Careers in the Inland Fisheries Division
The Inland Fisheries Division of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department is responsible for managing the state's freshwater fisheries resources. We oversee 1.7 million acres of public reservoirs and 80,000 miles of rivers and streams. These resources are utilized by nearly 2 million anglers who provide the Texas economy with an estimated $1.5 billion per year in direct spending on food, lodging, transportation and equipment. Our goal is to provide the best possible fishing while protecting and enhancing freshwater aquatic resources, keeping them healthy and productive for the enjoyment of current and future generations.
In the 21st century, our freshwater resources face many challenges:
- As population increases, diversion of water for domestic, industrial and agricultural use reduces available habitat.
- Dredging and shoreline erosion alter habitats, which may kill aquatic organisms or interfere with reproduction.
- Invasive exotic species threaten waterways in Texas and neighboring states.
- Pollution from business, industry and residential development threatens water quality and the survival of all aquatic life.
- With increasing competition for freshwater resources, the needs of anglers and aquatic organisms may come into conflict with those of other recreational users.
- fisheries management and research
- fish production
- ecosystem and habitat assessment
- instream flow and river studies
- fish kill investigation and damage recovery
- environmental contaminant analysis
- wetlands conservation
- outreach and information
Division staff are located in Austin, San Marcos, three regional offices, 15 district offices, one research center, and five fish hatcheries. This includes the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center in Athens, which combines a state-of-the-art hatchery with an educational visitors' center. Field biologists and technicians spend much of their time away from the office conducting surveys and habitat assessments on our lakes and streams. They typically work a 40-hour week, but the schedule isn't always 8 to 5. Sampling trips may involve longer hours. Some activities are conducted nights and weekends.
Preparing for a Career in Inland Fisheries
Spend some time around water. Practice observing the world around you and consider what it would be like to work in such an environment. Take high-school courses in biology, chemistry, physics, mathematics, computer science, English and communications. Visit a nearby college or university that offers courses in fisheries or aquatic biology. Talk with professors and students in those programs to learn about educational needs and programs that might suit you best.
Fisheries Biologist (NRS I-IV)
Management biologists use research results to improve the quality of a fishery and achieve objectives such as increasing the size of fish caught by anglers. Managers design stocking programs and fishing regulations. They interview anglers to gather data for development of management programs. The job includes public relations, public policy and administrative responsibilities.
Fisheries research biologists study aquatic organisms and their interactions with the environment. Research provides the science behind our fisheries management decisions. Areas of research include ecology, physiology, behavior, genetics, aquaculture, economics, pathology, population dynamics and computer modeling. Inland Fisheries research is coordinated by the Heart of the Hills Fisheries Science Center in Mountain Home. A crew of research biologists and technicians oversees projects and works with professionals at hatcheries and district management offices to conduct local research.
Through partnerships with local communities, private landowners, corporations, non-governmental organizations, and other federal and state agencies, conservation biologists work to protect and restore Texas native fishes, their habitats, and other aquatic resources. They often deal with complex issues that require advanced communication and problem- solving skills, as well as broad-based training in a variety of scientific disciplines. Areas of expertise include fish biology, aquatic ecology, hydrology, toxicology, watershed management, restoration science, instream flow science, water quality, and management of aquatic nuisance species.
Texas freshwater hatcheries rear Florida largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, channel and blue catfish, striped and hybrid striped bass, sunfishes and forage fish. Our hatcheries do extensive research on pond fertilization, zooplankton dynamics and predator-prey relationships.
Fisheries Technician (FWT I-II)
Technicians work at hatcheries and field stations, assisting with sampling, data collection, research and fish rearing.
Biologist positions require at least a bachelor's degree. However, most persons applying for these positions at TPWD have a master's. Keep this in mind when planning your educational goals.
Although some colleges and universities offer undergraduate programs in fisheries science, many fisheries professionals obtain degrees in other disciplines such as biology, zoology, engineering, marine science, economics, or animal science. Courses in writing and public speaking, social studies and the humanities are also important. Fisheries professionals must understand not only the scientific basis of a fishery, but also how to communicate their understanding to the public. College algebra and statistics are also recommended courses; these subjects continue to grow in importance as we analyze the relationships between fishes, their habitats, and human populations. Graduate education typically involves specialized study in a selected area of expertise.
Technician positions require a high-school diploma or GED and familiarity with boat and motor repair, auto repair, operating on water, and aquatic organisms and habitats.
Volunteering at a hatchery or a TPWD outreach event is one way to gain experience in fisheries work. Please visit the Volunteer website.
AmBASSadors are a special crew of volunteers who donate their time and talents at Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center. They work with children at the casting pond, assist with tours of the facility and give general assistance to visitors. Some with special talents or interests help to build and maintain exhibits. For more information, visit the Becoming an AmBASSador section on the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center website.
A summer job or internship is another way to gain valuable experience and increase chances of future employment. TPWD's Student Internship Program is for students who are enrolled in an accredited college or university and meet minimum requirements. Inland Fisheries interns work at freshwater hatcheries, field management offices, research laboratories, or the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center. To find out what's available in a given year, visit the jobs section of our website.