TPWD Getting Kids Hooked on Fishing

Shane Bonnot | Hatchery Manager | TPWD Coastal Fisheries Division | Sea Center Texas
TPWD Getting Kids Hooked on Fishing
Most people that are aware of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) Coastal Fisheries Stock Enhancement Program have a fairly keen understanding of its role within the TPWD. Yes, we do release millions of red drum and spotted seatrout fingerlings into the bay systems of Texas. Yes, we are working to develop protocols to incorporate southern flounder production into our program. And yes, that tiny 2-inch fingerling can survive to become a slot sized fish that you will be able to catch in a year or two. However, did you know that we also offer free youth fishing opportunities in our ponds?

The Texas Parks and Wildlife/Coastal Conservation Association Marine Development Center (MDC) located in Corpus Christi and Sea Center Texas (SCT) located in Lake Jackson have public and youth fishing ponds that afford people the opportunity to catch and release black drum, red drum, southern flounder, sheepshead, Atlantic croaker, and even spotted seatrout. The intent of these events is to provide Texas youth as well as adults the opportunity to fish and get “Hooked on Fishing.”

Both facilities offer group youth fishing opportunities in ponds with fishing piers and accommodations that are sure to make for an enjoyable experience. Youth fishing events are extremely popular and Texas youths 16 and younger are not required to purchase a fishing license.

CCA Marine Development Center in Corpus Christi:
At the Corpus Christ hatchery, advance reservations are required by phone for youth fishing events and are free of charge. Visitors can bring their own fishing gear, but rods & reels are available to guests as well. Visitors are required to provide their own bait and dead shrimp is the preferred choice. Two youth-fishing, handicap accessible piers were recently donated and constructed by the Coastal Conservation Association—Mid-Coast Chapter.

TPWD’s Basic Angler Education classes are held on a Saturday of each month here at the CCA Marine Development Center. The class is a hands-on format that covers the basic knowledge and skills necessary for students to become successful anglers and are modified for all age groups. The instruction starts off for an hour in the classroom to teach basic skills in how, when and where to fish; assembling tackle, identifying fish, understanding fishing regulations, ideal weather conditions, etc. A hatchery tour is provided before marching to the two youth-fishing ponds to test skills learned while catching fish. The final step is graduation time in which students receive a fish pin and a Basic Fishing Certificate to frame at home.

Sea Center Texas in Lake Jackson: There are three public youth-fishing events scheduled annually at SCT. These events are open to youth accompanied by an adult with no reservations required. For these events you will be asked to bring your own fishing equipment, dead bait, and lawn chairs. We require the use of barbless hooks. For the safety of the anglers and the fish, we ask that you refrain from using treble hooks, bobbers, lures, or fly fishing gear. SCT staff and volunteers are on hand to assist with netting and handling the fish, all you have to do is bait your hook and cast away! The next public event will be held on Saturday, September 20 from 9 a.m. – 11 a.m. The other two events will be held in late February and early June of 2016. Details will be posted on SCT Facebook page and the SCT webpage at

In addition to public fishing events, SCT offers fishing for youth groups by reservation. As mentioned, if you would like to schedule a fishing event for a group, please do so well in advance of the desired date. The youth-fishing pond at SCT is handicap accessible and has a covered pavilion that will provide you with some relief during those hot summer months. There are several city parks nearby if you would like to have a picnic when your event has concluded. If you schedule a fishing event, it is highly recommended that you schedule a hatchery tour afterwards. Here are rules and guidelines for youth group fishing activities at SCT.
•    Fishing events are scheduled on the 1st and 3rd Wednesday of each month. Only one event per a Wednesday is scheduled.   
•    All fishing events are scheduled for 1-1.5 hours depending on the time of the year.
•    All fishing events are catch and release.   
•    A minimum of 10 participants and a maximum of 20 participants are allowed to fish per event.   
•    At least one adult chaperone per four participating children.   
•    Make your reservations 6 months to 1 year in advance. A $50 refundable deposit is required to reserve the fishing pond. The deposit must be received by SCT within 2 weeks after the reservation is made.    
•    Children must be at least 7 years old and not older than 16 years old to participate and accompanied by an adult.    
•    Fishing equipment will be provided, however some personal gear is allowed.

There truly is nothing more rewarding than watching a young child catch his or her first fish. Their joy, excitement, and exuberance seem to light up the entire pier as they reel in that huge redfish. As detailed in the image, getting children in the out of doors teaches them life skills, builds character and self-esteem. We encourage you to take advantage of these free opportunities at one of our facilities to show your children or youth group that “Life is Better Outside.” To learn more about these facilities and programs offered throughout the year please visit the SCT Facebook page or website

To schedule youth fishing events at Sea Center Texas in Lake Jackson, contact:Patty Cardoza – (979) 292-0100 ext. 21 or by email at [email protected] schedule youth fishing events and angler education classes at the CCA Marine Development Center in Corpus Christi, contact:Rodney Gamez – (361) 939-7784 or by email [email protected]