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Whether or not you're targeting these tough customers, hooking one provides a rugged battle. Here's a look at which species of these fish you may encounter in the northern Gulf of Mexico. (April 2008) ... [+] Full Article
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Shallow Water Angler
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Texas Sportsman
Texas Family Fishing Vacations
Grab your fishing and camping gear and come along as we point you toward some of the best vacation spots in the Lone Star State for combining these great outdoor pursuits. (June 2007)

You never know what you might haul out of an East Texas lake. Laura Rayburn and John Hope took a little vacation time to fish Lake Fork -- and you can see that Laura was impressed with her catch!
Photo by Robert Sloan.

June is probably the top month to do a family vacation in Texas. With school out and mild temperatures, the options are many -- and the only downside is deciding where to go and what to do when you get there.

I grew up in a fishing and camping family with two brothers and an older sister. The day school was out for the summer we were looking for something to do. And our parents were usually quick to pull out a map, load the gear and head off for a family vacation.

We grew up in Houston, and so East Texas was a favorite destination. To be more specific, Sam Rayburn Reservoir was our go-to spot for years. And most of the time we ended up at Jackson Hill Park. That's where we reserved a campsite, preferably one by the lake. Talk about fun! We hiked, fished, camped, and went swimming and when it was time to go home we had to be dragged away to the car. It was paradise for us kids, and we were in no hurry to go back to the city life.

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East Texas is still a favorite destination for me. But over the years I've found that places like Pedernales Falls State Park in the Hill Country is big-time fun as well. Down in South Texas, Choke Canyon State Park is one of the best for fishing, camping and wildlife watching. And if you don't mind getting a little sand between your toes, you can set up camp on the beach along the Texas Gulf Coast and do anything from surf-fishing to . . . well -- surfing!

One of my favorite destinations in East Texas is not far from where I now live in Beaumont. My job as outdoors editor of the Beaumont Enterprise newspaper is to find good places for camping, fishing, hiking and enjoying the Texas outdoors. One of the best quick-hit spots for me is Village Creek State Park, about a 20-minute drive north of Beaumont.

Village Creek runs for miles, but the only state park along its shores is located in Lumberton. This is not the biggest state park in Texas, not by any means. In fact, it's pretty small, but family vacation options there are huge. For example, you can kayak and canoe on the creek. Or you can swim, fish, hike, bike or just lounge around the RV or tent.

The really great thing about Village Creek State Park is that you can set up camp and kayak your way downstream or up. The current's not usually that strong, unless there's been a recent rain.

What I like to do is put in the kayak and paddle downstream. Once you clear the swimming area, which is one gigantic white sandbar, you'll find that you have just left civilization behind. From the swimming area and on down to the confluence of the creek and the Neches River, there is nothing but sand bars and towering oak and pine trees. The tannic-colored water is home to catfish, perch and bass.

From the park you can kayak downstream to the Neches River in about 2 1/2 hours. If the creek is not flowing, and is at normal level, the paddle upstream is easy

One of my favorite trips on Village Creek is to put in at the park and kayak and fish my way downstream. I'll pack along a tent and provisions. Camping on the many sand bars is a hoot. There is nothing quite like building a campfire on your own little sand bar. Talk about escape. This is it, big time.

If you're into fly-fishing, Village Creek is a paradise. I like to fish it with a 2-weight rod and 6-pound-test leader. Bass and perch will hammer No. 10 poppers all day long.

About an hour north of Village Creek Sate Park is Martin Dies Jr. State Park, a 705-acre park on the 15,000-acre B.A. Steinhagen Reservoir. What is unique is that you can access the Neches River and the Angelina from the park. It can be done in a powerboat, kayak or canoe. Many of the campsites are on the water. The bass fishing is very good both on the lake and in the rivers.

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