Record Catfish Still Drawing Crowds to Fisheries Center

Larry Hodge, 903-676-2277,

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ATHENS, Texas-The Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center has a big fish story. ’Splash,’ the new record blue catfish now swimming in the dive tank at the center, has sent visitation through the roof. Attendance the first weekend in March was 979, an increase of 30 percent from last year. Visitation for the year to date is up 6,000 compared with the same period last year.

More than 600 people visited the center on March 9 to kick off spring break. And ’Fly Fish Texas’ contributed to the total of about 1,400 people who visited the center the weekend of March 13.

The center’s regular activities include: a diver hand-feeding fish in the 26,000-gallon dive tank, the viewing of native Texas species in simulated natural environments, and a narrated tram tour of the fish hatchery.

About half the people who visit take advantage of the center’s 1.5-acre casting pond, where they can catch rainbow trout or channel catfish. No fishing license is needed and all equipment is provided. Catch-and-release fishing is free. For the first time, catfish may be harvested year-around for a fee. Trout may also be harvested for a fee.

Spring is an ideal time to walk the center’s .6-mile Wetlands Trail. A variety of birds are nesting in trees and shrubs on the 106-acre site, including red-winged blackbirds, doves, cardinals and mockingbirds.

Carnivorous pitcher plants will begin blooming in the bog area in late March, and the wildflower area will follow suit soon after.

The Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center is an innovative aquatic nature center and hatchery complex operated by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and is located 75 miles southeast of Dallas on FM 2495, four miles east of Athens. Attractions include 300,000 gallons of aquariums, daily dive show and on-site fishing. Hours are Tues.-Sat. 9 a.m.-4 p.m. and Sunday 1-4 p.m. Rates are: adults $5.50, seniors $4.50, and children ages 4-12 are admitted for $3.50. For more information, visit the Web ( and click on fishing or call the center at (903) 676-2277.