Reel Lines -Winter Issue (Jan 2016)

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Reel Lines

In This Issue:


Secret Fishing Spots

by Caleb Harris, Aquatic Training Specialist - Central Texas

Brazo's River scene

Ever try to plan a paddling trip on a Texas river?  Ever look at a Texas map and wonder how you could get to a fishing spot on one of the long winding rivers?  Have you come across the blunt fact that there is very little public access to long stretches of Texas rivers? 

Texas Parks and Wildlife (TPWD) is trying a unique approach to create additional public river access for fishing on Texas rivers. TPWD has temporary contracts with private land owners to lease their river bank property for limited public access and use. Currently TPWD has two sites on the Brazos and Colorado rivers, and one site on the Neches rivers. The Guadalupe river also has winter trout sites. After the initial trial period, TPWD hopes to expand the program to additional sites on stretches of rivers where there is no public access.

Landowners can negotiate specific terms of their lease access, and the terms may vary from site to site. Make sure you know the specific site rules and policies before you go, check:

  • the registration process
  • access fees
  • maximum number of people per day
  • driving and parking info
  • pet, camping or fires policies
  • restroom and water availability

Program funding is provided by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation and the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture’s Voluntary Public Access and Habitat Incentive Program. These sites are different from paddling trails as they are not necessarily leased for paddlers, but for anglers.  Fishing is the primary goal of the lease program, though people may also use them as put in and take outs.  Paddling trails are all public land access to rivers and are good fishing trails too.

Most landowners are happy to participate in the program, but are leery of being taken advantage of by disrespectful and unethical participants.

TPWD encourages quiet and ethical use of these properties as they are still private lands. If people misuse them, the land owner may be inclined to back out of the program, and others will lose access to these rivers again. Things to keep in mind:

  • keep groups small and noise levels low
  • drive and park in designated areas only
  • respect wildlife and property
  • practice “leave no trace” and leave it looking better than you found it by picking up the area
  • follow all game laws and fishing regulations

Finally, if a landowner happens to be there, make sure and thank them.

We are excited to see the River Access Program expand and get some anglers onto these hard to reach sections of our rivers. Get out and visit one on your next fishing trip!

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What if?

by Greg Akins, Aquatic Training Specialist - Houston

Man in kayak with life jacket on.

During the winter months, many anglers enjoy going fishing for rainbow trout or speckled trout. Both, our angling community and our Aquatic Education Instructors, should be mindful of cold weather conditions while fishing on land or on the water, and include safety tips when teaching.  

Typically, anglers prepare to get on the water, but don’t prepare to be in it. Wouldn’t it be great if everyone thought about “What if” every time they headed out? What if a storm or cold front blows in while I’m fishing? What if I fall in the water? What if… This time of year, thinking about hypothermia is key, whether fishing from the bank, pier, kayak or boat.

Hypothermia can occur on land or in water. The majority of deaths in cold water are due to hypothermia. Immersion in cold water (65° F or colder) will cause panic and rapid breathing, loss of the body’s core temperature, and affects your brain, heart, lungs, muscles and nerves, resulting in an inability to swim or move.

How can you prevent hypothermia? Check the weather report and water conditions, and consider cancelling the trip if necessary. If you do decide to go out, be prepared. Dress appropriately in layers: wear a base “wicking” layer, a warm “insulating” layer, and a wind layer. Finally, wear a lifejacket. Don’t forget to also wear a warm hat, gloves and socks. 

Appropriate clothing such as synthetic and wool fabrics are superior to cotton in the winter because they provide better insulation when wet and dry. Consider packing a towel, blanket and an extra set of dry clothes in your car or in a dry bag on the boat. Wearing a life jacket not only prevents drowning, but in cases where there are cold water temperatures, wearing it will increase your chances of survival.

Know the signs of hypothermia and what to do:

  • Mild hypothermia – person is shivering but coherent – move them to a warm place, remove wet clothing and have them drink warm (not hot) drinks (no alcohol or caffeine.)
  • Moderate hypothermia – person may be irrational and shivering may stop – move them to a warm place and seek immediate medical attention. Do not give them anything to drink.
  • Severe hypothermia – person may be semiconscious or unconscious. Lay them down on their back, cover torso, thighs, head and neck for warmth. Do not stimulate arms and legs to prevent cardiac arrest. Do not give them anything to drink. Seek immediate medical attention. If unconscious, do not give CPR – it could cause cardiac arrest.

Teach about hypothermia:

In your Angler Instructor workshop or fishing class safety section, include information about being prepared for the weather (hot or cold.) Teach the signs of hypothermia, and the 1-10-1 principle if immersed in cold water:

  • Within 1 minute get control of your breathing.
  • You may only have 10 minutes of meaningful movement (being able to swim.)
  • You may only have 1 hour before you become unconscious while wearing a lifejacket.

Watch or share this National Water Safety Congress video to learn about the 1-10-1 principle.

Use a hands-on activity in your classes with adults or youth: fill a 2 to 5 gallon bucket with ice water. Drop in several pennies, then have the students immerse one hand into the bucket for 2 to 5 minutes. Next try to have them pick up the pennies. Ask them to explain what happened and what they experienced. Lesson extensions might include several buckets of water with varying temperatures (warm, cold, freezing) timing each student while they attempt to pick up the pennies.  

In the future, let’s remember that any kind of participation in and around water, including accidental entry, can increase the possibility of hypothermia. The “what if” factor can make the difference between a bad or good fishing trip.

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Program Updates

by Karen Marks, Aquatic Education Manager

As we cast into the New Year, I wanted to take a moment and reflect upon your accomplishments for 2015 -- it was an outstanding year! Many of you were very busy teaching fishing! A total of 17,546 volunteer hours were reported, and with your help, our program reached 40,343 youth and 28,684 adults. By now all of our active volunteers should have received a small token of appreciation in the mail.

Of course a new year also brings new state laws and program policies. In response to the state’s new open carry law, TPWD has adopted a new policy that applies to all employees and volunteers. The policy was sent out via email to all TPWD volunteers.

Some of our reporting policies have also changed due to our recent federal grant audit. These new policies went into effect on January 1, 2016 and are posted on the Angler Education Instructor Resources web page; they were also sent out via email, and with the incentive packages. The two biggest changes are:

  • all hours must be documented by day (no lump sum hours may be reported)
  • volunteers must self-report their time (if they are not utilizing the online reporting form, then they must individually sign and write down their hours on the paper roster form—the event coordinator cannot write in the hours for the volunteers.)

We also have updated our Instructor Resource web page with several new teaching aids, lessons and other helpful PowerPoints and videos.  Be sure to check out and use:

  • Calendar Fishing Chart
  • Aquatic Invasive Species Card and PowerPoint
  • Common Texas Sunfish ID Card
  • “Test Your Fish IQ” PowerPoint and handouts
Fish silhouettes

The "Where to Fish" brochures, now called "Easy Access Fishing Spots" for Austin, San Antonio, Houston and Dallas/Fort Worth have been updated too.

Save the date if you are interested in taking the next step to train other adults as TPWD Angler Education Instructors. Our annual Area Chief training and meeting will be held in Austin on April 1st – 2nd ….No Fooling! Contact Karen Marks for more information.

Happy New Year!

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Adaptations in Fish and Fishing Instructors: Using Our Senses

by Natalie Goldstrohm, TPWD Inland Fisheries Biologist - Abilene

Boy holding catfish on fishing line.

As a biologist working for Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) and a certified Angler Education Instructor, I have the opportunity to introduce fishing to diverse groups of people. Recently, I was approached by Services for the Blind and Visually Impaired to conduct a fishing event with their youth. Once we agreed on an event date, we developed a curriculum based on the abilities and fishing experience of our participants.

Since many of the TPWD Angler Education activities we use at outreach events are hands-on, they were perfect for this group. When teaching the activities, our team focused on how other senses, besides vision, could be used to teach youth about fish and their environment. Our outreach kits come with textured plastic fish so the children could feel their scales. We also used life-sized catfish created with a 3D printer so the children could practice proper fish handling and learn the parts of the fish. Noting that catfish also have poor eyesight, the catfish models were very useful to show the students how these fish use their barbels and sense of smell to find food, and their lateral line to detect vibrations.

We transitioned to teaching what equipment anglers can use to catch fish. The youth learned about traditional fishing rods, lures, and baits. We also passed around rattle-traps so the youth could hear the sounds they make and feel the vibrations that attract fish.

Once the youth knew the best way to trick a fish into biting their line, we practiced casting with the Backyard Bass activity. Next, we were off to the lake for real fishing. All poles had bobbers, but most of the youth kept a finger on their line to feel if a fish was nibbling their bait. Most of them felt the fish pick up their bait and were able to reel them into shore.

Given that this was our first venture with this group, we were unsure of how the event would fare, but the youth and their families really enjoyed learning about fishing.

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New Instructors and Accomplishments

Welcome to our new Instructors! Our staff and Area Chiefs have trained 240 new instructors in the past six months.

In April 2016, Hutsell Elementary will be celebrating their 10th anniversary fishing event. Check out the history of this successful school program (PDF). Alumni parents and students are encouraged to attend, please contact Dr. Margie Blount to share your memories or for more information about the event, or (281) 237-6506

Dallas Ecological Foundation (DEF) announced their Outdoor Education Teacher of the Year, Coach Lloyd Love with Pasadena ISD. Watch the inspiring video to see how he incorporates Angler Education into his high school classes.

Group photo of new instructors from Dallas Baptist University

Image: Students from Dallas Baptist University earned their Angler Education Instructor  certification at Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center

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