Break out the hot dogs, the catfish are back. But save the marshmallows for November when the trout come to town.
A truckload of keeper-sized channel catfish were stocked in five Dallas-Fort Worth neighborhood lakes Thursday as part of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department's Neighborhood Fishin' program.
Aimed at giving city kids a place to fish that's close to home, the 10-year-old program that stocks rainbow trout in the cooler months and catfish from April through October, has become "immensely popular in the Metroplex," said Dave Terre, chief of research and management of the TPWD's inland fisheries division.
But some adults do take advantage of the catch-and-eat program meant for children.
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"We have a few meat hunters. We do have some folks that like to catch a bunch of fish. But our adult-to-youth ratio is very, very good," Terre said.
With Texas' population becoming increasingly urban, state fish managers know where their future customers are to be found.
"In the cities is where 85 percent of the people in Texas live. That's a group of folks we are trying to connect to," said Terre, noting that two-thirds of program's 50,000 annual participants live within a five-mile radius of the 15 small urban lakes that are stocked in Texas cities.
"It does get kids to start fishing. Over 50 percent are youth who are new to fishing. For most, it's the only place they fish," he said.
And those first-timers won't have to be too sophisticated when it comes to selecting bait, said Rafe Brock, a management biologist for the TPWD in Fort Worth.
Cut up hot dogs work surprising well for the channel cats along with night crawler worms and shrimp, he said. Another kitchen staple, miniature marshmallows have proved effective for stocked trout.
"Basically, if you think they'll bite it, bring it with you," Brock said.
More than 400 catfish were stocked at Greenbriar Park in south Fort Worth and Chisholm Park in Hurst on Thursday. Stockings are scheduled every two weeks through October, except in August when warm temperatures reduce oxygen levels in the lakes, he said. Trout stocking runs from November through March. Fish were also stocked at Lakeside Park in Duncanville, City Lake in Mesquite and South Lakes Park in Denton.
"We get very high participation. On stocking days, we get 80 to 100 people at Greenbriar and 30 to 50 in Hurst," Brock said. "Catch rates are pretty high for three or four days."
All the fish are "keeper size" of at least 12 inches and sometimes catfish of 3 to 4 pounds are released, said Jacob Petroski of the Bait Shop in Bryan which stocks the fish.
And that's big enough to attract the attention of some adult anglers who are hoping to fill a skillet with an easy catch.
"There are a lot of hungry adults out there. People have already been calling us," Petroski said.
Bait Shop owner Paul Patranella said the fish hunters know the schedule. "The people that have been doing it, they are sitting there waiting for us," he said.
Fishing licenses are required for anglers over 17 and the catch limit is five fish per person each day.
The Neighborhood Fishin' program has statewide support from the Texas Bass Classic Foundation and the federal Sport Fish Restoration Program.
Cities and counties also purchase some fish. In Tarrant County, the program gets support from the Sportsmen's Club of Fort Worth, the Nell V. Bailey Charitable Trust and the Meta Alice Keith Bratton Foundation.
"We're trying to grow the program. It's expensive and we need additional help," Terre said. "But we think its working. If we create quality fishing close to home, perhaps we'll get more kids hooked."
Steve Campbell, 817-390-7981