From the Pen of Carter P. Smith
Bedecked in his trademark Stetson, blue blazer, bowtie and cowboy boots all the while chomping on an ever-present and well-chewed nub of a cigar, the late Texas Parks and Wildlife Commissioner John D. Parker was hard to miss, even in the largest of crowds. Notwithstanding his sartorial flair, Commissioner Parker’s gift for waxing tirelessly, forcefully and passionately about the state of the state’s fish, game and outdoor heritage drew an appreciative crowd wherever his travels took him.
And so it was fitting on a warm, breezy morning in late April that several hundred people gathered just a stone’s throw away or so from the dam at Sam Rayburn Reservoir to dedicate the state’s newest fish hatchery in his honor and memory. The expansive and stately John D. Parker East Texas Fish Hatchery in Jasper County is an apt tribute to a man who proudly cherished and championed the beloved woods and waters of his Pineywoods home ground.
It is not every day the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department gets to open a new fish hatchery, and this one in particular was a long time coming. The new facility takes the place of the former Jasper State Fish Hatchery, which was built in the early 1930s using mule teams to dig the ponds and CCC men to carry out the building construction. While the aging hatchery had ably served the state and its fishery needs for some 80-odd years, the time for a replacement had long since come.
Thanks to a broad, multifaceted partnership led by Jasper County officials, TPWD’s Inland Fisheries team was able to secure an approximately 200-acre site on land formerly owned by the Temple-Inland Co. With the generous commitment of 10,000 acre-feet of water annually from the Lower Neches Valley Authority, funding authority from the Texas Legislature and the contributions of a host of other partners, plans for the new hatchery quickly took shape.
The new hatchery encompasses more than 34,000 square feet of indoor spawning facilities and 60-plus outside brood-rearing ponds, all designed with the most sophisticated and state-of-the-art water management and fish production features. Once in full production mode, our Inland Fisheries team of biologists and technicians expect to produce up to 5 million fingerlings annually of largemouth bass, catfish, sunfish and other species. The hatchery will support the department’s longstanding fisheries stocking and genetic improvement efforts, which have helped catapult Texas lakes into some of the best fishing grounds across the country.
Those in attendance for the dedication event that April morning would be quick to tell you that none of this would have happened without the funding contributions of one of the agency’s largest and most important constituencies. I am talking about, of course, Texas anglers, who each and every year purchase $5 freshwater fishing stamps along with their fishing licenses. The proceeds from that stamp are restricted exclusively for the department’s use in maintaining and enhancing the state’s five freshwater hatcheries and for raising fish for stocking in Texas’ 800 public reservoirs and nearly 200,000 miles of rivers and streams.
Commissioner Parker would have been proud, awfully proud, of this grand new fisheries facility bearing his name. We certainly are.
Thanks for caring about our wild things and wild places. They need you more than ever.