The Spawning of an Urban Fisheries Program in Texas
Authors: Mark H. Howell, Brian E. Van Zee, and Robert K. Betsill
The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) has provided fishing opportunities to urban constituents for many years but recent population growth adds impetus to provide high quality fishing opportunities “close to home” for the state’s 17 million urban residents. A statewide network of community fishing lakes brings fishing opportunities to both small towns and large urban centers. These lakes are stocked once a year with nine-inch channel catfish Ictalurus punctatus in summer and some receive 8-10 inch rainbow trout Oncorhynchus mykiss in winter, similar to other southern states. However, this practice did little in terms of offering quality angling opportunities year round or providing a means of recruiting and retaining new anglers. As a result, management, hatchery, and research biologists worked to develop an intensive, improved program focusing on the state’s large metropolitan areas where 80% of the population lives. Initial efforts involved reviewing other states’ urban fisheries programs and then evaluating usage, harvest, sustainability, demographics, angler expenditures and regulation compliance within the TPWD program. Our program enhancements are based upon ongoing evaluations and a model program has developed that provides quality, year-round angling opportunities in metropolitan areas and targets non-traditional users from local neighborhoods. Our program aims to be self-supporting, be easily expandable, form effective partnerships with other entities, have frequent stockings, include angler education and tackle loaner programs, and have a successful marketing strategy. We estimate some 25,000 different anglers participated in the pilot phase in 2006 when the modified program was tested at 8 small urban impoundments.