What Is The Fishing Season In Texas?

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Looking to fish in Texas but don’t know when the fishing season begins or ends? Well, you may find your answers here!

When it comes to fishing seasons in Texas, we can view the question from two points of view – the point of view of law and the point of view of the best time for fishing. Both are important since you don’t want to have problems with the law, and you also want to have a good catch.

With that said, let’s have a look at fishing seasons in Texas from both viewpoints.

When Is The Fishing Season In Texas?

First, let’s see when the fishing season is in Texas from the legal point of view.

Well, the fishing season in Texas is year-round. Given that you have a fishing license and endorsements for the type of water you are intending to fish in, you are good to go anytime.

With that said, there are certain limitations imposed on some fish species and some water activities. Not only that, but you should be aware of the fishing regulation changes that have taken effect on September 1, 2019, and will be in force until August 31, 2020.

For additional information, consult the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department’s fishing regulations. The information you’ll find below was taken from these regulations, but we only covered the rules that are connected to fishing seasons and their limitations.

Important things to know

The Texas Parks & Wildlife Department imposes certain limits on most freshwater and saltwater fish species. We’ll have a look at those limitations, but let’s first define a few important terms.

First comes the daily bag limit, which is the maximum number of wildlife species that you are allowed to take in one day. A day is defined as follows – it begins at midnight and ends 24 hours later at midnight.

Then, you have minimal and maximum fish length limits. Most fish species have minimal length limits and some species have maximum length limits. The latter is there to prevent you from catching fish that’s too young, while the latter is there to prevent you from catching fish that’s too old. As you could guess, this is done to keep fish populations under control.

There are a few other things that you should get acquainted with in the Parks & Wildlife Department’s glossary, but the three terms that we described above are the most crucial for this post.

Limitations for saltwater fishing

There are plenty of saltwater fish species that have limitations on them. We suggest that you have a look at the limits yourself, while we’ll focus on those limitations that are dependent on the time of year.

Flounder

The daily bag limit normally is 5 fish, except for November 1-30 and December 1-14. In either period, the daily bag limit is 2 fish.

Besides, on November 1-30, flounder may only be caught by pole-and-line. On December 1-14, flounder may be caught by any legal means.

Alligator gar

The alligator gar fish has a statewide daily bag limit of 1 at any time of year, except for Falcon Lake where the daily bag limit is 5. Another exception is Trinity River – the daily bag here is 1, but only alligator gar sized less than 48 inches are allowed to be retained.

However, from August 15 to September 30 of 2019, you could enter a drawing that allowed selected anglers to harvest 1 alligator gar sized over 48 inches from the Trinity River. This contest was limited to the area between the I-30 bridge to the I-10 bridge. Something similar may take place in 2020 as well.

Mullet

In October, November, December, and January, catching mullets sized over 12 inches in length is not allowed.

Red snapper

The red snapper season in federal waters off the Texas coast was closed on August 2, 2019, earlier than it had been projected. This applies to private recreational anglers. 

Limitations for freshwater fishing

There appear not to be special season-based restrictions on freshwater fishing. The only thing to keep mind here is the alligator gar rules we’ve overviewed earlier.

Shrimping seasons in outside waters

The Texas Parks & Wildlife Department defines certain seasons for shrimping in outside waters. Here are the seasons applying to shrimping in outside waters.

Southern Zone

Beyond 5 nautical miles: The open season is from December 1 to May 15 and from July 16 to November 30.

Inside 5 nautical miles: The open season is from July 16 to November 30. The winter closed season is from December 5 to May 15. Shrimping is allowed from 30 minutes before sunrise to 30 after sunset.

Inside 9 nautical miles: The summer closed season is from May 15 to July 15. Aside from that, the National Marine Fisheries Service may close the Exclusive Economic Zone (9-200 miles) when Texas waters are already closed.

Northern Zone

Beyond 5 nautical miles: The open season is from December 1 to May 15 and from July 16 to November 30. This is the same as in the Southern Zone.

Inside 5 nautical miles: The open season is from February 16 to May 15 and July 16 to November 30. The winter closed season is from December 1 to February 15. The hours are the same as in the Southern Zone – from 30 minutes before sunrise to 30 minutes after sunset.

Inside 9 nautical miles: The rules from the Southern Zone apply.

Shrimping seasons in bays

There are some limitations for bays as well, including:

Bait shrimping in major bays and bait bays: The season is open year-round, but the hours are 30 minutes before sunrise to 30 minutes after sunset.

Shrimping for other than bait purposes in major bays: The spring season is open from May 15 to July 15, while the fall season is open from August 15 to November 30. The hours are 30 minutes before sunrise to 30 minutes after sunset for either season.

Fishing regulation changes

As mentioned above, there are some new rules effective from September 1, 2019. You may find the general rules (including the new rules) here. We’ll just briefly cover what’s new:

  • Anglers must report alligator gar harvest within 24 hours of the catch.
  • The maximum length limit on an alligator gar on the Trinity River is 4 feet (as overviewed above). Aside from that, nighttime bow fishing on alligator gar is prohibited.
  • The largemouth bass daily bag and length limits have changed.
  • It is now allowed to harvest up to 5 Alabama bass per day.
  • A coast-wide limit of 5 fish is imposed on spotted seatrout.
  • Unless angling with artificial lures, anglers are now required to use non-stainless steel and non-offset circle hooks when fishing for sharks in state waters.
  • The minimum length for cobia is now 40 inches.
  • The red snapper season for private recreational anglers in federal waters is now managed by the Parks & Wildlife Department.

When Is The Best Time To Fish In Texas?

You may fish whenever you want throughout the year (except for a few limitations we’ve talked about), but you should try to maximize your catch by fishing at the right time.

According to the Game & Fish Magazine, here are the fish species to look for in each month of the year:

  • January: speckled trout at East Matagorda Bay.
  • February: white bass at Nueces River.
  • March: white bass at Sabine River.
  • April: speckled trout at Baffin Bay.
  • May: bream at Toledo Bend.
  • June: redfish at Port O’Connor.
  • July: speckled trout at Sabine Jetties.
  • August: redfish at Port O’Connor Jetties.
  • September: crappies at Sam Rayburn.
  • October: king mackerel at Port Mansfield Offshore.
  • November: redfish at Sabine Lake.
  • December: speckled trout at Laguna Madre.

This calendar was made for 2019 but may apply to 2020 as well, unless the fish populations in Texas change drastically. You should be able to have a catch no matter when and where you are fishing in Texas, but these recommendations should be close to the best times and places where you would want to fish.

What To Do Before Your Next Fishing Trip

Knowing when you should fish is a lot, but it’s not quite enough. Depending on whether you are a new or a returning angler, here’s what you should also do before going to your next (or first) fishing trip.

If you are a beginner, make sure that you have a fishing license and endorsements for freshwater/saltwater fishing. Then, make sure to get acquainted with all the fishing regulations of the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department. Don’t also forget to get proper fishing equipment, including safety gear.

If you are a returning angler, then have a look at the regulation changes that will be effective until August 31, 2020. If you haven’t fished for a few years, also have a look at the regulation change history from 2015 to 2018. There may be some crucial info for you there.

Don’t forget to renew your fishing license as well if required.

And overall, we suggest that you look around the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department’s website – maybe you will find some more interesting info for your needs.

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