Texas’ coastal habitat supports thriving populations of fish species that give anglers a tremendous range of catches to enjoy, making it home to considerable sport and commercial fishing. The 3,700 miles in the Gulf of Mexico’s shoreline are home to more accessible common species, and there is ample opportunity to catch different suites of species offshore. With the help of Dr. Greg Stunz, Endowed Chair for Fisheries and Ocean Health and Center for Sportfish Science and Conservation Director of the Harte Research Institute, we’re giving insight into iconic fish species that are the most popular among the local fishing community.
Red drum, also commonly known as redfish or reds, are typically found in shallow waters and grassy flats where anglers can see schools “tailing” the surface as they feed vertically. Fishing from the pier, jetties and the surf during fall and winter gives the best opportunity to reel in this catch.
Mature flounder are known to migrate to the Gulf to breed in the autumn season, the time when this fish is considered the best to eat. Caught by rod and reel, flounder takes all types of natural and artificial baits.
Spotted Sea Trout
These trout prefer shallow habitats such as oyster reefs and marshes. Anglers can catch spotted sea trout from wading in shallow areas or piers, using live shrimp as bait.
Generally found in the warm, shallow flats of the Laguna Madre, black drum can adapt to a wide range of habitats, including shallow bay waters to deep Gulf waters. They’re best caught during the summer months.
Easily spotted by their vivid black and white stripes, sheepshead like to hang around underwater structures like pier pilings, jetties and bulkheads. Handle this catch carefully, as this lively fish has an array of spines along each fin.
Perhaps the most iconic offshore fish is the red snapper. Heavily regulated federally and by the state, this catch has limited seasons for fishing. Check the Texas Parks and Wildlife handbook for rules and regulations about catching this species.
Not to be confused with the bottlenose dolphin, the dolphinfish is a beautiful, colorful fish found in the deep waters of the Gulf of Mexico. Dolphinfish are a popular aquatic gamefish due to their showy leap in the air when hooked. This catch will take just about any natural bait when trolled.
Schools of king mackerel migrate from early summer until October, making them a favorite offshore gamefish along the clear green waters of the Gulf coast. The kingfish is often caught with ribbonfish or mullet as bait, but will also take artificial lures.
Referred to as Ling in Texas, this species has a shark-shaped body reaching lengths of 70 inches and weighing more than 100 pounds. This highly sought sportfish is considered excellent eating, especially charcoal-broiled or deep-fried.