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Fishing Denison Dam's Tailrace


November 1, 2015

Here is a video clip taken November 1, 2015.

State Hwy 91 remains closed on the Texas side, you will need to cross the border to Oklahoma if taking Hwy 75 from Texas and then take State Hwy 91 from Oklahoma to get to Denison Dam.

Had a great time catching them on the fly fishing gear. The Clouser Minnow worked well; even caught a nice sized Striper that went 29" in size. Did lose a bigger one... can't win them all.

Fun stuff... Good luck and good fishing!

Fishing Denison Dam's Tailrace

Denison Dam's tailrace offers an excellent opportunity to fish for gamefish such as Striped Bass, Catfish, and Smallmouth Bass.

However, a search online for information about fishing the tailrace results in more questions than answers.

Therefore, we are publishing this HubPage with the intent to provide useful information to fishermen interested in fishing Denison Dam's tailrace.

We are avid fishermen who enjoy the outdoors and welcome others to share their knowledge and expertise about fishing Denison Dam's tailrace.

Good luck and good fishing!

A Fisherman's View of the Area

Denison Dam is located on the Red River along the Texas-Oklahoma border.

It is a source of hydroelectric power, provides for flood control, and impounds Lake Texoma. It also provides fishermen ease of access to the Red River and the dam's tailrace.

A brief summary of a fisherman's view of the area from the Texas-side is provide below for your reference:

  1. Parking Area - The parking area overlooks the river and the tailrace on the Texas-side. An ample amount of parking is normally available, but it does get crowded in the Summer months. Plan trips accordingly.
  2. Camping Area - The Corps of Engineers operates a seasonal campground. For more details, checkout Denison Dam Camping.
  3. Stairwells - Four stairwells provide for access to the Red River from the parking area. They also provide good reference points for marking deep holes and structure where the fish frequent.
  4. "The Wall" - Near the generating station is an area that is open to fishermen. Special methods apply when fishing the "Wall" considering the strong current flow when the generators are operating and the distance to the waterline which may exceed 100' in places.
  5. "The Bait House" - A bait house was once located along the Red River until a flood swept it away. The foundation is all that remains and serves as another point of reference for marking deep holes and structure.
  6. "Warning Cable to Shawnee Creek" - Fishermen with a Texas Freshwater License can legally fish from the bank in this area. Wading the river will require an Oklahoma Fishing License! See details in the Regulations section below.

Additionally, we have embedded maps for your reference on our supporting site - Fisherman's View of Denison Dam's Tailrace.

Fish in the Area

Popular among area fishermen are the Striped Bass and Blue Catfish; however, other gamefish inhabit the Red River and make for an interesting outing when a "Grand Slam" can be had in one day!

  • Catfish - Blue, Channel, and Flathead
  • Largemouth Bass, Smallmouth Bass, and Spotted Bass
  • Striped Bass, Hybrid Striped Bass, and White Bass
  • Gar - Alligator and Longnose
  • Paddlefish (Spoonbill)

Paddlefish (Spoonbill) are in the area but special rules apply in their case depending on your location - Texas or Oklahoma.

Be sure to read and understand both Texas and Oklahoma Fishing Regulations before you go as you may find yourself breaking the law depending on where you fish.



Suggested Fishing Gear

When fishing Denison Dam, keep in mind the water conditions, especially the waterflow, as they are significant factors in selecting the right fishing gear.

Things to keep in mind when choosing a rod and reel for the tailrace:

  • Flood gates open with a strong waterflow. Due to the strong current and potential for trophy-sized fish, medium-heavy to heavy surfcasting gear is recommended. Surfcasting gear enables long distance casts and has the backbone to horse a bruiser away from the current and back to shore. Also, surfcasting gear allows casting heavy weights/lures that stay in the strike zone longer compared to lighter weights that quickly rise to the surface.
  • Generators operating with a strong waterflow. Same gear as when the flood gates are open but medium freshwater fishing/flyfishing gear are an option depending on the number of generators operating and the amount of waterflow that results. Also, when uisng flyfishing gear, sinking lines and/or tips are highly recommended.
  • Minimal or no waterflow. Light to medium freshwater fishing/flyfishing gear remain an option. Given minimal current, focus more on the type of fish sought when choosing your gear.
  • Bottom-line. Be prepared to fish the water conditions as they dictate. Use heavier tackle when the current is strong. Rod length and reels are a matter of personal preference. Use gear that you can consistently cast for distance as fish may be holding well into the river.
  • Surfasting Gear. For more thoughts on using surfcasting gear, check out our article Surfcasting Without the Surf.

Recommended lures to keep ready in your tackle box:

Casting Lures. Match the hatch when choosing a size. Early in the year, smaller-sized lures to match baitfish in the area. As the Summer and Fall arrive, larger-sized lures become the rule.

  • Rattle-Traps. Colors in Blue/Chrome and Red/White.
  • Pencil Poppers. Red/White and Blue/White. Modified with "BBs" as required.
  • Zara Spooks. Same as above.
  • Bomber Slabs. White or Chrome work at times.

Jigs. Varying weights to match the current and colors in White and Blue/White are a good bet.

  • Bucktail Jigs
  • Crappie Jigs
  • Wildeyes
  • Locally-Tied Jigs!

Enticers. Added to Bucktail Jigs as enticers to liven up jigs. Colors in White, Pearl, and Green (Chartreuse) are a good start.

  • Sassy Shads
  • Flukes
  • Curly Tails

Flyfishing. Clousers and Deceivers in Blue/White and Green/Yellow/Red. Homemade fishing fly tied with a Pearl Chenille body, weighted Red dumbell eyes, and White Bucktail.

  • Clouser Minnows
  • Lefty Deceivers
  • Homemade Fishing Fly

Baitfishing and Terminal Tackle. Be ready to adjust to the conditions as they can change on short-notice. Also, lures may outfish bait one day and vice versa. So, be prepared to change fishing rigs to locate where the fish may be holding in the water column.

In addition to the standard hook, line, and sinker, the following are recommended:

  • Weighted Float. Used to fish the upper part of the water column but is weighted to enable longer casts. Cork floats are more durable but cost more than the styrofoam floats. Either will work.
  • Casting Float. Similar to the Weight Float but more streamlined for long-distance casting. Made of plastic and varying in weights from 1/2oz to 1-7/8oz.
  • Barrel Swivels. A must-have when the current is strong, will keep your fishing line from twisting and allow for a strong connection between your shock leader and the line to your lure/fishing rig.


Specialty Fishing Rigs

Recommended for the tailrace:

Specialty Fishing Rigs. Two fishing rigs illustrated to the right are commonly used by fishermen at the tailrace. They are simple to tie and can make a difference when the fish are selective.

Fishing Regulations to Note!

Fishing regulations to note when fishing Denison Dam's tailrace are provided below. The information is quoted from the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department's webpage updated as of January 27. 2009.

As regulations are subject to change without notice, be sure to read and understand both Texas and Oklahoma Fishing Regulations as you may find yourself breaking the law depending on where you are fishing.

Note: For the latest information, go to the Border Waters and the Freshwater Fishing Limits sections of the TPWD Fishing Regulations that apply to the Red River.

Illustration D of the TPWD webpage.


Of interest to fishermen who want to fish the tailrace are excerpts from Texas Parks and Wildlife Department webpage dated January 27, 2009.

Texas License Requirements for Border Waters - Texas-Oklahoma

  • To fish in all waters of the Red River along the Texas-Oklahoma or Texas-Arkansas borders, a person must comply with the licensing requirements of Oklahoma or Arkansas, as applicable. A person may fish with a valid Texas fishing license from the Texas bank from Denison Dam to Shawnee Creek (see illustration). [D]
  • In Lake Texoma, a person may fish in the respective Texas and Oklahoma waters with the appropriate license from the respective state, or may fish the entire lake with a Lake Texoma fishing license as explained below.
  • Lake Texoma License (Type 208): $12 - With this license, which is valid until December 31 following the date of issuance, a person may fish in both the Texas and Oklahoma waters of Lake Texoma without any additional Texas or Oklahoma fishing licenses. Holders of this license are exempt from freshwater fishing stamp endorsement requirements for the purpose of fishing on Lake Texoma.

Location of Texas-Oklahoma State Line. On the Red River below Denison Dam, a person with a Texas fishing license may fish south of the line between border markers 1 and 2 on the referenced map. GPS coordinates are:

  • Marker 1: Lat 33.81892, Long -96.56806
  • Marker 2: Lat 33.81986, Long -96.55561

Exceptions to Texas Freshwater Fishing Limits - Red River (below Texoma)

  • For striped bass and hybrid striped bass, no minimum length limit and daily bag=5. Culling of striped bass is prohibited.
  • For flathead catfish, minimum length limit=20 inches and daily bag=5.

Be Aware, Paddlefish (Spoonbill) Regulations for Texas and Oklahoma are not the same!

  • In Texas, there is no harvest of Paddlefish allowed.
  • In Oklahoma, "the daily limit is one (1) paddlefish per person, year-round, statewide. Once you keep a fish, you must stop paddlefish fishing (snagging) for the day". And, requires a permit. For more details, go to the Paddlefish Regulations for Oklahoma.

FYI: Real-Time Release for Denison Dam

When preparing for a trip to Denison Dam, as a general rule, our Field Team checks on the generating schedule or Real Time (Hydropower) Release. The information is delayed 15" to 30" which can prove useful at times if you live reasonably close to the area.

If you do not, it is a good starting point for comparing the planned generation times listed in the Generation Schedule with what actually occurred as listed in the Real Time Release.

Check it out when you get a chance.  Here is a link to our weblog post, "FYI: Real-Time Release for Denison Dam", that includes an example on how to read the information.



May 26, 2012

Here is a short video clip of a fishing trip to Denison Dam.

We were fishing the "Texas Wall" when power was not being generated. The water level was low and the flow was minimal. This allowed us to use a bottom rig and fish with lighter sinkers.

For bait, we brought frozen shad and bait shrimp. However, we used the frozen shad and kept the bait shrimp as a backup if needed.... It was not needed.

We fished for several hours, ending the trip when they started generating power. We caught a Gar, several Gaspergou (or Freshwater Drum), and small Stripers.

Fun stuff... Good luck and good fishing!

June 3 and June 9, 2012

Here are two short video clips of fishing trips to Denison Dam.

We were fishing when power was not being generated. The water level was low and the flow was minimal. This allowed us to use a bottom rig and fish with lighter sinkers. We also were able to use a float rig on one of the trips with good success.

On one trip we did stay after the power plant started generating to catch one more fish. We worked an eddy that formed and used a bottom rig and the same light sinkers we used when not generating.

We noticed that we could cast the light sinkers up current and let our rig flow downriver into the eddy which seemed to hold at least one Striped Bass.

For bait, we brought frozen shad from the local convenience store - Dave's Ski and Tackle. We fished for several hours and managed to take a limit of Stripers on both trips.

Fun stuff... Good luck and good fishing!

May 30, 2015

Here is a video clip taken May 30, 2015.

State Hwy 91 was washed out on the Texas side, so we had to head across the border taking Hwy 75 and then take State Hwy 91 from Oklahoma to get to Denison Dam.

Took some video of all the water rushing about, and then did some fishing but struck out.

Did see others hook up; even got some video of two nice Stripers being caught!

Fun stuff... Good luck and good fishing!

Beer Batter Fish Fry and Tartar Sauce

Here is a short video clip of us mixing up a batch of Beer Batter Fish Fry and Tartar Sauce, and then cooking some Catfish we caught!

It also works well for Striped Bass; do give it a try some time!

We are passionate about fishing and invite our readers to submit comments on fishing tips that have worked for them!

hbng84 (author) on June 05, 2015:

Water over the Spillway; water discharge into the River, and generating... going to be a good year for Striped Bass at the Tailrace!

Don on December 31, 2010:

My experience is that the Denison Dam tailrace yields big fish, small fish, or no fish depending on how much water is (or has been) released. The basic rule is that the greater the water flow, the greater the chances of bigtime hook-ups. Since trophy fish - stripers and catfish - get into the Red River from Lake Texoma via dam releases, it follows that significant hydropower generation results in increased numbers of available fish.

Surprises happen too. In addition to double-digit stripers, I have caught monster crappie and respectable bass - both largemouths and smallmouths. I've enticed catfish on surface lures, heavy drum on shiners, and fat hybrids on Rattletraps. I've also lost plenty of lures to the rocks (and to snagged fishing line from previous anglers). And I've come away empty-handed, mostly during periods of minimal power generation.

The Denison Dam experience is not finesse fishing. During water release periods, long casts are important. Heavy gear is necessary. A tighter than normal drag is appropriate. Even the occasional fly fishermen (who approach the tailrace as if it were a stupendous trout stream) must be ready to "horse in" their fish to keep them away from snags.

Fishing etiquette is also a consideration. Since hooked fish usually charge downstream, bank fishermen must sometimes walk - even run - with them. Inevitably, they'll have to pass in front of other fishermen along the rocky shore. Tangled lines are avoidable if people would just reel in when they see a frantic fishermen steaming downstream with his or her rod held high.

Good luck, all!

C.S.Alexis from NW Indiana on July 06, 2009:

This is a fantastic hub, informative and put together like you mean it! Damn good job! Fish on.

FYI on July 05, 2009:

Here is a link that shows how to make jigs used by one fisherman at the Denison Dam tailrace. Very good job by the author:

FYI on June 29, 2009:

Two articles from the Herald Democrat that provide information on fishing the tailrace.

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