It is not even mid-July and already the euphoria that was the last day of school has turned into the summer doldrums. Water park, been there done that. Movies, you can only see so many. Video games, those can be done any night.
Plan D, E or F, how about going outside fishing? It is a lot easier than most think at least in 12 cities around Texas where Texas Parks and Wildlife Department operates Neighborhood Fishin’ Lakes.
In all the department manages 18 lakes for the program in Abilene, Amarillo, Austin, Bryan-College Station, Dallas-Fort Worth, Denton, Houston, San Angelo, San Antonio, Tyler, Waco and Wichita Falls.
Like Tyler’s Woldert Park Pond, the lakes in the program are small and easily accessible by land. Most are stocked in the late spring, early summer and again in the fall with ready-to-catch catfish, and in the winter with rainbow trout.
The ease of access makes the lakes family friendly. So does allowing youth 16 and under to fish without a license.
“We did our last stocking for the season last week,” said Richard Ott, TPWD Inland Fisheries biologist, of the program in Tyler. “It will resume in September. We have had high mortality of fish stocking the hot months.”
While Tyler State Park Lake offers similar qualities and on a larger scale to the Woldert Park Pond two of its biggest advantages is it locations within the Tyler city limits and that there is no admission to participate. Although there is often someone on the lake daily, it doesn’t attract the crowd.
While the program is considered catch-and-keep with a five-fish daily limit, there is sometimes a sport component as well when fishermen hook a bigger catfish than expected.
“Neighborhood Fishin’ is an urban fishing program that is used to recruit new anglers and retain them in our large metropolitan areas,” explained Dave Terre, TPWD Inland Fisheries management and research chief.
Terre said the program is currently in search of another site in the Houston area, but doesn’t see a massive expansion of the program.
“Large scale expansion of this program, while perhaps desirable, is not realistically possible due to financial and/or operational constraints. This is an expensive program that is designed to reach specific audiences such as youth and families, new anglers and non-traditional anglers,” he noted.
To stock about 115,000 12- to 16-inch catfish and another 40,000 rainbow trout annually the program has a current budget of $612,000. Of that about $105,000 comes from local governmental partners and another $252,000 comes from sponsors. The remainder comes from TPWD’s budget, usually covered by a donation from Gulf States Toyota previously through the Toyota Texas Bass Classic and this year through the Toyota Bassmaster Texas Fest.
“Recent expansions of the program have been funded through sponsorship dollars. That includes funds coming from the Toyota Texas Bass Classic – now called the Toyota Bassmaster Texas Fest and other private funding partners like the East Texas Woods and Waters Foundation. Incoming funds will vary from year to year, but they are used to help defray our program costs,” Terre said.
He said that local government funding helps pay for the fish as well as promotion of the program.
Terre said the department has learned a lot about what works and does not work, and what can be refined within the program that began in 2003
“Currently, we are targeting specific cities with specific lake/park attributes and local population demographics to increase our reach and maintain the cost effectiveness with the program. In other words, we don’t put NFP lakes just everywhere. Locations are strategically chosen to achieve success and they are regularly evaluated by our biologists to ensure success,” Terre said.
Specific criteria include a small lake from 1- to 6-acres in size, within a public park with other amenities and preferably within a neighborhood to draw the target audience.
According to department surveys the program’s lakes have been attracting about 5,850 anglers per year or about 100,000 statewide. It is estimated that about 50 percent of those are new to fishing.
For more information on the program or the location of Neighborhood Fishin’ Lakes go online to https://tpwd.texas.gov/fishboat/fish/management/stocking/neighborhood-fishin.phtml.