Outdoors With Mat Taylor
School is out for summer break, and many families are planning vacations. With the current economy and rising gas prices, parents looking to save a few dollars by vacationing closer to home this summer might consider taking their kids to a nearby state park.
All members of the family can fish in a state park without having to worry about buying a fishing license.
This marks the sixth year of the Free Fishing in State Parks program that waives fishing licenses and stamp requirements within more than 50 state parks. Texas Parks and Wildlife Department officials believe free fishing is increasing state park visitation and engages new anglers, which will translate into future fishing license and equipment sales, as well as future conservationists.
Therefore, it is a good time to visit a state park to enjoy recreational fishing without spending a lot of money. Keep in mind, however, that license-free angling applies only to fishing from the bank, a pier or from a boat if done in a body of water totally contained within the boundaries of a state park.
State parks along the Gulf Coast also participate in the program to encourage fishing from the beach and wade fishing.
Although no fishing license is required, state park entry fees still apply, as do all other state fishing regulations.
I always purchase a combination hunting and fishing license, but my wife does not. We have fished in several state parks, and Nelda did not have to buy a license.
The nearest state park to Lampasas is Colorado Bend State Park, where anglers have a good chance of hooking a large catfish. Largemouth bass, perch and crappie also may be taken.
Another nearby state park is Inks Lake. There, you can fish from the bank or on two lighted piers.
A little over an hour's drive down U.S. Highway 281 is the Blanco State Park. Several concrete dams along the Blanco River offer good fishing, especially for perch and small bass. I know because I fished there on numerous occasions during the time I lived in Johnson City.
Also in Blanco County is Pedernales Falls State Park. The scenic park is not known for its fishing, but I discovered the river can be a good place for catching catfish. The only drawback is that getting to the river usually means a strenuous hike to reach a good fishing spot.
Two other parks I have fished in that are within reasonable driving distance are Brownwood and South Llano River state parks.
Some state parks this summer will conduct family fishing classes. The nearest one is at Inks Lake State Park. Every Friday from June to September, after brief safety and basic fishing skills instruction, children can fish with a park ranger. This is a catch-and-release program to introduce fishing to youngsters.
There is another free opportunity for this summer's vacation. The National Park Service will allow visitors free entry during three weekends this summer to encourage Americans to visit parks such as Big Bend and the Guadalupe Mountains in West Texas.
The fee waivers will apply to all national parks in the U.S. that normally charge an entry fee. The free weekends are June 20-21, July 18-19 and Aug. 15-16.
Entry fees normally range from $3 to $25. Other fees charged for camping, reservations, tours or concessions will not be waived.
If you have not visited Big Bend National Park -- one of the largest parks in the nation -- I would recommend the long drive to get there. I have visited several times, and there is much to see, especially the canyons on the Rio Grande River.
I think the best times to visit the park, however, are in the spring and fall when the weather is not too hot or cold.
A nearby national park is the LBJ National Historic Site at Johnson City and Stonewall. Tours of the late president's ranch are conducted daily.
There is a lot to see and do in Texas, and I hope everyone enjoys the summer vacation whether they travel somewhere or enjoy time at home.