Four people were ready with their fishing poles the moment Texas Parks and Wildlife finished stocking Elder Lake with its annual supply of trout.
Trout are not typically found in Texas because they must have water temperatures below 70 degrees to survive. The Texas Parks and Wildlife trout program, though, is set up to stock smaller bodies of water with trout in the winter when the environment is favorable for the fish.
Texas Parks and Wildlife District Fisheries Biologist Tim Bister said, “Elder Lake is just a great place to come and fish. They built a fishing pier years ago, there’s lots of good spots to fish from shore, and it’s just a real pretty place to come and fish.”
The state agency has partnered with Kilgore Economic Development Corporation to stock Elder Lake each winter for years with KEDC funding two-thirds of the total fish – about 2,900 this year – with the remaining fish coming from the Texas Parks and Wildlife’s allotment.
“That’s the way we’ve been doing it for many years now. I’ve lost count how many years we’ve done it,” Bister said.
The introduction of the trout each year has a two-fold purpose, KEDC Assistant Director and Marketing Manager Jana Russell said.
“One, it’s for the community. This is a community amenity to have trout in a lake in East Texas. It’s unique and special,” she said. “It’s also an amenity for the park. Things like this help us attract new companies because it’s one of the things that makes Synergy Park unique, certainly in this region if not one of the unique parks in the state.”
Benny Rountree and Marolyn Bowman were both among the anglers who found a spot along the lake’s shore minutes after the fish were introduced to the lake.
“I haven’t done it a bunch, but I used to trout fish quite a bit,” Rountree said. “It’s a great deal. I enjoy it.”
Bowman echoed Rountree’s sentiments saying, “I love it.”
Although she has never caught trout before, she enjoys the experience of fishing for a type of fish not normally found in the state.
As a public lake, people only need to have their state fishing license, if required, to fish at Elder Lake. Exempt from the licensing requirement are youths younger than 17 and Texas residents born before Jan. 1, 1931. Residents over the age of 65 but born after Jan. 1, 1931, can purchase a senior resident fishing license.
Each angler is limited to keeping five fish per day from Elder Lake, but there are no size requirements.
“They’re average about 9 inches long, so they’re big enough to be able to be caught right away and taken home to eat,” Bister said. “And that’s what we expect people to do with them. Come here, have fun, catch some fish and have some trout for dinner.”
Any trout not caught by the time the water temperatures start to rise in the spring will not survive, he said.
The long-standing trout program has been going on longer than Bister’s near-18-year tenure at Texas Parks and Wildlife.
“I like that people can come catch a species of fish that you can’t normally catch in Texas,” he said. “They’re also relatively easy to catch, so for anybody to have a chance to catch a trout, you can come to one of these places and have a pretty good chance to catch a fish.”
While the agency does not have a follow-up survey to measure the percentage of fish that are caught each year, he said, he sees posts on social media of people fishing at the different lakes. He noted the people at the lake waiting for the trout.
A total of 305,525 trout will be stocked in lakes across Texas from Harlingen near the Mexico border to Perryton in the Panhandle and El Paso to Waskom.
The stocking dates vary by location and are available on the Texas Parks and Wildlife website at https://tinyurl.com/troutstockings.
Bister tries to keep the stocking of Elder Lake consistent from one year to the next.
“I always try and stock here the week before Christmas to give kids a chance to get off from school and really let kids have as much chance to come fish as anybody else,” he said.