AUSTIN — The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department wants to make it easier for Texans to go fishing and this year has renamed and expanded its learn-to-fish initiative to include dozens of special springtime events being held at 13 state parks throughout Texas.
“Go Fish! Learn-to Fish Events at Texas State Parks” gets into high gear at Bastrop and Huntsville state parks on March 13, and March 16 at Buescher State Park just down the road from Bastrop, in a week when most kids are out of school on Spring Break. The “how-to” events are informative and fun, and often result in participants — both children and adults — landing their first fish.
The Go Fish! events are designed to help families learn how to fish together, according to Ann Miller, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s Aquatic Resources coordinator. The events also serve, she says, in support of national research that shows fishing is one of the key gateways to involving people in a lifetime of outdoor enjoyment.
“We’ve been getting more and more requests for how-to-fish classes from young parents who want to take their children fishing, but don’t feel comfortable doing so,” Miller says. “These events fulfill that need and in many cases introduce families to Texas state parks that are the ideal place for fishing since adults don’t have to have a fishing license to fish inside a state park.”
Miller notes that the seven-year-old state park fishing events are more numerous this year and now are benefiting from the support of Walmart which has come on board as this year’s Go Fish! sponsor. Event coordinators received gift cards from the retail chain to purchase rods and reels, fishing tackle and other outdoor equipment and products for use by participants and for prizes for young anglers.
Last year, hundreds of adults and more than 2,000 children – 200 of whom caught their first fish – attended the learn-to-fish events, formerly known as the Family Fishing Celebration. At Huntsville State Park, one ecstatic grandmother even landed her first fish.
Bill Brooks, a retired herpetologist and Texas Master Naturalist, has been involved from the onset in putting on the fishing events at Bastrop and Buescher state parks in central Texas. He finds the experience of helping youngsters and their parents and grandparents rewarding.
“I have some kids come back year after year, not only to fish but to go through the learning stations,” Brooks says. “Lots of parents come up and shake my hand afterwards and thank us for putting on the program. Some of them have never been to the park and realize what a nice place it is and that you don’t even have to have a fishing license to fish there.”
Before youngsters attending a Go Fish! event can try their luck at hooking a fish, they must first visit a handful of learning stations. TPWD staff and volunteers teach the young anglers such skills as knot-tying, how to cast, fish ecology, water safety and state fishing rules and regulations.
At Brooks’ events as with most Go Fish! outings, participants check in at 9 a.m., get a bag of informational brochures and begin making the rounds of the learning stations. When they’ve finished visiting the booths, they receive a sticker and pin, and a Junior Angler certificate. Then an instructor takes them to the pond to try to hook a fish. Children can win prizes for catching the first fish, the biggest fish and other noteworthy achievements. At noon, there are snacks and raffles for tackle boxes and other fishing equipment and products.
Special events aside, any time is a great time to visit a Texas state park to enjoy recreational fishing without breaking the bank. However, keep in mind that license-free angling applies only to fishing inside a state park from the bank, a pier or from a boat if done in a body of water totally contained within the boundaries of a state park, such as Huntsville State Park’s Lake Raven. State parks along the coast also participate to encourage fishing from the beach and wade-fishing. State park entry fees, however, still apply. All state fishing regulations, except the license and stamp requirements, remain in effect.
Go Fish! events take place at Bastrop, Buescher and other state parks throughout the spring and well into summer. Other upcoming state park Go Fish! events this month will occur at Huntsville (March 13), Ray Roberts Lake (March 20), Goose Island (March 20), Choke Canyon (March 20), Lake Casa Blanca (March 27) and McKinney Falls (March 27). At Palmetto State Park near Gonzales, Go Fish! events are scheduled into well into the fall, concluding on Oct. 16.
Other state parks hosting Go Fish! events in coming months are: Cedar Hill, Eisenhower, Galveston and Lake Tawakoni. For more information and list of events, call (512) 389-4732 or visit the TPWD Web site.