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Texas' 2009 Saltwater Outlook
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Texas Sportsman
Family-Friendly Fishing

There are primitive areas to pitch a tent, sites for various sizes of travel trailers and motor homes, and some even offer cabins for rent. Be advised that reservations in advance are highly recommended.

Many of our state parks are host to a variety of trails on which to hike, bike and explore the great outdoors. Some parks feature Olympic-sized swimming pools, while others have freshwater rivers and lakes or saltwater beaches. Wildlife is often relatively tame allowing abundant amateur and professional photographic opportunities. And of course, there is the option of doing nothing except relaxing.

As an incentive to use the Lone Star State's parks and to encourage fishing, the state has designated free fishing on public waters inside park boundaries. More than 70 state parks offer what is truly a great deal. There are no fees and no license requirements once you've paid your park entry. However, all fish species size and creel limit regulations do apply. You only have to decide what type of fish you want to attempt to catch. (Note the use of the keyword "attempt.")

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In addition, the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center near Athens is the best deal yet. Athens is southeast of Dallas between Tyler and Corsicana. The TFFC will provide fishing tackle, bait and instruction for the whole family. You can choose to catch and release or harvest fish for a fee. Ten dollars allows the harvest of five catfish (but not the big ones), or in wintertime, $5 allows you to keep five trout. Those limitations are necessary because 30,000 people a year fish the 1.5-acre pond and it would run out of fish rapidly otherwise.

But you will have fun, guaranteed!

You may want to plan an entire day or more at TFFC, as it also has a huge Visitor Center, aquaria, indoor hatcheries, dive tank aquarium and a wetland trail. The Budweiser ShareLunker Program is housed there as well. One or more ShareLunker (largemouth bass weighing 13 pounds or more) usually is on display.

Exhibits feature 56 species of fish, reptiles and mammals displayed in their natural habitats. In addition, there are hundreds of plants, shrubs and trees with seasonal wildflower displays at the facility. Many educational seminars take place at various times. A number of contests and special events are put on year 'round, not just in the summer. It's quite an adventuresome and entertaining place to visit. Check out the Web site at

The Gulf Coast of Texas stretches more than 360 miles from its border with Mexico on the Rio Grande River to our neighboring state of Louisiana. Barrier islands Galveston, Matagorda, San Jose, Mustang and Padre protect thousands of miles of bay shoreline. There is much to do along the Lone Star Coast, with or without fishing involved. However, since you do want to fish on your vacation, once again pull out a map or surf the Internet to start investigating possibilities.

Because of Hurricane Ike this past year, much of the coastline from Freeport to Port Arthur suffered damage. Surfside, Galveston Island, Bolivar Peninsula and High Island were devastated. Some areas are beginning to open back up, while others will be out of commission for quite some time. It would be wise to call ahead to any resort or place you may want to go in those areas before heading that way.

From Freeport south, the options are almost unlimited. Saltwater fishing may be done in bays, the surf or by going offshore. Want to fish fresh water? There are plenty of rivers and lakes, too. Depending on the tide or recent rainfall, some areas offer both! If you have your own gear, then go for it. If not, most all areas host professional guides who provide fun and adventure for a fee. That said, you should book a trip as early as possible.

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