Life’s better outside, especially during springtime in Texas. And nowhere will it be better on April 9 than at Outdoor Fools Day at the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center (TFFC).
The annual event will run from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., and all activities are free with regular paid admission ($5.50 adults, $4.50 seniors, $3.50 children ages 4 to 12) to the center.
A short video of highlights from a prior year gives a taste of what Outdoor Fools Day is like; it can be found at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Texas-Freshwater-Fisheries-Center/128462433868391.
The purpose of the event is to showcase outdoor recreation opportunities in East Texas while teaching some of the skills that will help you enjoy them, such as camping, fishing, dutch oven cooking, birding and more.
The Blackland Prairie Raptor Center will display various birds of prey while explaining their place in the ecosystem and why it is important to protect them. You can get an up-close look at the birds during a 12 noon presentation in the Hart-Morris Conservation center, and they will also be displayed around the grounds at other times.
Returning for another year will be the popular Wildlife on the Move “The Unhuggables” show, which features a variety of animals and lots of information about them. Presenter Eric Brittingham delivers a rapid-fire presentation about the animals’ habitats and conservation and debunks myths such as “snakes are slimy.” You’ll be able to prove that to yourself by touching a 12-foot python following a 1:00 p.m. presentation in the Hart-Morris Conservation Center. Some of the creatures will also be on display at other times on the grounds near the Conservation Center.
Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s Coastal Fisheries Division will present a salt-water touch tank that is always good for smiles and squeals as kids touch creatures that are harmless but don’t look it.
The Lone Star Bowhunters Association and the Dogwood Chapter of the Lone Star Dutch Oven Society are perennial favorites at Outdoor Fools Day. Young and old alike enjoy flinging arrows at life-size replicas of deer, hogs and turkeys almost as much as they like snacking on tasty goodies cooked over coals and served up warm.
Tracking dogs from Texas Trackers will do their thing along the Wetlands Trail, demonstrating how these amazing dogs with their sensitive noses can follow the trail of a wounded animal. They also love to be petted. (Please leave your own dog at home. Pets are not allowed at TFFC.)
One of the most popular activities is rocket-building and launching, presented by Sky Ranch. In just a few minutes the Sky Ranch volunteers can help you build a paper-and-duct tape rocket and launch it using compressed air.
Other exhibits will include a state park area that will help you learn how to set up a camp. There will be fly-fishing and kayaking instruction and information on hunter education. TFFC is one of the best places in the state to take your hunter education course, and you can visit with the instructors during Outdoor Fools Day.
Shopping for a variety of outdoor products will be offered by Cabela’s, and the TFFC gift shop is well-stocked with snacks and fishing-related clothing and gift items.
Don’t forget to bring an ice chest so you can take home some rainbow trout. Fishing is always free at TFFC, you never need a license, and bait and tackle are always furnished. You are welcome to bring your own fishing gear, but only single hooks with the barb mashed down are allowed.
Currently each person can harvest and keep up to five trout for free. Just be sure to check in at the Anglers Pavilion for orientation before fishing and report your catch there before leaving.
Outdoor Fools Day is made possible by the generosity of our sponsors: Holiday Inn Express Hotel and Suites—Athens; First State Bank; Schneider Electric; Dr. Mark Roberts, DDS; McDonald’s—Lilly Enterprises; Red Hat Rentals; FutureMatrix, Inc., Aaron’s Sales and Lease; Best Western Royal Mountain Inn—Athens; Cabela’s; East Texas Medical Center; Friends of TFFC; Wulf Outdoor Sports and Virtual Communication Specialists.
The Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center is at 5550 F.M. 2495, Athens, Texas, which is about 75 miles southeast of Dallas. For information or directions, call (903) 676-2277 or visit www.tpwd.state.tx.us/tffc.