Bounty of Austin's outdoors beckons to anglers and hunters

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Bounty of Austin's outdoors beckons to anglers and hunters

East Texas has big lakes with big fish. South Texas has big brush with big deer and some big lakes of its own.

But the Greater Austin area — Central Texas, the Hill Country, the Edwards Plateau — has lakes of all sizes, deer and doves for hunting, and some of the most beautiful and fishable rivers in Texas, if not the country.

The rivers here are the centerpiece to fishing, whether it's by boat, canoe, kayak or just wading, and they also help the hunting by providing the water that is the lifeblood for wildlife, especially the birds.

One of the great things about fishing in Central Texas, beyond the accessibility for those who don't own giant bass boats, is the diversity of fish, especially in the rivers.

Take a float trip down the San Marcos, the Pedernales or the Llano and you're likely to catch largemouth and Guadalupe bass, hybrid smallmouths, green sunfish, red-breasted sunfish and redears. The lakes hold all those fish plus crappie, hybrid stripers, striped bass and white bass and blue, channel and flathead catfish.

Lots of anglers double-dip while they're fishing by using conventional tackle for bass or crappie while tossing out jug lines for catfish. They let the wind carry the jugs across the lake while they move back and forth between fishing holes and pull catfish off the jugs.

Juglines are just that, either milk or bleach jugs with one or two hooks tied beneath them and a weight beneath the hook. Some anglers use the brightly colored floaties you buy at big-box stores. Check a Texas Parks and Wildlife Outdoor Annual for exact rules, but it's simple, easy and quite productive if you're looking to put some fillets in the freezer.

If you are interested in fishing for crappie, try Granger Lake or Lake LBJ. The crappie gather in brush piles and around sunken timber in the early summer.

River fishing might be the worst-kept secret in Central Texas. Fly anglers especially like to hit the rivers and work their way downstream through miles of fishy, productive water. There's even a book, "Fly Fishing the Texas Hill Country," originally written by Bud Priddy and recently reissued by Kevin Hutchison, that talks about flies, put-in and take-out spots and perfect places to fish.

The book is important to make sure you don't trespass on private property during your day on the water but it's also a great aid for getting on the river and finding fish. Canoes and kayaks are available for rent through liveries around Austin.

Deer and turkey hunting is generally done on private land. Hunters pay for access to the land during hunting seasons.

Each year the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department leases land near cities in the Interstate 35 corridor and makes those leases available to hunters for dove hunting. Purchase the annual permit for $48 and a hunting license and migratory game bird stamp ($7), and you'll get a map showing you where to go to hunt.

For information about public dove leases, see www.tpwd.state.tx.us .

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