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Lake Amistad Breakdown

With crystal clear waters and unbeatable fishing opportunities, Lake Amistad promises  a variety of fishing opportunities and is a must-visit for any angler looking for a challenge.

Located near the US-Mexico border, Lake Amistad boasts rocky drops and thriving vegetation, making it the perfect habitat for largemouth and smallmouth bass, striped bass, and catfish. In fact, the largemouth bass record in the lake is a whopping 15.68 pounds. 

If you want to reel in the best catch, we’ve compiled a comprehensive Lake Amistad fishing report that provides insights into water levels, temperature trends, fish activity, and expert advice on bait selection and fishing spots. 

Don’t miss the chance to test your skills at Lake Amistad. Whether you’re a seasoned pro or a casual angler, our Lake Amistad fishing report has everything you need to prepare for a successful day on the water. 

Lake Amistad Overview

Amistad National Recreation Area in Val Verde County is a popular destination for water enthusiasts, campers, hikers, and history buffs. It is located about 175 mi west of San Antonio along the US-Mexico border.

The International Amistad Reservoir, which means “friendship” in Spanish, is a major attraction and offers excellent angling opportunities. It is a man-made pool built from 1964 to 1969 on the Rio Grande as part of the 1944 Water Treaty between the United States and Mexico to store water for irrigation, electricity generation, and flood prevention.

Today, Lake Amistad is hailed as a major source of recreation for those seeking to indulge in their favorite outdoor activities. But more than that, it has become an angling paradise for newbies and experienced fishermen looking for the next big catch.

Size and Topography

Located approximately two and a half hours drive from San Antonio, Lake Amistad is a true gem in the desert that straddles the Mexican and American border. It boasts over 850 miles of shoreline and 64,900 acres of sparkling water and is one of Texas's largest and most popular lakes.

The water level on Lake Amistad can fluctuate depending on rainfall and downstream irrigation demands. It can go as deep as 217 feet, and annual fluctuations can be 5 to 10 ft. 

The waters of Lake Amistad have been observed to be clear to slightly stained, with an average visibility of 40 to 50 ft., thanks to its limestone rock bottom. Meanwhile, two gushing underwater springs, Indian Springs and Good Enough Springs, add over 2 million gallons of spring water to the lake every hour, resulting in calm and aqua-blue waters.

The Amistad Reservoir is quite diverse in terms of its geographical features, with plenty of rocks, ledges, steep drop-offs, and rocky points and shorelines. You can also find some isolated flooded timber and a fish habitat comprising primarily Christmas trees by the camping area near Governor’s Landing. These areas of brush flooded with water can serve as valuable habitats for various fish species in the reservoir. 

Underneath Lake Amistad is where it gets interesting as it is home to one of the world’s largest collections of archeological sites, featuring over 400 Indian archeological sites, including caves, rock shelters, mounds, and Indian pictographs to explore.

Here is a summary of the lake’s information:

Water Surface Area: 64,900 acres

Length: 20.5 mi

Max. Depth: 217 ft.

Ave. Depth: 60 ft.

Water Volume: 5,658,600 acre-ft.

Shore Length: 850 mi

Surface Elevation: 1,117 ft


The weather in Amistad can be described as semi-arid and subtropical. It has moderate moisture levels and varying temperatures. Although humidity tends to be higher, occasional morning fog can be expected. The summers are long, hot, and often humid, while winters are generally mild with a mix of sunny, warm, cloudy, and cool days.

Most of the annual rainfall, about 80%, happens between April and October, bringing thunderstorms and heavy downpours that sometimes lead to flash floods. From November to March, there is limited precipitation, usually in the form of steady light rain or drizzle. The average annual rainfall in the area is around 19 inches, with extremes ranging from 4.34 inches in 1956 to 37.75 inches in 1914.

Throughout the year, the temperature in Amistad ranges from 40°F to 98°F, with rare occurrences of temperatures dropping below 31°F or exceeding 102°F. The hot season lasts from May 24 to September 10, with an average daily high of 91°F, and the hottest day of the year is August 11, with an average high of 98°F. The cold season spans from November 24 to February 17, with an average daily high below 70°F. The coldest day of the year is January 1, with an average low of 40°F and a high of 65°F.

Below is a summary of the average water temperatures in Amistad over the course of a year:

Table 1. Water temperatures at Lake Amistad averaged from data over the past 10 years (Source: National Park Service).

High (°F)

Low (°F)






































Several invasive plant species have been identified in Lake Amistad. Two examples are tamarisk (on land) and hydrilla (in water). Both invasive species are described below:

  • Hydrilla (Hydrilla verticillata): Lake Amistad’s underwater environment is home to an invasive aquatic plant called hydrilla, which provides shelter, breeding grounds, and prey to fish. Its growth pattern is pronounced, with significant expansion during summer followed by a winter retreat to the lake floor. Hydrilla thrives in depths of up to 40 feet, begins as a clump on the lake bed extends upward and outward, and provides oxygen to the water. 

  • Tamarisk (Tamarix spp): Small trees or shrubs called tamarisks are originally from Eurasia. They were brought to western North America in the mid-1800s to serve as windbreaks and to prevent soil erosion in semi-arid and arid regions. Unfortunately, these plants have become one of the most harmful invasive weeds in the western United States and are ranked among the top 100 invaders worldwide.

Water Levels

Fishing in Lake Amistad may be more challenging due to the constantly changing water levels. The landscape of the lake is greatly influenced by the fluctuation of water levels, which is regulated by rain inflow and dam outflow and affected by desert conditions. While some areas may have a concentration of fish, other parts of the lake may become inaccessible at different times of the year. 

The reservoir’s surface elevation is monitored against mean sea level and can oscillate, with a “conservation pool” at 1117’ above mean sea level (amsl) and park boundaries typically set at 1144’ amsl. During droughts, the water levels can plummet to 1056’ amsl, exposing previously submerged land.

Target Fish Species

Lake Amistad features a wide range of angling opportunities for fishing enthusiasts. Its fish population comprises a plethora of sportfish and prey species, creating a wonderfully balanced ecosystem in the lake.

The main target for most anglers in the lake is the largemouth bass, which always presents an exciting challenge for anglers. You can also find several species of catfish, such as the channel, blue, and the formidable flathead. There is also a thriving population of white bass in the lake. Although the striped bass population hasn’t reproduced in the reservoir, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department stock them frequently to maintain their numbers.

The reservoir’s prey species form the foundation of the ecosystem. These include a significant population of gizzard shad and sunfishes, which provide excellent support for the sportfish population. 

You can find more information on these fish species below:

Largemouth Bass (Micropterus salmoides) 

The largemouth bass is a highly sought-after freshwater game fish native to North America. These fish have an olive-green body and a big mouth that extends beyond their eye, giving them a distinct appearance. They can be found in rivers, lakes, and reservoirs.

Largemouth bass are voracious eaters, consuming fish, crayfish, and frogs as adults and crustaceans, insects, and small fish as juveniles. They are also known to prey on snakes, mice, and other animals, sometimes even cannibalizing their own kind, similar to the northern pike.

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. They prefer to live in clear, vegetated lakes, ponds, swamps, and backwaters of pools, creeks, and rivers. 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: The largemouth bass in Lake Amistad follow seasonal movement patterns that reflect their changing needs and preferences. In spring, for example, they move into shallow waters for spawning, becoming more territorial and active. When the summer heat arrives, they seek out deeper, cooler areas during the day but feed in shallower spots at dawn or dusk. As temperatures drop during the fall, they become more active at various depths and display a greater range of behaviors. In winter, they prefer deeper areas to maintain their body temperature but may venture into shallower waters if the weather is warm enough. 

Recommended Fishing Strategy: For those who enjoy catching largemouth bass, the best times to do so are during the fall, winter, and spring. Early morning and late evening tend to be the prime times to use topwater baits. Buzzbaits like the Strike King KVD Buzztoad, and V&M Cyclone spinnerbaits are often good choices. Crankbaits are highly effective when fishing along rocky shorelines, points, and drop-offs. During midday, many anglers prefer to use plastics such as Texas and Carolina rigged worms or grubs to fish the deeper waters near vegetation or rocky structures.

Smallmouth Bass (Micropterus dolomieu)

The smallmouth bass is a freshwater fish easily recognizable due to its green color, vertical dark bands, and upper jaw extending to the eye. Unlike its relative, the largemouth bass, it has no horizontal band. 

Its dorsal fin has 13-15 soft rays, and it can grow to more than 7.5 pounds in Texas. The fish was named after French mineralogist M. Dolomieu and has a unique coloration - sometimes yellow - and three brown bands on its black, green, or brownish sides. Female smallmouth bass are usually larger and weigh about two to three pounds. The fish’s size, shape, and color depend on its habitat, ranging from round-shaped fish in lakes to torpedo-shaped ones in rivers. Stream smallmouth bass are darker than those in lakes and are adapted to effective hunting.

Habitat: Smallmouth bass tend to favor large lakes with clear water, measuring greater than 100 acres and being more than 30 feet deep. They also prefer cool streams with clear water and a gravel substrate.

Breeding and Nesting Patterns: Smallmouth bass spawn in spring when the water reaches 60°F. Males build nests near the shore in lakes or downstream from boulders in streams. Females can carry 2,000 to 15,000 yellow eggs, and males spawn with multiple females on a single nest. Hatching takes around 10 days at mid-50s (°F) temperatures but can be as quick as 2-3 days at mid-70s (°F). The male bass guards the nest until the fry disperses, which can take up to a month. Fry initially feed on zooplankton, then transition to insect larvae, fish, and crayfish.

Movement Patterns: Smallmouth bass move precisely throughout the water during various seasons. In summer, they retreat to deeper structures, making it challenging to catch them. They move to shallower areas to feed on nocturnal forage along rocky banks at night. In the fall, they reposition themselves on long points closer to deep water. During winter, smaller bass can be found in reservoirs below the 20-foot zone, while larger bass reside even deeper. In spring, they spawn in shallow, sunlit areas with direct access to gravel near solid objects. After spawning, they may linger in shallow waters or venture to deeper domains.

Recommended Fishing Strategy: When fishing for smallmouth bass at Lake Amistad, target areas with plenty of cover, like weed beds, rocks, and tree shelters. Standard casting gear with magnum-sized lures resembling minnows and crawfish in brown, silver, chartreuse, and white colors is best. Use soft lures, jerk baits, and tube baits in streams, while spinners and jigs with willow leaf blades of ¾ or 1 ounce work well in larger waters. Conventional baitcasting, fly fishing, or spinning gear are perfect for bass tournaments.

Striped Bass (Morone saxatilis)

The striped bass is a prominent member of the sea bass family, recognized for its unique appearance. It has a silvery hue, olive-green back, and white belly with seven or eight horizontal stripes on each side. 

The species can be distinguished from similar bass species by its separated dorsal fins and tooth patches on the tongue. Striped bass can thrive in both freshwater and saltwater environments, with coastal populations migrating up to 100 miles inland for spawning. 

Land-locked populations complete their life cycle in freshwater tributaries, capable of growing up to 10 to 12 inches in the first year and become cannibalistic adults, favoring members of the herring family such as gizzard shad. 

Habitat: Freshwater striped bass are commonly found in cool-water reservoirs and streams. They tend to linger around shallow bars and points near deep water, preferring areas with a temperature ranging from 65 to 70°F. 

Breeding and Nesting Patterns: Striped bass begin their spawning ritual during the months of March to May when the water temperature ranges between 60 to 68°F. The striped bass release millions of eggs, which are then dispersed by river currents. Once they are fertilized, the eggs must drift with the river currents to avoid suffocation. It takes around 48 hours for the eggs to hatch. Upon hatching, the little striped bass fingerlings will find shelter in estuaries and low rivers, avoiding impoundments unfit for reproduction. 

Movement Patterns: During the spring season, stripers travel upriver to spawn. Throughout the summer, they prefer cool thermal refuges but can be found near channel ledges in shallower areas during feeding times. One essential thing to remember is that striped bass are negatively phototropic, which means they avoid light if they can. As the lake transitions from autumn to winter and water temperatures drop, stripers feed heavily on or near the surface. However, as temperatures drop into the 40s, they tend to feed less aggressively and at deeper levels.

Recommended Fishing Strategy: Watch for gulls and loons diving in specific areas. This indicates that schools have been pushed up by the stripers. For bait, you can use 3/8-1 oz white bucktails, sometimes with a soft shad swim bait or just a trailer hook. Trolling with heavy jigs at 3-4mph can also be effective. In timbered areas, a Lil George lead jig with a front treble and a rear trailing blade in white can help reduce snag.

Channel Catfish (Ictalurus punctatus)

Channel catfish are easily recognizable by their forked tail fins and longer upper jaws extending beyond the lower jaws. They have an olive-brown to slate-blue coloration on their back and sides, gradually transitioning to a silvery-white belly. Younger individuals have small black spots that are more prominent. 

The anal fin of channel catfish has 24-29 soft rays, which distinguishes them from blue catfish. These fish are typically grayish-blue on the sides, black on the back, and white on the belly. However, in rare cases of albinism, they may have a peach coloration. Albino channel catfish are often bred for ornamental ponds and aquariums due to their unique appearance, resulting from domestic breeding.

Habitat: Channel catfish prefer clear, slow-moving water with some turbidity. They thrive in dark, deep pools, particularly those near the dam. Their ideal habitats feature submerged logs, rocks, or debris.

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

Movement Patterns: In summer, channel catfish move around and seek cooler, deeper waters away from light. However, they may come closer to shallow areas at night for food. This behavior allows anglers to catch channel catfish in shallower waters after sunset.

Recommended Fishing Strategy: For successful channel catfish fishing in clear waters, make long casts to avoid spooking the fish. Seek out windy banks with ample brush, particularly in off-color water, as summer concludes. Utilize a slip-cork for optimal results. Cast near the brush, letting wave action position the bait on the edge of heavy cover. Promptly set the hook and begin reeling when the floater signals a bite. In shallow waters, you can never go wrong with live bait, especially live bait that stinks. Use stink bait, chicken liver, bacon, or hot dogs.

Blue Catfish (Ictalurus furcatus)

The blue catfish, also known as Ictalurus furcatus, has a distinctively forked tail. Its name comes from the Greek word “Ictalurus,” meaning “fish cat,” and the Latin word “furcatus,” meaning “forked.” 

While resembling the channel catfish, the Rio Grande population of blue catfish stands out with dark spots on their back and sides. They typically have 30-35 rays in the anal fin, and their coloration changes from slate blue on the back to white on the belly, making them a unique and fascinating species of catfish.

Habitat: The preferred habitat for blue catfish is typically found in medium to large freshwater channels and pools with currents that flow well. They tend to reside on the sandy bottoms of these bodies of water, and it’s not uncommon to find them near rock piles where they can take a break from the currents.

Breeding and Nesting Patterns: Male blue catfish create nests during the breeding season from April to June. They use their tails to clear debris and jaws to remove objects, and through pheromones, mate with females who deposit thousands of eggs per kilogram of body weight. Once fertilized, the eggs attach to the nest and are guarded by the male until hatching. The young stay close to the nest in schools until they are independent, under male supervision. This process is crucial for the survival of the blue catfish population.

Movement Patterns: When spring arrives, blue catfish seek out areas with low or no currents, such as backwaters, sloughs, and reservoirs, to breed and nest. They prefer to do so in protected, slightly secluded, and covered areas, such as under rocks or logs. Blue catfish are more migratory and known to travel long distances than other catfish species. They can also adapt to changes in water temperature and will swim to warmer waters during the winter and cooler waters during the summer.

Recommended Fishing Strategy: Just like with channel catfish, most anglers recommend using bait with plenty of stink. Cut herring, mud shad, or menhaden are all great options. While some fishermen prefer to use commercially made stink-baits, others swear by chicken livers. Regardless of your bait of choice, you’ll want to keep it dead on bottom.

White Bass (Morone chrysops)

The white bass, also known as the silver bass, is a highly sought-after freshwater fish in the United States. This fish is easily recognizable due to its silvery-white body with dark horizontal stripes running from head to tail. 

Anglers love fishing for it due to its spirited fights and schooling behavior. White bass usually grow to around 10 to 15 inches in length and can weigh up to 3 pounds. They have a lifespan of 4 to 6 years, and some can survive up to a decade under ideal conditions.

Habitat: White bass can be found in large bodies of water, such as deep lakes and wide rivers, especially upstream from dams. They typically steer clear of murky waters and areas with much aquatic vegetation, preferring clear and open environments.

Breeding and Nesting Patterns: During the spring season, white bass tend to migrate towards tributaries where they engage in their breeding rituals. This usually happens when the water temperature ranges between 54 to 68°F. They like to gather in large groups and prefer to spawn over sandy or gravel substrates, moving towards shallower areas of waterways.

Movement Patterns: White bass prefer deeper waters, usually between 10 and 20 feet, during non-breeding periods. They have a strong appetite and are known for their adaptive feeding patterns, which results in considerable growth rates. They may also dive even deeper to pursue shads, their favorite prey.

Recommended Fishing Strategy: To maximize your chances of catching white bass, keep an eye out for birds diving into the water. Use lures resembling shad or jigging spoons and live baitfish, especially during schooling. When retrieving your lure or bait, keep it close to the bottom. During pre-spawn and summer patterns, vertical jigging spoons and slabs off the base can be successful in areas where white bass tend to aggregate, such as ledges, channel breaks, or deep water flats.

Lake Amistad Fishing Regulations

There are two main fishing regions present in the Amistad Reservoir. When fishing on the Texas side, the following state-wide limits still apply:

  • Largemouth Bass: There are size limits for largemouth bass, with a limit of one over 24 inches per day. 

  • Smallmouth Bass: The daily bag limit for largemouth, smallmouth, Alabama, Guadalupe, and spotted bass is a combined total of 5 fish, with a minimum length requirement of 14 inches.

  • Channel and Blue Catfish: When fishing for catfish, catch up to 25 in any combo, but only 10 can be 20+ inches for channel and blue catfish. For flathead catfish, catch up to 5 per day with a minimum of 18 inches.

  • White Bass: All captured white bass must be at least 10 inches long, with the daily limit being 25.

When fishing Mexican waters, everyone on the boat is required to have a Mexico fishing license. They can be purchased in Del Rio at Amistad Marine (Highway 90 West, 830/775-0878) or Fisherman’s Headquarters (Chevron at the intersection of 90 & 277 N, 830/774-5670.

Additionally, to prevent the spread of invasive zebra and quagga 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 Amistad

Lake access and facilities are provided by the National Park Service. To enter the lake, all boats with a motor must have a boat pass ($4 per day, $10 for a 3-day pass, or $40 per year). 

Additionally, Texas Parks & Wildlife has provided the following information about the various access points to the reservoir:

You can find more information about all access points to the reservoir below, as provided by Texas Parks & Wildlife:

Diablo East

  • Take US 90 west from Del Rio and turn right just before crossing Lake Amistad.
  • Long, steep, concrete 4-lane boat ramp
  • Open all year
  • Maintained by National Park Service (830) 775-7491

Governors Landing

  • Located beneath the US 90 bridge. Take spur 349 to Amistad Dam, then take the first right turn.
  • There is no boat ramp but bank fishing is available
  • Open all year
  • Maintained by National Park Service (830) 775-7491

Black Brush Point

  • Located off of US 90 West, approximately 6 miles out of Del Rio
  • Concrete ramp, accessible when lake surface is above 1081 feet elevation
  • Fishing pier available
  • Open all year
  • Maintained by National Park Service (830) 775-7491

Spur 454

  • Take Spur 454 off US 90 West and follow to the boat ramp
  • Open all year
  • Maintained by National Park Service (830) 775-7491

San Pedro

  • Take Spur 454 off US 90 West, then take the second right
  • Maintained by National Park Service (830) 775-7491

US 277 South

  • Located at the east end of the lake, south end of the US 277 bridge
  • Boat launch and fishing pier available
  • Open all year when conditions permit
  • Maintained by National Park Service (830) 775-7491

US 277 North

  • Located at the north end of the US 277 bridge
  • The concrete ramp is located on the east side of the campground. When the lake level is below the bridge, boats may be launched from the gravel bank.
  • Open all year when conditions permit
  • Maintained by National Park Service (830) 775-7491

Rough Canyon

  • Located approximately 20 miles out of Del Rio on R2 off US 277 North
  • Long, steep, 4-lane concrete ramp, usable at most lake levels
  • Open all year
  • Maintained by National Park Service (830) 775-7491

Spur 406

  • Located on the north side of the lake. From US 90, turn southeast on Spur 406 and follow to the end of the road.
  • Open all year
  • Maintained by National Park Service (830) 775-7491

Box Canyon

  • Take US 90 from Del Rio. Approximately 2 miles after crossing Lake Amistad, turn left onto Box Canyon Estates Road.
  • Concrete ramp, usable at most lake levels
  • Fishing pier available
  • Open all year
  • Maintained by National Park Service (830) 775-7491

Pecos River

  • Located off US 90 approximately 40 miles west of Del Rio, near the point where the Pecos joins the Rio Grande
  • Concrete ramp
  • Fishing pier
  • Open all year
  • Maintained by National Park Service (830) 775-7491

Conservation Authority Information

International Boundary & Water Commission