Free. Everyone likes free. And fishing. What isn’t there to like?
That should make Saturday one of the most popular days of the year as the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department holds its annual free fishing day in conjunction with this week’s National Fishing and Boating Week. By free, the department means those 17 and older don’t have to have a license to fish on public waters.
But there is a hitch. Despite all the public lakes within an hour’s drive of Tyler there are very few places a person can fish from the bank and reasonably expect to catch anything.
That means one or two things. To successfully fish fishermen are going to have to know someone with a boat or hire a guide, or they are going to have to seek out those spots where they can catch fish.
The first thought on where to go would have to be the various state parks in the area. Most are associated to water, either in the form of a lake within the park or built adjacent to a large lake. Those built alongside a lake typically have a fishing pier that can at least be good for crappie or catfish.
Of course those parks with lakes, like Tyler, Daingerfield and Purtis Creek, offer the best shoreline fishing because that is the way they were designed.
“Bluegill and other sunfishes should still be spawning at Tyler State Park,” said Craig Bonds, TPWD’s Fisheries regional biologist.
Bonds points out that there is one thing about fishing at a state park, visitors never need a license to fish there. Making it even better is that some of the parks have loaner gear, but supplies are limited so fishermen might want to take their own.
Each park lake offers something a little different. Bob Sandlin offers good crappie fishing from a pier on the lake, and with the lake almost full for the first time in years, it should be that much better. Purtis Creek State Park Lake is known for its bass fishing, but also has an excellent catfish fishery.
For those looking for something a little closer to home, Bonds recommends the state’s newest Neighborhood Fishin’ program lake.
“It is perfect timing for the next Neighborhood Fishin’ Program channel catfish stocking at Woldert Pond Friday. Fishing should be excellent there this weekend,” he explained.
Located at Tyler’s Woldert Park, 501 W. 32nd St., the pond was first stocked with more than 200 12-inch-plus catfish in late April, and has been stocked every other week since.
The pond is the latest in the program, joining others in Dallas-Fort Worth, Houston, Austin and San Antonio. Tyler joins Amarillo, Bryan-College Station, San Angelo, Waco and Wichita Falls. The goal of the program is to give urban residents a local option to fish.
There are some special rules for fishing at a Neighborhood lake. For catfish there is a five-fish daily bag limit, but no minimum length limit. Fishermen may also only fish with pole and lines, which includes cane pole, rod and reel or fly rod. Each fisherman is also limited to just two rods at a time.
Normally fishermen 17 and older would need a license to fish at Woldert, but not Saturday.
Although they are not part of the Neighborhood Fishin’ program, Tyler and Lindale’s Faulkner Park lakes are also fishing options. Both in the past have been stocked by TPWD, and the Saturday license exemption will be in play at both.
A lot of towns around East Texas have small public waters that can be accessed for fishing for a variety of fishing.
Bonds also suggested those with a canoe might want to try one of the areas designated paddling trails.
“There are a number of neat paddling trails on Caddo Lake and the Big Cypress Bayou, as well as on the Neches River.
It’s a good way to beat the heat this time of year. Also, early in the growing season, the invasive aquatic plants such as giant salvinia and water hyacinth are not as bad in the Caddo trails as opposed to later in the summer and fall,” Bonds said.
The free fishing day is an excellent opportunity for a family outing. Yes, kids 16 and under always fish free in Texas, but this is a one-day reminder that this would make a great family activity.
There is one other thing that would make free and fishing even better. An entire weekend or week of free fishing. That would be more like swimming instead of just getting your toes wet. It would really make it worthwhile to get involved.
That of course would take action by the Texas Legislature. But what the heck, those guys running for office right now are already making so many promises, why not add one more that they might actually keep.
Have a comment or opinion on this story? Contact outdoor writer Steve Knight by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Steve Knight on Facebook at TylerPaper Outdoors and on Twitter @tyleroutdoor.