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Outdoors: Having something in common with Sgt. Pepper

Outdoors: Having something in common with Sgt. Pepper

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It was twenty years ago today that I started pestering the folks down at the Waco Tribune-Herald to let me write the outdoor column. Longtime outdoor writer Earl Golding had hung up his typewriter a few years before, and the only hunting and fishing coverage was being picked up and printed off the wire out of cities a hundred miles away.

They were polite in trying to turn me down, but after I kept calling, maybe just to shut me up, they finally said to send them a 500-word report on the opening of dove season, and the rest is history in the making.

After the first column ran after opening day of the 2001 dove season, the September 11 terror attacks shut down our nation for a while, including the outdoor column. Nobody was interested in much of anything other than figuring out what had happened, who had done it, and how we could keep something like it from happening again. Fishing didn’t factor in.

A couple weeks later, we had figured out the answers to enough of those questions to reopen some doors to entertainment and recreation. Willie and a bunch of his musical friends played and sang, giving our nation some healing and hopefulness. Football and baseball players made their way back to the field. And I dropped my second outdoor column. Thanks to the readers, editors, owners, and others, I’ve been writing about the accomplishments, events, and issues important to the outdoor community of Central Texas ever since.

There’s no telling how long my streak will continue. Earl wrote this column for 50 years. I’m not even halfway there, but I’ve enjoyed almost every minute of the two decades that I’ve been in the saddle. Keep going outdoors, and keep those stories and pictures coming.

Science rules

Most people never know the science behind their daily lives. We just take it for granted that when a medical issue comes up, or if our air-conditioner conks out, somebody will be there to get things back on the rails.

Whenever you catch a fish from Central Texas waters, whether you know it or not, a good bit of science is to thank. Fisheries biologists work year-round to make sure that lakes and streams in our area have a healthy, balanced ecosystem to help grow all those big fish that keep getting away from us.

The local Texas Parks and Wildlife team does a lot of behind-the-scenes work to study the supply and demand issues, and lately, they’ve been busy stocking lakes with lots of fish that’ll grow up to make your future fishing trips memorable.

TPWD Inland Fisheries District Supervisor John Tibbs, who also holds the title of Statewide Catfish Management Coordinator, says he and his team have recently stocked hybrids in Lake Waco, smallmouth in Whitney, and channel cats and Florida bass in many other lakes across the region they serve.

“Lake Waco is part of an ongoing research project evaluating Palmetto and Sunshine strains of hybrid stripers,” Tibbs said. “We don’t have any data yet, but down the road that will be some interesting stuff.”

Currently, the Lake Waco hybrid record is a 13.75-pounder caught in 2017 by Colby Hill on a swimbait. Hybrid stocking was one component of a comprehensive plan to improve Waco’s water quality after decades of flavor issues that caused economic and reputation problems for the city. Thanks to innovative thinking, those are now just unpleasant memories. Plus, we’ve got better fishing.

The TPWD team is also tagging alligator gar in the Brazos downstream from the dam at LaSalle to obtain more information on the population, and they continue to stock Buena Vista Lake with channel catfish every two weeks as part of their Neighborhood Fishin’ Program.

Also going on at Lake Waco is an effort to keep zebra mussels from returning. These destructive creatures can devastate lakes and infrastructure, and even though our lake was infected, it has now been clear of the invasive mussels for more than five years, thanks to the efforts of local, state, and federal government officials, as well as other groups and individuals.

When you’re putting your boat in or out of the lake these days, you might meet up with some volunteers who are checking for evidence that the lake is still free from this menace. If so, be friendly and let them take their samples. It’ll benefit everybody who enjoys the lake for recreation and drinking water, and it’ll possibly keep your taxes from going up to pay for repairs and replacement if they can catch it early enough.

CAST for Kids

CAST for Kids is an organization that serves kids with special needs, along with their families, through the sport of fishing. This Sunday, it will host Haley’s Heroes CAST for Kids at Lake Waco.

The organization is partnering with Texas Farm Bureau Insurance, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and other sponsors to bring the special event to town. Participants can expect to enjoy a few hours of fishing paired off with some of the fishing industry’s biggest names, along with lunch and an awards ceremony.

Be sure to check out the CAST for Kids 5th Annual Haley’s Hero’s Celebrity Gala fundraiser on July 23. The gala will take place at Knox Hall at the Texas Ranger Hall of Fame, and will include a lively live auction, silent auction, steak dinner, and the chance to meet celebrity bass pros and outdoor industry entertainers.

Gala tickets may be purchased, and silent auction items can be viewed at www.bidpal.net/waco2021.

The Foundation holds fishing events where special needs participants enjoy a day of being celebrated by volunteers from the community. While events take place in over 30 states, Texas alone will host 25 C.A.S.T. for Kids events in 2021.

Priming for dove season

There are 45 more days before the opening of the 2021 dove season, and hunters are already making plans, tuning up weapons, stocking up on shells, checking out game vests, making sure hunting stools are still swiveling properly, and looking forward to buying their licenses for the upcoming year.

Current licenses expire on Aug. 31, and the new ones go into effect Sept. 1. Buying a license has never been easier, so there’s no need to wait in a long line at the sporting goods counter like we all did in the old days. Licenses are available for purchase in sporting goods stores, bait shops, feed stores, by phone, and online, and they’ll go on sale Aug. 15.

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