Texas is a great U.S. state for fishing, but for good freshwater trout fishing, only the Guadalupe River in the Texas Hill Country is a dependable option.
Anglers fish the Guadalupe River in south-central Texas. The river Guadalupe is the only river that supports wild rainbow and brown trout.
The American state of Texas, located in the south-central portion of the country, is a great angling destination. From inshore saltwater fishing to some of the best bass angling in the United States, Texas is a fishing paradise.
But, if you fish for freshwater trout, there’s only one dependable river in Texas that’s home to viable trout populations. The Guadalupe River in the state’s Hill Country is a bona fide trout river.
The “Guad,” as most trout anglers call it, is a tailwater river, meaning its flows emerge from the bottom of a man-made reservoir. The water from Canyon Lake Reservoir flows into the Guadalupe River at a chilly 52 degrees (11 degrees Celsius), which is more than cold enough to sustain trout all year long.
What Kind of Trout Are in the Guadalupe?
The trout in the Guadalupe River are stocked rainbow trout and brown trout. They are raised in hatcheries and released in the river for anglers to pursue.
Some years back, I visited the Guadalupe in January. While the snow piled up at home in Idaho, the weather was cool and inviting in south-central Texas. I spent two days fly fishing for the Guad’s trout, and I was rewarded with some great catches.
The river’s rainbows were certainly more cooperative. I caught two big rainbows over 18 inches long (about 46 centimeters), and a host of foot-long fish using a bead-head hare’s ear nymph under a strike indicator.
And, in one deep run, I managed to catch a 20-inch brown trout on a Slumpbuster streamer.
While all of the trout in the river have their origins in state fish hatcheries, there are “holdover” trout. This means that some trout in the Guad make it through the steamy, hot summer months. These fish are bigger and more robust than fish fresh from the hatchery.
What’s the Best Method for Fishing the Guadalupe River?
Most anglers who fish the Guadalupe do so with fly-fishing gear. The trout in the Guadalupe will take traditional dry flies, nymphs and streamers, and the method is very effective.
The Guadalupe is considered to be one of the best 100 trout rivers in the United States, so if you’re a fly fisher, the river should be on your bucket list.
There are tight restrictions on the Guadalupe River. From 800 yards below the outflow at Canyon Lake Dam to the second bridge crossing on River Road, only flies and lures are allowed for anglers fishing the river. This is about eight miles of river.
You can use bait for trout below that second bridge crossing, but most anglers still prefer to use fly-fishing gear and techniques for the river’s trout.
Also, there is a “slot limit” if you wish to keep fish. Only five trout can be harvested from the Guadalupe. At least four of the harvested fish must be between 12 and 18 inches in length and only one fish can be longer than 18 inches. All harvested fish must be caught using artificial flies or lures.
When is the Best Time to Fish the Guadalupe?
I like to fish the Guadalupe during the cooler months between December and March. In south-central Texas, spring arrives early and summer stays late. These cooler months are when the river is at its coldest and most hospitable to trout. Trout need cold water to survive. Also, the cold water released from the dam stays cool farther downstream when it’s cooler outside.
In the warmer months, the river is harder to fish for trout. In some stretches of the river, it’s closed to trout fishing all summer long. From April all through October, the river becomes a recreational playground for people floating it in tubes and rafts. It’s much more difficult to fish with all of the people in the water.
Are There Other Fish in the Guadalupe River Besides Trout?
In addition to trout, the Guadalupe River is home to native Guadalupe bass, smallmouth bass and striped bass. The striped bass enter the river through the dam outflow, and smallmouth bass are stocked by the state. That said, it’s likely the bass reproduce naturally in the river..
During the warmer months, below the section often used by floaters and swimmers, you can fish for all three species of bass. Some of the stripers can get quite big. As long as you’re below the second bridge crossing on River Road, you can fish for bass using flies, lures and bait.
Are There Other Places to Fish for Freshwater Trout in Texas?
The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department stocks rainbow trout in a number of state parks during the winter months. If you want to harvest trout, these “put-and-take” fisheries are your best option.
The stocking schedule is different every year, and harvest limits are often different from park to park. These fish are meant to be caught and kept. They’ll only survive in the cooler winter months. Once the water starts to warm up in the spring, any remaining trout will eventually die.
So, you like to eat trout, catch your limit in the parks where state fisheries managers put them.
If you’re a trout angler, the Guadalupe River in Texas is considered one of the best trout streams in the United States. It’s certainly one of the best trout rivers in the southern U.S.
The Guad is home to abundant, hatchery-enhanced populations of rainbow and brown trout. The best time of the year to fish the Guadalupe is during the winter months, when the river’s water stays cool.
The Guadalupe is fed by the cold water entering the river from the bottom of Canyon Lake Reservoir. During the winter, the coldwater plume that supports trout stretches up to 15 miles downstream. As the weather warms, so does the river, and only the first few miles of the Guadalupe will support trout during the summer.
Fly fishing is, by far, the preferred method used by anglers fishing the Guadalupe.
Why is Winter the Best Time of Year to Fish the Guadalupe?
Trout must have cold water to survive. The Guadalupe is a tailwater river, and it’s sourced from the cold depths of Canyon Lake Reservoir. That cold “plume” of water extends several miles downstream from the dam, making this the only section of the river where trout can live. In the winter, the plume is longer. In the summer, the cold-water plume might only stretch a mile or two below the dam.
Are There Other Kinds of Trout in Texas?
Coastal Texas is home to spotted sea trout, or speckled trout. These fish might resemble freshwater trout, they are not trout at all. Spotted sea trout are a subspecies of drum, and they live in saltwater and brackish water.
Why is Fly Fishing Better for the Guadalupe?
Fly fishing isn’t necessarily a better method for fishing for trout. But, trout that caught using bait tend to take bait hooks deeper in their mouths, increasing the likelihood of injury or death. Since most anglers on the Guadalupe practice catch-and-release techniques, state fisheries managers restrict fishing to flies and lures only for the first eight miles of the river.