Free fishing in Cameron County on Saturday

HARLINGEN — Salt or fresh, it’s all going to be free.

The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s Free Fishing Day tomorrow allows anybody and everybody an opportunity to drop a line and catch some dinner without paying for a license.

“So this is a great day, because you don’t have to invest in a fishing license,” said Karen Marks, TPWD’s aquatic education manager.

“Try it out. See if you like it,” she added. “And, hopefully, you do. And then you’ll come back and buy a fishing license and go out and buy some gear.”

Manufacturers collect a 10 percent excise tax on that fishing gear and those funds are earmarked for conservation programs, including fish stocking in local ponds and lakes.

To buy an entry-level kids’ fishing out fit will cost, for relatively good quality, about $50, said Omar Gonzalez, a fishing expert at Johnny’s True Value Hardware in Harlingen.

“I would go with a simple combo that’s already built together,” he said. “We’ve got a couple Daiwas for $19.99 and we can put line on them. There’s a Zebco for $15.99, and this Zebco will be a little bit easier for kids.”

With the addition of hooks, sinkers, bobbers and a modest tackle box, he figures it will work out to $50 but subsequent buys will be merely to restock gear and be substantially less.

“You can go a little bit lower than that, it just depends on what you want,” Gonzalez added. “Usually people go with those Zebcos, and if not, we have a couple of kiddie rods here for the smaller kids.”

By Gonzalez’s way of thinking, fishing is an investment that pays long-term dividends.

“It keeps them out of trouble — I know it did the same thing for me,” he added. “And it’s something I’ll probably do for the rest of my life. It’s very addicting.”

Come Saturday, adults and kids in Harlingen can fish Harlingen City Lake and its 35 acres, the Harlingen Sports Complex and Pendleton Park Pond.

The free fishing day also applies to saltwater angling.

“A lot of our state parks already have free fishing in the parks any time of the year,” TPWD’s Marks said. “But this Free Fishing Day, Saturday, June 2, is a day where you can go anywhere in the state of Texas, and go fishing without a license … freshwater and saltwater.”