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June 2010 cover image 12 Out on the Pier

From the Pen of Carter P. Smith

We had clearly come to where the fishermen thought the fish were. Packed nearly shoulder to shoulder as far out into the Trinity River as they could stand, anglers of all ages were slinging lures into the waters below the dam at Lake Livingston. It was a picture-perfect spring day, and an ideal morning to catch fish. Judging from the bent rods, they were having pretty fair luck.

We were there to catch fish as well, although our purpose and gear were rather distinct from the wade fishermen downstream. Our target that morning was striped bass, particularly the big females ready to spawn. Our gear included boats specially equipped with electro-shocking rigs that our Inland Fisheries team uses for collecting fish for survey, research and monitoring purposes. The rigs serve to temporarily stun fish, enabling biologists to net the ones they want (easier said than done) and allow the others to swim away unharmed.

The fish we collected were taken to temporary holding ponds so our biologists could weigh them and determine their sex. Eggs from the big females were analyzed to determine their estimated time of readiness. Tissue samples were collected for subsequent genetic analysis to ensure we were collecting only pure stripers and not hybrid bass.

The ultimate goal of this expedition was to take a certain quantity of striped bass back to our hatcheries at Dundee, Possum Kingdom and A.E. Wood for _hatching and rearing of fry. The progeny of the stripers we collected that fine spring morning would in turn later be released into nearly 40 other lakes throughout Texas for anglers to enjoy.

You may be interested to know that there are eight fish hatcheries located in communities throughout the state — Athens, Corpus Christi, Electra, Jasper, Lake Jackson, Palacios, Possum Kingdom and San Marcos. Five of the hatcheries serve the needs of our inland lakes and water bodies. Three serve the needs of our coastal bays and estuaries. Several were built back in the 1920s and are still operating today! A new hatchery, which will be a replacement facility for the one in Jasper, is being constructed right now. Two of them, the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center in Athens and the Sea Center in Lake Jackson, also serve as destinations for tens of thousands of visitors a year to learn about Texas fish, fishing, aquatic habitats and conservation.

Each of our hatcheries is operated by a specialized team of biologists, technicians and administrative staff. These skilled professionals use a unique blend of art, science, experimentation and innovation to produce and rear almost 40 million fish per year in order to meet the department’s management goals for stocking, restoration and conservation. They all play a critically important role supporting the recreational needs of Texas’ 2.5 million fishermen.

Is the hatchery program successful? Ask Sam Callaway, who caught the state’s 500th Toyota ShareLunker in April, or visit with the volunteer anglers who help collect southern flounder for propagation at Sea Center. Better yet, grab your own rod and reel and head out to any of Texas’ diverse inland or coastal waters. Even better still, take a kid with you. There will be plenty of fish produced from your hatcheries out there waiting for you!

Thanks for caring about and for the future of Texas’ wild things and wild places. They need you more than ever.

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