Freshwater Fishing Regulations Update

Modified Regulations for Red River Tributaries

To prevent the transfer of invasive carp, modified regulations have been introduced for Red River tributaries. These adjustments aim to mitigate the spread of invasive species and maintain the ecological balance of the waterways.

Establishment of Reservoir Boundaries

Reservoir boundaries have been established for Sam Rayburn Reservoir and Lake Texoma. This delineation serves to provide clarity and guidance for anglers and regulatory authorities regarding fishing activities within these reservoirs.

New Largemouth Bass Harvest Regulations for Bois d'Arc Lake

In anticipation of the opening of Bois d'Arc Lake, new largemouth bass harvest regulations have been implemented. These regulations are designed to manage the bass population effectively in the newly accessible waterbody, ensuring sustainable fishing opportunities for anglers.

Modified Harvest Regulations for Alligator Gar, Walleye, and Red Drum

Harvest regulations for alligator gar, walleye, and red drum have been modified at specific locations. These changes are aimed at maintaining healthy populations of these species and promoting their conservation in the affected areas.

Clarification of Exceptions, Species, and County Information

Certain exceptions, species regulations, and county-specific information have been clarified to enhance understanding and compliance among anglers. This clarification ensures that fishing regulations are accurately interpreted and followed, contributing to the effective management of freshwater fisheries.

The Importance of Clean Water for Good Fishing

Harmful Algae Blooms and Fishing

Harmful algae blooms pose a threat to fishing spots by creating "dead zones" where no aquatic life can survive. These blooms are often caused by pollution from various sources such as fertilizers, septic systems, animal waste, and sewage treatment plants.

Understanding Nutrient Pollution

Nutrient pollution, primarily from runoff containing excess nitrogen and phosphorus, contributes to the proliferation of harmful algae blooms. Learning more about nutrient pollution can help individuals understand its impact on water quality and fishing habitats.

Supporting Water Quality Protection

Supporting initiatives aimed at protecting water quality is crucial for maintaining great fishing opportunities. By advocating for measures to reduce nutrient pollution and other forms of water contamination, individuals can contribute to preserving healthy aquatic ecosystems and sustaining vibrant fisheries.

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 in Texas

General Requirements

Any individual who engages in the taking or attempted taking of fish, mussels, clams, crayfish, or other aquatic life in the public waters of Texas must possess a current Texas fishing license with the appropriate endorsement.


  1. Saltwater Endorsement: Required for fishing in coastal waters.

  2. Freshwater Endorsement: Required for fishing in inland waters.

License Fees and Packages

For specific details regarding license fees, packages, and any exceptions to the general requirements, individuals are encouraged to refer to the official documentation provided by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.

Game Fish Species

Game fish, which includes hybrids and subspecies of listed fish, can be pursued for recreational fishing purposes. The regulations for taking game fish typically specify that they may only be caught using pole and line, unless stated otherwise. Here is a list of game fish species:

  • Bass: Includes Alabama, Guadalupe, largemouth, smallmouth, spotted, striped, white, and yellow bass.

  • Catfish: Blue, channel, and flathead catfish.

  • Cobia

  • Crappie: Black and white crappie.

  • Mackerel: King and Spanish mackerel.

  • Marlin: Blue and white marlin.

  • Pickerel

  • Red Drum

  • Sailfish

  • Spotted Seatrout

  • Sharks

  • Snook

  • Spearfish: Longbill spearfish.

  • Swordfish: Broadbill swordfish.

  • Tarpon

  • Tripletail

  • Trout: Brown and rainbow trout.

  • Wahoo

  • Walleye

Unlawful Activities in Fishing

Engaging in certain activities related to fishing can be considered unlawful and may result in penalties or fines. Here are some activities that are prohibited:

  1. Disturbing Sea Turtles: It is unlawful to take, kill, or disturb sea turtles, including species found in the Gulf of Mexico such as Green, Loggerhead, Kemp’s ridley, Leatherback, and Hawksbill. If a sea turtle is accidentally caught, individuals should immediately call (866) 887-8535 for guidance on how to help without causing harm.

  2. Taking Endangered or Threatened Fish Species: Taking, killing, or disturbing any endangered or threatened fish species, including paddlefish, shovel-nosed sturgeon, sawfish, and others, is prohibited.

  3. Taking or Killing Protected Species: It is unlawful to take or kill diamondback terrapin or marine mammals such as porpoises, dolphins, or whales. Reporting stranded marine mammals can be done by calling (800) 962-6625.

  4. Placing Game Fish into Public Waters Without Permit: Without a valid permit issued by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD), it is unlawful to place any game fish into public waters other than the body of water where the fish was caught. This includes fish caught by pole and line.

  5. Using Vessels to Concentrate Fish: Using any vessel to harry, herd, or drive fish, including operating vessels in a repeated circular course to concentrate fish for the purpose of taking or attempting to take fish, is prohibited.

  6. Damaging Seagrass: Uprooting or digging out any rooted seagrass plant from a bay bottom or other saltwater bottom in the state of Texas by means of a propeller is unlawful.

  7. Transporting Live Nongame Fishes: Transporting live, nongame fishes taken from specific waters, including the Red River and its tributaries in certain counties, Big Cypress Bayou, and Sulphur River, without proper authorization is unlawful.

  8. Possessing or Transporting Aquatic Invasive Species: Intentionally or unintentionally possessing or transporting aquatic invasive species without a permit is prohibited.

  9. Using Game Fish as Bait: Using any game fish or part of a game fish as bait is unlawful.

Fish Tagging Guidelines

Legal Tagging Protocols

Placing identification tags on fish exteriors is permissible, but caution is advised as tags can potentially harm the fish. Once tagged, the fish may be released into public waters.

Unlawful Tagging Practices

Implanting or attaching devices or substances to fish to produce audible, visual, or electronic signals for monitoring, tracking, or locating them is prohibited. This regulation aims to protect fish welfare and prevent undue stress.

Prevention of Fish Waste

Prohibited Waste Practices

Leaving edible or bait fish from public waters to die without intent for consumption or use as bait is unlawful. This regulation aims to curb wasteful practices and promote responsible fishing.

Bait Regulations Overview

Prohibition on Game Fish as Bait

Using any game fish or part thereof as bait is prohibited by law. This regulation ensures the protection of game fish populations.

Transport of Live Fish as Bait

Transporting live fish, including personally caught live bait, from the water body where they were caught, whether in or aboard a vessel, is unlawful. This regulation aims to prevent the spread of invasive species and diseases.

Use of Commercially Purchased Live Bait

The transport and use of commercially purchased live bait in water while fishing from a vessel are permitted, provided individuals possess a receipt identifying the bait's source. However, there are restrictions on using live bait purchased from locations adjacent to public water bodies.

Shrimp Bait Regulations

When using dead or live shrimp as bait, only shrimp native to the Gulf of Mexico are permissible in Texas waters. Additionally, caution is advised when using frozen shrimp imported from other countries, as they may not be suitable for use as bait.

County-Specific Bait Regulations

Certain counties may have specific regulations regarding bait fish. It's crucial to be aware of local regulations when fishing in these areas to ensure compliance with all applicable laws.

Special Areas and Restrictions

Redfish Bay State Scientific Area

  • Violation Warning: It is prohibited to move, remove, deface, alter, or destroy any sign, depth marker, or informational signage placed by the department within the Redfish Bay State Scientific Area.

Cedar Bayou Area Restrictions

  • Anchoring Limitation: Anchoring or mooring a vessel, barge, or structure for more than two consecutive days within the Cedar Bayou area, from a department sign at Mesquite Bay to a sign near the point where the pass empties into the Gulf of Mexico, is unlawful.

Trinity River Below Livingston Dam

  • Unattended Vessel Restrictions: Leaving unattended or anchoring a barge, boat, or fishing platform in the Trinity River below Livingston Dam is subject to restrictions:
    • It cannot be left unattended for more than 10 hours in a 24-hour period without moving at least 100 feet during that time.
    • Anchoring for five or more consecutive days, regardless of movement, is prohibited.

Rio Grande Adjacent to Black Gap Wildlife Management Area

  • "Wild and Scenic River" Designation: Portions of the Rio Grande bordering the Black Gap Wildlife Management Area are designated as a "Wild and Scenic River," subject to special federal regulations concerning fishing, boating, and other activities.

  • Further Information: For detailed rules and boundaries regarding fishing, boating, and other uses in these areas, individuals are advised to refer to the Big Bend National Park website.

Possession of Fish Taken from Public Water

Definition of Possession

  • Immediate Release Exemption: Fish that are caught and immediately released are not considered to be in possession.

  • Retention and Possession: Fish retained using any holding device such as a stringer, cooler, livewell, or bucket are considered to be in an angler’s possession. They must adhere to established length and bag limits.

Verification of Length and Species

  • Restrictions on Alteration: To verify length and species, a caught fish must not have the head or tail removed, and filleting is prohibited until the catch is finally landed on the mainland, a peninsula, or a barrier island (excluding jetties or piers). Transportation by boat is not permitted until after landing.

  • Exceptions: 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, and the remainder of the carcass, including the tail, must remain intact and un-filleted.

Compliance with Texas Regulations

  • Universal Application: Any fish taken from public water and landed in Texas, whether by boat or person, must adhere to the length limits, daily bag, and possession limits established for those fish in Texas, regardless of where they were caught.

Bag Limit for Guided Fishing Parties

  • Calculation: The bag limit for a guided fishing party is determined by subtracting each fishing guide and guide deckhand from the total number of persons in the boat licensed to fish or otherwise exempt from holding a license. The resulting number is then multiplied by the bag limit for each species harvested.

Transfer and Importation of Wildlife and Aquatic Resources

Wildlife Resource Document (WRD)

  • Transfer Conditions: A person may give or receive legally taken wildlife or aquatic resources, or parts thereof, required to be tagged or protected by a daily bag/possession limit if accompanied by a Wildlife Resource Document (WRD).

  • Document Requirements: The WRD can be obtained through a downloadable form or a handwritten document containing the necessary information. It must accompany the resource until it reaches the possessor’s permanent residence or a cold storage/processing facility.

  • Exemption: No WRD is required if the recipient does not exceed the possession limit (or bag limit if in the field) and possesses a lawful license or the applicable license.

Importation Regulations

  • Unlawful Importation: It is unlawful to import wildlife or aquatic resources into Texas or possess resources taken outside the state unless:
    • The person holds a valid hunting, fishing, or other relevant license, endorsement, tag, permit, or document from the state or country where the resource was legally obtained.
    • The person can produce a valid driver’s license or personal identification certificate upon request by a game warden.

Possession of Threatened or Endangered Animals

  • Legal Possession: Possession of an animal listed as threatened or endangered in Texas, obtained legally outside of Texas, is permissible if the individual can provide proof of lawful acquisition. Proof may include a bill-of-sale, license tag, permit, or notarized affidavit.

Imports from Mexico

Waiver of Requirements

  • Customs Officer’s Statement: The requirements mentioned above are waived if a United States Customs Officer’s Statement is obtained from the United States Customs Office at the port of entry, indicating that the wildlife resource was brought in from Mexico.

  • Accompanying Document: The Customs Officer’s statement must accompany the wildlife resource to its final destination.

Legal Devices, Methods & Restrictions

General Provisions

  • Pole and Line Fishing: Game fish may only be taken using pole and line, including rod and reel, unless otherwise specified in this guide.

  • Use of Multiple Devices: Fishing with multiple poles or other devices is permitted, with exceptions noted in the guide.

  • Hook Limitation: In fresh water, the use of more than 100 hooks on all devices combined is prohibited.

  • Hand-Operated Device Restriction: Fishing with hand-operated devices held underwater is prohibited in fresh water, except for the use of spears or spear guns to take nongame fish.

  • Exclusivity of Listed Methods: Only methods and devices listed here are considered legal for use in Texas.

Legal Devices

Cast Net

  • Description: A net hand-thrown over an area.

  • Usage Restrictions:

    • Legal for capturing nongame fish and other aquatic animals, including crabs, crayfish, and shrimp (refer to shrimp regulations).
    • Diameter must not exceed 14 feet.
    • In salt water, nongame fish may only be taken for bait purposes.

Crab Line

  • Description: A baited line with no hook attached.

  • Usage: No specific restrictions apply.

Crab Traps

  • Limitations:
    • Only 6 crab traps may be used at a time for non-commercial purposes.
    • Crab traps may only be removed from the water or have crabs removed from them during the period from 30 minutes before sunrise to 30 minutes after sunset.

Crab Trap Tagging Requirements

  • Tagging Protocol:
    • Must be accompanied by a gear tag valid for 10 days.
    • The gear tag must be attached within 6 inches of the buoy or pier to which the trap is tied.

Crab Trap Construction and Design Restrictions

  • Size Limitation: Crab traps may not exceed 18 cubic feet in volume.

  • Escape Vents: Each crab-retaining chamber must have at least 2 escape vents on the outside trap walls, with a diameter of at least 2-3/8 inches.

  • Buoy Marking: Crab traps must be marked with a white floating buoy of specific dimensions, bearing a contrasting color center stripe. Plastic bottles are prohibited as buoys or floats.

  • Degradable Panel Requirement: Crab traps must include a degradable panel to facilitate escape of trapped crabs. Several methods for incorporating degradable panels are outlined, including using untreated twine or wire or incorporating specific opening designs.

Crab Trap Placement and Location Restrictions

  • Proximity Limitation: Crab traps must not be placed closer than 100 feet from any other crab trap, except when secured to a pier or dock.

  • Fresh Water Prohibition: Crab traps are prohibited from being fished in public fresh waters.

  • Specific Area Restrictions: Detailed restrictions apply to various water areas, including proximity to navigable channels and specific geographical locations such as Aransas County and certain sections of the San Bernard River.

  • Cedar Bayou Restriction: Placement of any type of trap is prohibited within Cedar Bayou between specified department signs.

Dip Net

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

  • Legal Usage:

    • Only permitted for capturing nongame fish and other aquatic animal life including crabs, crayfish, and shrimp.
    • Can be utilized to aid in the landing of fish caught by other legal devices.
    • In saltwater, restricted to taking nongame fish for bait purposes only.

Folding Panel Traps

  • Description: Folding panel traps are designed to trap crabs exclusively.

  • Restrictions:

    • Only crabs may be taken using folding panel traps.
    • The overall surface area (including panels) must not exceed 16 square feet.


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

  • Usage:

    • Only permissible for aiding in the landing of fish caught on other legal devices, means, or methods.
    • Fish landed with a gaff must not be below the minimum, above the maximum, or within a protected length limit.


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

  • Usage:

    • May be used to take nongame fish only.


  • Description: Handfishing involves fishing by the use of hands only.

  • Restrictions:

    • The use of any other fishing device while handfishing is unlawful.
    • Intentional placement of traps in public freshwater bodies for catfish handfishing purposes is prohibited.
    • Handfishing may be used to take channel, blue, and flathead catfish in fresh water only.


  • Description: A jugline is a fishing line with five or fewer hooks and a gear tag tied to a free-floating device.

  • Usage:

    • Reserved 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

  • Gear Tag Usage:

    • Must be accompanied by a valid gear tag attached within 6 inches of the free-floating device.
    • Gear tag validity extends for 6 days from the set date and should include the permit number for selling nongame fish taken from fresh water if applicable.
    • Properly marked buoys or floats serve as valid gear tags.
  • Marking Specifications:

    • For non-commercial purposes, a jugline must bear a free-floating device of any color other than orange, with dimensions not less than 6 inches in length and 3 inches in width.
    • For commercial purposes, an orange, free-floating device, with dimensions not less than 6 inches in length and 3 inches in width, must mark the jugline.

Placement and Location Restrictions

Juglines are prohibited for use in the following areas:

  • Community Fishing Lakes
  • Reservoirs or sections of rivers entirely within state park boundaries
  • Specific locations including Bellwood Lake in Smith County, Boerne City Lake in Kendall County, and others listed below.

Lawful Archery Equipment

  • Allowed Equipment:

    • Longbow, recurved bow, compound bow, and crossbow.
    • Solely permitted for the capture of NONGAME fish.
    • Edible or bait-usable fish, including all gar species, common carp, and buffalo, cannot be released back into the water after capture with lawful archery equipment (see Waste of Fish).
  • Regulations and Restrictions:

    • Statewide regulations generally allow bow fishing in most public waters. However, bow fishers should verify with local authorities regarding any ordinances restricting the use of archery equipment.

Minnow Trap

  • Legal Usage:
    • Solely permitted for the capture of nongame fish and other aquatic animals such as crayfish and shrimp.
    • Trap length must not exceed 24 inches, with a throat no larger than 1 inch by 3 inches.
    • Must be identified with a floating buoy, not orange in color, measuring at least 6 inches in length and 3 inches in width, with a visibly attached gear tag valid for 6 days.

Oyster Dredge

  • Specifications:
    • Width should not exceed 14 inches.

Perch Traps

  • Usage Restrictions:
    • Exclusively allowed for utilization in saltwater.
    • Legal for the capture of nongame fish and other aquatic animals like crayfish and shrimp.
    • Volume must not surpass 18 cubic feet.
    • Requires marking with a visible orange buoy measuring at least 6 inches in length and width, accompanied by a gear tag valid for 6 days.
    • Equipped with a degradable panel as specified for crab traps.
    • Prohibited from placement within Cedar Bayou as per specific regulations.

Pole and Line

  • Definition:

    • A line with a hook attached to a pole, inclusive of a rod and reel.
  • Permitted Usage:

    • Authorized for capturing both game and nongame fish.
    • Unlawful to use pole and line for fish capture by foul-hooking, snagging, or jerking. Foul-hooking occurs when a fish is caught by a hook in an area other than its mouth.
  • Special Regulations:

    • In specific areas like the Guadalupe River in Comal County, restrictions apply to retaining rainbow and brown trout, limiting the usage of artificial lures without organic or living components.
    • Exclusive method for fishing in designated areas such as Community Fishing Lakes, state park river sections, and specified reservoirs and lakes.

Sail Line

  • Usage Limitations:
    • Solely permitted for saltwater application.
    • Classified as a type of trotline, with one end secured onshore and the other attached to a wind-powered floating device or sail.
  • Species Allowed for Capture:
    • Authorized for capturing nongame fish, red drum, spotted seatrout, and sharks.
  • Regulations:
    • Each fisherman is limited to deploying one sail line, which must be attended at all times during fishing.
    • Prohibited for commercial purposes.
    • Permissible for use throughout the week.

Tagging Requirements

  • Mandatory Tagging:
    • Requires a valid saltwater trotline tag for each 300 feet of the mainline or fraction thereof utilized for fishing.

Construction and Design Restrictions for Sail Lines

  • Length Limitation:

    • Sail lines are restricted to a maximum length of 1,800 feet from reel to sail.
  • Color Requirements:

    • The sail and the closest float to the shore must be brightly colored in orange or red, while all other floats must be yellow.
    • No float is allowed to exceed 200 feet from the sail.
  • Weight Attachment:

    • A weight of 1 ounce or more must be affixed to the line, positioned not less than 4 feet and not more than 6 feet from the most shoreward float.
  • Reflectors:

    • Reflectors, covering at least 2 square inches, must be securely attached to both the sail and floats, ensuring visibility from all directions during nighttime operation.
  • Hook Limitation:

    • A sail line may contain a maximum of 30 hooks, with no specified hook spacing requirement.
    • No hook may be positioned more than 200 feet from the sail.
  • Baiting Allowance:

    • Both natural and artificial bait are permissible for use with sail lines.

Placement and Location Restrictions

  • Compliance Requirements:
    • Sail lines must adhere to placement and location standards applicable to saltwater trotlines.

Sand Pump

  • Operational Constraints:
    • Limited to manual operation only.
    • Prohibited for commercial purposes.


  • Definition:

    • A seine consists of a non-metallic mesh webbing, buoyed upwards by a floatline at the top and weighted at the bottom, which includes a push net.
  • Permitted Usage:

    • Legally allowed for capturing nongame fish and other aquatic animals such as crabs, crayfish, and shrimp.
  • Size Limitation:

    • The length of a seine may not exceed 20 feet, with mesh size restricted to not exceed 1/2-inch square.
  • Operational Requirement:

    • Must be manually operated.
    • In saltwater, seines may be employed solely for capturing nongame fish for bait purposes.

Shad Trawl

  • Usage Limitation:

    • Exclusive to freshwater environments.
    • Employed as a bag-shaped net for dragging along the bottom or through the water to capture aquatic life.
  • Permissible Targets:

    • Legally designated for capturing nongame fish and other aquatic animals like crayfish and shrimp.
  • Size Restrictions:

    • Maximum length capped at 6 feet with a mouth diameter not exceeding 36 inches.
  • Configuration:

    • May feature a funnel or throat for improved efficiency and must be towed either by boat or hand.


  • Definition:

    • Any shaft equipped with single or multiple points, barbed or barbless, capable of propulsion by various means, excluding arrows.
  • Authorized Usage:

    • Limited to the capture of nongame fish exclusively.

Spear Gun

  • Description:

    • Hand-operated apparatus specifically designed for propelling a spear, excluding crossbows.
  • Permitted Targets:

    • Solely intended for the capture of nongame fish.
  • Restriction:

    • Not sanctioned for use in Community Fishing Lakes.


  • Exclusive Application:

    • Designed for freshwater usage only.
  • Component Description:

    • Comprises a fishing line with a maximum of five hooks, anchored to a permanent fixture with a float attached at or above the waterline, along with a gear tag. Additional elements may include swivels, snaps, rubber, and rigid support structures.
  • Permissible Targets:

    • Authorized for capturing nongame fish, channel catfish, blue catfish, and flathead catfish.
  • Gear Tag Requirement:

    • Must be equipped with a valid gear tag, effective for 6 days from the designated date.
  • Marking Specifications:

    • For non-commercial purposes, must be identified with a float of any color except orange, measuring at least 6 inches in length and 3 inches in width.
    • For commercial purposes, must be marked with an orange float of similar dimensions.

Placement and Location Restrictions for Throwlines

Throwlines may not be used in the following locations:

  • Community Fishing Lakes
  • Reservoirs or sections of rivers entirely within state park boundaries
  • Bellwood Lake in Smith County
  • Boerne City Lake in Kendall County
  • Brushy Creek Lake and downstream area 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 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)

  • Designation: Solely for use in saltwater environments.
  • Description: Bag-shaped net dragged along the bottom or through the water to capture aquatic life. Only hand-operated trawls are permissible; the use of mechanical devices is prohibited.
  • Usage Limitation: Only one trawl per boat allowed.
  • Tag Requirement: Must possess an individual bait-shrimp trawl tag while trawling.
  • Size and Mesh Specifications:
    • Width between doors must not exceed 20 feet.
    • Mesh size not smaller than 8-3/4 inches over a consecutive series of five stretched meshes.
    • Boards limited to 450 square inches each.
  • Permitted Retention:
    • Nongame fish (excluding species under bag or size limits) taken incidentally during legal shrimping operations may be retained.
  • Bait Allowance: Up to 200 nongame fish captured with an individual bait-shrimp trawl per person may be retained for bait purposes only.


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

Permissible Catch

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

General Construction and Design Restrictions

  • Mainline Length: Must not exceed 600 feet.
  • Hook Spacing: Hooks must be spaced at least 3 horizontal feet apart.
  • Prohibited Equipment:
    • Metallic stakes.
    • Main fishing line, hooks, and stagings placed above the water's surface.

Tag and Marking Requirements for Fresh Water Trotlines

  • Gear Tag: A valid gear tag must be attached within 3 feet of the first hook at each end of the trotline, valid for 6 days after the specified date.
  • Marking:
    • For non-commercial purposes: Must be marked with floats of any color other than orange, at least 6 inches in length and 3 inches in width.
    • For commercial purposes: Must be marked with orange floats, at least 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 for Trotlines

Trotlines may not be used in the following locations:

  1. Community Fishing Lakes
  2. Reservoirs or sections of rivers lying entirely within the boundaries of a state park
  3. Bellwood Lake in Smith County
  4. Boerne City Lake in Kendall County
  5. Brushy Creek Lake and Brushy Creek downstream from the lake to the Williamson/Milam County line
  6. Canyon Lake Project #6 in Lubbock County
  7. Dixieland Reservoir in Cameron County
  8. Fayette County Reservoir in Fayette County
  9. Gibbons Creek Reservoir in Grimes County
  10. Lake Bastrop in Bastrop County
  11. Lake Bryan in Brazos County
  12. Lakes Coffee Mill and Davy Crockett in Fannin County
  13. Lake Naconiche in Nacogdoches County
  14. Lake Pflugerville in Travis County
  15. North Concho River from O.C. Fisher dam to the Bell Street dam
  16. Pinkston Reservoir in Shelby County
  17. South Concho River from Lone Wolf dam to Bell Street dam
  18. Tankersley Reservoir in Titus County
  19. Wheeler Branch Reservoir in Somervell County

Tagging Requirements for Saltwater Trotlines

  • Each 300 feet of mainline or fraction thereof must have a valid Saltwater Trotline Tag attached. These tags must be purchased at TPWD Law Enforcement offices.
  • A valid GEAR TAG must be attached within 3 feet of the first hook at each end of the trotline. The tag does not need to be dated.

Construction and Design Restrictions for Saltwater Trotlines

  • Must be marked with a yellow floating buoy, measuring not less than 6 inches in height, length, and width. The buoy must bear a two-inch wide stripe of contrasting color.
  • Buoys or floats made of plastic bottles of any color or size are prohibited.
  • Trotlines may only be baited with natural bait, which includes whole or cut-up portions of fish or shellfish, or plant material in its natural state.
  • Only circle-type hooks with the point curved in and a gap (distance from point to shank) of no more than one-half inch are allowed. The diameter of the circle must not be less than five-eighths inch.

Placement and Location Restrictions for Saltwater Trotlines

  • Trotlines may not be used in or on the waters of the Gulf of Mexico within the jurisdiction of the state.
  • They must 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.
  • In Aransas County, trotlines are prohibited in Little Bay and the water area of Aransas Bay within one-half mile of specific geographical boundaries.
  • Trotlines and their components (excluding poles) must not be left in or on coastal waters between certain specified hours from Friday to Sunday each week, except for attended sail lines. Compliance with this provision is mandatory during adverse weather conditions outlined in marine weather advisories issued by the National Weather Service.

Umbrella Net Regulations

  • Umbrella Net Description:
    • An innovative non-metallic mesh net design suspended horizontally in water by multiple lines affixed to a sturdy frame.
  • Permitted Usage:
    • Solely for the capture of nongame fish and various aquatic species like crabs, crayfish, and shrimp.
  • Restriction on Frame Area:
    • The net's frame area must not surpass 16 square feet to comply with regulations.

Additional Equipment

  • Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) and Bait Launchers
    • Approved methods for the delivery of bait, subject to federal regulations.

Fishing Definitions

Artificial Lure Definition

  • Definition:
    • Refers to any artificial bait, including flies, equipped with one or more hooks and crafted by humans for the purpose of attracting fish.

Bait Description

  • Definition:
    • Any substance employed to entice wildlife resources. Using game fish or any portion thereof as bait is prohibited.

Catch Clarification

  • Definition:
    • Encompasses the act of capturing or killing wildlife resources, including any attempts thereof.

Community Fishing Lake Explanation

  • Definition:
    • Denotes all public reservoirs, each under 75 acres in size, situated entirely within city limits or public parks, and those within state park boundaries.
    • These lakes are subject to special fishing regulations.

Culling Definition

  • Definition:
    • The act of releasing a fish from an angler's possession to be replaced by another fish of the same species.

Daily Bag Limit Clarification (Anglers)

  • Definition:
    • Specifies the maximum quantity of a particular wildlife resource, such as fish, permissible to be taken by an angler within a single day.

Day Description

  • Definition:
    • A 24-hour interval commencing at midnight and concluding at the subsequent midnight.

Edible Condition Explanation

  • Definition:
    • Indicates suitability for human consumption. It excludes any part of a game bird, game animal, or fish compromised due to various factors such as bullet or arrow damage, decay, or disease.

Fishing Interpretation

  • Definition:
    • The act of capturing or attempting to capture aquatic animal life utilizing any method.

Fishing Guide Definition

  • Definition:
    • An individual who, for compensation, accompanies, aids, or transports individuals engaged in fishing within Texas waters.

Fishing Guide Deck Hand Description

  • Definition:
    • A personnel member employed by a fishing guide, responsible for assisting in operating a vessel for compensation while accompanying or transporting fishing individuals.

Gear Tag Explanation

  • Definition:
    • A durable tag affixed to fishing equipment, bearing the user's name or address, or customer number, along with the date the device was deployed.

Nongame Fish Definition

  • Definition:
    • Encompasses all species not designated as game fish, excluding endangered and threatened species regulated separately.

Non-resident Clarification

  • Definition:
    • An individual who lacks residency status in Texas, excluding officially documented members of the Kickapoo Traditional Tribe of Texas or active-duty members of the U.S. Armed Forces (and their dependents).

Possession Limit Explanation (Anglers)

  • Definition:
    • The maximum number of fish an individual may possess before returning to their permanent residence. Generally, it's twice the daily bag limit for both game and nongame fish.

Residence Description

  • Definition:
    • Refers to a permanent dwelling where an individual regularly sleeps and stores personal belongings, excluding temporary abodes like hunting or fishing camps.

Resident Interpretation

  • Definition:
    • A person who has resided continuously in Texas for over six months preceding the purchase of their license, or an officially documented member of the Kickapoo Traditional Tribe of Texas, or an active-duty member of the U.S. Armed Forces (or their dependents).

Wildlife Resource Explanation

  • Definition:
    • Any untamed animal, bird, or aquatic life subject to regulation.

Wildlife Resource Document (WRD) Interpretation

  • Definition:
    • A legal document enabling the transfer, receipt, or possession of legally acquired game birds, game fish, or game animals. It must include specific details such as the parties involved, species, date, and location.

Fishing With a Boat: Safety Measures and Guidelines

Life Jacket Requirements

  • Wearable Life Jackets:
    • Each individual aboard must have a wearable life jacket of Types I, II, or III, approved by the U.S. Coast Guard.
  • Throwable Device:
    • Boats 16 feet or longer must carry a Type IV throwable flotation device.
  • Children Safety:
    • Children under 13 must wear a personal flotation device while on vessels under 26 feet in length.

Boater Education

  • Mandatory Course:
    • Individuals born after September 1, 1993, must complete a boater education course before operating certain vessels.
  • Exceptions:
    • An individual 18 or older who is legally qualified can operate the vessel without completing the course if present on board.

Operating Under Influence

  • Intoxication Prohibition:
    • Operating a boat while intoxicated (0.08% BAC) is against state law.

Safety Precautions

  • Weather Check:
    • Before departure, check the weather and inform a friend about your itinerary.
  • Gear Distribution:
    • Properly distribute and secure fishing gear to avoid overloading the boat.
  • Weight Distribution:
    • Keep weight low and evenly distributed to maintain stability.
  • Seating and Movement:
    • Remain seated as much as possible to prevent capsizing or falls overboard.
  • Anchoring:
    • Avoid anchoring from the stern of the boat to prevent accidents.

Preventing the Spread of Invasive Species

Zebra Mussels

  • Draining Water:
    • Boaters must drain all water from vessels and receptacles when leaving or approaching public fresh water in Texas to prevent the spread of invasive zebra mussels.

Bighead and Silver Carp

  • Transport Restrictions:
    • Live, non-game fishes cannot be transported from certain water bodies to prevent the spread of invasive bighead and silver carp.

Anchoring Regulations

Trinity River

  • Time Limitation:
    • Anchoring or leaving a boat unattended for extended periods in the Trinity River below Livingston Dam is restricted to prevent obstruction and hazards.

Cedar Bayou

  • Anchoring Limit:
    • Anchoring or mooring a vessel for more than two consecutive days in Cedar Bayou is prohibited to manage usage and environmental impact.

Special Areas and Restrictions

Redfish Bay State Scientific Area

  • Protection Measures:
    • Preservation of signs and markers placed by the department within the Redfish Bay State Scientific Area is mandated to ensure conservation efforts.

Rio Grande

  • Wild and Scenic River:
    • Portions of the Rio Grande adjacent to the Black Gap Wildlife Management Area are designated as "Wild and Scenic River," with special federal regulations in place. Contact the Big Bend National Park for more information.

Bow Fishing Regulations in Texas

Fishing License

  • A freshwater, saltwater, or all-water license package is required for bow fishing in Texas public waters.
  • Exceptions:
    • Individuals under 17 years of age.
    • Texas residents born before January 1, 1931.

Legal Equipment

  • Bow fishing is permitted with longbows, recurved bows, compound bows, or crossbows.

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:
    • NOT listed as a game fish and
    • NOT listed as an endangered or threatened species
  • 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

  • Bow fishing is permitted in Texas coastal waters, most rivers, and large lakes, except in:
    • Community Fishing Lakes: public impoundments of 75 acres or less, located within a city or a public park.
    • Lakes lying totally within the boundaries of a Texas state park, or anywhere on state park property.

Possession and Transport of Exotic Aquatic Species in Texas

General Rules

  • It is illegal 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, as well as fishes like tilapia and invasive carps (grass, silver, and bighead carp), and zebra mussels.
  • Boats with attached zebra mussels must be moved to a maintenance shop for cleaning or other maintenance, with prior notification to the department at least 72 hours in advance.
  • It is unlawful to possess 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.
  • Mandatory removal and lawful disposal of any harmful or potentially harmful aquatic plant attached to vessels or watercraft are required, with violators subject to a fine of $25-$500.

Mandatory Draining of Water from Vessels

  • Persons leaving or approaching public fresh water must drain all water from their vessels and on-board receptacles.
  • Live fish, including personally caught live bait, cannot be transported from the water body where they were caught.
  • Transport and use of commercially purchased live bait in water while fishing from a vessel is allowed, provided the bait source is identified.
  • Participants in fishing tournaments confined to one water body may transport live fish in water from that single water body to an identified off-site weigh-in location, with proper drainage and disposal of water.

Rule to Prevent Spread of Bighead and Silver Carp

  • It is unlawful to transport live, non-game fishes from specific areas in Texas, including the Red River and all tributary waters in certain counties, 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.
Wild Advisor Pro


The legal advice provided on Wild Advisor Pro is intended as a summary of the hunting, camping, hiking, and fishing laws and regulations and does not constitute legal language or professional advice. We make every effort to ensure the information is accurate and up to date, but it should not be relied upon as legal authority. For the most current and comprehensive explanation of the laws and regulations, please consult the official government websites or a qualified legal professional. Wild Advisor Pro is not responsible for any misunderstandings or misinterpretations of the information presented and shall not be held liable for any losses, damages, or legal disputes arising from the use of this summary information. Always check with the appropriate governmental authorities for the latest information regarding outdoor regulations and compliance.