Checking out the top 100 things Austin, Texas, is famous for, you won’t find Lake Austin on the list. There’s live music, the University of Texas, great food, overpriced housing and…well about 97 other things. But Lake Austin. Nope. Not mentioned anywhere. But that’s okay. Whoever made that list probably isn’t a fisherman. And the fishermen that treasure this fishing spot don’t mind. Because if nobody else finds out about it, they are okay with that. And if you look at a map of Lake Austin, you’ll notice it isn’t really a lake at all, but a part of the Colorado River in Austin that is dammed up on both ends, designed to maintain a constant level in the lake.
But again, if you are a fisherman that doesn’t matter because in that 1,600 acres of water, there is some fantastic largemouth bass fishing. The lake record is over 16 pounds, and it’s common for 8-10 pound bass to be caught in Lake Austin. There’s also a bonus bass here — the Guadalupe bass, a feisty little fighter that doesn’t grow very big. But it has developed a cult following in several lakes around Austin, including Lake Austin. The truth is that the biggest of this species isn’t hardly enough for a one-man fish fry, but it has earned a well-deserved reputation for fighting hard. The world record is 3.71 pounds and was caught right here in the waters of Austin. The fish has a limited range, and likes flowing water and frankly, isn’t found anywhere else in any numbers. The waters of Lake Travis, which run into Lake Austin and the Colorado River below the Tom Miller dam at the end of Lake Austin hold a good population of the fish.
Still, it’s the regular largemouth bass that get the most attention from fishermen wanting a trophy. The biggest largemouth are usually caught in the spring and fall. Fish move into the shallow spots along the bank or find a place to hide near the bridge pilings and rock jetties to spawn. Sight fishing is popular among bass anglers all up and down the Austin shoreline. That shoreline is also covered in boat houses and piers. That provides all kinds of cover for the bass, and plenty of targets for the bass angler.
Lake Austin bream fishermen go after bluegills and sunfish, especially in the summer. The bream love the grass beds and often bed up under boat docks. Catfish can be caught on red worms and cut bait in almost every area of the lake.
It may not look like it at a glance, but there is some pretty deep water in the lake, with a maximum of 75 feet. The lake is used as part of the water supply for Austin. It begins below Mansfield Dam and is principally fed by the outflow of Lake Travis and meanders southeast. There are several runout and irregular spots in the lake with a few tributaries feeding in. Those include Bull Creek, entering from the north near the Pennybacker Bridge and Bee Creek, entering from the west just above Tom Miller Dam, where the lake ends. As the water flows out of Austin, it travels a stretch of river into Lady Bird Lake.
Finding fish when everything is normal isn’t that hard, but when fishing conditions like weather and flow change, it is a good idea to use a local guide to keep you on the fish. When bass are suspended over points, drop-offs or other structure, they can be enticed into hitting topwater or crank baits. Shad color or lures with chartreuse on them seem to produce well. During the spring, the water is fairly clear and that makes the fish a bit tougher to catch.
Another thing that makes fishing tough here is heavy pressure. If there are a lot of boat riders and other fishermen, it can make the fish slow to bite or even move them out a little deeper from their normal hiding spots. One area that seems to always hold fish is the numerous bridges and the rock areas around them. Largemouth often position themselves downstream of the bridge pilings, waiting for a tasty meal to come floating by.
Almost all the shoreline around Lake Austin is privately owned, which limits bank fishing. Bank access can be found at the Loop 360 bridge, at Emma Long Park, Mary Quinlan Park, and Fritz Hughes Park near Mansfield Dam. Public boat ramps are available at the Walsh Boat Landing on Lake Austin Blvd., and a ramp below the Loop 360 bridge. Fishermen and families can enjoy the Emma Long Metropolitan Parkon City Park Road. The 1,150 acre park is on the shores of Lake Austin and consists of a total of 1150 acres. Approximately 70 acres are developed.