A Texas Sized Achievement: One Billion Fish Stocked!

TPWD Staff
A Texas Sized Achievement: One Billion Fish Stocked!
TPWD fish hauling trailer releasing fingerlings into nursery habitat near East Matagorda Bay.


The old adage, everything’s bigger in Texas rings true, especially when considering Fisheries Management in our coastal waters. The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) has a longstanding history of decisively implementing strategic management practices aimed at keeping fish stocks healthy and sustainable. Simply put, the end goal is to ensure that there are plenty of fish for Texas anglers, both present and future. However, with the seemingly endless list of factors that can negatively affect fish populations, this is no small task. Considering natural events such as freeze related fish kills, harmful algal blooms (red tide), droughts and floods, combined with impacts caused by humans, such as coastal shoreline development which leads to habitat degradation, pollution, not to mention increasing fishing pressure, the odds are not stacked in the fish’s favor. Fortunately for the fish and the millions of anglers who enjoy catching them, TPWD has taken bold steps to make a Texas sized impact.

One of those bold steps was the establishment of a large-scale fisheries enhancement program with the goal of increasing fish abundance by releasing hatchery produced fingerlings into the wild. These hatchery produced fingerlings are intended to supplement natural stocks, anytime reproduction or juvenile survival is less than optimal. By providing an annual allotment of fingerlings for our bay systems, long term effects from natural or human caused fisheries declines can be mitigated. This proactive measure combined with fishing regulations guided by TPWD’s long-term fisheries monitoring program, work together to provide a stable and healthy fishery.

Texas Parks and Wildlife’s saltwater hatcheries have stood the test of time and proven to be a highly effective tool to maintain stable fish populations. This legendary program was born out of necessity, during perilous times for our Texas Bays. Adjusting to the needs of the ecosystem, over the years, the program has grown in size and number of species cultured. Through the decades, we have celebrated many milestones, but the grandest of all achievements was reached this summer!


In response to declining Red Drum populations in Texas, fundraising by the Gulf Coast Conservation Association (now known as the CCA) began in 1977 to fund a Red Drum fish hatchery. In 1980, plans were announced to build the world’s largest Red Drum hatchery at the Barney Davis Power Station, adjacent to the Upper Laguna Madre in Corpus Christi, Texas. The John Wilson Fish Hatchery was completed in September 1982 and Texas Governor Bill Clements stocked the first Red Drum into hatchery ponds in October of the same year. The first Red Drum fingerlings were released near Port O’Connor in 1983 and in the following year, the first Spotted Seatrout fingerlings were produced in Corpus Christi. In 1987, a considerable donation was received to expand the hatchery adding an additional 24 rearing ponds and renaming the facility as the GCCA/CPL Marine Development Center (now shortened to CCA Marine Development Center). The first major production milestone was reached in 1992 with the release of the 100 millionth fingerling.

Building on the successes of the program, the research ponds at the Perry R. Bass Marine Fisheries Research Station in Palacios were moved into the fisheries enhancement program in 1993, and TPWD partnered with DOW Chemical and the CCA to build a new state-of-the-art hatchery in Lake Jackson. The Sea Center Texas marine fish hatchery and Visitor’s Center was completed in 1996 and added an additional 36 one-acre production ponds as well as a free public aquarium to the program.

With three facilities in production, the program has the ability to be nimble and shift focus as needed to address the biological needs of the ecosystem. In response to declining Southern Flounder populations, experimental trials with Southern Flounder were initiated in 2006, and to date, we have released about 1 million flounder juveniles. In 2021, Spotted Seatrout production was ramped up to help populations recover from fish kills caused by Winter Storm Uri. Over ten million Spotted Seatrout were released, with almost three million being stocked into the Upper and Lower Laguna Madre, the systems that were most severely impacted. With three marine fish hatcheries spread out logistically along the Texas coast, TPWD was well situated to release more than 20 million fingerlings per year into our bays and estuaries, in support of our sportfish restoration efforts.

The major milestone

During the 2024 production season, in early July, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s Coastal Fisheries Staff released the one-billionth hatchery-produced fingerling! With more than four decades of pushing boundaries, setting records, and unwavering desire to give back to the anglers of this great state, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department couldn’t be prouder of this achievement. Our success is a direct result of the sustained beneficial partnerships with the Coastal Conservation Association, DOW Chemical, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation, the S.E.A., anglers who’ve purchased their saltwater fishing licenses in Texas, and funding from the Federal Sport Fish Restoration Program (the Dingell-Johnson Act of 1950). If you are interested in scheduling a tour to learn more about TPWD’s saltwater hatcheries, or supporting our efforts through a tax deductible charitable donation visit https://tpwd.texas.gov/fishing/sea-center-texas/.

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