General Fishing Regulations

Valid Sep. 1, 2018 through Aug. 31, 2019.

Fishing License Requirements

Any person who takes or attempts to take fish, mussels, clams, crayfish or other aquatic life in the public waters of Texas must have a current Texas fishing license with the appropriate endorsement. A saltwater endorsement is required to fish in coastal waters; a freshwater endorsement is required for inland waters. For details and exceptions, see license fees and packages.

Note: A hunting license is required to hunt non-protected turtles and frogs.

Game Fish

Includes hybrids and subspecies of listed fish. Game fish may be taken only by pole and line, except as otherwise provided in this guide.

  • Bass: Alabama, Guadalupe, largemouth, smallmouth, spotted, striped, white, yellow
  • Catfish: blue, channel, flathead
  • Cobia
  • Crappie: black, white
  • Mackerel: king, Spanish
  • Marlin: blue, white
  • Pickerel
  • Red drum
  • Sailfish
  • Seatrout, spotted
  • Sharks
  • Snook
  • Spearfish, longbill
  • Swordfish, broadbill
  • Tarpon
  • Tripletail
  • Trout: brown, rainbow
  • Wahoo
  • Walleye

Unlawful Activities

Also see Possession and Transport of Exotic Species

It is unlawful to:

  • Take, kill, or disturb sea turtles. Species found in the Gulf of Mexico include Green, Loggerhead, Kemp’s ridley, Leatherback and Hawksbill. If you accidentally catch a sea turtle, immediately call (866) 887-8535 for information on how to help without injuring yourself or causing further injury to the animal.
  • Take, kill, or disturb any endangered or threatened fish species (paddlefish, shovel-nosed sturgeon, sawfish and others).
  • Take or kill diamondback terrapin or marine mammals such as porpoises, dolphins or whales. Immediately call (800) 962-6625 (800-9-MAMMAL) to report a stranded marine mammal.
  • Place any game fish into public waters, other than the body of water where the fish was caught, without a valid permit issued by TPWD. This includes fish caught by pole and line. To apply for a permit to place fish into public waters (no fee required), download an application form or call (800) 792-1112 (menu 4) or (512) 389-4742.
  • Use any vessel to harry, herd or drive fish including, but not limited to, operating any vessel in a repeated circular course, for the purpose of or resulting in the concentration of fish for the purpose of taking or attempting to take fish.
  • Uproot or dig out any rooted seagrass plant from a bay bottom or other saltwater bottom in this state by means of a propeller. See additional information regarding seagrass regulations.
  • Use any game fish or part of a game fish as bait.

Tagging Fish

Although it is legal to place an identification tag (use caution as tags can damage fish) on the exterior of a fish and release it back into public waters, it is unlawful to release a fish with a device or substance implanted or attached to produce an audible, visual, or electronic signal used to monitor, track, follow, or in any manner aid in locating it.

Waste of Fish

It is unlawful to leave edible fish or bait fish taken from the public waters of the state to die without the intent to retain the fish for consumption or bait.

Special Areas and Restrictions

  • It is a violation to move, remove, deface, alter, or destroy any sign, depth marker, or other informational signage placed by the department within, or to delineate boundaries of the Redfish Bay State Scientific Area.
  • It is a violation to anchor or moor a vessel, barge, or structure for a period exceeding two consecutive days within the area in Cedar Bayou between a department sign erected where Mesquite Bay flows into Cedar Bayou and the department sign erected near the point where the pass empties in the Gulf of Mexico.
  • It is a violation to leave unattended for any period of time or anchor a barge, boat, or fishing platform in the Trinity River below Livingston Dam in an area 1,000 feet from the dam to a point 1,500 feet downstream from the dam:
    • for more than 10 hours in a 24-hour period without moving 100 feet or more during that time, or
    • for five or more consecutive days, whether or not it has been moved;
  • Portions of the Rio Grande adjacent to the Black Gap Wildlife Management Area are designated as a "Wild and Scenic River." Special federal rules apply to fishing, boating and other uses in these areas. Check the Big Bend National Park website for more information concerning these rules and boundaries.

Possession of Fish Taken from Public Water

Fish caught and immediately released are not considered to be in possession. Any fish that are retained by using any type of holding device such as stringer, cooler, livewell, or bucket are considered in an angler’s possession and must adhere to established length and bag limits. While fishing, it is illegal to be in possession of more fish than the daily bag limit or fish that are within a protected length limit.

In order to verify length and species, a fish caught may not have the head or tail removed and may not be filleted until an angler finally lands the catch on the mainland, a peninsula, or barrier island not including jetties or piers and does not transport the catch by boat. 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. The remainder of the carcass (including the tail) must remain intact and may not be filleted.

Any fish taken from public water and landed by boat or person in Texas must adhere to the length limits and daily bag and possession limits established for those fish in Texas regardless of the state or country in which they were caught.

The bag limit for a guided fishing party is equal to the total number of persons in the boat licensed to fish or otherwise exempt from holding a license minus each fishing guide and fishing guide deckhand multiplied by the bag limit for each species harvested.

Transfer and Importation of Wildlife and Aquatic Resources

A person may give or receive any legally taken wildlife or aquatic resource, or part of the resource, that is required to be tagged or that is protected by a daily bag / possession limit if the resource is accompanied by a Wildlife Resource Document (WRD). A person may use the downloadable form or a handwritten document that includes the same required information. A properly executed WRD must accompany the resource until it reaches the possessor’s permanent residence or a cold storage/processing facility, EXCEPT, no WRD is required if a person receiving the wildlife resource does not exceed the possession limit (or bag limit if in the field) and is lawfully licensed or possesses the applicable license.

It is unlawful to import a wildlife or aquatic resource into this state or possess a resource taken outside this state unless:

  • the person possesses a valid hunting, fishing, or other applicable license, endorsement, tag, permit, or document for the state or country in which the resource was legally taken; and
  • a person produces, upon request of a game warden, a valid driver’s license or personal identification certificate.

A person may possess an animal legally obtained outside of Texas that is listed as threatened or endangered in Texas if they have proof that the animal was lawfully obtained. Proof consists of bill-of-sale, license tag, permit or notarized affidavit.

Imports from Mexico

The requirements listed above are waived if a United States Customs Officer’s Statement is obtained from the United States Customs Office at the port of entry showing that the wildlife resource was brought in from Mexico. The Customs Officer’s statement must accompany the wildlife resource to its final destination.