Fishing in Calaveras Lake: The Complete Guide

Dec 5, 2022 | 8 minute read
Reading Time: 8 minutes

Located on the outskirts of San Antonio, Calaveras Lake is the perfect place to escape from the city’s hustle and bustle and spend some time in nature. It offers a picnic area, a view of the picturesque forestry scattered along lake shores, and calm waters to enjoy. Of course, you can also use the time to do some fishing in Calaveras Lake, and have your own freshwater adventure.

A view of Calaveras Lake and two boats in its waters.

The lake plays host to several different species of fish. However, there’s one lake dweller that’s not your typical freshwater fish. In fact, they’re a saltwater species that’s otherwise found only in Calaveras Lake and the neighboring Braunig Lake.

Are you eager to find out what fish we’re talking about? If so, just scroll down a bit and you’ll have your answer, along with a list of other species you can catch in Calaveras Lake. We’ll also cover a few ways you can fish out here, and provide you with some useful information to know before you go. So read on!

What can I catch fishing in Calaveras Lake?

Species Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Redfish Good Good Great Great Great Great Great Great Good Good Good Good
Catfish Good Good Great Great Great Good Good Good Good Good Good Good
Hybrid Striped Bass Good Good Great Great Great Good Good Good Good Weak Weak Weak
Largemouth Bass Weak Weak Great Great Great Weak Weak Weak Good Good Weak Weak

The lake doesn’t have too many sportfish prowling through its waters. However, when it comes to the species that are there, you’ll find them in abundance. Let’s go over what you’ll get to catch when fishing in Calaveras Lake.

Redfish

And here’s our mystery fish from before! Calaveras Lake and the nearby Victor Braunig Lake are the only two freshwater lakes where Redfish thrive. They’re stocked in these waters each year and are actually able to reach pretty impressive sizes. The record Red Drum caught at Calaveras Lake was measured at whopping 41 inches in length, weighing 30 pounds.

An angler standing on a boat, holding a sizeable Redfish he caught fishing in Calaveras Lake.

Red Drum are what makes the lake’s waters unique for anglers. They’ll fight with the same intensity the ones swimming in saltwater do. This means you can expect a stubborn and strong opponent, but also one that’s eager to bite.

The Redfish action on Calaveras Lake is usually best from March to September. You can catch them using a variety of natural or artificial bait. For natural bait, you can use tilapia, shad, or crawfish. Meanwhile, silver and gold spoons, as well as Rat-L-Traps will make for good artificial options.

Catfish

Calaveras Lake is also home to two types of CatfishChannel and Blue. If you’ve had the chance to fight these fish, you know how exciting it is. When they start running for the bottom, it almost feels like trying to reel in a freight train going in the opposite direction. They’re tough adversaries, always willing to fight it out to the end.

An angler posing with a big Blue Catfish he reeled in while fishing in Calaveras Lake.

Between the two varieties swimming through the lake, Channel Catfish are more abundant, while Blue Catfish are significantly bigger. Still, as soon as a Catfish reaches the 10 lb range and above, you can count on it giving you a good battle.

You can catch Catfish year-round on Calaveras Lake. However, the peak season takes place in spring, from March through May, and it’s when catfishing really catches fire. As these fish hunt by scent, stinkbaits can be used to entice the bite. That said, natural bait such as shad, tilapia, or chicken liver typically works even better. If you’re wondering what type of setup to use, the Santee Cooper rig is what most Catfish anglers go for.

Hybrid Striped Bass

Another species anglers like to target on Calaveras Lake are Hybrid Striped Bass. They’re a cross between White and Striped Bass, inheriting the aggressiveness of White Bass and some of the bulkiness of Stripers. Hybrids embody the best traits of both their parent species and have become famous for giving anglers explosive, drag-peeling battles.

A woman standing on a boat, holding two Hybrid Bass she caught, with her dog next to her.

Since they’re available on the lake from January through August, you’ll have plenty of time to visit and reel in your share of feisty Hybrids. The main technique anglers like to employ when targeting these fish is trolling with downriggers.

When it comes to bait to use, it’s pretty similar to what you’d use for the other species on the lake. Chicken liver works well and so do shad and sunfish. If you’re more into artificials, spoons and lipless crankbaits (Rat-L-Traps) should be your lures of choice.

And a Few Others!

The fish we named so far are normally the main species you’ll target on Calaveras Lake. However, the lake also plays host to Largemouth Bass that you can chase after. If you set your mind to catch one of these, the best time to go would be in spring. That’s when you’ll find them in shallow waters, concentrated around rip-rap and bulrush close to the lake’s shores.

Two anglers posing for a photo, each holding a Largemouth Bass towards the camera.

You can also find plenty of Tilapia swimming around, as well as Carp. While these may not sound too appealing, some anglers like to bowfish for them. After all, they’re both invasive species, so there’s no need to be shy about hunting them.

At times, you might even end up wrestling a Longnose Gar. They’re a rare catch, usually hooked accidentally when fishing for one of the other species, but a treat nonetheless. So while you’ll have the most success focusing on one of the three fish we named first, you can still expect an occasional surprise.

Ways to Fish in Calaveras Lake

Besides your target fish of choice, what’s also going to play a large part in your overall experience is how you decide to fish Calaveras Lake. Here are a few different ways to tackle these waters…

Guide Fishing

A photo of one of the fishing guide boats and calm waters on Calaveras Lake.

Whether you’re chasing a trophy catch or just numbers, there’s no better way to do it than to hook up with one of Calaveras Lake’s fishing guides. After all, there’s no one else that knows the lake and how the fish inside it behave better than them. Also, you’ll get to make use of your guide’s boat, which means you’ll have an easy time switching from spot to spot, exploring Calaveras Lake to its fullest. 

Your guide will usually provide you with all the fishing gear and bait you’ll need as well. They’ll take you to the most productive places and take care of everything for you up until the fish bites and you get to fight and reel it in. If you’re a beginner or you’re maybe bringing your kids along, your guide will be there to show everyone the ropes and ensure a fun, learning experience for the whole family.

Shore Fishing

A closeup of photo of an angler's arms holding a rod and reeling in the line.

Alternatively, Calaveras Lake has plenty of shoreline for you to cast from. Your best bet is to start from Calaveras Lake Park, where you can get a map of the lake, and see where you want to set up. The park itself offers good shore access so you don’t even have to wander too far.

Also, even though you might not get to explore as many fishing spots, it’s possible to catch freshwater Redfish, Catfish, and even Bass from the lake’s banks. There’s a bait shop a few minutes from the park where you can stop for bait or any gear you need, as well as your license. So if you’re looking to relax, get some one-on-one time with the surrounding nature, and catch some fish while you’re at it, you can do it all shore fishing at Calaveras Lake.

Kayak Fishing

A kayak fisherman paddling through the waters, with his fishing rod behind him.

A third way to navigate the lake’s waters is to do it from a kayak. That way, you’ll get to experience the local scenery in a personal, intimate way. Also, you’ll still have plenty of options when it comes to spots to fish, as you’ll be able to sneak up on all the fish holes almost without a sound.

The thing you need to keep in mind is that there are no kayak rental shops in the area. So if you intend on fishing Calaveras Lake this way, you’ll need to bring your own kayak. However, as long as transportation isn’t an issue for you, it’s definitely worth exploring the lake this way. 

Where can I fish in Calaveras Lake?

A woman on a boat, posing with a Redfish she caught fishing near Calaveras Lake power plant.

If you’re wondering where to go fishing on Calaveras Lake, the logic is pretty much the same as on any other lake. This means you should look for fish along underwater humps, ledges, structure, as well as around different coastal cover. Still, let’s take a look at a few named areas where you can get your fish on.

  • The Horseshoe: In the southeast corner of the lake, just south of Calaveras Lake Park, you’ll find a small bend resembling a horseshoe. Although the left side of the lake is deeper, the waters around the Horseshoe itself get deep fast, making it a solid spot to reel in all the lake species. It’s accessible from shore, too.
  • Spider Island and The Flats: These two areas are located right off the parking lot at Calaveras Lake Park and they lie next to each other. Catfish and Redfish are both possible catches in these waters. If nothing is biting, you can go north and fish around the pier or south along the shore to an area called Granny’s Cove.
  • Calaveras Dam: For anglers looking for some springtime Largemouth Bass, the rip-rap around Calaveras Dam is where you’ll often find them. You can access the area from the boat ramp or a kayak launch south of Calaveras Park. Besides Bass, Redfish and Catfish can also be found here.
  • 181 Cove: As you depart the Calaveras Lake boat ramp and head west, you’ll spot several coves on the west bank of the lake. The second-largest one is called 181 Cove and it’s a fantastic area to explore. Hit its reedbeds and you’ll have a shot at hooking Catfish, Redfish, and Hybrid Striped Bass.

Calaveras Lake Fishing F.A.Q.

Do you need a fishing license at Calaveras Lake?
  • Anglers aged 17 and older will need freshwater fishing licenses to fish in Calaveras Lake legally. There are a few exemptions, though, that you can check out in our Texas fishing license article.
How much does it cost to get into Calaveras Lake?
  • There’s an entry fee you have to pay to enter Calaveras Lake Park. It’s $9.00 for adults (ages 16 to 64), $7.00 for youths (ages 6 to 15), $8.00 for military and retired military, $7.00 for senior citizens (ages 65+), $8.00 for CPS Energy active employees, and free of charge for children under 5 years of age. In case you want to fish Braunig Lake the same day, the fee you pay at Calaveras is valid for it, too.
Is fishing at Calaveras Lake kids-friendly?
  • Since the lake’s waters are generally calm, they’re great for family outings and introducing your kids to fishing. You can even bring a cast net and teach them how to catch bait while simultaneously getting what you need to catch bigger fish.
What fish regulations do I need to pay attention to on Calaveras Lake?
  • Most species you’ll encounter on Calaveras Lake are subject to size and bag limits. These change from year to year and you can check them out by visiting the visiting the Texas Parks & Wildlife website.

Calaveras Lake: A Unique Texan Fishery

A man holding up a beautifully spotted Redfish.

Besides being one of the two lakes where you can find freshwater Redfish, Calaveras Lake boasts truly exceptional fishing. And considering it lies on San Antonio‘s doorstep, it’s one of the best destinations you can visit if you’re itching for a quick angling getaway. You can do it solo, or pair up with one of the experienced guides on the lake, either way – you’re in for an adventure!

Have you ever been fishing in Calaveras Lake? What’s your favorite way to fish the lake? Scroll down to the comments and share your thoughts!

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