Texas Sport Anglers – What’s the Legal Limit on Fish?

If you’re a Texas sport angler, it’s important to know the legal limits on the fish you can catch. Here’s a quick guide to help you stay within the law.

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The Basics

Sport fishing in Texas is a $1.8 billion industry annually, according to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. That’s a lot of people wetting a line in the Lone Star State. But before you cast your line, you need to know a little bit about the regulations. The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department sets the rules for sport fishing in Texas.

The State of Texas has established daily bag and size limits for certain fish species to help ensure healthy populations for recreational fishing. These bag and size limits vary depending on the fish species and the water body where they are caught.

In general, the bag limit is the maximum number of a particular species of fish that an angler can keep in a single day. The size limit is the minimum length (measured from tip of nose to tip of tail) or maximum weight of a fish that can be legally kept. There are also some special regulations that prohibit anglers from keeping certain fish at all, regardless of bag or size limits.

The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) periodically updates these regulations in order to protect fish populations and provide anglers with opportunities to catch quality fish. For the most up-to-date information on fishing regulations, check the TPWD website or contact your local TPWD office.

The Different Types of Fish

Sport fishing is a popular activity in Texas. If you’re new to the sport, you may be wondering what the legal limit is on fish. The limit depends on the type of fish.

Largemouth Bass

Largemouth bass must be at least 14 inches long to keep. Only one fish longer than 22 inches may be kept per day. The daily bag limit for largemouth bass is five fish per day.

All black bass, including largemouth and smallmouth, are subject to a 16-inch minimum length limit and a five-fish daily bag limit.. A fish shorter than 14 inches may not be held in live well or brought ashore.

Largemouth Bass are olive green, brassy brown or black in color with a series of dark, horizontal stripes along the sides of their bodies. The upper jaw of a largemouth bass extends well past the eye. The sides of the head and chin have a series of dark spots.

Smallmouth Bass

All bass, including smallmouth bass, must be 14 inches or longer to be legal to keep. Only one black bass, of any size or species, may be kept per day. The daily bag limit for black bass also includes Largemouth Bass and Spotted Bass.

Spotted Bass

The spotted bass (Micropterus punctulatus), also called speckled bass or specs, is a fresh and brackish water fish that is most closely related to the largemouth bass. They are in the sunfish family along with crappie, bluegill, and others. Unlike their cousins, spotted bass have a tooth patch on the tongue rather than on the roof of the mouth.

Found throughout Texas in slow-moving rivers and streams with sand or gravel bottoms as well as lakes and reservoirs, spotted bass prefer clear water with plenty of aquatic vegetation. Staying close to cover, they wait to ambush their prey which consists of small fish, crayfish, and insects. Spotted bass are schooling fish but will break off into smaller groups or become loners during spawning season which is usually March through May.

These popular sport fish average 8 to 10 inches long but can grow up to 20 inches long and 4 pounds in weight. The record for Texas was set in 1992 with a spec that weighed 8 pounds, 13 ounces and was caught in Lake Palestine. Spotted bass have dark vertical stripes on their sides which may be hard to see depending on the water conditions. The fish’s back is greenish brown to olive in color while the sides lighten to a silvery sheen. Its belly is white or yellowish.

Guadalupe Bass

The Guadalupe bass is the State fish of Texas. This black bass grows to about 20 inches long and 3-5 pounds. Guadalupe bass are found in rivers and creeks that flow into the Guadalupe, San Antonio, Colorado, Brazos, Nueces and Trinity Rivers. Live bait or lures work well for Guadalupe bass. The limit is 5 per day with a 14-inch minimum length.


All black crappie have 5-9 vertical bars on the sides of their bodies. During spawning, the males will develop a brighter coloration, while the females will remain darker. The base color of both sexes is olive green to brown on the back, shading to white on the belly. Most often they have scattered spots on the sides. A line along each side from below the eye to the base of the tail fin is usually evident. Black crappie are easily distinguished from white crappie by looking at the structure of their mouths. Black crappie have upper jaws that extends well beyond the lower jaw, while white crappie have upper jaws that extend only slightly past their lower jaws


There are two species of catfish commonly caught by anglers in Texas: the channel catfish (Ictalurus punctatus) and the blue catfish (Ictalurus furcatus). Texas has excellent populations of both species statewide, with fish exceeding 20 pounds not uncommon. Good numbers of channel and blue catfish can be found in most Texas rivers, creeks and large reservoirs.

Texas’ state record channel catfish was caught in the Red River near Wichita Falls on Jan. 7, 2004. It weighed 58 pounds, 4 ounces and measured 54 inches long with a 33-inch girth. The state record blue catfish was caught May 12, 2005, in Lake Texoma. The giant fish weighed 121 pounds, 0 ounces and measured 60 inches long with a 40-inch girth.

The Consequences of Breaking the Law

It is important to know the legal limit on fish when sport fishing in Texas. If you are caught with more fish than the legal limit, you could be fined and/or have your fishing license suspended. In addition, your catch may be confiscated.


The penalties for violating Texas fishing laws can be severe. The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) lists the following as possible consequences for breaking fishing laws:
-A fine of up to $500
-Loss of fishing privileges (being barred from fishing in Texas for a period of time)
-Jail time

Jail Time

A person who violates state fishing laws can be fined up to $500 and jailed for up to 180 days. A second offense can result in a fine of up to $1,000 and up to one year in jail.

License Revocation

Pursuant to Parks and Wildlife Code, Chapter 66, anyone convicted of a fishing violation may have their license suspended or revoked. The length of the revocation is set by court order and may range from one year to the permanent loss of the privilege to fish in Texas.

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