It's summertime and the living is easy.
Oh to be a kid again.
Waking up with no plans, but plenty of options — Baseball in the streets; playing in the sprinklers; trees to climb; swimming in a water trough.
It's all good.
What, kids don't do that stuff anymore? Oh, yeah. They have camps and video games.
They really don't know what they are missing.
Years ago, when my kids were actually kids someone wiser than me said they needed time off in the summer just to "dig in the dirt." Time that isn't structured and hopefully spent outdoors doing whatever. I tried to follow that advice.
With both parents working the norm today it is more common for kids to go to various camps or daycare throughout the summer.
Making matters worse, access to places to do some of the things we did have gotten harder. Even with about three-quarters of a million ponds and lakes in Texas, getting permission to fish one isn't easy if you don't know someone.
That doesn't mean there isn't any place to fish.
Working with cities and towns, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department created its Community Fishing Lakes program. Unlike the state's big reservoirs that are best fished from a boat, the community lakes are more often less than a hundred acres in size with excellent bank fishing access.
There are 11 designated community lakes in Smith County. Three are at Camp Tyler and only available to the public during special events at the facility. Another is on the UT-Tyler campus. Two are actually on TPWD property, The Nature Center, which also only allows fishing for special events, and Tyler State Park. The rest are at city parks in Tyler, Lindale and Overton.
Whether it is rainbow trout in the winter or bass and catfish in the summer, the lakes are geared toward catch-and-keep, but on a sustainable basis so the fishery can be spread among more fishermen. The bass limit is the statewide five-fish, 14-inch minimum while catfish fishermen can keep five channel or blue cats daily with no length limit. There is an 18-inch minimum for flathead catfish.
One important rule is that fishermen may only use one rod or pole at a time. This is strictly to make the lake accessible to more people and to spread the catch around.
While the community lakes that are on the state's trout stocking list draw the largest winter crowds, a number of them are popular in the warm months.
"They are popular," said Richard Ott, TPWD fisheries biologist from Tyler. "We don't have a real good way to measure utilization, but we do get by Faulkner (located in South Tyler) enough to see evidence of fishing."
The biologist said Tyler's Woldert Park along with Faulkner Park in Lindale show signs that they also draw fishermen. Ott said one thing that makes Woldert especially attractive is the fact the city has loaner rods through the neighboring Glass Recreation Center.
The lakes are stocked primarily with catfish and sunfish through TPWD's regular hatchery program every few years. That helps keep the lakes fresh and viable as a fishery. In most cases bass already exist in the lakes, but typically aren't stocked.
Ott said the goal is to make the lakes an easy access designation for local residents.
Besides Smith County there are a number of community lakes in Anderson, Henderson, Hopkins, Titus, Van Zandt and Wood counties.
At all community lakes, like all public waters in Texas, youth 16 and under are not required to have a fishing license. Those 17 and up are not required to have a license on lakes that are fully enclosed by a state park such as Tyler State Park or Purtis Creek State Park lakes.
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