When you visit a fancy aquarium and see loads of exotic orange fish, eerie eel and strange puffer fish, it’s a fun sight to see. But the cool aquatic species living at these big attractions aren’t anything like what lives in your own backyard. Visit the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center in Athens, Texas, and you can learn all about what nature offers nearby.
The way we see it, it’s good to know your neighbors.
Sitting on a little over 100 acres an hour southeast of Dallas, the center is a facility of the Texas Parks and Texas Parks & Wildlife Inland Fisheries Division. The goal?
“To provide an educational, entertaining visitor experience that promotes freshwater sport fishing and the enhancement, conservation and stewardship of aquatic resources in Texas,” says Larry Hodge, Information Specialist at the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center.
In other words, you can go here and have a blast with the entire family, all while learning about Texas’ aquatic life and how to preserve and nurture it.
“We offer the opportunity to see how land and water are connected, and how what people do on and to the land impacts their water supply. Also we show how largemouth bass are produced for stocking into Texas public waters,” says Hodge.
The center is anchored around the hatchery, one of five in the state responsible for maintaining local fishing. It produces more than three million largemouth bass fingerlings annually. A staff member will tell you all about how to take care of the local species and even some of the genetic testing performed on site.
The center also has a freshwater fishing aquarium and multiple indoor and outdoor aquariums displaying dozens of species of native fish, alligators and amphibians. At times you can watch staff members feed the creatures. That’s not all. There’s also a mile-long wooded walking trail (that wheelchairs can easily travel), where you can look for native plants and animals.
The center’s pond is where the kids go bananas.
“The stocked casting pond is similar in size and function to many farm or backyard ponds throughout Texas, offering the chance to catch channel catfish and sunfish, the most commonly stocked species in farm ponds,” says Hodge.
For $10, visitors can catch up to five catfish (each must weigh under 10 pounds). During the winter, when the pond is stocked with rainbow trout, for $5, visitors can catch five of the rainbow trout. A bonus? They waive the state’s normal requirement to have a fishing license.
Some helpful tips:
If you want to see the underwater dive show (and you do), arrive early. It takes place at 11 a.m. Tuesday through Friday; 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. on Saturday; and 2 p.m. on Sunday.
Immediately following the dive show, the tram tour is a great way to see the outdoor hatchery and learn how the center produces fish. The last tram starts at 11:30 a.m. Again, be there early.
April, May and June are the busiest months because of school groups. The center has a number of special events open to the public; check the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center Facebook page for more information.
If you plan on paying the fee to fish and keep your catch, pack a cooler and ice to take home your catch.
If you want to go:
Where: 5550 FM2495, Athens, TX 75752
Admission: Regular admission is $5.50 for adults, $4.50 for seniors 65 and older, and $3.50 for children ages 4 through 12. No pets allowed. Season passes valid for one year from date of purchase are available for $15 for adults, $12.50 for seniors and $8 for children.