AUSTIN – Texas is renowned for world class bass fishing and offers some of the best destinations in the country to reel in the catch of a lifetime. However, Texas also provides anglers with excellent opportunities to reel in a sometimes-overlooked species: crappie. The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s Inland Fisheries Division set out to determine some of the best hot spots for crappie fishing in the state.
“We are excited to feature these 12 destination lakes for our anglers to check out on their next fishing excursion,” said Brian Van Zee, TPWD Inland Fisheries Regional Director. “These lakes, which are located across the state, stood out as providing consistently strong crappie fishing right now. We hope anglers take advantage of all the excellent fisheries that the state has to offer.”
Here are the lakes selected by TPWD staff:
Abilene’s Daniel Reservoir landed on the list as one of the top crappie lakes in Texas and is one of the area’s best producers of large crappie. In multiple population surveys, many legal-sized (10 inches and larger) crappie upwards to about 15 inches were sampled. This reservoir does not typically get a lot of angling pressure but may produce good harvest rates.
Population surveys at Granger Lake near Austin have consistently shown a high abundance of white crappie. TPWD has installed brush piles throughout this reservoir, which enhance angling opportunities for both boat and bank anglers. Crappie fishing from the bank is very popular on Granger Lake and is at its best in the spring with solid fishing in the fall as well.
Recent data has shown that angler harvest rates on Lake Conroe are strong, so anglers have the potential for great success on this lake. Lake Conroe, close to Houston, is a large reservoir, but many anglers do well fishing under the major bridges or on artificial habitat structures that have been placed by local fishing groups. Some anglers have also had success fishing piers located on points into the main body of the lake.
Coleto Creek Reservoir provides some big-time crappie angling opportunity near Victoria. The reservoir often supports a robust crappie population providing fast and furious action. Angler harvest rates over time have been solid. In the spring, crappie can be caught in shallow water near submerged brush while summertime anglers focus in on the main creek channels near submerged timber.
White Rock Lake in the heart of Dallas is not a large reservoir but has an excellent crappie population. Catch rates of crappie in population surveys are some of the highest of any Texas reservoir. The lake has a boat engine horsepower limit (9.9), which might discourage some boat anglers from fishing it, but it certainly makes it kayak and canoe angler friendly. The lake features fishing piers for anglers without boats or kayaks, and reed beds provide cover for fish.
Lake Lavon is located northeast of Dallas and is the childhood stomping grounds of professional crappie angler, Wally Marshall (Mr. Crappie). The lake, which is noted for crappie fishing, boasts high harvest rates of quality fish. In the winter, crappie are usually found around deep structures, especially on south-facing shorelines. The fish migrate to shallow water in the spring to spawn, providing anglers with ample opportunities to reel in quality crappie.
Sam Rayburn Reservoir near Jasper draws a lot of anglers, but anglers have plenty of room to spread out on “Big Sam” as it’s the largest reservoir completely within Texas. Crappie spawning is relatively stable and tends to reduce the “boom-and-bust” crappie fishing that can occur at some smaller reservoirs. Although crappie fishing can be good year-round, most anglers target crappie from May – October when many of the fish can be found on main-lake brush piles in 15- to 30-foot depths.
Data from recent angler surveys at Lake O’ the Pines, which is near Marshall, indicated that 25-35 percent of the fishing pressure was by anglers targeting crappie throughout the year. Anglers have harvested fish ranging up to 16 inches long. There is a special harvest regulation on the reservoir from Dec. 1 through the end of February that requires anglers to keep the first 25 crappie they catch regardless of size.
For anglers near San Angelo, crappie fishing at Twin Buttes Reservoir has been exceptional this year. Anglers are consistently catching limits, including many fish that measure around 14 inches. Recent population surveys indicated that an excellent crappie population was present. With solid numbers of 5- to 6-inch crappie found in the lake, the next generation is strong and good fishing should continue for several years to come.
Crappie Masters visited Quitman’s Lake Fork in 2019 and helped showcase the crappie fishing in this renowned water body. The first-place team weighed in a bag of 30.72 lbs. (14 fish), the 10th place team checked in at 28.69 pounds, and then 50th place was still an impressive 23.61 pounds. Beyond tournament results, the lake has consistently been ranked in the top five best crappie lakes in the country the last few years.
In the vicinity of Waco, Lake Limestone is off the beaten path a bit, but it provides more solitude for anglers who want to avoid the crowds. Crappie fishing can be great in the spring when fish are in shallow water for spawning. Most spawn in shallow coves and in the back of creeks. During the summer, fishing can be good as crappie gather around large solitary trees in the mouths of creeks and on main lake points, suspending 10 to 20 feet deep.
Near Wichita Falls, Lake Arrowhead has historically been considered the area’s best crappie fishery. Crappie can be found throughout the reservoir, but some of the most popular shoreline angling locations are Lake Arrowhead State Park and the four bridges. The bridges are also popular with boat anglers seeking crappie.
To learn more, check out all the great resources TPWD has to offer on the fishing website.