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From the Pen of Carter P. Smith

The kid and fish pictures are always my favorites. You know the ones I am talking about. They are tacked up on picture boards at tackle shops, bait stands and convenience stores around any body of water that has a fish to be caught. Scattered amidst the photos of beaming anglers with their trophy bass and redfish, stringers of crappie and trout, and big sharks and flathead catfish are the kids with their sprawling grins holding fish that oftentimes aren’t much bigger than their smiles.

Those pictures tell you all you need to know about the value of getting kids into the out-of-doors, particularly when they are holding a rod and a reel with a fish on the end of it.

Thanks to an abundance of public ponds, lakes, rivers, streams and bays, fishing is one of Texas’ best family-friendly activities. With a relatively nominal investment in tackle, licenses and related supplies, coupled with as short or long a drive as one wants to make, any family in our state can find themselves on a bank, pier or boat casting for their quarry of choice with relative ease.

But, it doesn’t happen purely by accident. What one may not know is that behind the scenes, a whole lot more goes into creating these opportunities for my family and for yours. 

Fish stocks in lakes, rivers, bays and the Gulf are continuously monitored to assess species composition and population vitality. Hatcheries annually produce more than 40 million fingerlings of the most popular game fish to augment populations and angling opportunities in inland and coastal water bodies across Texas. Invasive plants are controlled to keep them from overtaking area lakes and negatively impacting both the fishery itself and a fisherman’s access to the lakes. Other aquatic habitats are regularly being created and enhanced, such as converted oil platforms, sunken ships, oyster reefs and specially formulated reef blocks in our bays and Gulf waters, and native plants and artificial structures that are strategically placed in our rivers and lakes.

This behind-the-scenes, “under and on the water” work is the domain of the talented fisheries biologists and technicians at the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. Spread across every part of the state, these professionals work every day to make Texas fisheries and fishing the best they can be. Thanks to their efforts, popular initiatives such as winter rainbow trout stockings, Neighborhood Fishin’, leased river access, Free Fishing in State Parks, Toyota ShareLunker, Rigs-to-Reefs and others create ample opportunities for the outdoor-inclined angler, new and experienced, young and old alike, to hit the water anytime of year.

As we head into the spring and put the winter doldrums behind us, nothing helps make the transition like a planned fishing trip to a favorite river, lake, bay or barrier island. If you need any help choosing a body of water, check out the various articles in the ensuing pages. From my colleague Randy Brudnicki’s list of the state’s top bass lakes and his excellent piece on Texas’ biggest bass tournaments (the Toyota Bassmaster Texas Fest and the GEICO Bassmaster Classic) to Camille Wheeler’s reflections on her experience with Texas’ many urban paddling trails, I can assure you there will be plenty to whet your angling appetite and ultimately to wet your hook.

Thanks for caring about our wild things and wild places. They need you now more than ever.

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