Following this year's Toyota Texas Bass Classic (TTBC) on Lake Ray Roberts, organizers once again donated $250,000 to help Texas Parks and Wildlife (TPW) introduce more people to fishing, specifically through its Neighborhood Fishin' program.
To characterize the10-year partnership as a success might be a bit of an understatement, according to Dave Terre, TPW's chief of fisheries management and research.
"It's been huge," he said of the $2.5 million overall contribution that TTBC has made. "We've been highly successful at attracting youth and families into fishing. And now we have people calling us all the time saying 'Do my lake. Do my lake.'"
What the callers want is for TPW to stock their nearby urban lakes with 12- to 16-inch catfish biweekly during spring, summer, and fall, and 9- to 12-inch rainbow trout during winter.
TTBC funds have enabled the agency to expand the program from 9 to 18 lakes in the city and county parks of major metropolitan areas. Possibly others will be added in the future, but potential lakes must be studied carefully before a commitment is made. Terre estimated that stocking a 3-acre lake with catchable size fish costs about $30,000 annually.
"All of the lakes are strategically picked," he said, pointing out that good facilities and shoreline access are important considerations. "By now, we have a pretty good idea of which ones work and which ones don't."
The ones that do are doing so in a big way, with an estimated 100,000 anglers participating annually. "About 50,000 of those are new to fishing and 25,000 of them are youths," Terre added. "The others are lapsed angers (who returned to fishing because of the program).
"Most people tell us that these lakes are the only places that they fish."
The annual Classic donation also helps with marketing of the program as well as supports the agency's Take Me Fishing trailer, which provides instruction in fishing basics at events all over the state, and an annual fish art competition for students. The latter now is averaging more than 1,000 entries annually.
At the lakes, meanwhile, residents have the opportunity to fish when they want to, with few, if any, derbies or events scheduled. Also, they can borrow tackle through some local parks and TPW offices.
"Stocking usually is done on a Thursday or Friday, with the best fishing a day or two after that," said Terre, adding that about 200 fish per acre are stocked in fisheries that average 1 to 6 acres.
The fisheries chief added that a special effort is being made to attract the state's growing Hispanic population to fishing."We're trying to put fish in lakes in neighborhoods that will engage nontraditional anglers," he said. "Largely, Hispanics are under-represented in license sales. But this program is working. (In areas with stocked lakes) we're seeing higher license buying than in traditional neighborhoods."
In addition to TTBC, Terre emphasized that cities, counties, local businesses, and the federal Sport Fish Restoration program also have contributed to the success of Neighborhood Fishin'. At the newest lake, Kingfisher in Austin, sponsors include Travis County, Bass Pro Shops, and Gulf States Toyota.