Aim Low, Think Big: Texas’ Top Rivers and Lakes for Bowfishing

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Texas is an awesome bowfishing destination. We have several rivers and lakes that are envied by the rest of the world for both numbers and size of fish. From trophy alligator gar fish to tasty tilapia, our state is full of target rich environments!

Aside from well-known lakes in Texas, we also have many power plant lakes located in different parts of the state. Since cooling the power plant keeps the water warm, many of these lakes contain tilapia, which are a great mild-tasting fish. In lakes such as Brauning and Calaveras, located in the San Antonio area, bowfishing for tilapia is excellent. Tilapia is a smart fish with very keen eyesight so I equate bowfishing for them in much of the same ways as turkey hunting. The minute you see a tilapia, draw back and shoot! In some of these lakes, plecostomus, also known as aquarium “algae-eaters”, grow to the size of small catfish, and are an invasive species that has overrun lakes like Calaveras. This makes for even more bowfishing opportunities on these man-made reservoirs. Gibbons Creek, Lake Fairfield, and Coleto Creek are also among top Texas bowfishing favorites for power plant lakes.

Many bowfishers travel long distances to Texas for trophy alligator gar. The main rule to follow for finding lakes with alligator gar is that most lakes, but not all, that have a prominent river system feeding into the Texas Gulf have them. One theory is that many decades ago, gar existed primarily in saltwater areas and migrated up freshwater rivers, especially during their spring spawning time. Many lakes were impounded on these rivers and bodies of water such as Lake Livingston, Lake Texoma, Corpus Christi Lake, Choke Canyon, Sam Rayburn, and Lake Houston. These are good examples of great bowfishing lakes for alligator gar.

The author with a buffalo on Lake Belton.

Long known for its excellent alligator gar fishing and bowfishing possibilities, the Trinity River and many of the lakes impounded along it make for great bowfishing opportunities. The Brazos River is one of professional bowfishing guide Marty McIntyre’s favorite spots for bowfishing for alligator gar close to home since it runs through North Central Texas.

Lake Ray Hubbard, Ray Roberts Lake, Lake Grandbury, Lake Grapevine, Lake Worth, and Possum Kingdom Lake rank among some of the best bowfishing lakes for North Texas. Possum Kingdom Lake regularly holds bowfishing tournaments and is a premier bowfishing destination in North Texas. Medina Lake, Lake Amistad, and Falcon Lake are among some South Texas favorites for bowfishing, especially when it comes to trophy alligator gar.

If you are new to bowfishing, keep in mind that the refraction properties of the water makes fish appear higher than they actually are in the water. For this reason, I have adopted the saying when I am teaching new bowfishers the sport: “Aim Low, Think Big”.

Hiring a bowfishing guide is an inexpensive way to get introduced to or brush up on the sport and most guides will have all the equipment you need for the trip. Since bowfishing is becoming more and more popular, there is most likely a full-time or part-time bowfishing guide service in your area. Whatever lake or river on which you choose to go bowfishing or time of day or night you choose to go out, be safe and have fun out on the water!

Story by Dustin Vaughn Warncke



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