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Winter rainbow trout season means stocked lakes across Texas
AUSTIN — Years ago Texans had to drive to New Mexico or Colorado to catch a rainbow trout. But that was then. These days, anglers can enjoy trout fishing right here in the Lone Star State. The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department will be stocking nearly 280,000 hatchery-reared rainbow trout at 126 sites across the state from December through mid-March. Many of the stockings will be conducted at small community fishing lakes, state park lakes and popular river tailraces that offer easy angling access.
TPWD has been stocking rainbow trout each winter since the 1970s, offering Texans a convenient and inexpensive opportunity to go fishing.
Fishing for these hungry trout is fairly simple, making it an ideal experience for children and novice anglers. Most sites get an annual dose of more than 1,000 trout, and the fish begin to bite almost immediately after stocking.
Todd Engeling, Hatchery Director for the Inland Fisheries Division of TPWD, said most people have good success fishing for the trout that are stocked.
“Fishing pressure at each site can vary, so the rate at which each stocking is depleted varies as well,” Engeling said. “Trout at some of the more popular locations can be depleted fairly quickly. It is not a bad idea to plan your day trout fishing close to the stocking date, however in most cases you can be successful a week after the stocking.”
Engeling said stocking dates are subject to change for a variety of reasons.
Anglers can find stocking locations, stocking dates, driving directions to sites and the most up to date stocking information on the TPWD’s complete 2010-2011 Rainbow Trout Stocking Schedule. Many locations host special events for youth in addition to allowing the public fishing opportunities. Check with local parks and recreation departments or water authorities for additional information.
Rainbow trout thrive in cold water and can be caught on a variety of natural and artificial baits. Top baits include commercial soft bait, cheese, marshmallows, whole kernel canned corn and small spinner baits. Fly fishermen have a lot of luck with hand-tied flies. Baits can be fished off the bottom or suspended under a bobber.
Fishing gear can be as basic as an inexpensive spincast rod and reel combo, a small plastic bobber or a fishing weight and a hook. Bringing a pair of needle-nosed pliers to help remove hooks is advisable. Other gear to consider includes a five-gallon bucket, small ice chest or a fish stringer to store catches. Freshly-caught trout should be kept on ice to keep them fresh.
Among the winter trout stocking sites are 14 Neighborhood Fishin’ locations in urban areas across the state. Spots such as small neighborhood lakes get trout-stocked every two weeks during the winter. Catfish are also stocked there during the summer, making them year-round family fishing destinations. Details can be found on the Neighborhood Fishin’ Web page, which lists the urban area, lake or pond, driving directions and TPWD information for each site. Money donated to TPWD from the Toyota Texas Bass Classic is being used to support Neighborhood Fishin’.
Other popular fishing spots like the Guadalupe River below the Canyon Reservoir Dam, which includes the tailrace, also receive multiple stockings from December into March. The Guadalupe River will be stocked with more than 18,000 trout this winter. It is the only fishable location in the state where rainbow trout can survive during summer months.
Camp Hueco Springs, a public access point along the Guadalupe River, has been leased by TPWD specifically for trout fishing. An area map and directions to the site are on the TPWD Web site.
Anglers should note there are special harvest restrictions in place along a 10-mile stretch of the Guadalupe River below the tailrace. In this area, anglers may keep only one trout per day, which must be at least 18 inches in length. Any trout harvested must be caught on artificial lures.
A valid Texas freshwater fishing license package is required to fish for trout. Youth ages 16 and younger and all anglers fishing within state parks are exempt from the fishing license requirement.
For additional details about the special harvest regulations and the location of that river stretch, consult the TPWD Outdoor Annual. The special regulations zone does not include the area immediately below Canyon Lake Dam. There the daily bag limit is five trout and there is no minimum length.
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