With more Texans heading to the water during quarantine to recreate and physical distance naturally, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department has seen an uptick in fishing license purchases compared to this time last year. Recognizing this, TPWD has expanded its outdoor education curriculum to include online classes open to new anglers wanting to learn about fishing before heading to Texas waterways.
“The TPWD Angler Education Program is rising to the challenge to find new ways to deliver valuable educational content in online and safe physical distancing settings,” said Karen Marks, Aquatic Education Manager for TPWD. “The agency is teaming up with Fishing’s Future to provide online Instructor workshops for teachers and youth group leaders. Volunteer Instructors are also offering online fly fishing and basic fishing classes that are an interactive online experience class and include Basic Knots, Fish ID, Basic Tackle. Online Scout programs include the Cub Scout “A Bear Goes Fishing” classes. ”
The aquatic education program typically has 600 volunteers each year that contribute 20,000 plus hours and reach more than 65,000 people per year. From April to June of this year, about 60 percent of classes were conducted online while other events were small and hosted by nature centers, parks, and scout camps. Classes ranged from basic angler skills, to fly tying and fly-casting clinics, and a class on fishing for flounder.
“For the in-person events, safe physical distancing practices are put into place and great effort is made to secure plenty of equipment so no one has to share and pass items around,” said Marks. “In addition, exceptional care is taken to prepare a safe place to hold the class, including vigorous cleaning of the space and equipment prior to and after the class to disinfect.”
TPWD offers several additional resources to provide fun, high quality fishing opportunities to anglers of all skill levels and ages, including:
- Fishing 101 – Learn the basics of fishing with tips and a variety of videos. Resources for how to get started, safety, supplies and gear, casting and baiting and cleaning and storing fish can be found on the TPWD Learn to Fish webpage.
- Find a Place to Fish close to Home – Lakes and rivers across the state provide Texans with many opportunities to fish throughout the state. Check out the May issue of Fish Texas to learn more about how you can find the perfect spot nearby. Included in this issue is the Lake Finder where anglers can search by region or alphabetically if you have a specific lake already in mind. Access to information and fishing tips on more than 150 lakes are available. Also, check out community fishing lakes which can be great options as well.
- Kayak/Canoe Fishing – Heading out on a lake or river to fish on a canoe or kayak can be a great way to fish and remain at a safe physical distance. TPWD maintains multiple paddling trails and River Access and Conservation Area sites that give the public access to some outstanding fishing spots. There are also numerous lakes that can be found using the Lake Finder mentioned above.
- Help the Conservation Effort with your License Purchase – Did you know that 100% of your fishing license fees go to TPWD for on-the-ground conservation efforts such as fish stocking, that help make Texas one of the best places in the country to fish? For more information on licensing, visit the TPWD licenses page.
There are multiple benefits for those who choose to venture out on the water. The Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation recently launched their “Get on Board Campaign” which highlight’s the mental health benefits of being on the water. Dr. Sue Varma is a nationally recognized psychiatrist partnering with Take Me Fishing.
“The outdoors is a welcome remedy to stress and anxiety,” said Varma. “Being in nature supports each of the four ‘M’s of mental health: mindfulness, mastery, meaningful engagement and movement.”
Fishing in particular encourages mindfulness by helping you get away from distractions, Varma added.
“It supports mastery by teaching you a new skill, it provides meaningful engagement through quality time with others you may be quarantining with, and it promotes physical movement by getting you outside without requiring a strenuous workout,” said Varma. “Looking at fishing from a psychiatrist’s perspective, it’s a smart way to follow social distancing guidelines while prioritizing your health and wellness.”
Before heading out to the water, the public is encouraged to check with the managing authority of the waterbody they intend to visit for any local ordinances in place. Also, boaters and anglers should continue to maintain a safe physical distance while on the water in accordance with recommended public health guidelines. In addition to physical distancing, remember to wash your hands thoroughly and stay home if you aren’t feeling well.