Thanks to its abundant wildlife, Texas is a haven for hunting and fishing enthusiasts. And that's especially true in the Texas Midwest, where virtually every county is a hunting and fishing hotspot. Abilene Reporter News outdoor columnist Jerry O'Bryant has been hunting and fishing in the region since 1963. "I remember thinking when I moved here I would only stay a year because it didn't have enough trees and water to suit me," he recalls. But the hunting and fishing opportunities turned out to be fantastic. There are many lakes within 45 miles of Abilene, and many, many lakes within 100 miles.
And Texans don't mind driving 50 miles to fish." Fish commonly caught in Texas Midwest waters include largemouth bass, crappie, walleye, catfish, stripers and sunfish.
"The fishing opportunities here are unlimited. You can fish just about any time of year and expect to catch something nice," O'Bryant says."The soil here lends itself to fertility in our lakes. We have a lot of 15-pound fish. You don't raise an eyebrow with an 11-pound bass anymore. Popular fishing spots in the region include O.H. Ivie Lake in Concho, Coleman and Runnels counties and Hubbard Creek Lake in Stephens County. "Hubbard Creek Lake just refilled after a 10-year drought cycle," O'™Bryant says. "Now, it's hotter than a pistol - just loaded with fish. And Ivie Lake is a great fishery with huge bass and tons of crappie."
More than 50 state parks and numerous Wildlife Management Areas across Texas offer free fishing to encourage people to get out and enjoy the sport. Texas Parks & Wildlife has waived normal fishing license and stamp requirements for anyone fishing inside a Texas state park. Hunting is also vibrant in the Texas Midwest, with deer, turkey, quail and dove being the most commonly caught game. McCulloch and Tom Green counties are among the highest producing deer counties in the state. "Deer are kind of new for Tom Green County. They've moved there in the last 10 years, and now they're all over," says Jerry Lackey, an agriculture writer for the San Angelo Standard-Times. "The Edwards Plateau area is noted for turkey." Many hunters like to hunt on private deer ranches in areas such as Shackelford and Throckmorton counties. Deer ranches are typically leased out either for the entire season or for three- to five-day hunts. "The ranch people really depend on hunting because it boosts the economy," Lackey says. O'Bryant especially enjoys quail hunting in the region. "The terrain lends itself to blues and bob whites, and we have a ton of quail during a decent year," he says. "They're delicious - they have a slight nutty flavor. They're fantastic with biscuits and pan gravy." In addition to the abundance of wildlife and the terrain, the weather in the Texas Midwest lends itself to hunting and fishing. "The summers get hot, but fall and spring are just fabulous, with cool, dry air in the mornings and afternoons in the 70s and 80s,"O'Bryant says. For more information on hunting and fishing opportunities, visit the Texas Parks & Wildlife Web site at www.tpwd.state.tx.us.