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Texas

Fishing

Fishing

General Fishing Regulations

Valid Sep. 1, 2022 through Aug. 31, 2023.

New This Year: Fishing

Effective September 1, 2022

Freshwater Fishing

  • Modified regulations to prevent the transfer of invasive carp as bait from Red River tributaries.
  • Established reservoir boundaries for Sam Rayburn Reservoir and Lake Texoma.
  • Implemented new largemouth bass harvest regulations for soon-to-be opened Bois d'Arc Lake.
  • Modified harvest regulations for alligator gar, walleye, and red drum at specific locations.
  • Clarified some exceptions, species, and county information.

Good Fishing Depends on Clean Water

Harmful algae blooms can affect fishing spots, creating “dead zones” where no aquatic life can survive. The cause is usually pollution from fertilizers, septic systems, animal waste, and sewage treatment plants. Learn more at Nutrient Pollution. Supporting water quality protection supports great fishing!

Kills and Spills Team

To report saltwater or freshwater fish kills, please contact the Kills and Spills Team (KAST) at (512) 389-4848.

Fishing License Requirements

Any person who takes or attempts to take fish, mussels, clams, crayfish or other aquatic life in the public waters of Texas must have a current Texas fishing license with the appropriate endorsement. A saltwater endorsement is required to fish in coastal waters; a freshwater endorsement is required for inland waters. For details and exceptions, see license fees and packages.

Note: A hunting license is required to hunt non-protected turtles and frogs.

Game Fish

Includes hybrids and subspecies of listed fish. Game fish may be taken only by pole and line, except as otherwise provided in this guide.

  • Bass: Alabama, Guadalupe, largemouth, smallmouth, spotted, striped, white, yellow
  • Catfish: blue, channel, flathead
  • Cobia
  • Crappie: black, white
  • Mackerel: king, Spanish
  • Marlin: blue, white
  • Pickerel
  • Red drum
  • Sailfish
  • Seatrout, spotted
  • Sharks
  • Snook
  • Spearfish, longbill
  • Swordfish, broadbill
  • Tarpon
  • Tripletail
  • Trout: brown, rainbow
  • Wahoo
  • Walleye

Unlawful Activities

It is unlawful to:

  • take, kill, or disturb sea turtles. Species found in the Gulf of Mexico include Green, Loggerhead, Kemp’s ridley, Leatherback and Hawksbill. If you accidentally catch a sea turtle, immediately call (866) 887-8535 for information on how to help without injuring yourself or causing further injury to the animal.
  • take, kill, or disturb any endangered or threatened fish species (paddlefish, shovel-nosed sturgeon, sawfish and others).
  • take or kill diamondback terrapin or marine mammals such as porpoises, dolphins or whales. Immediately call (800) 962-6625 to report a stranded marine mammal.
  • place any game fish into public waters, other than the body of water where the fish was caught, without a valid permit issued by TPWD. This includes fish caught by pole and line. To apply for a permit to place fish into public waters (no fee required), download an application form or call (800) 792-1112 (menu 4) or (512) 389-4742.
  • use any vessel to harry, herd or drive fish including, but not limited to, operating any vessel in a repeated circular course, for the purpose of or resulting in the concentration of fish for the purpose of taking or attempting to take fish.
  • uproot or dig out any rooted seagrass plant from a bay bottom or other saltwater bottom in this state by means of a propeller. See additional information regarding seagrass regulations.
  • transport live, nongame fishes taken from:
    • the Red River and all tributary waters in Grayson, Fannin, Lamar, Red River, and Bowie counties below Lake Texoma downstream to the Arkansas border,
    • Big Cypress Bayou downstream of Ferrell’s Bridge Dam on Lake O’ the Pines (including the Texas waters of Caddo Lake), or
    • the Sulphur River downstream of the Lake Wright Patman dam.
    • (Nongame fishes collected from these waters may be used as live bait on the water bodies where they were collected.)
  • intentionally or unintentionally possess or transport aquatic invasive species without a permit; see “Possession and Transport of Exotic Aquatic Species.
  • use any game fish or part of a game fish as bait.

Tagging Fish

Although it is legal to place an identification tag (use caution as tags can damage fish) on the exterior of a fish and release it back into public waters, it is unlawful to release a fish with a device or substance implanted or attached to produce an audible, visual, or electronic signal used to monitor, track, follow, or in any manner aid in locating it.

Waste of Fish

It is unlawful to leave edible fish or bait fish taken from the public waters of the state to die without the intent to retain the fish for consumption or bait.

Bait Regulations

There are several regulations that apply to bait:

  • It is unlawful to use any game fish or part of a game fish as bait.
  • Live fish, including personally caught live bait, cannot be transported from the water body where the fish were caught in or aboard a vessel in water from the water body where the fish were caught.
  • Transport and use of commercially purchased live bait in water while fishing from a vessel is allowed, provided persons in possession of the bait have a receipt that identifies the source of the bait. Any live bait purchased from a location on or adjacent to public water body that is transported in water from that water body can only be used as bait on that same water body.
  • If using dead or live shrimp, whole or in pieces, only the use of shrimp native to the Gulf of Mexico may be used in Texas waters. If using frozen shrimp from a grocery store, be sure to check the package - if it is imported from another country, it may not be used.
  • Some counties have specific bait fish regulations, know where you are fishing and the local regulations.

Special Areas and Restrictions

  • It is a violation to move, remove, deface, alter, or destroy any sign, depth marker, or other informational signage placed by the department within, or to delineate boundaries of the Redfish Bay State Scientific Area.
  • It is a violation to anchor or moor a vessel, barge, or structure for a period exceeding two consecutive days within the area in Cedar Bayou between a department sign erected where Mesquite Bay flows into Cedar Bayou and the department sign erected near the point where the pass empties in the Gulf of Mexico.
  • It is a violation to leave unattended for any period of time or anchor a barge, boat, or fishing platform in the Trinity River below Livingston Dam in an area 1,000 feet from the dam to a point 1,500 feet downstream from the dam:
    • for more than 10 hours in a 24-hour period without moving 100 feet or more during that time, or
    • for five or more consecutive days, whether or not it has been moved;
  • Portions of the Rio Grande adjacent to the Black Gap Wildlife Management Area are designated as a "Wild and Scenic River." Special federal rules apply to fishing, boating and other uses in these areas. Check the Big Bend National Park website for more information concerning these rules and boundaries.

Possession of Fish Taken from Public Water

Fish caught and immediately released are not considered to be in possession. Any fish that are retained by using any type of holding device such as stringer, cooler, livewell, or bucket are considered in an angler’s possession and must adhere to established length and bag limits. While fishing, it is illegal to be in possession of more fish than the daily bag limit or fish that are within a protected length limit.

In order to verify length and species, a fish caught may not have the head or tail removed and may not be filleted until an angler finally lands the catch on the mainland, a peninsula, or barrier island not including jetties or piers and does not transport the catch by boat. For broadbill swordfish and king mackerel, the head or tail may be removed but the remainder of the carcass must remain intact and may not be filleted. For sharks, only the head may be removed. The remainder of the carcass (including the tail) must remain intact and may not be filleted.

Any fish taken from public water and landed by boat or person in Texas must adhere to the length limits and daily bag and possession limits established for those fish in Texas regardless of the state or country in which they were caught.

The bag limit for a guided fishing party is equal to the total number of persons in the boat licensed to fish or otherwise exempt from holding a license minus each fishing guide and fishing guide deckhand multiplied by the bag limit for each species harvested.

Transfer and Importation of Wildlife and Aquatic Resources

A person may give or receive any legally taken wildlife or aquatic resource, or part of the resource, that is required to be tagged or that is protected by a daily bag / possession limit if the resource is accompanied by a Wildlife Resource Document (WRD). A person may use the downloadable form or a handwritten document that includes the same required information. A properly executed WRD must accompany the resource until it reaches the possessor’s permanent residence or a cold storage/processing facility, except no WRD is required if a person receiving the wildlife resource does not exceed the possession limit (or bag limit if in the field) and is lawfully licensed or possesses the applicable license.

It is unlawful to import a wildlife or aquatic resource into this state or possess a resource taken outside this state unless:

  • the person possesses a valid hunting, fishing, or other applicable license, endorsement, tag, permit, or document for the state or country in which the resource was legally taken; and
  • a person produces, upon request of a game warden, a valid driver’s license or personal identification certificate.

A person may possess an animal legally obtained outside of Texas that is listed as threatened or endangered in Texas if they have proof that the animal was lawfully obtained. Proof consists of bill-of-sale, license tag, permit or notarized affidavit.

Imports from Mexico

The requirements listed above are waived if a United States Customs Officer’s Statement is obtained from the United States Customs Office at the port of entry showing that the wildlife resource was brought in from Mexico. The Customs Officer’s statement must accompany the wildlife resource to its final destination.

Legal Devices, Methods & Restrictions

Valid Sep. 1, 2022 through Aug. 31, 2023.

These devices, subject to restrictions listed, may be used to take fish and other aquatic life in Texas public waters.

  • Game fish may be taken only by pole and line (which includes rod and reel), except as otherwise provided in this guide.
  • A person may fish with multiple poles or other devices, except as provided in this guide.
  • In fresh water, it is unlawful to fish with more than 100 hooks on all devices combined.
  • In fresh water, it is unlawful to take fish with a hand-operated device held underwater except that a spear or spear gun may be used to take nongame fish.
  • Methods and devices not listed here are not legal for use in Texas.

Cast Net

A cast net is a net that can be hand-thrown over an area.

  • Legal only for taking nongame fish and other aquatic animal life including crabs, crayfish, and shrimp. (See shrimp regulations)
  • May not be greater than 14 feet in diameter.
  • In salt water, nongame fish may be taken for bait purposes only.

Crab Line

A baited line with no hook attached.

  • No restrictions.

Crab Traps

  • Only 6 crab traps at a time may be fished for non-commercial purposes.
  • May only remove crab traps from the water or remove crabs from crab traps during the period from 30 minutes before sunrise to 30 minutes after sunset.

Crab Trap Tagging Requirements

Must be used with a gear tag valid for 10 days and attached within 6 inches of the buoy or pier to which the trap is tied.

Crab Trap Construction and Design Restrictions

  • May not exceed 18 cubic feet.
  • Must be equipped with at least 2 escape vents in each crab-retaining chamber and located on the outside trap walls.
  • Escape vents must be at least 2-3/8 inches in diameter.
  • Must be marked with a white floating buoy not less than 6 inches in height, 6 inches in length and 6 inches in width, bearing a 2-inch wide center stripe of contrasting color, attached to the crab trap.
  • Buoys or floats may not be made of plastic bottle(s) of any color or size.
  • Must be equipped with a degradable panel. A trap is considered to have a degradable panel if one of the following methods is used in construction of the trap:
    • the trap lid tie-down strap is secured to the trap at one end by a simple loop of untreated jute twine, sisal twine or untreated steel wire with a diameter of 20 gauge or smaller. The trap lid must be secured so that when the twine or wire degrades, the lid will no longer be securely closed; or
    • the trap contains at least one sidewall, not including the bottom panel, with a rectangular opening no smaller in either dimension than 3 inches by 6 inches. Any obstruction placed in this opening may not be secured in any manner except it may be laced, sewn or otherwise obstructed by a single length of untreated jute twine, sisal twine or untreated steel wire with a diameter of 20 gauge or smaller knotted only at each end and not tied or looped more than once around a single mesh bar. When the twine or wire degrades, the opening in the sidewall of the trap will no longer be obstructed; or
    • the obstruction may be loosely hinged at the bottom of the opening by no more than two untreated steel hog rings and secured at the top of the obstruction in no more than one place by a single length of untreated jute twine, sisal twine or untreated steel wire with a diameter of 20 gauge or smaller. When the twine or wire degrades, the obstruction will hinge downward and the opening in the sidewall of the trap will no longer be obstructed.

Crab Trap Placement and Location Restrictions:

  • May not place a crab trap or portion thereof closer than 100 feet from any other crab trap, except when traps are secured to a pier or dock.
  • May not fish a crab trap in public fresh waters.
  • May not fish a crab trap within 200 feet of a marked navigable channel in Aransas County; and in the water area of Aransas Bay within one-half mile of a line from Hail Point on the Lamar Peninsula, then direct to the eastern end of Goose Island, then along the southern shore of Goose Island, then along the eastern shoreline of the Live Oak Peninsula past the town of Fulton, past Nine Mile Point, past the town of Rockport to a point at the east end of Talley Island including that part of Copano Bay within 1,000 feet of the causeway between Lamar Peninsula and Live Oak Peninsula except that up to 3 crab traps may be fished for recreational purposes only if securely tethered to a fixed object (i.e. as a dock, pier, or bulkhead).
  • May not possess, use or place more than 3 crab traps in waters north and west of Highway 146 where it crosses the Houston Ship Channel in Harris County.
  • May not use or place more than 3 crab traps in public waters of the San Bernard River north of a line marked by the boat access channel at Bernard Acres.
  • It is unlawful to place any type of trap within the area in Cedar Bayou between a department sign erected where Mesquite Bay flows into Cedar Bayou and the department sign erected near the point where the pass empties into the Gulf of Mexico.

Dip Net

A dip net is a mesh bag suspended from a frame attached to a handle.

  • Legal only for taking nongame fish and other aquatic animal life including crabs, crayfish, and shrimp.
  • May be used to aid in the landing of fish caught by other legal devices.
  • In salt water, nongame fish may be taken for bait purposes only.

Folding Panel Traps

  • Only crabs may be taken.
  • Overall surface area (including panels) may not exceed 16 square feet.

Gaff

A gaff is any hand-held pole with a hook attached directly to the pole.

  • May only be used to aid in the landing of fish caught on other legal devices, means or methods.
  • Fish landed with a gaff may not be below the minimum, above the maximum, or within a protected length limit.

Gig

A gig is any hand-held shaft with single or multiple points, barbed or barbless.

  • May be used to take nongame fish only.

Handfishing

  • Fishing by the use of hands only. The use of any other fishing device while handfishing (including but not limited to gaff, pole hook, trap, spear or stick) is unlawful.
  • No person may intentionally place a trap (including such devices as boxes, barrels or pipes) in public fresh water for the purpose of taking catfish by handfishing.
  • May be used to take channel, blue and flathead catfish in fresh water only.

Jugline

A fishing line with five or less hooks and a gear tag tied to a free-floating device.

  • For use in fresh water only.
  • May be used to take nongame fish, channel catfish, blue catfish and flathead catfish only.

Jugline Tagging and Marking Requirements

  • Must be used with a valid gear tag (see Definitions) attached within 6 inches of the free-floating device; gear tag is valid for 6 days after the date set out and must include the number of the permit to sell nongame fish taken from fresh water, if applicable. Properly marked buoys or floats qualify as valid gear tags.
  • For non-commercial purposes, a jugline must be marked with a free-floating device of any color other than orange that is not less than 6 inches in length and 3 inches in width.
  • For commercial purposes, a jugline must be marked with an orange, free-floating device that is not less than 6 inches in length and 3 inches in width.

Placement and Location Restrictions

Juglines may not be used in:

  • Community Fishing Lakes
  • Reservoirs or sections of rivers lying totally within the boundaries of a state park
  • Bellwood Lake in Smith County
  • Boerne City Lake in Kendall County
  • Brushy Creek Lake and Brushy Creek downstream from the lake to the Williamson/Milam County line
  • Canyon Lake Project #6 in Lubbock County
  • Dixieland Reservoir in Cameron County
  • Gibbons Creek Reservoir in Grimes County
  • Lake Bastrop in Bastrop County
  • Lake Bryan in Brazos County
  • Lakes Coffee Mill and Davy Crockett in Fannin County
  • Lake Pflugerville in Travis County
  • Lake Naconiche in Nacogdoches County
  • North Concho River from O.C. Fisher dam to the Bell Street dam
  • South Concho River from Lone Wolf dam to Bell Street dam
  • Tankersley Reservoir in Titus County
  • Wheeler Branch Reservoir in Somervell County

Lawful Archery Equipment

Lawful archery equipment includes longbow, recurved bow, compound bow and crossbow.

  • May be used to take NONGAME fish only.
  • Any fish that is edible or can be used for bait (includes all gar species, common carp and buffalo) may not be released back into the water after being taken with lawful archery equipment. See Waste of Fish.
  • State regulations permit bow fishing in most public waters (see Exceptions to Statewide Freshwater Harvest Regulations and Restricted Areas in Counties. Additionally, bow fishers are advised to check with local authorities that may have ordinances restricting use of archery equipment.

Minnow Trap

  • Legal only for taking nongame fish and other aquatic animal life (including crayfish and shrimp).
  • Trap may not exceed 24 inches in length. The throat may not exceed 1 inch by 3 inches.
  • Must be marked with a floating, visible buoy of any color other than orange that is not less than 6 inches in length and 3 inches in width. The buoy must have a gear tag attached.
  • Gear tag valid for only 6 days must be visibly attached.

Oyster Dredge

May not be more than 14 inches in width.

Perch Traps

For use in salt water only.

  • Legal only for taking nongame fish and other aquatic animal life (including crayfish and shrimp).
  • May not exceed 18 cubic feet.
  • Must be marked with a floating visible orange buoy not less than 6 inches in length and 6 inches in width. The buoy must have a gear tag valid only for 6 days attached.
  • Must be equipped with a degradable panel as described for crab traps.
  • Buoys or floats may not be made of plastic bottle(s) of any color or size.
  • It is unlawful to place any type of trap within the area in Cedar Bayou between a department sign erected where Mesquite Bay flows into Cedar Bayou and the department sign erected near the point where the pass empties into the Gulf of Mexico.

Pole and Line

A line with hook, attached to a pole (includes rod and reel)

  • May be used to take game and nongame fish.
  • It is unlawful to use a pole and line to take or attempt to take fish by foul-hooking, snagging, or jerking. A fish is foul-hooked when caught by a hook in an area other than the fish's mouth.
  • In the Guadalupe River in Comal County starting 800 yards downstream from the Canyon Dam release and extending downstream to the second bridge crossing on River Road, rainbow and brown trout may not be retained when taken by any method except artificial lures. In this area only, artificial lures cannot contain or have attached either whole or portions, living or dead, of organisms such as fish, crayfish, insects (grubs, larvae or adults) or worms, any other animal or vegetable material, or synthetic scented materials. This does not prohibit the use of artificial lures that contain components of hair or feathers. It is an offense to possess rainbow and brown trout while fishing with any other device in that part of the Guadalupe River defined in this paragraph.
  • Pole and line is the only lawful method for taking game and nongame fish from Community Fishing Lakes, sections of rivers lying totally within boundaries of a state park, the North Concho River from O.C. Fisher dam to the Bell Street dam, the South Concho River from Lone Wolf dam to Bell Street dam, Wheeler Branch Reservoir, Lake Pflugerville, Brushy Creek Lake and Brushy Creek downstream from the lake to the Williamson/Milam County line, and Canyon Lake Project #6.

Sail Line

For use in salt water only. A type of trotline with one end of the main line fixed on the shore, the other end of the main line attached to a wind-powered floating device or sail.

  • Nongame fish, red drum, spotted seatrout and sharks may be taken with a sail line.
  • No more than 1 sail line may be used per fisherman.
  • The sail line must be attended at all times the line is fishing.
  • Sail lines may not be used for commercial purposes.
  • Sail lines may be used 7 days a week.

Tagging Requirements

  • Must have a valid saltwater trotline tag for each 300 feet of mainline or fraction thereof being fished.

Construction and Design Restrictions

  • Sail line may not exceed 1,800 feet from reel to sail.
  • Sail and the most shoreward float must be bright orange or red color. All other floats must be yellow. No float may be more than 200 feet from the sail.
  • A weight of 1 ounce or more must be attached to the line not less than 4 feet or more than 6 feet shoreward of the most shoreward float.
  • Reflectors of not less than 2 square inches shall be attached to the sail and floats. They must be easily seen from all directions. This applies for sail lines operated from 30 minutes after sunset to 30 minutes before sunrise.
  • May have no more than 30 hooks.
  • There is no hook spacing requirement.
  • No hook may be placed more than 200 feet from the sail.
  • May be baited with either natural or artificial bait.

Placement and Location Restrictions

Sand Pump

A self-contained, hand-held, hand-operated suction device used to remove and capture Callianassid ghost shrimp.

  • May only be manually operated.
  • May not be used for commercial purposes.

Seine

A seine is a section of non-metallic mesh webbing, with the top edge buoyed upwards by a floatline and the bottom edge weighted (includes a push net).

  • Legal only for taking nongame fish and other aquatic animal life including crabs, crayfish, and shrimp.
  • May not be longer than 20 feet.
  • May not have mesh exceeding 1/2-inch square.
  • Must be manually operated.
  • In salt water, nongame fish may be taken by seine for bait purposes only.

Shad Trawl

For use in fresh water only. A bag-shaped net which is dragged along the bottom or through the water to catch aquatic life.

  • Legal only for taking nongame fish and other aquatic animal life including crayfish and shrimp.
  • May not be longer than 6 feet or with a mouth larger than 36 inches in diameter.
  • May be equipped with a funnel or throat and must be towed by boat or hand.

Spear

Any shaft with single or multiple points, barbed or barbless, which may be propelled by any means, but does not include arrows.

  • May be used to take nongame fish only.

Spear Gun

Any hand operated device designed and used for propelling a spear, but does not include the crossbow.

  • May be used to take nongame fish only. Not a legal means to take fish in a Community Fishing Lake.

Throwline

For use in fresh water only. A fishing line with five or less hooks and with one end attached to a permanent fixture, a float attached at or above the water line, and a gear tag. Components of a throwline may also include swivels, snaps, rubber and rigid support structures.

  • May be used to take nongame fish, channel catfish, blue catfish and flathead catfish only.
  • A valid gear tag must be attached. Gear tag is valid for 6 days after the date set out.
  • For non-commercial purposes, must be marked with a float of any color other than orange that is not less than 6 inches in length and 3 inches in width.
  • For commercial purposes, must be marked with an orange float that is not less than 6 inches in length and 3 inches in width.

Placement and Location Restrictions

Throwlines may not be used in:

  • Community Fishing Lakes
  • Reservoirs or sections of rivers lying totally within the boundaries of a state park
  • Bellwood Lake in Smith County
  • Boerne City Lake in Kendall County
  • Brushy Creek Lake and Brushy Creek downstream from the lake to the Williamson/Milam County line
  • Canyon Lake Project #6 in Lubbock County
  • Dixieland Reservoir in Cameron County
  • Gibbons Creek Reservoir in Grimes County
  • Lake Bastrop in Bastrop County
  • Lake Bryan in Brazos County
  • Lakes Coffee Mill and Davy Crockett in Fannin County
  • Lake Naconiche in Nacogdoches County
  • Lake Pflugerville in Travis County
  • North Concho River from O.C. Fisher dam to the Bell Street dam
  • South Concho River from Lone Wolf dam to Bell Street dam
  • Tankersley Reservoir in Titus County
  • Wheeler Branch Reservoir in Somervell County

Trawl (Individual Bait-Shrimp Trawl)

For use in SALT WATER only. A bag-shaped net which is dragged along the bottom or through the water to catch aquatic life. Only hand-operated trawls are permitted; use of mechanical devices is unlawful.

  • Only one trawl per boat is allowed.
  • Must have an individual bait-shrimp trawl tag in one’s possession while trawling (pg. 21).
  • Must not be greater than 20 feet in width between the doors.
  • Mesh size must not be smaller than 8-3/4 inches over a consecutive series of five stretched meshes.
  • Boards must not be larger than 450 square inches each.
  • Nongame fish (except those species regulated by bag or size limits) taken incidental to legal shrimping operations may be retained.
  • "Legal shrimping operations" means the use of a legal trawl in places, at times, and in manners as authorized by TPWD (see Shrimp Regulations).
  • 200 nongame fish taken with an individual bait-shrimp trawl may be retained per person for bait purposes only.

Trotline

A non-metallic main fishing line with more than five hooks attached, with each end attached to a fixture, floats attached at or above the water line, and a gear tag.

  • Nongame fish, channel catfish, blue catfish and flathead catfish may be taken by trotline.
  • Red drum, spotted seatrout and sharks caught on a trotline may not be retained or possessed.

General Construction and Design Restrictions

Trotlines may not be used with:

  • a mainline length exceeding 600 feet;
  • hooks spaced less than 3 horizontal feet apart;
  • metallic stakes;
  • or the main fishing line and attached hooks and stagings placed above the water's surface.

Trotlines in Fresh Water

Tag and Marking Requirements

  • Trotlines in fresh water must be used with a valid gear tag. Properly marked buoys or floats qualify as valid gear tags. Gear tags must be attached within 3 feet of the first hook at each end of the trotline and are valid for 6 days after the date set out.
  • For non-commercial purposes, must be marked with floats of any color other than orange that are not less than 6 inches in length and 3 inches in width.
  • For commercial purposes, must be marked with orange floats that are not less than 6 inches in length and 3 inches in width.

Construction and Design Restrictions

Trotlines in fresh water may not have more than 50 hooks on any one trotline.

Placement and Location Restrictions

Trotlines may not be used in:

  • Community Fishing Lakes
  • Reservoirs or sections of rivers lying totally within the boundaries of a state park
  • Bellwood Lake in Smith County
  • Boerne City Lake in Kendall County
  • Brushy Creek Lake and Brushy Creek downstream from the lake to the Williamson/Milam County line
  • Canyon Lake Project #6 in Lubbock County
  • Dixieland Reservoir in Cameron County
  • Fayette County Reservoir in Fayette County
  • Gibbons Creek Reservoir in Grimes County
  • Lake Bastrop in Bastrop County
  • Lake Bryan in Brazos County
  • Lakes Coffee Mill and Davy Crockett in Fannin County
  • Lake Naconiche in Nacogdoches County
  • Lake Pflugerville in Travis County
  • North Concho River from O.C. Fisher dam to the Bell Street dam
  • Pinkston Reservoir in Shelby County
  • South Concho River from Lone Wolf dam to Bell Street dam
  • Tankersley Reservoir in Titus County
  • Wheeler Branch Reservoir in Somervell County

Trotlines In Salt Water

No more than 1 trotline may be used per angler.

Tagging Requirements

  • Must have a valid Saltwater Trotline Tag attached to each 300 feet of mainline or fraction thereof. (Tag must be purchased at TPWD Law Enforcement offices.)
  • Must be used with a valid GEAR TAG attached within 3 feet of the first hook at each end of the trotline. Tag does not need to be dated.

Construction and Design Restrictions

  • Must be marked with a yellow floating buoy not less than 6 inches in height, 6 inches in length and 6 inches in width, bearing a two-inch wide stripe of contrasting color, attached to end fixtures.
  • Buoys or floats may not be made of plastic bottle(s) of any color or size.
  • May not be baited with other than natural bait. Natural bait is a whole or cut-up portion of a fish or shellfish or a whole or cut-up portion of plant material in its natural state, provided that none of these may be altered beyond cutting into portions.
  • May not be used with hooks other than circle-type hook with point curved in and with a gap (distance from point to shank) of no more than one-half inch, and with the diameter of the circle not less than five-eighths inch.

Placement and Location Restrictions

  • May not be used in or on the waters of the Gulf of Mexico within the jurisdiction of this state.
  • May not be placed closer than 50 feet from any other trotline, or set within 200 feet of the edge of the Intracoastal Waterway or its tributary channels.
  • May not be used in Aransas County in Little Bay and the water area of Aransas Bay within one-half mile of a line from Hail Point on the Lamar Peninsula, then direct to the eastern end of Goose Island, then along the southern shore of Goose Island, then along the causeway between Lamar Peninsula and Live Oak Peninsula, then along the eastern shoreline of the Live Oak Peninsula past the town of Fulton, past Nine-Mile Point, past the town of Rockport to a point at the east end of Talley Island, including that part of Copano Bay within 1,000 feet of the causeway between Lamar Peninsula and Live Oak Peninsula.
  • No trotline or trotline components (except Sail Lines), including lines and hooks, but excluding poles, may be left in or on coastal waters between the hours of 1 p.m. on Friday through 1 p.m. on Sunday of each week, except attended sail lines. In the event small craft advisories or higher marine weather advisories issued by the National Weather Service are in place at 8 a.m. on Friday, trotlines may remain in the water until 6 p.m. on Friday. If small craft advisories are in place at 1 p.m. on Friday, trotlines may remain in the water until Saturday. When small craft advisories are lifted by 8 a.m. on Saturday, trotlines must be removed by 6 p.m. on Saturday. When small craft advisories or higher marine weather advisories are still in place at 1 p.m. on Saturday, trotlines may remain in the water through 1 p.m. on Sunday. It is a violation to tend, bait, or harvest fish or any other aquatic life from trotlines during the period that trotline removal requirements are suspended under this provision for adverse weather conditions. For purposes of enforcement, the geographic area customarily covered by marine weather advisories will be delineated by department policy.

Umbrella Net

A non-metallic mesh net that is suspended horizontally in the water by multiple lines attached to a rigid frame.

  • Legal only for taking NONGAME fish and other aquatic animal life including crabs, crayfish, and shrimp.
  • May not have within the frame an area that exceeds 16 square feet.

Other Devices

Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) and bait launchers are approved methods for the delivery of bait. Federal regulations apply.

Definitions - Fishing

Valid Sep. 1, 2022 through Aug. 31, 2023.

Artificial lure

Any lure (including flies) with hook or hooks attached that is man-made and is used as a bait while fishing.

Bait

Something used to lure any wildlife resource. It is unlawful to use game fish or any part thereof as bait.CatchTo take or kill and includes an attempt to take or kill.

Community Fishing Lake

All public impoundments 75 acres or smaller located totally within an incorporated city limits or a public park, and all impoundments of any size lying totally within the boundaries of a state park.

  • Special fishing regulations apply to these small lakes.
  • See a list of Community Fishing Lakes in your area, or call (800) 792-1112 (menu 3).

Culling

Release of a fish after it was held in an angler’s possession to be replaced with another fish of the same species.

Daily bag limit (anglers)

Quantity of a species of a wildlife resource, such as fish, that may be taken in one day.DayA 24-hour period of time that begins at midnight and ends at midnight.

Edible condition

Fit for human consumption, but does not include any portion of a game bird, game animal, or fish that is bruised (“bloodshot”) by a bullet, shot, or arrow; otherwise destroyed as a result of harvest; decayed or rotting; or obviously infected or diseased.

Fishing

The act of taking or attempting to take aquatic animal life by any means.

Fishing guide

A person who, for compensation, accompanies, assists, or transports a person or persons engaged in fishing in the water of this state.

Fishing guide deck hand

A person in the employ of a fishing guide who assists in operating a boat for compensation to accompany or to transport a person or persons engaged in fishing in the water of this state.

Gear tag

A tag constructed of material as durable as the device to which it is attached. The gear tag must be legible, contain the name and address, or customer number, of the person using the device, and the date the device was set out. Date is not required for saltwater trotlines or crabtraps fished under a commercial license. For juglines and freshwater trotlines, properly marked buoys or floats qualify as valid gear tags.

Nongame fish

All species not listed as game fish except endangered and threatened fish which are defined and regulated under separate rules.

Non-resident

A person who is not a Texas resident (see proof of residency requirements). Non-residents under 17 years of age are considered residents for the purchase of the youth hunting license (Item 169).

Possession limit (anglers)

The maximum number of fish a person may possess before returning to their residence. Possession limit is twice the daily bag on game and nongame fish, except as provided in this guide, and does not apply to fish in the possession of or stored by a person at their residence.

Residence

A permanent structure where a person regularly sleeps and keeps personal belongings such as furniture and clothes, but does not include a temporary abode or dwelling such as a hunting or fishing club, or any club house, cabin, tent, or trailer house or mobile home used as a hunting or fishing camp, or any hotel, motel or rooming house used on a temporary basis.

Resident

A person who has lived continuously in Texas for more than six months immediately before buying their license, officially documented members of the Kickapoo Traditional Tribe of Texas or members of the U.S. Armed Forces (and their dependents) on “active duty” anywhere. A person who claims residency in any other state for any purpose and is not an officially-documented member of the Kickapoo Traditional Tribe of Texas or a member of the U.S. Armed Forces (or dependent) on active duty is not a resident.

Wildlife resource

Any wild animal, wild bird, or aquatic life.

Wildlife Resource Document (WRD

)A document that allows a person to give, leave, receive, or possess any species (or part of) of legally taken game birds, game fish or game animals; WRD must contain:

  1. name, signature, address, and hunting license number of the person who killed or caught the wildlife resource;
  2. name of the person receiving the wildlife resource;
  3. description of the wildlife resource (number and type of species or parts);
  4. date the wildlife resource was killed or caught; and
  5. location where the wildlife resource was killed or caught (name of ranch; area; county).

Fishing With a Boat

Safety Requirements and Tips

See detailed information on boat regulations and required safety equipment.

  • State law requires a wearable-type life jacket (Types I, II, or III) for each person on board. Life jackets must be U.S. Coast Guard approved. In addition, a Type IV throwable-type flotation device is required on boats 16 feet in length and longer. See detailed information on life jacket fit and types.
  • Children under 13 years of age must wear a personal flotation device on a vessel under 26 feet in length while underway. It is recommended that non-swimmers always wear a life jacket on the water.
  • Anyone born on or after September 1, 1993 must complete an approved boater education course before operating in public water a vessel of more than 15 horsepower, a windblown vessel of more than 14 feet in length, or a personal watercraft, unless there is another legally qualified operator on board who is 18 or older.
  • State law prohibits intoxicated persons (.08% BAC) from operating a boat.
  • Check the weather and give a "float plan" to a friend before departing.

Anglers

  • Distribute and secure your gear properly, and avoid overloading your boat.
  • Use care when moving; keep weight as low as possible and distributed evenly.
  • Remain seated as much as possible to avoid capsizing and falls overboard.
  • Never anchor from the stern of your boat.

Hunters

  • Secure firearms and ammo low in the boat to increase stability and to avoid falls.
  • Remain seated, if possible, while shooting and retrieving migratory game birds.
  • Assign "shooting zones" for each hunter to avoid shooting accidents.

Each year, over 90% of all sportsmen who died in the water were not wearing a life jacket. Wear your life jacket! The life you save may be your own.

Prevent Spread of Invasive Species

Failure to immediately remove and lawfully dispose of any harmful or potentially harmful aquatic plant that is clinging or attached to a vessel, watercraft, trailer, motor vehicle, or other device used to transport or launch a vessel or watercraft can result in a fine of $25-$500.

Zebra mussels

In the state’s ongoing effort to combat the spread of invasive zebra mussels, boaters leaving or approaching public fresh water in anywhere in Texas are required to drain all water from their vessels and on-board receptacles. This applies to all types and sizes of boats whether powered or not, personal watercraft, sailboats, or any other vessel used to travel on public waters.

Bighead and silver carp

It is unlawful to transport live, non-game fishes from the water bodies listed below. Collection and use of nongame fishes for bait within the same water body is legal. This rule is intended to prevent the unintentional spread of invasive bighead and silver carp.

  • Red River below Lake Texoma downstream to the Arkansas border
  • Big Cypress Bayou downstream of Ferrell’s Bridge Dam on Lake O’ the Pines (including the Texas waters of Caddo Lake)
  • Sulphur River downstream of the Lake Wright Patman dam

When you leave a body of water:

  • Remove any visible mud, plants, fish or animals before transporting equipment.
  • Eliminate water from equipment before transporting.
  • Clean and dry anything that comes into contact with water (boats, trailers, equipment, clothing, dogs, etc.).
  • Never release plants, fish or animals into a body of water unless they came out of that body of water.

For more information on invasive exotic species that threaten Texas waters and how you can help prevent their spread, visit these sites:

Anchoring Boats and Vessels

  • It is a violation to leave unattended for any period of time or anchor a barge, boat, or fishing platform in the Trinity River below Livingston Dam in an area 1,000 feet from the dam to a point 1,500 feet downstream from the dam:
    • for more than 10 hours in a 24-hour period without moving 100 feet or more during that time, or
    • for five or more consecutive days, whether or not it has been moved;
  • It is a violation to anchor or moor a vessel, barge, or structure for a period exceeding two consecutive days within the area in Cedar Bayou between a department sign erected where Mesquite Bay flows into Cedar Bayou and the department sign erected near the point where the pass empties in the Gulf of Mexico.

Special Areas and Restrictions

  • It is a violation to move, remove, deface, alter, or destroy any sign, depth marker, or other informational signage placed by the department within, or to delineate boundaries of the Redfish Bay State Scientific Area.
  • Rio Grande: Portions of the Rio Grande adjacent to the Black Gap Wildlife Management Area are designated as a "Wild and Scenic River." Special federal rules apply to fishing, boating and other uses in these areas. For more information concerning these rules and boundaries, call the Big Bend National Park at (432) 477-2251 (menu 3, option 3).

Bow Fishing Regulations

Hunting and fishing regulations are addressed in the Texas Administrative Code. This page summarizes regulations that apply to bow fishing.

Fishing License

A freshwater, saltwater, or all-water license package is required to bow fish in Texas public waters. No additional stamp or license is required.

You don’t need a fishing license if you are:

  • Under 17 years of age
  • A Texas resident born before January 1, 1931

A hunting license is required to take turtles and frogs. You may elect to purchase a Combination or Super Combo license, which covers both fishing and hunting.

Legal Equipment

Fish may be taken with longbow, recurved bow, compound bow, or crossbow.

What to Catch

Bows are legal for taking non-game fishes such as gar, buffalo, mullet and sheepshead. A bow may be used to take any species of fish that is:

No minimum lengths or daily bag limits apply to non-game fishes in fresh water, except:

  • For alligator gar, there is a limit of one (1) per day. On portions of Lake Texoma, harvest of alligator gar is prohibited during the spawning season in May.
  • For Lady Bird Lake in downtown Austin, there is a daily limit of one (1) trophy-sized common carp, defined as a carp measuring 33 inches or more. No limits apply to smaller carp.

Limits exist on some non-game fishes in salt water. See saltwater limits.

Any fish that is edible or can be used for bait (includes all gar species, common carp and buffalo) may not be released back into the water after being taken with lawful archery equipment.

Where to Fish

Texas Parks and Wildlife Department regulations permit bow fishing in Texas coastal waters and in most rivers and large lakes. However, this method is not allowed in:

  • Community Fishing Lakes: public impoundments of 75 acres or less, located within a city or a public park (see list)
  • Lakes lying totally within the boundaries of a Texas state park, or anywhere on state park property

Other government entities may have rules that apply to bow fishing on properties that they own or manage. TPWD is aware of the restrictions listed below, but there may be others. When fishing within city limits or at any lakeside park, it's a good idea to check first with local authorities.

  • The Lower Colorado River Authority prohibits bow fishing in Bastrop and Fayette County lakes and enforces special regulations on bow fishing in other Central Texas reservoirs. For details, visit the LCRA website.
  • The City of Tyler prohibits bow fishing on Tyler East and Tyler West lakes.

Possession and Transport of Exotic Aquatic Species

The intentional or unintentional possession or transportation of aquatic invasive species without a permit is illegal in Texas. Please see our list of harmful and potentially harmful aquatic species.

Learn how to properly dispose of aquarium plants and animals.

General Rules

It is unlawful to:

  • Possess or transport any exotic aquatic plant or animal listed as harmful or potentially harmful. This includes: plants such as hydrilla, water hyacinth, and giant salvinia; fishes such as tilapia and invasive carps (grass, silver, and bighead carp); and zebra mussels.
    • Boats with attached zebra mussels may be moved to a maintenance shop for cleaning or other maintenance provided the department is notified at least 72 hours in advance using the Boat Maintenance Movement Notice form. Boats moving to another lake after maintenance may require inspection and decontamination.
  • Possess any tilapia, grass carp, or any other fish listed as harmful or potentially harmful without first killing the fish by gutting, beheading, gill-cutting, or other means, or placing the fish on ice, except on those waters where a valid Triploid Grass Carp Permit is in effect. In those waters, it is illegal to possess grass carp, and any grass carp caught must be immediately returned to the water unharmed. Please see our list of waters with Triploid Grass Carp Permits.
  • Fail to immediately remove and lawfully dispose of any harmful or potentially harmful aquatic plant that is clinging or attached to a vessel, watercraft, trailer, motor vehicle, or other device used to transport or launch a vessel or watercraft. Violators are subject to a fine of $25-$500. Learn how to properly clean your watercraft.

Mandatory Draining of Water from Vessels

Persons leaving or approaching public fresh water are required to drain all water from their vessels and on-board receptacles (includes live wells, bilges, motors and any other receptacles or water-intake systems coming into contact with public waters). This rule applies at all sites where boats can be launched and includes all types and sizes of boats whether powered or not, personal watercraft, sailboats, kayaks/canoes, or any other vessel used to travel on public waters.

  • Live fish, including personally caught live bait, cannot be transported from the water body where the fish were caught in or aboard a vessel in water from the water body where the fish were caught. Personally caught live bait can be used in the water body where it was caught.
  • Transport and use of commercially purchased live bait in water while fishing from a vessel is allowed, provided persons in possession of the bait have a receipt that identifies the source of the bait. Any live bait purchased from a location on or adjacent to a public water body that is transported in water from that water body can only be used as bait on that same water body.
  • A vessel leaving a public freshwater body may be transported on a public roadway without water being drained, provided the vessel is transported via the most direct route to another access point located on the same water body during that same day.
  • Persons participating in a fishing tournament confined to one water body are allowed to transport live fish in water from that single water body to an identified off-site weigh-in location, provided all water is drained and properly disposed of before leaving that location. Participants must possess documentation provided by tournament organizers that identify them as participants in a tournament.
  • Marine sanitary systems are not covered by these regulations.
  • Following these procedures does not exempt persons from complying with prohibitions against transporting exotic aquatic species that are visible to the unaided eye, such as adult zebra mussels, which may be attached to boats or trailers.

Rule to Prevent Spread of Bighead and Silver Carp

It is unlawful to transport live, non-game fishes from the Red River and all tributary waters in Grayson, Fannin, Lamar, Red River, and Bowie counties below Lake Texoma downstream to the Arkansas border, Big Cypress Bayou downstream of Ferrell’s Bridge Dam on Lake O’ the Pines (including the Texas waters of Caddo Lake), and the Sulphur River downstream of the Lake Wright Patman dam. Nongame fishes collected from these waters may be used as live bait on the water bodies where they were collected.