Delivering catfish
Biologist Nathan Grigsby, Fort Hood Directorate of Public Works, and Jerry Simmons, Inks Dam National Fish Hatchery, guide a stocking truck to back up to Engineer Lake at Fort Hood, Texas, July 6. By September, an estimated 3,800 pounds of catfish will be stocked at 10 Fort Hood lakes and ponds. (Photo Credit: Christine Luciano, Fort Hood DPW Environmental) VIEW ORIGINAL

FORT HOOD, Texas - From beginner to avid anglers, the "no check in/out" lakes and ponds here provide a great opportunity for Soldiers and their families, retirees, veterans, as well as civilians, to fish.

“The no check in/out lakes and ponds are free access, meaning that you don’t have to call into the training area,” said Nathan Grigsby, biologist for the Directorate of Public Works Natural Resources. “You can go straight to the pond, fish and leave from there.”

For more than 30 years, Fort Hood has partnered with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Inks Dam National Fish Hatchery to release thousands of channel catfish, benefiting fisheries, conservation efforts and recreational opportunities.

“Fort Hood has many ponds and great places to enjoy the outdoors,” Grigsby said. “We want to make sure Soldiers and their families are taken care of and while they are here, they have fun things to do in the area.”

The hatchery raises the fish and certifies their health before delivery and stocking on post.

“We like their fish raising program because we know the quality of the fish is going to be high,” Grigsby said. “We don’t have to worry about diseases coming in because they do test their fish.”

Jerry Simmons, with Inks Dam National Fish Hatchery, explained the process to prepare the stock involves a brood stock that is four years old.

“After they are done laying their eggs, we harvest and place them in a different holding house and raise them until they become fry,” he said. “Then we will stock ponds.”

Stocking catfish
More than 350 channel catfish make a splash as they are pumped into Heiner Lake at Fort Hood, Texas, July 6. The fish stocked at Fort Hood come from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service's Inks Dam National Fish Hatchery. (Photo Credit: Christine Luciano, Fort Hood DPW Environmental) VIEW ORIGINAL

Last week, 735 channel catfish, averaging at least 13 inches, were released at Heiner and Engineer Lake. By September, an estimated 3,800 pounds will have been stocked at 10 lakes and ponds.

“These free access ponds see a lot of fishing pressure so it is important for us to stock them annually to increase angler opportunities,” Grigsby said. “Also, everybody loves channel catfish. They are somewhat easy to catch and taste really good.”

For eight years, Simmons has been delivering and stocking Fort Hood. As a veteran previously stationed at Hood, he emphasized the importance for Soldiers and youth to get outdoors.

“It’s a valuable resource to have recreation for Soldiers. Fishing is a good stress relief, and it builds morale when Soldiers can come out here and enjoy it,” he said. “You’ve got to also get the youth involved in conservation efforts because that’s our future.”

Kort Sloan, a 15-year-old with the Youth Conservation Corps, has worked alongside Simmons, since the beginning of summer.

“It’s been a good experience and fun job,” he said. “I’ve learned a lot about the study of fish and how to protect our natural resources.”

Grigsby added that fishing is a fun activity for all age groups and experience levels, and a way for youth to develop connections to the environment.

“Getting kids outdoors is extremely important, and fishing is a great way to build confidence and resilience,” he said. “It gives them an early appreciation of nature, and why it’s important to take care of it and protect it.”

Those interested in fishing on Fort Hood must obtain a state fishing license, Fort Hood fishing permit and a Fort Hood area access permit at the Fort Hood Sportsmen’s Center located off of Rod & Gun Clup Loop. For more information about purchasing a license and permits, call the Sportsmen’s Center at (254) 532-4552.