Idle words and water balloons

The whole thing started as a joke.

We were in the office this week, grousing about the triple-digit heat index and discussing ways to keep cool that didn’t involve large fans, A/C or meat freezers.

We talked about our favorite swimming holes, shaded hiking trailsnight fishing spots and stargazing destinations. About running through sprinklers, popsicles and shaved ice. We reminisced about late night picnics in the park, sharing a Coke with someone special and evenings where the skies danced with fireflies.

Somewhere in this discussion, water balloons came up.

I mentioned, in one of those off-handed comments that sometimes take on a life of their own, that I’d take a water balloon to the face in full work attire (which, for me, usually means a dress shirt and bowtie) if we could add new subscribers in the triple digits before the heat wave breaks.

I was kidding. Everyone else? Not so much.

So, here’s the deal. If we meet our goal, the entire office will pelt my well-dressed, defenseless self with water balloons. While I’m at work. And we’ll stream it live on social media.

I’m not sure what you do to keep cool during the summer, but I know what I’ll be doing.

A subscription is just $10, which seems like a small price to pay for a year’s worth of outdoor adventure and the chance to see some dude get soaked with water balloons.

Also, if you have any tips for ways to keep cool that don’t involve water balloons — or ways to keep your cool while being pelted with water balloons — leave ‘em in the comments.

Wade in and catch a fish

Wade Fishing Tips for the Texas Coastal Flats 

As the sun comes up across a Texas coastal flat, the silhouettes of coastal birds begin to slowly weave through the sky. The dedicated, early-rising wade-fisher walks along the surf, trying his luck. He’s seen a dolphin and caught a redfish already. It’s going to be a good morning — he can feel good luck quivering in the tip of his rod.

Wade-fishing the shallow flats of our Texas coast offers some noteworthy advantages over other forms of fishing, even more than the quiet beauty of a coastal sunrise.

Economically speaking, wade-fishing requires much less financial investment because there’s no boat, so no need for insurance, trailer or fuel. You have to carry your gear, so it’s simple by necessity. 

Keeping your feet in the water offers a more connected fishing experience. Walking through the flats brings you up-close to all kinds of natural wonders you’d miss speeding by in a boat. Find your own private area away from the crowds and really let the magic of the coast wash over you. 

Wading is a low-cost entry into fishing

Red drum, spotted seatrout, black drum, flounder and ladyfish are some of the most popular species, but the coastal bounty is widely varied. There’s no shortage of land available for this sport, with hundreds of miles of accessible coastline and acres and acres of shallow coastal flats to walk.

Equipment you’ll need
·     Waders and/or wade shoes. When water temperatures are low, you’ll need good waders. Some anglers still wear waders in the summer, just for protection. High-quality wading boots will help you steady your feet.
·     Sun protection. Don't forget hat, sunglasses and a long-sleeve shirt or sun sleeves.
·     Medium-weight casting rod. A sturdy, medium-weight spinning rod (use a 12- to 15-pound line) is generally a good rod for wade-fishing the Texas coast. 
·     Vest. Anglers wear many-pocketed vests to keep all their gear well organized.
·     Map. Many tackle stores sell maps of specific wading areas. 
·     Rod/wading belt. A wading rod belt can help you secure your rod when handling a fish or tying on a new rig or can carry a second rod.
·     Lures. Any tackle store will be glad to recommend some lures to use in the area. Some prefer shrimp and mullet mimicking soft plastics and MirrOlure-style casting plugs.
·     Floating bait bucket. If you aren’t using artificial lures, these buckets will keep your bait alive. Many wade fishers also catch their own bait with cast nets, making wade-fishing even more economical.
·     Landing net and wading stringer.  Carry a net to land the fish, and if you intend to keep your catch, bring along a long wading stringer.

Starter tips
·     Go with friends. Don’t go alone. Let others know where you’ll be, too.
·     Take it slow. Wading’s a pretty good workout, so don’t expect to wade for miles and miles.

·     Watch for structure and edges. Fish areas around any structure and the edge of vegetation changes — where sandy bottom turns to grassy areas, or perhaps a visible patch of sandy bottom in the middle of lots of vegetation.

Help us create 10,000 new outdoor users. Share with your friends and tell them to subscribe to the magazine to get more great ideas like this. They can use this link to subscribe.


One last blast at Dino Valley

Looking for that last-minute getaway before school starts? 

Try Dinosaur Valley State Park in Glen Rose, not far from Fort Worth.

It’s hard to visit Dinosaur Valley and not feel like a kid again. Two gigantic dinosaurs — constructed from fiberglass for the 1964-65 World’s Fair — stand not far from the park store, where visitors can buy dinosaur stuff (books, caps, toys and more) plus drinks and snacks.

Two giant fiberglass dinosaurs

Once you’ve settled in, check out dinosaur footprints in the Paluxy River bed, where long ago, dinosaurs left footprints in the mud at the edge of an ancient ocean. Today, you can walk in their tracks. What kid wouldn’t want to roam around where dinosaurs once lived?

Extended stays allow more time to explore the 1,596-acre park, which offers 20 miles of trails, day-use horseback riding areas, geocaching and camping facilities. Visitors can also swim and fish in the river. 

FYI: Scratch Pleurocoelusas Texas’ official state dinosaur. Meet Paluxysaurus jonesi,the sauropod that once tromped through Dinosaur Valley State Park. The name-change stems from a master’s-level study published by Peter Rose in 2007.

Help us create 10,000 new outdoor users. Share with your friends and tell them to subscribe to the magazine to get more great ideas like this. They can use this link to subscribe.


The Stars at Night…

West Texas has some of the darkest skies in the nation.
Captivate your senses on a moonless night by staring at the vastness of the sky in all its starlit beauty. Grab a blanket, a star chart and a laser pointer to identify constellations. Better yet, head outside during a meteor showers to witness dozens of shooting stars. The Perseid shower peaks August 12 every year, and other showers occur throughout the year. Visibility depends on the phase of the moon, among other factors. The best viewing times are after midnight and before dawn.
You’ll need dark skies for the best view, so if your backyard doesn’t suffice, you can visit a Texas state park that are now designated as official Dark Sky Parks, like Big Bend Ranch, Enchanted Rock, Copper Breaks and South Llano River. Devils River is a Dark Sky Sanctuary.


Dive in!

Nothing is cooler than a dip in a cool spring on a hot day.
The chilliest water in Texas can be found near the abundant springs, scattered across the state. These ancient springs feed icy streams, creeks and rivers, but best of all, sometimes they create swimming holes. Where else would you want to be when the thermometer hits 104?
The Texas Hill Country contains the greatest concentration of swimming holes — human activity around San Marcos Springs, the second largest springs in Texas, has been traced back more than 12,000 years. Like us, the ancients must have figured out that immersing in cool artesian spring water was a pretty smart way to survive a hot day in August.
Many springs are tucked away into more remote, rural areas, but a few can be found in more populated area, like the crown jewel of Austin, Barton Springs.
As development has sprawled beyond the pool and the creek upstream all the way to its headwaters some 30 miles away in Hays County, Barton Springs is more remarkable than ever. There are times when the water is so clear it’s as if nothing has changed in the last 100 years. Newcomers to A-Town get hooked on the big pool the same way oldtimer’s fell in love with it decades ago. Some begin their day in the springs before dawn, with downtown skyscrapers and the moon providing all the illumination they need to navigate the dark waters. Even families enjoying a weekend cool-down there know there’s no better urban swimming hole on Earth. Period.

Discover more places to splash around — subscribe! Join us in creating 10,000 new outdoor Texans this month.


Night Fishing Moves

Night Fishing on Lake Austin
Think it’s too hot for bass to bite? Perhaps the problem is not where you’re fishing, how you’re fishing or what bait you’re using. It could be when you’re fishing.

Fish, especially big fish, retreat to quieter, deeper, cooler, darker waters during the day and tend to come out to feed at night.

The one thing you want to bring back from a night fishing trip besides pictures of and a story about the biggest bass you ever caught is yourself. Things do go bump in the night, and you don’t want to be one of them. Here are a few tips for night fishing success.

Look Smart. Scout for fishing areas in the daytime and mark them on your GPS. If you can, run to your fishing spot before dark. Then move as little as possible.

Take it Slow. When moving at night, resist the temptation to put the boat on plane and let your hair blow in the wind. There may be stumps, logs floating in the water, an angler fishing without a white light showing or a stray boat that broke loose from its mooring. People have run under docks at night, with fatal results. Go slower and live longer.

Cover Your Eyes. Wear clear safety glasses at night to protect your eyes. Sometimes you get your lure snagged and when you tug on it to get it loose, it comes flying back at you, but you won’t see it. It may lodge in some other part of your body, which is usually removable without too much misfortune — but your eyes, that’s another story. 

Wear a Life Jacket. Always. All the time. An inflatable makes wearing a life jacket more bearable while fishing; falling out of the boat while fishing by yourself at night (not advised) is a lot more fun if you live to tell about it.

Be Seen. And Heard. Take a good spotlight and a cellphone and tell someone where you will be and when to expect your return. You’ll be glad you did when your boat dies and you don’t have to wait until someone happens by.

Dress for Success. Take jackets and rain gear. Unless you just like being cold and miserable. But then if you did, you’d be ice fishing in Minnesota instead of bass fishing in Texas. Booyah!

Check the Weather. Check the weather before you go and keep a sharp eye out for lightning and changes in conditions. Have a weather app with lightning alerts and storm tracking on your phone. 

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Turtle Time on South Padre

Sea Turtle Restoration at Sea Turtle, Inc.

For a variety of reasons, South Padre is like no other Texas beach. You could say the sand is whiter and the water is bluer, but for us, it’s an opportunity to get up close to some of our favorite marine animals, those friendly sea turtles that inhabit the salty waters along Texas’ southernmost beach.

When you visit, why not stop by the new Sea Turtle Inc. facility to make some new friends (permanent turtle residents with adorable names like Merry Christmas and Hang Ten).

The modest building that once housed injured turtles was replaced by a fantastic $6 million facility in 2018, right after Sea Turtle Inc.’s 40th anniversary celebration as a nonprofit. Hourly turtle talks, a large aquarium, interactive kids’ exhibits and a 300-seat amphitheater with a view of the wetlands and a top-notch theater system are features of the new site, just behind the old one (now a sea turtle hospital).

South Padre is a unique place for new outdoor enthusiasts to experience a beautiful Texas beach and learn about how our natural world is recovering.

Discover more outdoor adventures! Subscribe now for just $10.


10,000 Texans

How many people don't participate in outdoor recreation?

Fifty-one percent.

That’s how many American’s participate in exactly zero — as in not even one — outdoor activity each year according to the Outdoor Foundation.

Fifty. One. Percent.

For an agency with the motto “Life’s Better Outside,” this statistic is discouraging.

We know from our own research that Texans participate in outdoor activities at rates far higher than the rest of the country, so our numbers may be better than that.

But still … fifty-one percent.

In a state with a population of 28.7 million, that’s 14+ million people who never experience what the Texas outdoors has to offer.

Fishing, hiking, picnics, walking trails, kayaking, hunting, splashing in the gulf or even just a walk in the park — more than 14 million Texans missed out on all of that.

And we think that’s a big problem.

That’s why we here at Texas Parks & Wildlife magazine are launching this blog, to inspire Texans to get outside and experience all that Texas has to offer. But rather than thinking big, we’re thinking small. Like, move the needle 0.03% small.

Which adds up to 10,000 Texans. 

We'd like to inspire 10,000 Texans to get outside and try something new. To help, we’ll be posting one idea — one place you can go, one activity you can try, one way to get involved — every day. On our blog. On our social media channels. With our friends and family.

And we’d like you to do the same. 

If you’re already part of the 49% who goes outside on a regular basis, fantastic! The next time you do something outdoors, invite a friend. Take them to your favorite outdoor spot — or visit somewhere you’ve never been before! But most important, help us spread the word that Life’s Better Outside.

And if you’re a great indoorsman (or woman), we hope to inspire you with how much Texas has to offer, and how easy it is for you to experience it.