May 24, 2024

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Canyon Lake fishing: the Complete Guide

Canyon Lake close to San Antonio, New Braunfels, San Marcos and Wimberley in the Texas hill country. It is part of the Guadalupe River. You can walk on the dam. There are many beaches on the shores.

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If you’ve ever been to San Antonio or Austin, you probably already know about Canyon Lake. Swimmers, jet skiers, tubers, and partygoers come here from around the Lone Star State – and beyond – every year without fail. “The Jewel of the Hill Country” knows waterside relaxation inside out. 

But does Canyon Lake fishing match up? While you most certainly can fish here, whether or not you should has long been debated off the docks and on the internet. We’re here to set the record straight.

Canyon Lake holds over 8,000 acres of water. It isn’t the biggest lake in the state, but it is one of the deepest. It’s also one of the clearest. There’s a reason why these waters went viral on TikTok – they have perfect see-through visibility. Come with us and see what lies beneath Canyon Lake’s shimmering blue surface.

Canyon Lake Fish Species

When you look at the kind of fish living in Canyon Lake, you’d be surprised that more anglers don’t come here. All the heavy-hitting freshwater sport fish of the south live beneath these waters. And while they don’t usually grow super large, most people agree that they’re unusually strong for their size. Let’s take a look at the top targets…


Two adults and a child stand aboard a boat on Canyon Lake with a forested shoreline in the background on a sunny day, each holding a Bass
Photo courtesy of Redemptional Fishing And Outdoors

They may be small compared to some river monsters, but Black Bass have an enormous following. And Canyon Lake is home to three types of them! Largemouth Bass are the most common and the most sought-after. Trophies are relatively rare and the lake’s record stands at a little less than 12 pounds. But smaller fish are still great fun to catch, as the local population put up a disproportionately strong fight for their size.

Canyon Lake Bass fishing is about more than Largemouths, though. There’s a small but mighty population of Smallmouth Bass here that are reproducing naturally after they were stocked in the 1970s and 80s. You’re most likely to find them in rocky areas in the lower third of the lake, towards the Canyon Lake Dam. Both Smallmouth and Largemouth Bass bite best in spring, fall, and winter.

Our favorite thing about Canyon Lake, though, is its population of Guadalupe Bass. Texas’s state fish are native to the Edwards Plateau region and the Guadalupe River (via Canyon Lake) is one of the best places to catch them. Fish the lake from April to August with natural bait for the best chances of catching one.

Striped Bass

A woman and a man stand aboard a boat with a string of several Striped Bass on the Guadalupe River in Canyon Lake
Photo courtesy of Redemptional Fishing And Outdoors

Similar to Black Bass by name but not by nature, Striped Bass are true bruisers of Canyon Lake’s fishing scene. They aren’t related to Largemouth Bass or any of the Guadalupe River’s original inhabitants. That’s because they naturally live in and near saltwater on the East Coast. But thanks to the TPWD’s annual stocking program, you can try Striper fishing in Canyon Lake every year.

The largest Striped Bass caught in Canyon Lake weighed over 40 pounds. That alone is enough to encourage most people to fish here. Look for them schooling around humps and points in the main lake in the summer and early fall. Or, come from February to April to target them in the river portion of the reservoir. There’s a chance you’ll catch their close cousin, White Bass, here too.

Although most Stripers are amazing table fare, the Texas Department of State Health Services advises against eating the ones from Canyon Lake because these beautiful clear waters hold unusually high levels of mercury. We also suggest practicing catch and release!


A smiling man in sunglasses holds a Rainbow Trout on the lower Guadalupe River by a tree-lined bank on a sunny day in the winter
Photo courtesy of NB Fly – Trophy Trout Trips

Follow the Guadalupe River past the Canyon Lake Dam, and you’ll soon learn that these waters are famous for much more than tubing. The cold water that gushes from the dam combines with an annual Trout stocking program to make this one of the top 100 Trout streams in the US!

This is the only place in Texas where you can find Brown and Rainbow Trout all year round. Some lucky anglers have even managed to catch a “Golden Ticket” here – the elusive Palomino Trout.

The best time to enjoy this fishery is in the winter. Stocking programs happen regularly between November and March, transforming the Horseshoe Bend from a summertime party spot to a fly fishing paradise. Just be aware that the river between Canyon Lake and New Braunfels has two separate Trout fishing areas, each with its own size and bag limits.

What else?

Although they aren’t the most common fish to catch here, Crappie in Canyon Lake can be quite productive. Meanwhile, Channel, Blue, and Flathead Catfish feed around the canyon’s depths and Redbreast Sunfish provide a fun day on light tackle for all the family. Oh, and if you’re looking for a truly exciting fish, try casting for the lake’s very own dinosaurs – Longnose Gar.

How to Fish Canyon Lake, Texas

A smiling man stands on a Bass boat holding a large Smallmouth Bass in one hand and a fishing rod in the other next to a clump of reeds
Photo courtesy of Redemptional Fishing And Outdoors

Given all the fish it holds, it’s surprising that people don’t talk more seriously about Canyon Lake’s fishing potential. We think this is because this very specific fishery doesn’t give up its secrets easily.

If you come here often, you’ll notice that Canyon Lake changes a lot. It can get extremely deep while it carries out its main function of stopping the Guadalupe River from flooding. But its water levels can also drop dramatically, exposing all the structure and undergrowth you’d usually be fishing several feet above. This makes it much more challenging to approach than most Texas lakes. Learn its patterns, though, and the rewards can be sweet. Here are our top tips for enjoying the fishery.

Fishing with a Guide

A young girl stands on a boat holding a fishing rod while a Canyon Lake fishing guide removes a Smallmouth Bass from a hook at the end of her line on a sunny day in winter
Photo courtesy of Fishhooks Adventures

No matter where you fish, it’s worth hiring a guide to show you around. Nowhere is this more true than Canyon Lake. If you’re not fishing these waters day in, day out, it pays to go with someone who is.

Canyon Lake fishing guides understand the lake’s constantly changing conditions because they fish it more than anyone. This means they can turn what would otherwise be a slow fishing day into an action-packed tour. They’ll also provide appropriate bait and tackle for the season and target fish, so you only need to think about reeling in your catch.

Fishing on Your Own

If you’d rather go it alone, our advice is to stay on top of the lake’s changes. Fish it as regularly as you can and keep a log of what is and isn’t working. This will help you spot patterns and increase your chances of catching fish.

Come with a selection of topwater baits, crankbaits, and soft plastics, and be ready to mix them up. Sometimes, using smaller baits and lighter tackle than usual can increase your success rate in these super clear waters. The more you experiment, the better.

There are several areas for bank fishing around Canyon Lake. Comal Park’s inside shoreline is one of the most popular spots, both in terms of access and fishing results. Otherwise, you can rent a fishing boat from Canyon Lake Marina.

There are also three fishing piers. Check out Eastern Pier right near the dam where Trout are released every year. Or check out the North Western Pier, near Boat Ramp 21. But it’s the South Western Pier that’s the most popular. This is located where the Guadalupe River connects to Canyon Lake, putting you in casting distance of some very deep waters.

Fly Fishing

A closeup of a man with a fly rod in his mouth holding a Largemouth Bass towards the camera on a sunny day
Photo courtesy of Chasing Scales Guide Service

Whether you’re on the lake or the tailwaters below the dam, fly fishing Canyon Lake will be an experience to remember. Bring an 8 wt fly rod and attempt a fight with Striped Bass. Rig it with a fast sinking line and a short leader to get your flies deep in the water, and you’ll have a chance of catching Largemouth and Smallmouth Bass, too.

Below the dam, you’re in Trout fishing territory – with a twist. Sometimes, Stripers make it through the dam’s floodgates, too, adding an extra dimension to fly fishing the Guadalupe River. That’s partly why it still pays to bring heavier equipment to this section of the river, especially if you’re fishing during the warmer months.

Clouser-style flies with silver and gray colors work particularly well here. Otherwise, streamer patterns tied on circle hooks can be effective for Longnose Gar.

Canyon Lake Fishing Spots

A view across the calm waters of Canyon Lake towards limestone cliffs in Texas Hill Country, mirrored in the clear waters of

With the amount of changes that affect Canyon Lake throughout the year, you’d be hard-pressed to reliably catch fish from just one location. Explore the entire area to get the most out of the fishery. Here are some thoughts on where to start… 

  • The Guadalupe River. The northeastern part of the reservoir follows the original bends and meanders of the river, even though the water levels are much higher than 100 years ago. There’s a lot of submerged tree coverage here, making it a good place to fish for Largemouth Bass and Crappie. If you’re here in spring, look out for White and Striped Bass, which naturally move up the river to spawn. With all the tree coverage, some recent growth of hydrilla, and less pressure from swimmers and boaters, this section can be one of the most effective areas to fish in Canyon Lake. 
  • The Main Lake Area. As the waters open out into the lake proper, they get more susceptible to windy conditions – and tourists. This part of the lake is usually best to fish early in the morning or during the week when there’s less traffic from jet skis. Smallmouth Bass fishing can be excellent around the cliffs, while Striped Bass school around the deeper humps in the summer. The numerous creeks and grassy areas leading into the main lake section are also good places to look for Largemouth Bass.
  • The Lower Guadalupe River. We’ve talked about the amazing Trout fishing in the tailwaters of the Canyon Lake Dam. Come out of the main tourist season, and this is your gateway to the best Trout fishing in the south. There’s also an added bonus of fishing here in the winter – you’ll enjoy the phenomenal surroundings without all the vacationers! 

Canyon Lake Fishing Regulations

Almost everyone who goes fishing in Texas needs a fishing license and Canyon Lake is no exception. If you’re over the age of 16, you’ll need to purchase a freshwater fishing license before you even think about casting a line. Check out our complete guide to getting a Texas fishing license here.

Canyon Lake itself follows statewide Texas regulations for freshwater fishing. If you want to catch Trout below the Canyon Lake Dam, though, check the size and bag limits for the specific area of the Guadalupe River you’re in.

Entering a New Era for Canyon Lake Fishing

A view of Canyon Lake from shore with a rocky shoreline curving round to the right of the photo and a green tree on the left, along with a hydrilla visible in the water by the shore

No matter what Canyon Lake’s reputation is for fishing, we believe that there’s plenty going for this popular stretch of water. And it looks like things may be about to get even better.

As you’ve probably noticed, you can’t talk about Canyon Lake without mentioning its clear blue waters. Although this is good news for swimmers, it isn’t always good news for the fish. Clear waters mean fewer places to hide because there isn’t much vegetation growing. That’s partly why people don’t rave about this beautiful lake’s fishery.

But things are looking up: big patches of hydrilla are appearing across the lake, improving the habitat for fish and the angling opportunities respectively. Here’s to hoping that this new growth in the lake continues. If it does, it may be time for Canyon Lake’s reputation to get an overhaul!

Have you ever fished Canyon Lake? How was it? Let us know what you like the most – and the least – about this fishery by leaving a comment below.

The post Canyon Lake Fishing: The Complete Guide appeared first on FishingBooker Blog.

By: Cat
Title: Canyon Lake Fishing: The Complete Guide
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Published Date: Wed, 20 Dec 2023 16:21:39 +0000

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