Attention all anglers! Are you ready to take on the challenge of Lake Fork, the crown jewel of bass fishing destinations in Texas?
With its exceptional largemouth bass population and record-breaking catches, this 27,690-acre reservoir is the ultimate playground for anglers from around the globe.
To help you reel in the best catch, we’ve compiled a comprehensive fishing report that will give you the edge to etch your name into the storied tradition of Lake Fork’s fishing legacy.
Packed with critical information on weather patterns, water temperatures, active fish locations, bait selections, and tactical advice, this angler’s almanac is a must-have for both seasoned pros and enthusiastic novices.
Dive into the depths of Lake Fork and experience the thrill of the catch like never before!
Lake Fork Overview
Lake Fork Reservoir is a premier trophy bass fishing destination located approximately 90 miles east of downtown Dallas as the crow flies in the woodlands of northeast Texas. It was created in 1985 when the Lake Fork Dam was constructed on the Lake Fork Creek, a major tributary of the Sabine River. It was created primarily to supply water to the city of Dallas and for recreational purposes.
Size and Topography
Encompassing roughly 27,690 acres of surface water and 315 miles of shoreline, Lake Fork offers plenty of room for competitive anglers and water recreation enthusiasts.
The lake’s depth varies across the reservoir but it can reach over 70 ft. at its deepest point. Underwater, its topography is a mix of deep hollows and flats, overrun by vegetation and timber that grew in the area before it was flooded during the creation of the dam, which provides a perfect habitat for various fish species.
The water clarity on Lake Fork has average visibility, making white, chartreuse, and its variants the go-to choice for most anglers. This can change, however, especially right after storm events when water clarity levels can be stained up to 4 ft in visibility in most parts.
Here is a summary of the lake’s information:
Catchment Area: 493 sq. mi
Water Surface Area: 27,690 acres
Max. Depth: 70 ft.
Ave. Depth: 12-15 ft.
Water Volume: 675,819 acre-ft.
Shore Length: 315 mi
Surface Elevation: 403.0 ft
The Lake Fork reservoir has a humid subtropical climate, according to the Köppen Climate Classification system. The average precipitation is relatively evenly distributed throughout the year, with spring and fall typically seeing the most rainfall, peaking at 6.1in.
The warm season at Lake Fork generally lasts from late spring through early fall, with July and August often experiencing the highest temperatures, which can soar upwards of 90°F (around 35°C). Winter brings cooler temperatures to the lake, with average temperatures dipping as low as 30°F (about -1°C) in January.
Below is a summary of the average water temperatures in Lake Fork over the course of a year:
Table 1. Water temperatures at Lake Fork averaged from data over the past 10 years (Source: WeatherWX).
Coverage is dependent on water level. In 1999, a survey indicated approximately 1,000 acres of aquatic vegetation, primarily hydrilla
The rich vegetation around and underneath Lake Fork plays a critical role in maintaining a healthy fishery. Submerged plants oxygenate the water and offer sanctuary and breeding grounds for many fish species, including largemouth bass, crappie, and catfish. Intricate root systems tend to help stabilize the lake bed, provide shelter from predators, and serve as a prime hunting ground for fish to ambush prey.
Above water, the shoreline vegetation serves as a buffer that reduces erosion, improves water quality, and supports insects and smaller organisms that are essential to the diet of juvenile fish. Understanding what these vegetation are and how fish interact with them is a good starting point in figuring out how to pull a great catch from them.
Here are some of the plant species that thrive in Lake Fork:
Hydrilla (Hydrilla verticillata): Hydrilla is an invasive aquatic plant with dense mats that can alter water ecosystems. Fish often use hydrilla as a habitat, providing shelter, breeding grounds, and abundant prey among its thick underwater foliage. Anglers often find success when fishing early in the sprint when it has just sprouted using a lipless crankbait or other reaction bait to go through the vertical grass line.
Eurasian Milfoil (Myriophyllum spicatum): Eurasian Milfoil is a perennial aquatic plant growing in about 3 to 10 ft. deep waters. It has feather-like leaves with 12 or more thin segments and is considered invasive. Fishing these thick, underwater plants can be good for most of the year except the summer months when the plant forms impenetrable mats, even with the heaviest baits.
Coontail (Ceratophyllum demersum): Often confused with watermilfoils, coontails have a similar spiny appearance but are more forked rather than feather-like. They grow underwater with no roots and can be found in clear-to-murky water up to 20 ft. deep. Most anglers find that a weedless soft plastic is the most effective when used in gaps between plants.
American Lotus (Nelumbo lutea Willd.): Also known as yellow lotus or jumbo lilies, the American Lotus is one of the most recognizable plants in fishing. It is an aquatic plant native to the United States and is one of the best-known habitats for largemouth bass. During the warm summer months, you can try flipping or throwing a frog during peak growth. You can also fish old stems with weedless baits when nothing else is around in the winter.
Water Primrose (Ludwigia grandiflora): This invasive species typically grows around the shores of Lake Fork but can stretch out far into the water column and provide canopy cover for fish. It often grows so thick that even ambushing bass can’t penetrate through. To fish areas with creeping primrose effectively, you can try to flip edges in deeper water where growth is sparser.
Water Hyacinth (Eichhornia crassipes): Hyacinths are aquatic plants that can provide ample cover for bass and crappie in winter, when the plants die, or in the sprint when new plants are growing from old stems. These invasive species can get so thick by late summer, making it more challenging to fish in these areas even when using the heaviest punch bait. Try vertical jigging with a thicker rod when fishing in these areas so you don’t end up getting tangled.
Alligatorweed (Alternanthera philoxeroides): Similar to the creeping water primrose, alligatorweed creates thick mats of opposite leaves and white flowers from the shoreline to deepwater dropoffs. When fishing in areas with alligatorweed, make sure to prepare a braid since horsing big bass into your boat can be difficult around alligatorwood stems that can be as big as your thumb.
- Pennywort (Alternanthera philoxeroides): Pennywort, or Hydrocotyle, is a floating or submerged aquatic plant that can create favorable habitats for various fish species. The thick mats of pennywort provide shelter, protection, and a source of food for largemouths, crappie, and sunfish. Your best course of action here is to target the outside bends, fishing the edges of the pennywort using cranks, senkos, and chatterbaits. You can also punch through the thick vegetation with heavy weights, big hooks, and a strong line.
Target Fish Species
There are numerous angling opportunities present in Lake Fork, making it a top destination for avid anglers. Largemouth bass is the most sought-after sportfish in the Lake, the population of which is protected by restrictive harvest regulations, Florida strain largemouth stocking, and Lake Fork’s abundant habitat.
Lake Fork has established a stellar reputation as a premier trophy bass haven. Over 65% of Texas’s Top 50 largest bass, including the current state record, and more than half of those in the Toyota ShareLunker Program, were all caught from Lake Fork.
Other freshwater fish species like crappie, channel, flathead, and blue catfish, and white bass are also present, further diversifying the angling scene in Lake Fork.
Below, you will find more information about the various fish species you can catch:
Largemouth Bass (Micropterus salmoides)
The largemouth bass is a prized freshwater game fish native to North America. It is highly sought after because of its fierce demeanor and tenacity, which makes catching one quite an exhilarating experience.
These fish have a distinct appearance, with a big mouth that extends beyond their eye and an olive-green body. They can be found in rivers, lakes, and reservoirs, where they prey on smaller fish, crustaceans, and insects, playing a crucial role in their ecosystem.
Habitat: Largemouth bass are known to look for safe and secure hiding places, such as logs, rock ledges, vegetation, and artificial structures. They prefer clear and peaceful waters but can adapt and thrive in different environments.
Breeding and Nesting Patterns: Largemouth bass tend to breed when the water temperature reaches a range of 55 to 65°F. They usually spawn in shallow waters to ensure a warm environment for their eggs.
Movement Patterns: Throughout the year, the behavior of largemouth bass in Lake Fork varies depending on the season. During springtime, they tend to inhabit shallow waters for spawning and will become territorial. In the summer, they tend to move to deeper and cooler waters during the day and may only feed in shallower areas at dawn or dusk. As the water temperature drops in the fall, their activity increases and can be found at various depths. In the winter, they move slowly and prefer deeper areas to maintain a stable body temperature below the thermocline. However, warm weather can cause them to venture into shallower waters temporarily.
Recommended Fishing Strategy: Anglers looking to catch largemouth bass at this reservoir should target the spring, fall, and winter months for the greatest success. During the spring (mid-February to April), fishing is concentrated along the shoreline for spawning fish, and popular lures include War Eagle spinnerbaits, plastic worms and lizards, jigs, and Bill Lewis Rat-L-Trap lipless crankbaits. Night fishing during the hot summer can also be productive, with plastic worms, spinnerbaits, Strike King KVD crankbaits, and topwaters all being effective options. As fish begin to school in late summer and early fall, try using Rapala DT crankbaits and topwater lures like the Rebel Pop-R. In winter, jigging spoons, jigs, and crankbaits tend to be the most productive.
White Crappie (Pomoxis annularis)
The white crappie, or papermouth, has a deep-bodied and flattened shape. Its name comes from the Greek word “Pomoxis,” which refers to the sharp spines on its gill covers, and the Latin word “annularis,” which means “having rings,” describing its distinct dark bands.
The fish has a silvery color on its belly and a dark green back, along with six spines on its dorsal fin. During the spring, males have a dark throat. The large dorsal and anal fins are notable characteristics of the laterally compressed body, with the dorsal fin having five to six spines and 14 or 15 rays and the anal fin having five to seven spines and 16 to 18 rays.
In the spawning season, the fish displays vertical dark bars on its sides and dark margins on its scales. The dorsal, caudal, and anal fins also feature alternating light and dark bands.
Habitat: Grown-up crappie can be seen in various freshwater settings, including lakes, reservoirs, ponds, sloughs, backwaters, pools, and streams. These fish usually stick to areas with cover, like 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: White crappie are nest builders, similar to bluegills. They tend to nest in large beds and have high reproductive potential, leading to overpopulation and stunting in small lakes. They spawn in spring when water temperatures are 65°F to 70°F. Fry hatch in 3-5 days, remain attached to the nest substrate for a few more days and begin feeding on microscopic animals.
Movement Patterns: Throughout the year, white crappie in Lake Fork follow specific movement patterns. In the spring, they migrate towards shallower areas to breed. During the summertime, they move to cooler, deeper parts of the lake, congregating near structures where they can feed and avoid the heat. In the fall, they can be found in both shallow and deep waters as they adjust to changing temperatures and pursue baitfish. In the winter, they tend to cluster in deeper areas with more stable temperatures, making them less active and more challenging to catch.
Recommended Fishing Strategy: During winter, anglers after white crappie usually focus on deep water areas near the dam. However, in the late spring and early fall, most prefer to fish for crappie under bridges such as Highway 154, Highway 515, CR 2946, and CR 514, often finding success using live minnows and crappie jigs.
Black Crappie (Pomoxis nigromaculatus)
The black crappie is a highly sought-after panfish in Lake Fork. This fish can thrive for up to a decade in the lake’s nutrient-rich waters, and anglers typically catch specimens between 2 and 7 years old.
The name “Pomoxis” comes from the Greek word meaning “opercle sharp,” referring to the spines on the fish’s gill covers. “Nigromaculatus” means “having black spots,” which describes the dark bands or vertical bars on the fish’s body.
Black crappie have a deep body and a silvery coloration with several vertical bars on their sides. During the spring spawning season, males exhibit dark coloration in their throat region.
Habitat: The two crappie species are found in almost all waters except mountain streams. They are more abundant in large impoundments, natural lakes and backwaters. Black crappie prefers clearer waters and are not as tolerant of turbidity as their white counterpart.
Breeding and Nesting Patterns: Black crappie, like other sunfish family members, construct nests during the spring season when the water temperature reaches 60°F. The biology of black crappie is very similar to that of white crappie, with a comparable weight growth rate. Although white crappies tend to grow longer, black crappies have a more robust body structure. Adults of this species consume fewer fish and more insects and crustaceans than their white crappie counterparts.
Movement Patterns: In the springtime, black crappie tend to migrate towards shallow waters to mate. These areas provide a lot of vegetation and submerged structures that can give them enough cover and safety. After mating, crappie moves towards deeper waters near dropoffs and timber as the summer heat intensifies. As the fall season approaches, the crappie returns to shallower waters and follow the baitfish. As winter sets in, they return to deeper, more stable environments and often form large groups.
Recommended Fishing Strategy: Anglers who go after Black crappie during winter often have the most luck in deepwater areas near the dam. Fishing hotspots move to locations under bridges in late spring and early fall. Use live minnows and crappie jigs as bait. Tube jigs under a slip bobber work well, with micro tube jigs and spikes successful. For color, white, fluorescent green, pink, and white are good options. Minnows are still a popular choice, and crappies tend to inhale bait slowly, so dragging bobbers to entice hits can be an effective technique.
Channel Catfish (Ictalurus punctatus)
The Lake Fork catfish population is predominated by channel catfish, although other species like the flathead catfish (Pylodictis olivaris) and the blue catfish (Ictalurus furcatus) are also present.
The channel catfish is named after the Greek term “Ictalurus,” which translates to “fish cat,” and the Latin term “punctatus,” which means “spotted.” These fish have a distinct appearance with a forked tail fin and a longer upper jaw extending beyond the lower jaw. Their coloration is olive-brown to slate-blue on the back and sides, gradually transitioning to a silvery-white belly.
Channel catfish typically have small black spots, which are more prominent in younger individuals. Their anal fin boasts 24-29 soft rays, setting them apart from blue catfish. Grayish-blue on the sides, black on the back, and white on the belly are typical colorations, with peach coloration resulting from rare cases of albinism. Albino channel catfish are popularly bred for aquariums and ornamental ponds due to domestic breeding.
Habitat: Channel catfish thrive in clear, slow-moving water while tolerating some turbidity. Like their counterparts, they prefer dark, deep pools during the day, especially those located below rock dams, wing dams, or the concrete aprons of larger dams. Their ideal habitats include pools with submerged logs, rocks, or other debris.
Breeding and Nesting Patterns: Catfish like to look for hidden locations like hollow river banks, rock overhangs and ledges, submerged tree roots and hollow logs to construct nests for spawning. Interestingly, it is the male catfish that locates the perfect spot. Using their tails, catfish rigorously fan to remove debris until they reach a sand or gravel base. They will even use their mouths to clear stubborn obstacles. Catfish typically spawn between May and July when the water temperature reaches around 75°F. Channel catfish frequently journey upstream to warmer, shallower water, searching for the best nesting sites.
Movement Patterns: During the summer, channel catfish move around quite a bit. They often seek out areas of water at least 25 ft. deep to avoid the heat and find cooler conditions with less light. This deeper water provides a respite from the warmer temperatures at the surface. However, it’s worth noting that channel catfish sometimes venture into shallower areas at night in search of food. This can be a good opportunity for anglers looking to catch channel catfish in shallower waters after the sun goes down.
Recommended Fishing Strategy: During the summer, vertical fishing is the best method for catching channel catfish, especially in waters like Lake Fork, where casting can lead to getting tangled in brush. To make sure you catch the fish, let your bait touch the bottom before reeling it up about two turns, and keep a close eye on your rod tip for any small bites. Chicken liver is an excellent choice for catfish bait because its blood can attract catfish while also being quite tough, so it stays on your hook longer. However, you can also turn to stinkbait and cutbait as reliable options if the liver doesn’t work. Choose your gear based on the size of the catfish you’re targeting; use a baitcasting rod for larger catfish in Lake Fork, while a medium to medium-light spinning rod is suitable for smaller ones.
White Bass (Morone chrysops)
The silver bass, or white bass, is a popular freshwater fish found all across the United States. Its attractive silvery-white body with dark horizontal stripes from head to tail makes it easily distinguishable. Anglers love catching this fish for its fighting ability and tendency to school together.
White bass usually grow to a moderate size of around 10 to 15 in. in length and can weigh up to 3 lbs, although there have been rare cases where they weigh over 5 lbs, such as the record-breaking white bass caught in Lake Fork. Typically, they live for an average of 4 to 6 years, but some may live up to a decade if the conditions are optimal.
Habitat: In large bodies of water like Lake Fork, white bass often avoids areas with significant plant growth and murky water. You can find them in open water or around structures such as points, humps, and dropoffs.
Breeding and Nesting Patterns: During spring, white bass engage in their breeding rituals when the water temperature ranges between 54 to 68°F. These fish migrate upstream towards tributaries of major lakes and rivers to spawn. Observations by anglers in Lake Fork revealed that white bass form large groups as they move towards shallower regions of the lake and its tributaries. They usually spawn over sandy or gravel substrates.
Movement Patterns: Outside the breeding season, white bass prefer deeper waters, often found at depths of 10 to 20 ft. in Lake Fork. However, they may go even deeper to pursue schools of shad, their preferred prey. These fish are known for their opportunistic feeding habits and have moderate growth rates due to their hearty appetite.
Recommended Fishing Strategy: Watch for diving birds and use lures that mimic shad or baitfish when fishing for white bass. Jigging spoons and live baitfish are effective for yellow and white bass. During schooling periods, use topwater baits and small crankbaits.
Lake Fork Fishing Regulations
Largemouth Bass: There are size limits for largemouth bass, with a limit of one over 24 inches per day. Smallmouth bass have a minimum length of 14 inches, while Alabama, Guadalupe, and spotted bass have no limit. The daily bag limit for all black bass species is 5.
Black and White Crappie: Crappie size restrictions vary by season. From March to November, the minimum size is 10 inches. There are no size limits from December to February, but all caught fish must be kept. The bag limit is 25 fish.
Channel 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.
*Note: The law requires all anglers to drain water from their boats and onboard receptacles when approaching and leaving public fresh waters in order to prevent the spread of invasive zebra mussels.
Lake Fork Surrounding Towns and Cities
Conservation Authority Information
Quitman, TX 75783