February 22, 2024

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Red River Fishing Complete Guide

Reading Time: 10 minutes

The Red River, also known as the Red River of the South, is overflowing with interesting facts. From the story of its origin and its importance throughout history, to its superstar status in five states, this beautiful waterway never ceases to amaze. The same goes for its angling opportunities. If you thought that this was a regular freshwater fishery, think again. Red River fishing is anything but ordinary.

The Red River connects New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Louisiana with its 1,360-mile meandering path. This means that the river boasts endless tributaries and reservoirs with incredible angling options. But the news that it’s brimming with fish and hotspots isn’t unique on its own. What leaves anglers speechless is the fact that this gem is primarily a saltwater river!

Yes, you read that right. The Red River is your inland saltwater fishing paradise. And this is what we’ll focus on in the following paragraphs, leaving the other fun facts for you to browse.

Keep on reading and find out what trophy catches await you and where you can find them. We’ll cover rules and regulations, as well as the most convenient ways of fishing the Red River. So, let’s see together what Red River fishing is all about.

What fish are in the Red River?

Apart from its shocking salinity levels, the Red River will surprise you with impressive opponents in the form of some unusual species. Take a look at the most jaw-dropping rivals first and then we’ll tell you a bit more about those stranger creatures.

Striped Bass

Are you ready for a strong opening statement? Here it goes – no fish is as popular as Striped Bass when fishing the Red River. These hefty fellas are a force to be reckoned with and the Red River is their kingdom. One area, in particular, is considered to be the ultimate Striped Bass realm: the Texas-Oklahoma border and the famous Lake Texoma.

Photo taken by Big Fish Texoma

But the entire river is a one-of-a-kind inland saltwater fishery, offering superb Striped Bass action. Besides abundance, these grounds guarantees brag-worthy specimens. While Lake Texoma is everyone’s first choice (and for good reason), seasoned anglers sometimes opt for the river because they have the chance at landing a healthy 40-pounder.

Be it the river or lake, one thing is certain – Striped Bass will bite and fight. Rig spinning rods with live shad, and Stripers will enter the ring. Overpower them, and you’ve got yourself a meaty dinner (and a good bragging story!).


The water level fluctuates throughout the year but, more often than not, the river is shallow. Naturally, boat navigation can be challenging. And with some surrounding lands privately owned, bank access can also be limited. All this may sound discouraging and not Catfish-promising, but that’s not the case. On the contrary – the Red River is a catfishing haven!

Local anglers swear that a monster Blue isn’t a phenomenon but a common occurrence when fishing the Red River. The trick is knowing where, when, and how to catch them. Teaming up with a local guide solves these dilemmas, but here’s a tip or two to get you going.

A photo of an angler wearing a cap and a pair of sunglasses while standing on a boat and proudly showing off a big Catfish caught while fishing the Red River on a cloudy fall day
Photo taken by Big Fish Texoma

Firstly, check out Denison Dam, this is the Catfish hotspot on the Red River. Truth be told, the entirety of Lake Texoma is a premier Catfish fishery, too. A record-breaking Blue was pulled from Lake Texoma in 2004 by Cody Mullennix. For a while, that wasn’t only the state record but the largest Catfish the world has ever seen, weighing astonishing 121.5 pounds!

Now that you know what you’re up against, make sure you have an ample supply of stink bait and at least a 20 lb line. If you feel brave enough, try noodling, too! And, last but not least, while catfishing is a year-round activity, we recommend early spring for clashing with the real titans.

Largemouth Bass

Our next Red River fishing contender probably comes as no surprise. Bass rank high on the most wanted game fish list, with Largemouth Bass topping the charts. They’re stubborn, strong, and unpredictable – just the qualities you’re looking for in your adversary. And with a lot of underwater structures, thick vegetation, and food, the Red River is exactly what double-digit Bass are looking for in their ideal abode. A win-win situation, right?

A photo of an angler wearing a pair of sunglasses and a cap while standing on a charter boat and holding Largemouth Bass with both hands, with the water and a brown shoreline behind him
Photo taken by Fuller’s Guide Service

But there’s more. Not only will you have your hands full while fishing the Red River, but you’ll also cross paths with serious back-breaking specimens! Similar to Catfish, you can go after Largemouth Bass during the entire year, but spring yields better results. So, gear up with crankbaits and spinnerbaits and conquer those Texas-Oklahoma monsters.

Smallmouth Bass

Speaking of Bass, let’s not forget about Smallies. Smallmouth Bass aren’t as sought-after as Largemouth Bass, but we can’t complete our Red River fishing lineup without dedicating a line or two to them as well. Largemouth and Smallmouth Bass cohabitate and their fishing seasons coincide, so don’t be surprised if you end up filling the bag with both of them at the end of the day. Sounds good, right?

A photo of a smiling angler wearing a cap and a pair of sunglasses while holding a Smallmouth Bass with both hands and posing on a charter fishing boat against a background of trees and the shoreline
Photo taken by Fuller’s Guide Service

But what should you expect from Smallies? They’re aggressive feeders ready to bite just about anything you throw at them. From minnows to crayfish-imitating crankbaits, these hungry beasties will devour everything in their way. And they won’t go down without a fight. These feisty Red River residents will put up a show for you and make you break a sweat. Get ready for tight lines!

… And More!

With Striped Bass, Catfish, Largemouth Bass, and Smallmouth Bass as headliners, we ran out of space to cover the supporting stars in detail. This, however, doesn’t mean we won’t mention them. When you’re going Red River fishing, expect to test your skills against Crappie, White, Spotted, and Hybrid Bass, too. Carp and Trout are also common in some parts of the river.

A shot of a satisfied angler wearing a cap and sunglasses while holding a big Bass with both hands and standing on a charter fishing boat on a bright spring day
Photo taken by Lake Bridgeport Guide Service

Besides your common catches, there are some slightly atypical creatures such as Gar. The Red River is the residence of Longnose and Aligator Gar. But the list of quirky species doesn’t end here. The oldest surviving animal in North America – Paddlefish – feels at home in the Red River’s tributaries, too. Incredible to look at but illegal to keep, Paddlefish are your picture-perfect Red River gift.

When should I go Red River fishing?

Red River fishing is a good idea any time of the year. Though if we’re to be completely honest, this might not apply to the entire stretch of the river and all its tributaries. New Mexico, for example, boasts excellent Red River Trout fisheries. This means superb spring and fall angling opportunities. Some Red River ponds in New Mexico are reserved only for seniors and younger anglers during certain time frames.

A group photo of fourteen happy anglers standing on the dock while posing behind three coolers filled with fish they caught during their Red River fishing trip on a spring day
Photo taken by Staley Adventures

The Texas-Oklahoma borderline is a year-round Catfish playground. Be it spring, summer, fall, or winter this region won’t fail you when it comes to Catfish and Striped Bass fishing. Spring, however, promises better results. The same goes for Largemouth and Smallmouth Bass. Both are spring and fall game fish. All in all, you get the point – there’s no shortage of fish whenever you wet your line in the Red River, but some seasons are more productive than others.

How should I go Red River fishing?

We’ll suggest the most convenient ways of fishing the Red River next. But feel free to explore it any way you like! The possibilities are endless.

Charter Fishing

Earlier, we addressed the issue of the water level being susceptible to change. Depending on the weather conditions, the river can either be ideal for many boats or it can be so shallow that only airboats can conquer it. But that’s normal and it’s something local guides are aware of and prepared for. So, if you team up with a Red River fishing charter operator you won’t have to worry about navigating the river.

A photo of five anglers smiling at the camera and posing with their thumbs up while on a charter boat getting ready to fish on Lake Texoma on a cloudy spring day
Photo taken by Captain Marty’s Lake Texoma Fishing

Besides river-appropriate vessels and top-notch equipment, Red River fishing charters will also share their expertise and local insights with you. This is crucial if you’re fishing somewhere for the first time. No one knows better these waters than local guides who regularly monitor the river’s changes and fish behavior. So, if you want to see Red River’s full potential, go fishing with a local guide.

Kayak Fishing

While kayaks can’t offer everything charter boats can, it’s safe to say that kayak fishing is sometimes more appropriate for exploring the Red River. You can easily reach the more remote parts and float above sandbars, all while getting closer to the fish without spooking them. While charter fishing promises convenience and comfort, kayak fishing guarantees a stealth approach and a close-up experience.

A photo of two anglers sitting in their kayaks near the shoreline and kayak angling on the river on a bright and sunny spring day

You should be aware that kayak fishing is usually the art of seasoned anglers. The reason for this is that kayak fishing requires enviable maneuvering, balancing, casting, and reeling skills. Mastering them individually is doable, but practicing them all at the same time can be demanding.

Shore Fishing

Rather explore the Red River fisheries on foot? Say no more! With endless miles of river at your disposal, casting from the bank is one of the most natural ways of fishing the Red River. Shore fishing is a popular form of angling for both visitors and locals. We recommend stepping in the water and wading as well. Regardless of where you stand, fly fishing is the name of the game.

A photo of an angler holding a fly fishing rod in one hand preparing to cast while standing in the water facing the shoreline and wading on an early fall morning while there’s still fog above the water’s surface

New Mexico, in particular, is ideal for fly fishing. These fisheries are regularly stocked with Trout, so if you’re hooked on the idea of landing Brook or Rainbow Trout, you know where to go. Before we let you go wild, we have to remind you to consult with the locals and authorities about your chosen bank fishing spot. Land around the river is often privately owned, so it’s better to check to make sure you aren’t trespassing.

Where are the best Red River fishing spots?

While there are probably endless prolific corners along the river, we’ll make your life easier by outlining proven hotspots. By now, you’ve realized that Lake Texoma is an unsurpassed fishery on the border between Texas and Oklahoma, so there’s no need to repeat ourselves. Take a look at other additional Red River fishing spots per state below.

An infographic featuring the FishingBooker logo and maps of New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Louisiana showing the best Red River fishing spots including Red River Fish Hatchery, Kingston, Cartwright, Denison, Pottsboro, Spring Bank, and Shreveport against the dark blue background

New Mexico

  • Red River. Is there a better way to start your Red River fishing journey than from the town named after it? Red River is a resort town in New Mexico located on the river itself. An unplugged vacation and tons of Trout await you here.
  • Red River Fish Hatchery. Another popular place in New Mexico is the Red River Fish Hatchery. This is the largest state-run hatchery producing around 1.7 million Rainbow Trout annually. Its ponds are great for self-guided trips and fishing with kids.


  • Kingston. If you’d like to explore Oklahoma’s portion of the Red River, Kingston is your best bet. Engulfed in greenery and surrounded by water, Kingston is the perfect starting point for exploring Lake Texoma.
  • Cartwright. Similar to Kingston, Cartwright offers easy access to Lake Texoma. What’s more, the town is even closer to the lake than Kingston. Lake Texoma is practically at its doorstep, but Kingston has a better offer of charters.


  • Denison. There’s no dilemma about our next Red River fishing spot. Its reputation precedes it. Connected with Cartwright, OK, by the famous Denison Dam, the city of Denison promises nothing but record-breaking Catfish and Stripers.
  • Pottsboro. What Kingston is to Oklahoma, Pottsboro is to Texas. You could say that Pottsborro is a mirror image of Kingston and vice versa. This means you won’t go wrong if you choose either of them to go Red River fishing.


  • Spring Bank. There are a couple of great angling locations along the Red River in Arkansas, but many of them are privately owned. Spring Bank is under the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission’s jurisdiction. Apart from fishing, this area is a designated hunting ground, too.


  • Shreveport. At first glance, the Red River in Shreveport’s region may appear muddy and unreliable due to constant water level changes. Numerous locks and dams dictate the river’s flow, but this isn’t a bad thing. Just ask Bassmaster Classic – they’ve chosen Shreveport as a tournament venue twice so far.

Red River Fishing FAQs

A cute photo of two kids wearing life vests while standing on a charter fishing boat docked near the shore and posing behind a cooler with fish caught that day during a Red River angling trip
Photo taken by Tony’s Fishing Charters

Red River Fishing: The South River at Its Best

An amazing group photo of more than two dozen happy anglers posing on the dock behind the table full of fish they caught during a fishing trip earlier that day
Photo taken by Striperman Fishing Guide Service

While not as renowned as the Mississippi River, the Red River of the South doesn’t live in the shadow of its more famous neighbor. This southern beauty has fought its way through thick and thin, and has managed to remain a go-to fishery across five states. There’s no doubt that this river deserves your attention. So, pack your stuff and go Red River fishing for your next vacation!

Have you ever tried fishing the Red River? What section of the river did you explore? Any noteworthy catches? Tell us all about your experience in the comments below.

The post Red River Fishing: The Complete Guide appeared first on FishingBooker Blog.

By: Tanya
Title: Red River Fishing: The Complete Guide
Sourced From: fishingbooker.com/blog/red-river-fishing/
Published Date: Wed, 26 Apr 2023 16:18:00 +0000

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