all, so let’s not over-complicate matters here.

Before we cast in, I also will note that stocked trout tend to get caught out quickly, especially in smaller ponds, lakes, and streams like most of those stocked in Texas.

So, if you want plenty of bites and maybe a full stringer, it will behoove you to plan your trip in the days following a trout stocking. If you wait even a few weeks, many of the trout will already be caught out, and fishing might have slowed down considerably.

Trout Fishing with Bait

Bar none, bait fishing for stocked trout is the easiest and often the most productive way to catch a trout that grew up in a hatchery.

One suggestion, though, if I might: I typically only use baits when I’m going to keep my catch. Trout have a habit of quickly swallowing bait, often resulting in fatal injuries no matter how quickly you set that hook. A bleeding trout is far less likely to survive a deep hookset than, say, a catfish.

If I’m planning to catch-and-release, I’ll use lures or flies.

But if I’m aiming for keepers, and especially if I’m fishing with relative beginners or just want to kick back and relax, bait fishing is tough to beat.

You can boil bait fishing for trout down to two basic approaches, though from there you can mix it up a fair bit.

Bottom Fishing

I use a very simple rig, first sliding a slip sinker up my line before tying on a swivel. I often use snap swivel if I’m likely to change the hook and leader while fishing, but a barrel swivel will work just fine.

I usually use an egg-shaped sinker for this, but if you have a bullet-shaped sinker for your bass rigs in the bass box or whatnot, it’ll work just fine. It’s basically a Carolina rig, keeping the weight stays up the line from your bait.

Just pick a weight that will give you some decent casting range while letting the line slide right on through it so the trout won’t feel the weight and get spooked. If your weight might stick to the swivel, thread on a small plastic bead on your leader between the swivel and weight.

To the business end of the swivel, I’ll tie or fasten a looped leader. You can purchase a pack of leaders easily enough, but for my money, the pre-tied variety often has leaders that are too short and too heavy.

Instead, I tie up my own with a 2- or 4-pound leader, usually around 24 to 30 inches in length.

But those store-bought rigs will usually get the job done if you don’t want to fool with tying up some rigs, especially with sinking baits.

The size of the hook you use will vary based on the bait you choose.

I would say the two must-have baits for catching stocked trout are Berkley PowerBait and nightcrawlers or other worms.

PowerBait or other brands of floating dough baits are the easiest of any bait-fishing approach, and you can buy it at any bait shop and many general retailers with at least a modest tackle department. Or, of course, it’s available online.

Dough baits come in a wide variety of colors and scents, but I’ll usually make sure I have a jar in a darker red hue and another in a lighter yellow or chartreuse. There’s a rainbow style that has some of both. Garlic scents can be surprisingly good, but scents like corn, salmon egg, and other smells also have their moments in the spotlight.

For dough baits, I definitely like a leader of at least 18 inches in length, and I really prefer 24 to 30 inches so that bait floats up and is easy to see above any rocks, weeds or mud on the bottom.

You can either use a smaller treble hook or a baitholder-style hook for dough baits. Treble hooks (especially those with a little spring on the shank) definitely hold bait longer, but they are harder to get out of any fish you catch and less flexible if you’re switching baits. For a single hook, a size 10 is about right.

When picking a hook and adding bait, consider that you’ll be forming a ball of dough about the size of a small grape or big blueberry over it, and you’ll want the hook not to be buried too deep inside that you won’t get a decent hookset.

Several companies like Mike’s also make scented marshmallow baits that can fish much the same way.

For worm fishing, I will often use a Size 8 or 10 baitholder or Aberdeen hook if I’m using a red wiggler or roughly an inch of cut nightcrawler, but other styles of hooks in similar sizes will work.

I sometimes upsize to a Size 6 if I’m using a fairly good piece of nightcrawler between one and two inches. I seldom use a full crawler for stocked trout, unless they are jumbo-sized.

I like to start hooking on a nightcrawler by carefully threading about half the length of my bait right up the middle of the worm and sliding it up the shank. I then will likely hook part of the rest of the worm on the tip of the hook and leave a fairly short section to dangle and wiggle enticingly.

Tightly hooking your bait makes the bait harder to steal than if you leave a long section of it unhooked that a fish can grab and pull off.

With wigglers, threading up the middle is a lot to ask, but try to get it hooked solidly three to four times.

Know that worms will catch just about any fish in the water, so if there are small bream or little bullheads around, you’ll probably be pestered by those.

Jarred salmon eggs, live mealworms or crickets, and other natural baits also can be great for catching trout. Some people even use cheese or kernels of canned corn from the grocery store.

Downsize your hook to Sizes 10-14 for smaller baits. I’ll often use more than one egg or mealworm for hooks toward the larger end of that range.

One trick when fishing with sinking baits such as a worm is to thread a miniature marshmallow or two up toward the eye of the hook or onto the leader just above your knot before adding the bait. This will float the bait up off the bottom, right into the path of trout, which often cruise a few feet off the bottom.

If I’m bait-fishing in rivers and creeks, I find I have more control using a fixed weight such as a split shot. I use just enough weight to cast and allow the bait to drift naturally, occasionally bumping along the bottom where trout typically hold. Sometimes that means using no extra weight in small streams and slow currents.

Try fishing in pools, behind structures such as boulders and logs, and along steeper drops. These areas usually offer trout a place to get out of the heavier flows while being able to dart out and feed on insects, small fish and crayfish passing by.

Float Fishing

I really enjoy fishing for trout with a float, especially with kids or other new anglers.

For one, the bite is so visual when that bobber starts bouncing, skating across the surface or plunging out of sight.

And second, at times, trout will cruise just below the surface, where instinct tells them to look for insects landing on the water.

My preferred bait for this type of fishing is a nightcrawler or redworm, but I’ve also used natural or artificial salmon eggs, mealworms, or similar natural baits. The rig will be similar to what I described for bottom fishing, except that you’ll have a float rather than a weight.

I like to have the bait sit at least 18 inches below the bobber, and often up to twice that if you can manage the casting. You can fix your float to a set depth or use a sliding bobber with a stop.

Trout Fishing with Lures

Stocked rainbow trout can be surprisingly aggressive, even soon after delivery.

I enjoy lure fishing because it’s more active than still fishing with bait, though it’s not always as effective.

Some of my favorite lures for catching stocked trout are Kastmaster and Thomas Buoyant spoons or the Rooster Tail, Panther Martin, Blue Fox or Mepps spinners. A few of my team members who do a lot of trout fishing would also add Super Duper and Phoebe lures to their trout boxes.

Your lure selection will depend partly on the distance and depth you’ll be fishing. Acme’s Kastermaster is tough to beat for casting range and fishing deeper waters, as can one of the heavier-bodies spinners, but these lures can be hard to keep from snagging in shallow conditions. With shorter casts and working higher in the water column, a Rooster Tail, Panther Martin or Thomas Buoyant would get my call.

Smaller crankbaits or stickbaits also can work really well at times.

When casting, allow your lure to sink a bit before retrieving. If you’re new to a water, use a countdown to find the right depth where you’ll get more strikes and less hangups.

For streams, I will often position myself a bit above the prime holding water, cast roughly straight out, and with a fairly tight line, work the fluttering spoon or spinning blade through my target area of a pool or alongside a boulder.

Rods and Reels

If you’re new to trout fishing or will only do it occasionally, just use whatever freshwater rod and reel you already have or can borrow.

I enjoy using ultralight tackle, with about a 5-foot rod with good action and a matched spinning reel spooled with a 4- or 6-pound test line.

However, if what you have is a medium-weight bass rod, use that and just downsize your leader and terminal tackle. You’ll do fine.

Fly Fishing

If you’re a fly angler, fishing for stocked rainbows can be fun whether you’re fishing a more technical water like the Guadalupe River or a little park pond in the city. Rainbow trout are natural insect eaters, even if they’ve grown up eating fish pellets.

In most Texas waters, there will be few, if any, insect hatches you’ll need to match. Therefore, I’d lean heavily on some reliable patterns that often catch trout under various conditions.

I feel like I can catch a trout any day on a Woolly Bugger in black or other dark color. Just the way they move and pulse beneath the water’s surface with an ultra-slow stripping action seems to trigger something in a trout.

A Clouser or Muddler minnow or other similar streamers in a middle-sized range will certainly get the job done as well.

Nymphs are a little less showy underwater but can really do the job, especially in clearer water. A Hare’s Ear, Bead Head or Blue Winged Olive are among the favorites.

Dry fly fishing is often considered the pinnacle of the sport, though the trout only sometimes agree. But when I see trout dimpling the surface, my mind goes straight to the dries.

Honestly, if you can get a trout to take your fly off the surface, it’s a blast. This is the trout fishing equivalent of having a largemouth bass smash your Whopper Plopper or floating frog.

A simple Parachute Adams or Pale Morning Dun are great all-around dry fly patterns.

If you already have fly rods, you’ll likely be happiest using the smallest weight you own and deploying a light to medium tippet, somewhere in the 4x to 6x range. But I wouldn’t concern myself over it too much for freshly stocked trout.

Catch More Trout

You should have a pretty good feel for how to catch trout in Texas, but if you want to further your education, check out our comprehensive guide, Trout Fishing: Easy How-To Techniques and Tips.

Also, we have a guide to catching trout with PowerBait.

Top 12 Trout Stocking Spots in Texas

For this section, I leaned heavily on TPWD’s most recent trout stocking schedule, released in November 2023 and covering the late fall and winter months into early 2024.

This table includes the waters that will be most heavily stocked with hatchery rainbows during that time span, although we have to acknowledge that sheer numbers of fish are only part of the recipe for making a great trout fishing trip.

So anglers also can look more closely at TPWD’s schedule (linked at the bottom of the table) to find somewhere close to home that matches their preferred fishing setting, whether that’s one of the many park lakes or several streams or tailwaters in the state stocking plan.

That said, here is a ranked listing of all waterways in Texas scheduled to be stocked with at least 4,000 trout this season. After the table, let’s take a quick look at several of these river and lake locations.

1Guadalupe River/Canyon Tailrace
New Braunfels
2Possum Kingdom Tailrace
3Mary Jo Peckham Park
4Waterloo Park Pond
5Ascarate Lake
El Paso
6Warren Park Lake
7Ablon Park Pond
8LNVA Barrier Pond
9Towne Lake
10Southside Lions Park (Hi-Lions)
San Antonio
11Medical Center South
12Comanche Trails
Big Spring
Source: Texas Parks & Wildlife Department

Now let’s take a closer look at a handful of the locations where TPWD often stocks thousands of rainbow trout during the prime season.

Guadalupe River

The tailrace section of the Guadalupe River below Canyon Lake is widely considered the top trout fishery anywhere in Texas.

In fact, this spot within a comfortable drive of both San Antonio and Austin is the one stream with a robust trout fishery in Texas where these cold-water fish can actually survive throughout the summer, thanks to constant releases of cold reservoir water.

It’s widely considered the southernmost trout stream in America, and its fans have formed the largest Trout Unlimited chapter anywhere.

The Guadalupe is also the undisputed best place in Texas to catch big trout. An angler recently notched a 12-plus-pound state-record rainbow, and “The Guad” also has produced record brown and brook trout, although those species are far less common.

While the tailwater section is the big show here, a section in the upper river at Guadalupe River State Park is typically stocked more moderately with trout in January.

We could talk about the Guadalupe all day, but check out our Complete Guide to Guadalupe River Fishing for that.

Possum Kingdom Tailrace

If you want a great tailrace fishery and you live closer to Dallas and Fort Worth and Austin and San Antonio, head to the Brazos River near Graford.

Right below the Morris Shepherd Dam, which forms sprawling Possum Kingdom Lake, the tailwater section of the Brazos is stocked every few weeks from late fall to mid-winter.

You’ll find bank fishing access in the area around the Possum Kingdom Fish Hatchery and River Park, about an hour and a half west of Fort Worth.

The reservoir itself is better known for stripers and catfish.

Mary Jo Peckham Park

This park pond in Katy, about 30 miles west of downtown Houston, is stocked with fresh trout every couple of weeks from the holidays through February or early March.

Trails lead to shoreline fishing spots and a fishing pier around the park’s pond, with plenty of parking near the aquatic center at the intersection of Gardenia Lane and Katy City Park Road.

Waterloo Lake

Also known as Waterloo Park Pond, this trout fishing spot in Denison is a little over an hour north of Dallas. It is stocked with good numbers of hatchery trout every several weeks, likely starting around December.

You can walk or bike around the 52-acre lake, including the wooded west side, to find plenty of bank-fishing opportunities.

There’s also a boat ramp in the northeast corner along Waterloo Lake Drive, where you’ll also find parking and basic amenities.

Ascarate Lake

This park lake in El Paso is always among the most heavily stocked trout spots in Texas, and deliveries of these fish bring out the anglers in droves.

Look for this lake to get thousands of trout delivered for the season, divvied up into perhaps four plantings stretching from late fall into late winter.

Bank access is plentiful around the 48-acre lake, or you can launch a small hand-powered or electric motor-powered watercraft to reach more fish.

The lake sits just north of the Rio Grande, between park ballfields and a golf course.

Catch Trout in the City

Additionally, be sure to check out our local guides to trout fishing in the largest metropolitan areas in Texas. These guides include the current trout stocking schedules for all waters in each location.