The Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center in Athens is a great place to take kids fishing! They have a huge stocked pond, loaner fishing poles already baited for the kids (and adults), and eager volunteers ready to assist you in all your questions, including asking for help on taking the fish off the hooks! They really have everything you need for a great day fishing! But there’s so much more to do at the Freshwater Fisheries Center!
Ran by Texas parks and Wildlife, it’s also a fish hatchery and learning Center! Visitors can enjoy a day at the lake, watch a fish feeding show, take a tour of the hatchery and even see some of the biggest predators in Texas in their alligator exhibit!
Fishing is offered daily in their stocked ponds. During the winter you can fish for rainbow trout and channel catfish in the warmer months! Relax on one of the many tree-lined shores and enjoy a good day of fishing! Since it is a Texas State Park, fishing license are not required!
All fishing equipment and bait is provided. They offer children’s and full size rods, all with Zebco reels.
The staff is happy to help you with all your fishing questions, showing you how to bait, cast and even assist you in tangled lines and getting the fish off the line! They love getting kids out to fish for their first time!
Bait is either corn or stink bait, no messy worms! We also caught just as many catfish on the corn as we did the smelly stink bait. They offer a hand cleaner in the bathroom for the stink bait.
Fishing License are not required for adults.
For an additional fee, you can keep the catfish and/or rainbow trout you catch.
You can also bring your own gear. Top fishermen often try to catch some of the TFFC’s largest fish!
My little guy was just thrilled with the two he caught! Actually, he had fished for about 20 minutes without a bite, and said he needed to go to the restroom. As soon as he went inside, his cork popped under the water! I reeled it in, and at the suggestion of the fishing instructor, after making sure the fish was well-hooked, I let it swim back out. When my boy came returned, I handed the pole to him without a word. He immediately felt the tug, and brought in his own fish! A few minutes later he caught a little sunfish all on his own!
A fun and interactive Dive Show takes place twice a day. The diver feeds the fish, and while doing so tells the audience about the different fish. Kids love getting so sit right next to the glass, and then ask questions of the diver!
My favorite part is when he releases live feeder fish, and watching as they are immediately eaten by the larger ones!
An informational Tram Tour of the fish hatchery leaves immediately after the Dive Show.
A 3/4 mile walking trail is accessible from the back of the hatchery. The tram will let you off and you can choose to walk back, or return on the tram. If you take the tour, be sure and check out the large patch of pitcher plants, carniverous plants native to East Texas.
Feed The Fish
While purchasing your wristband (which allows you in and out priveledges all day), go ahead and purchase the $5 Feed the Fish Cup. There are several different tanks where you can feed the fish, and it’s a great way for kids to learn how fish eat, by quick hits of the food, and why when they are fishing sometimes the get hooked and sometimes they don’t.
When you are feeding the fish, they prefer the food thrown out from the glass. Food that finds it’s way to the glass usually just floats there, while that thrown out further returns a fun show as the fish hit the food, and even the smallest fish make a big splash!
The most underrated exhibit at the TFFC is probably that of the paddlefish. The center has several of these ancient fish, named for their long nose which resembles a canoe paddle, and are considered to be the oldest surviving animal species in N. American. Fossil remains predate the dinosaurs by 300 million years. In Texas, the paddlefish is a protected species, it is unlawful to catch, kill or harm one.
Found in the wild reaching over 7 feet, steps are being taken to increase the number of fish in Texas lakes and rivers, with over 2000 being released into Caddo Lake in 2014. Fifty of the fish were implanted with radio transmitters.
There are two alligators on exhibit at TFFC, which have public feedings twice a week.
There are several picnic tables waiting for you under the trees, perfect for a picnic. The TFFC doesn’t have a snack bar, although they do sell a few treats such as ice cream and drinks in the gift shop.
The TFFC has a nice little gift shop filled with shirts, souvenirs and ice cream treats. During one of our visits years ago to the center, we agreed I would pay them for each fish they caught, and they could use that money at the gift shop, or save it. It keeps me from spending too much, and it keeps them focused on fishing a little bit longer, and makes it fun for all of us!
TFFC is headquarters for the Toyota ShareLunker Program, which encourages anglers who have caught 13-pound-plus largemouth bass to lend or donate the fish to TPWD for spawning purposes. Click HERE for more information.
State Fish Art Contest
Each year, hundreds of Texas youth, 4th – 12th grade. submit artwork for the State-Fish Art Contest. For more information, click HERE.
The TFFC host special events throughout the year, such as an annual Easter Egg hunt, National Fishing Day events, Fourth of July fireworks, Fly Fishing classes, and much more! Click HERE to visit their calendar of events.
More Local Activities
Make a day of it with a visit to the East Texas Arboretum, or check the calendar of the Black Beauty Animal Sanctuary for their spring tours.
Know Before You Go
Arrive early to do everything and have plenty of time to fish.
State Park Passes won’t get in you in FREE, but they do offer a discount if you have a SP pass.
Bring sunscreen, and pack an ice chest with water and lunch
Check the park for days and hours. They are closed on Mondays from March – August.
Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center
Click HERE to visit their website
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