ATHENS—Families looking for a place to have an inexpensive, rewarding family vacation during spring break need look no farther than the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center (TFFC) in Athens.
Located just 75 miles southeast of Dallas, 100 miles east of Waco and 180 miles north of Houston, TFFC is a one-tank-of-gas round trip destination for nearly half the population of Texas.
TFFC offers free fishing with paid admission for channel catfish and rainbow trout with no license, bait, tackle or experience required, and from March 13 until the end of rainbow trout season in late April, visitors can harvest trout for free. Daily limit is five trout per person. Anyone wishing to harvest trout should bring an ice chest and ice.
Visitors will also want to check out the center’s 300,000 gallons of aquaria featuring native Texas fish. There are some truly monster fish on display, including huge largemouth bass and alligator gar. All the aquaria can be viewed from a covered walkway, and indoor exhibits include a fishing museum, a freshwater fishing hall of fame, displays showing how fish are spawned and raised and a well-stocked gift shop.
As an added bonus, this year’s Fly Fish Texas event falls in the middle of spring break. You can come to TFFC on March 12 and learn to tie a fly, cast a fly and catch a fish all in the same day. The event is put on by volunteers from fly-fishing clubs all over Texas and is free with paid admission.
Food service will be available on site March 5 and from March 8 through March 12, making it easy to spend the whole day at TFFC. Visitors are also welcome to picnic in the areas provided, and Athens—where the hamburger was invented (yes, really!)—has plenty of restaurants.
Weekdays at 11:00 a.m., Saturday at 11:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. and Sundays at 2:00 p.m. a diver hand-feeds the fish in a 26,000-gallon aquarium with a viewing auditorium. Visitors can ask questions of the diver through a live underwater link.
After the dive show, visitors can take a tram tour of the hatchery where TFFC annually raises millions of largemouth bass for stocking into public waters. Most visitors disembark the tram at the far end of the hatchery and walk back along the ADA-compliant Wetlands Trail. This 0.8-mile, wooded trail offers the opportunity to see a variety of birds, turtles, wetland plants and wildflowers.
All this is yours for the price of admission: $5.50 for adults, $4.50 for seniors, and $3.50 for children ages 4 to 12. TFFC is open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday; closed on Mondays. For more information, call (903) 676-2277 or visithttp://www.tpwd.texas.gov/tffc