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Free Family Trout Fishing

Coming soon to a lake or pond near you: rainbow trout.

By Ken Kurzawski

Texas state parks’ “Family Fishing Celebration” and TPWD’s popular winter rainbow trout stocking program have joined forces for the second year to make a great fishing opportunity even better. Beginning in December and lasting through February, 15 state parks will be stocked with 30,000 trout. What improves this fishing story is the TPWD program — the Family Fishing Celebration — that exempts park visitors from license requirements while they’re fishing within the boundaries of a state park.

The Family Fishing Celebration encourages adults and youths to discover the excitement and joys of fishing while enjoying one of the many state parks that feature fishing. Anglers are required to pay any park entrance fees and follow all applicable fishing regulations. Rainbow trout anglers can keep five trout per day. There is no minimum length limit.

The winter rainbow trout fishing program was designed to provide easy, inexpensive fishing opportunities for those who live in and around Texas’ urban areas and especially for new or novice anglers. Over the last two decades, Texas anglers have responded enthusiastically to the opportunity to catch a fish usually associated with a costly out-of-state trip.

In addition to state parks, 84 sites in city, county and other public parks will be stocked this winter. Most of the stocking sites are small ponds or impounded sections of rivers that were selected to give anglers plenty of shoreline access for fishing. All you need is a chair and your fishing pole.

“The most important thing to remember is the stocking dates are tentative and do often change,” says Hatchery Program Director Todd Engeling, who oversees the distribution of trout for TPWD. “Be sure to check the TPWD Web site for the latest information before going out.”

Trout will bite almost immediately after stockings, so get there early to get in on the best fishing. Anglers use a variety of baits from corn or soft baits to flies and even small spinnerbaits. My favorite bait came from some anglers at Blanco State Park. They were using soft yellow cheese balls flavored with garlic. On that day, the trout couldn’t resist them! As a bonus, the “bait” isn’t bad on crackers if the fishing is slow.

Raising trout to the size stocked in Texas (around 10 inches with a few “bonus” larger fish) requires year-round cold water. Since that’s lacking in Texas, TPWD purchases trout from a private fish hatchery in Missouri. Until this year, funds to purchase trout came from the sale of the freshwater trout stamp. The trout stamp was eliminated on September 1, 2004, when a freshwater fishing stamp was created. Now a portion of the funds collected from the freshwater fishing stamp go to purchase trout. Other freshwater fishing stamp monies will be used to renovate and replace freshwater fish hatcheries.

For more information about rainbow trout stockings and Texas state parks, check the TPWD Web site <www.tpwd.state.tx.us > or call TPWD at (800) 792-1112 and follow the menu options.

Trout stocking schedule:

  • Abilene State Park Buffalo Wallow Pond: Jan. 11
  • Blanco State Park: Jan. 1; Jan.20; Feb. 17
  • Bob Sandlin State Park: Dec.27; Jan. 30
  • Buescher State Park: Dec. 16
  • Copper Breaks State Park: Feb. 8
  • Fort Boggy State Park: Jan. 30
  • Fort Parker State Park: Jan. 22
  • Fort Richardson State Park: Jan. 13
  • Lake Tawakoni State Park - Pair-a-trees Pond: Feb.19
  • Landmark Inn State Park: Jan.16
  • Meridian State Park: Jan. 9
  • Palmetto State Park: Jan. 30
  • Rusk State Park: Dec. 16
  • South Llano River State Park: Dec. 18; Feb. 3
  • Tyler State Park: Dec. 3; Jan. 7

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