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Lake Abilene Breakdown

Lake Abilene is a freshwater reservoir within Abilene State Park, Texas, that is a popular destination for anglers and outdoor enthusiasts. The lake is well-known for its serene environment and excellent fishing opportunities, and its clear waters are home to fish species such as largemouth bass, catfish, and crappie. 

Looking for your next big catch? Head down to Lake Abilene and experience why anglers from far and wide come to Lake Abilene to catch the big one. 

To help you on your next fishing adventure, we’ve compiled a comprehensive fishing report containing all the information you need, from fishing strategies to where you need to go to access the lake’s best fishing spots.

Whether you’re new to fishing or a seasoned angler, you can find helpful tips and essential information below to have a great time at Lake Abilene.

Lake Abilene Overview

Lake Abilene is a scenic reservoir located about 16 miles southwest of Abilene, Texas, and about 170 miles west of downtown Dallas. Its construction began in 1918 by damming Elm Creek to supply municipal water for the growing city of Abilene. The dam was completed by 1921. 

Over the years, it has become a popular destination for outdoor enthusiasts. The lake is situated within Abilene State Park, providing excellent camping opportunities, picnicking, and observing wildlife. While swimming is prohibited due to safety concerns, visitors can enjoy fishing for channel catfish, white crappie, and largemouth bass. 

Lake Abilene is not only a recreational spot but also an essential part of the local ecosystem and a water source, making it a significant Texas landmark.

Size and Topography

Lake Abilene is a picturesque reservoir located within Abilene State Park in Texas. It is conveniently situated southwest of Abilene and can be accessed via a short drive. Visitors from major cities can reach the lake with variable travel times:

  • Dallas: 3 Hours
  • Fort Worth: 2.5 Hours
  • San Angelo: 1.5 Hours

Although Lake Abilene is relatively modest in size, spanning around 595 acres, it offers more than enough space for boating and fishing in its waters. Aside from its narrow width, the lake is generally considered shallow, with an average depth of 10 feet. 

The lakebed is predominantly composed of silt and sand with areas of vegetation, providing an excellent habitat for fish. Aquatic plants are distributed throughout the lake and can be lush, offering a healthy aquatic ecosystem and a challenge for boaters navigating the waters.

The area surrounding Lake Abilene is characterized by rolling plains and diverse topography, including brushy areas, oak groves, and open prairies. The park is home to various wildlife species, camping grounds, and other recreational facilities in the southern part of the lake, along FM 89. 

Here is a summary of the lake’s information according to its capacity:

Water Surface Area: 595 acres

Length: 2,000 ft

Max. Depth: 25 ft

Ave. Depth: 10 ft

Water Volume: 7,900 acre-ft

Shore Length: 63 mi

Surface Elevation: 2,024 ft


The climate of Lake Abilene is known to be humid subtropical, which is typical for this particular region. The summers are hot, while the winters are relatively mild. 

During the summer, the temperatures can rise to as high as 95°F, with the hottest months being July and August. On the other hand, winter brings a cooler climate, with average highs in the range of 50 to 60°F while experiencing the occasional dips below freezing. January is usually the coldest month at 35°F.

The area around Lake Abilene gets a moderate amount of precipitation throughout the year, with an average of around 25-30 in annually. The spring season typically sees the highest amount of rainfall, with April being the wettest month. In contrast, the late summer and early fall months, especially August and September, are relatively dry, contributing to the sometimes arid conditions in the region during that time of the year.

Lake Abilene’s climate conditions are influenced by its location on the southern Great Plains, and the weather can be unpredictable, with occasional severe weather conditions such as thunderstorms and the possibility of tornadoes during the spring and summer months.

Below, you will find a table summarizing the temperature highs and lows in Lake Abilene throughout the year:

Table 1. Water temperatures at Lake Abilene averaged from data over the past 10 years (Source: Weather Spark).

High (°F)

Low (°F)





































Vegetation and Fish Habitat

The area surrounding Lake Abilene boasts a diverse range of vegetation, making it an ideal natural habitat for various bird and land animal species. The landscape around the lake comprises brushland, short prairie grass, and wooded stream valleys in the Callahan Divide.

However, in terms of aquatic vegetation, the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department reports that there is none growing underneath the lake. In order to provide the entire fish population with enough cover and habitats for spawning, several artificial structures have been installed instead.

In Table 2, you will find more information about the location of the artificial habitats for fish in Lake Abilene:

Table 2. Location of artificial structures installed underneath Lake Abilene (Source: Texas Parks & Wildlife).

Type of Structure




Artificial Fish Habitat




Artifical Fish Habitat




Artifical Fish Habitat




Water Levels

Lake Abilene’s water levels have been known to fluctuate historically. A year ago, the lake was at a level of 2,001.65 feet, covering a spread of 330 acres, which amounted to 36.3% of its conservation capacity. However, currently, the lake measures 1,995.64 feet, covering just 194 acres, which is only 16.2% of its designed capacity. This variability highlights the lake’s sensitivity to environmental and climatic factors. Visitors or observers can expect to find the water murky and muddy.

Target Fish Species

After being refilled in 2016, Lake Abilene has seen a rejuvenation and has once again become an exciting angling destination. The restocking effort has helped revive its waters with various game fish species. Although boat access may vary depending on water levels, anglers can usually expect good fishing conditions for several species when the lake is sufficiently full.

Catfish, crappie, and largemouth bass are the primary targets for sportfishers in Lake Abilene. However, when water levels are low, you might need to rely on bank fishing, which can lead to reduced catches. Nevertheless, the potential for record-setting hauls remains, as evidenced by its record-setting yields over the years.

Keith Fry’s 25.5-inch largemouth bass, weighing an impressive 12.26 ounces, is considered the best catch for bass fishing in the lake. On the other hand, Larry Johnson holds the title for the largest catfish, a gigantic flathead catfish measuring 47.75 inches and weighing 52.50 ounces.

You can find more information on the predominant fish species thriving in Lake Abilene’s waters below: 

Largemouth Bass (Micropterus salmoides) 

Largemouth bass are popular freshwater game fish in North America. They have an olive-green body and a big mouth. They can be found in rivers, lakes, and reservoirs. These voracious eaters consume fish, crayfish, and frogs as adults and crustaceans, insects, and small fish as juveniles.

Habitat: Largemouth bass are skilled at finding safe hiding places, such as logs, rock ledges, and artificial structures, and can adapt well to different environments. When spawning, they look for areas with a solid bottom made of sand, mud, or gravel. Adult largemouth bass use submerged aquatic vegetation to catch their prey, while juveniles seek shelter in aquatic weeds, tree limbs, or submerged logs. 

Breeding and Nesting Patterns: Largemouth bass prefer to breed in water between 55 and 65°F. They typically spawn in shallow waters during spawning periods to guarantee a warm environment for their eggs.

Movement Patterns: Largemouth bass tend to migrate to shallow waters in the spring for spawning. In summer, they tend to move towards deeper and cooler areas during the day but swim towards shallower waters at dawn or dusk to feed. In the fall, they become more active at various depths. In the winter, they prefer deep waters to maintain their body temperature but may move towards shallower waters if the weather is warm enough.

Recommended Fishing Strategy: In the past, anglers have found flipping brushy cover an effective method for catching largemouth bass, mainly when the water is murky. Remember that they tend to spend their time around structures such as rocks, trees, and other objects that provide them with shelter, food, and cooler temperatures. If you’re fishing near the banks, using spinner baits, Zoom trick worms, wacky rigged Senkos, or other top water lures is best. These work particularly well during low water levels. However, when the water levels are high, the bass may dive deeper for cooler temperatures. In such situations, it’s recommended to use Strike King XD deep-diving crankbaits, football jigs, and weighted soft plastics like the Zoom Ol Monster. A medium-heavy rod rigged with a 12- to 15-pound test line is ideal for targeting keeper bass.

Channel Catfish (Ictalurus punctatus)

The channel catfish is a freshwater fish species of North America, popular among anglers for its unique features, hard-fighting nature, and excellent taste. Their bodies are adorned with black spots and have olive-brown to slate-blue hues on their backs, gradually transitioning to silvery-white on their bellies. 

Unlike flathead catfish, their upper jaws extend beyond their lower jaws. These omnivores thrive in various aquatic environments and consume a diverse diet of aquatic insects, small fish, and plants. 

Channel catfish are a popular target among anglers, valued for their size, hard-fighting nature, and excellent taste. With a lifespan of around eight years and rapid growth rates, channel catfish contribute significantly to the dynamic ecosystems they inhabit.

Habitat: Channel catfish can survive in murky waters and are known to thrive in the dark depths of deep pools, particularly near dams. They are often found in areas with submerged logs, rocks, or debris, offering shelter and potential feeding opportunities.

Breeding and Nesting Patterns: During the spawning season, catfish search for secluded spots like hollow river banks, rock overhangs, and submerged tree roots to make their nests. Male catfish look for the ideal location and use their tails to remove debris until they reach a sand or gravel base. They even use their mouths to clear any stubborn obstacles. Typically, they spawn between May and July when the water temperature is warm enough, around 75°F. Channel catfish swim upstream to seek warmer and shallower water, searching for the best nesting sites.

Movement Patterns: During summer, channel catfish migrate to cooler and deeper waters to escape the intense sunlight. However, as night falls, they venture closer to shallow areas for food. This presents a strategic opportunity for anglers to catch them in shallower waters after sunset. By taking advantage of this behavior, anglers can implement targeted fishing strategies, leveraging the catfish’s movement patterns to increase their chances of a successful catch during the nighttime hours. Consider fishing after dark if you want to catch channel catfish.

Recommended Fishing Strategy: When fishing for channel catfish in clear waters, casting long is important to avoid startling the fish. Look for windy banks with plenty of brush, especially in murky water, towards the end of summer. For best results, use a slip-cork. Cast near the brush and let the waves position the bait along the heavy cover’s edge. When the floater signals a bite, quickly set the hook and start reeling. Using live bait is always a good idea in shallow waters, particularly with a strong smell. Try stink bait, chicken liver, bacon, or hot dogs.

Blue Catfish (Ictalurus furcatus)

Blue catfish are freshwater fish known for their large size and unique blue-gray coloration. They can be found in major river systems in North America. These fish have a distinctive forked tail and smooth, scaleless skin that covers their robust bodies. 

They are known for their voracious appetites and will eat various fish and other aquatic organisms. Just like other catfish species, anglers are attracted to blue catfish because they are a challenging catch and can weigh several hundred pounds. 

The name “Ictalurus” comes from the Greek words for “fish cat,” while “furcatus” in Latin refers to their forked tail. Blue catfish resemble channel catfish but have dark spots, 30-35 rays in the anal fin, and a unique coloration that goes from slate blue to white on their belly.

Habitat: Blue catfish are usually found in medium to large freshwater channels and pools with strong currents. They prefer to live on sandy bottoms and can often be found near rock piles where they can rest.

Breeding and Nesting Patterns: Male blue catfish are known for their impressive breeding behavior. They construct nests using their tails to clear debris and jaws to remove objects. Through pheromones, they mate with females, who deposit thousands of eggs per kilogram of body weight. Once fertilized, the eggs attach to the nest, and the male diligently guards them until hatching. The young stay close to the nest in schools until they become independent under the male’s supervision. 

Movement Patterns: Blue catfish seek out areas with low or no currents, such as backwaters, sloughs, and reservoirs, when spring arrives to breed and nest. For this purpose, they prefer protected, slightly secluded, and covered areas, such as under rocks or logs. Blue catfish are migratory and can travel long distances, unlike other catfish species. They can also adapt to changes in water temperature and tend to swim towards warmer waters during winters and cooler waters during summers.

Recommended Fishing Strategy: Blue catfish appear to concentrate near the shore, especially during low water levels, so bank fishing may offer good prospects. As for bait, experienced anglers recommend using bait with a pungent smell when fishing for catfish. You can use cut herring, mud shad, or menhaden, which are all great options. Some may prefer commercially made stink-baits, while others swear by chicken livers. 

White Crappie (Pomoxis annularis)

The white crappie is a fish species with a flattened and deep body shape. Also called papermouth, its name originates from the Greek word “Pomoxis,” which refers to the sharp spines on its gill covers, and the Latin word “annularis,” which describes its distinctive dark bands that resemble rings. 

The white crappie features a silvery belly, a dark green back, and a dorsal fin with six spines. During the spring season, male white crappies develop a dark throat. This species has large dorsal and anal fins on a laterally compressed body, with the dorsal fin having five to six spines and 14 or 15 rays, while the anal fin has five to seven spines and 16 to 18 rays. 

During the spawning season, the white crappie has vertical dark bars and dark margins on its scales and alternating light and dark bands on its dorsal, caudal, and anal fins.

Habitat: In various freshwater settings, grown-up crappie can be observed, including lakes, reservoirs, ponds, sloughs, backwaters, pools, and streams. These fish usually stick to areas with cover, such as vegetation, fallen trees, or boulders. They tend to gather in schools within clear water surrounded by vegetation over mud or sand.

Breeding and Nesting Patterns: Much like bluegills, white crappie are known to build nests. They prefer large nest beds and have a high reproductive capacity that can lead to overpopulation and stunted growth in smaller lakes. Spring is their preferred spawning season, and they lay eggs when the water temperature reaches 65°F to 70°F. The fry hatch within 3 to 5 days and remain attached to the nest substrate for a few more days before they start feeding on microscopic animals.

Movement Patterns: Crappie fish are known to be opportunistic feeders, and in rising water conditions, they take advantage of newly flooded areas to find a more expanded habitat and better food sources. They may even explore shallower waters if submerged structures or vegetation are available for cover. During falling water levels, crappie fish relocate to deeper areas or move towards submerged structures that offer better cover and ambush points. This is because deeper waters provide a stable environment for them during periods of decreasing water levels.

Recommended Fishing Strategy: To catch white crappie effectively, you can use a small jig combined with a crappie minnow for better results. A pink/white or glow green 1/32-ounce Gypsi Jig works best, and pairing it with a small and lively crappie minnow is ideal. To enhance your fishing experience, you can use a Lite-Bite Slip Bobber. Another popular method Texas Crappie anglers use to locate and catch fish is spider rigging. This technique involves extending six to twelve rods from the boat like spider legs and slowly trolling around at 1-2 mph. To maximize your chances of success, experiment with different depths and adjust your other rods accordingly. 

Lake Abilene Fishing Regulations

Lake Abilene is located within a state park, so no fishing license is required. However, the following rules and regulations that apply to a Community Fishing Lake will also apply:

  • Largemouth Bass: The minimum length limit for largemouth and smallmouth bass is set at 14 inches, while there is no minimum length limit for Alabama, Guadalupe, and spotted bass. The daily bag limit is set at 5 for all black bass species, which can be a combination of any of them.

  • Channel and Blue Catfish: Blue or channel catfish must be at least 14 inches long, and your total daily catch cannot exceed 15 fish. For flathead catfish, the minimum length is 18 inches, and you can catch up to 5 of them daily.

  • Crappie: The minimum length limit for white and black crappie, including hybrids and subspecies, is set at 10 inches. Anglers are subject to a daily bag limit of 25 crappies in any combination.

Additionally, to prevent the spread of invasive zebra mussels, the law requires all anglers to drain water from their boats and onboard receptacles when approaching and leaving public fresh waters.

Where to Access Lake Abilene

Access to the lake is provided through Abilene State Park. You can access the lake for public shore fishing, but boat ramps become essentially unusable if the water drops about 7 feet below spillway level. In such cases, a 4-wheel-drive vehicle is necessary to launch boats. Additionally, campsites are available on the main campus of Abilene State Park, just across FM 89. 

You can find more information about gaining access to the lake below:


  • Take FM 89 south from Abilene, then turn right on the paved road at the lake, approximately a mile southwest of Abilene State Park entrance.
  • One single-lane ramp with a maximum parking capacity of 10
  • Pay the entry fee at the main park entrance and get the code to unlock the gate.
  • Open all year, closed from sunset to sunrise.
  • Operated by Abilene State Park (325) 572-3204


  • Take FM 89 south from Abilene, then turn right on the paved road at the lake, approximately a mile southwest of Abilene State Park entrance.
  • One single-lane ramp with a maximum parking capacity of 10
  • Pay the entry fee at the main park entrance and get the code to unlock the gate.
  • Open all year, closed from sunset to sunrise.
  • Operated by Abilene State Park (325) 572-3204

*Restrooms, parking, and picnic areas are available on both access points.

Conservation Authority Information

Texas Parks & Wildlife Department

(325) 572-3204