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Friday, December 9, 2011

Santa Doesn’t Fill Trout Stockings — It’s TPWD

Killeen Daily Herald By Jeff Warren

Every year, around Christmas time, kids get excited because they know Santa's on his way to bring presents and fill stockings hung by the chimney with care.

Local fishermen get excited for a different reason: they know Christmas time also means that Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWDD) will be conducting the annual Winter Trout Stocking Program on rivers, streams and ponds throughout the state.

I was worried about this program this year due to the prolonged drought. Many of the normal stocking locations were either dry or almost dry. Also, TPWD has experienced severe budget cuts which jeopardize the future of many wildlife and conservation programs.

Luckily, recent rains have raised water levels enough in most creeks and rivers for the stocking program to be completed. It also appears the TPWD found the funds somewhere to keep the program going.

One of my favorite local trout fishing spots is Nolan Creek in Belton. The trout are stocked in Yettie Polk Park upstream from the Main Street Bridge near the old jail (Directions: From I-35, take exit 293A. Take Texas 317 North. Turn right on S. Main and left at Central Avenue).

The first stocking of 2,000 trout is scheduled in this location for Dec. 17. After stocking, the fish naturally move upstream. Anglers fishing this area after the stocking date should work their way upstream from the Central Ave. Bridge.

One helpful hint in this area is if you catch a fish, do your best not to let the swarm of ducks that inhabit the park see you. If they see a fish, you can count on getting mobbed by a raucous crowd of quackers. This will ruin the fishing for a half hour or so, until they settle down.

There are several other spots within driving distance for Central Texas trout anglers including San Gabriel Park in Georgetown and Miller Pond in Temple.

There is no minimum length for trout in the stocked locations and the daily bag limit is five fish per angler. A valid Texas freshwater fishing license is required for anglers 17 and older.

Fishermen use several tactics with good success including both wet and dry flies with light weight fly fishing gear.

Other anglers enjoy success with ultralight spinning gear rigging small inline spinners such as Rooster Tails (1/32 once to 1/16 once). I've had success in past years with a lure called a Super Duper rigged on 4-pound test line using an ultralight spinning rod. Other tried and true trout baits such as corn and fake salmon eggs are favorites as well.

All of the trout stocking locations are accessible from the shore and most are very kid friendly. Trout fishing is a great family activity when the kids get bored with video games and new toys.

This Christmas, remember that Santa's not the only one filling stockings. Get out there on our local rivers and streams and enjoy some fantastic trout fishing or just a beautiful winter day in Central Texas.

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