person casting a line into a river
Fishing at Village Creek

NPS Photo

What comes to mind when you think about fishing? Patience, relaxation, challenge, and memories are a few words often associated with fishing. You will find all that and a sense of stewardship, conservation, and preservation on this page. We want you to have an enjoyable time during your visit, and for those who come after you to fish. Take some time to explore, learn what the park has to offer and learn your responsibilities before casting a line or flicking a fly into the water.

Big Thicket National Preserve allows fishing as a means of providing for public enjoyment, and customary and traditional use, and regulates fishing to ensure that it is managed in a manner that avoids unacceptable impacts to park resources.


Where to Fish

All of Big Thicket's waterways, lakes, and ponds allow fishing. You'll find good fishing spots at boat launches and day-use areas in the Beaumont Unit. Recommended waterways include the Neches River, Village Creek, Turkey Creek, and Pine Island Bayou.


A valid Texas fishing license is required to fish in the park although exceptions may apply, and fees vary. Children under 17 years of age do not require a license. People fishing within Big Thicket National Preserve must follow the fishing license requirements in accordance with the laws and regulations of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.

Fishing Regulations

Unless otherwise provided for, fishing regulations apply to all finfish found in both fresh and saltwater, and mollusks and crustaceans found in saltwater (shellfish).   Other taxa, including amphibians, and freshwater mollusks and crustaceans (e.g. waterdogs, crayfish) are not considered “fish” for the purpose of NPS fishing regulations and are addressed by NPS regulations governing “wildlife” (36CFR2.2).

These fishing regulations apply, regardless of land ownership, on all lands and waters within the park that are under the legislative jurisdiction of the United States.

Fishing shall be in accordance with the laws and regulations of the State of Texas (36CFR2.3(a)) except as provided below. Where there is a conflict between a state regulation and a federal (NPS) regulation, the state regulation is superseded by the federal regulation.

For state fishing regulations please visit the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department website.

For more information on how NPS fishing regulations work, go to the regulations page on the NPS Fish and Fishing website.


The possession or use of live or dead minnows or other baitfish, non-preserved fish eggs or roe is permitted in all freshwater areas of the preserve in accordance with the provisions of State law.

Justification: Big Thicket waterways already contain baitfish species typically offered locally so continued use wouldn't significantly impact the resource.


Fish Consumption Advisories in National Park Waters

The Environmental Protection Agency, states, territories, and tribes provide advice on fish and shellfish caught in the waters in their jurisdiction to help people make informed decisions about eating fish. Advisories are recommendations to limit your consumption of, or avoid eating entirely, certain species of fish or shellfish from specific bodies of water due to chemical or biological contamination.

Fish is part of a healthy balanced diet, but eating wild fish and shellfish caught in park waters is not risk free. Parks are “islands”, but the much larger “ocean” that surrounds them affects the natural resources inside a park. Other aquatic toxins are the result of natural biological processes. Also, chemical contaminants that originate outside of park boundaries can come into parks.

Mercury is an example of a toxin originating outside a park that can find its way into a park. Mercury exists naturally in some rocks, including coal. When power plants burn coal, mercury can travel in the air long distances before falling to the ground, usually in low concentrations. Once on the ground, microorganisms can change this elemental mercury to methyl mercury. This type of mercury can build up in animal tissues, and it can increase in concentration to harmful levels. This high concentration can occur in large predatory fish - those often pursued and eaten by anglers. Studies have shown that fish in some National Park System waters have mercury levels that may be a concern to people who regularly eat a lot of fish.

Big Thicket National Preserve Fish Consumption Advisories

Get more information about fish consumption advisories from Texas Parks & Wildlife and Texas Department of State Health Services.

Neches River

Due to the presence of dioxins and unhealthy levels of mercury

Species Affected Women of Childbearing Age
and Children Under 12
Women Past Childbearing Age
and Adult Men
Blue catfish > 30 inches DO NOT EAT 2 eight-ounce servings per month
Flathead catfish DO NOT EAT 1 eight-ounce serving per month
Gar (all species) DO NOT EAT 1 eight-ounce serving per month
Largemouth bass > 16 inches DO NOT EAT 2 eight-ounce servings per month
Smallmouth buffalo DO NOT EAT DO NOT EAT
Spotted bass > 16 inches DO NOT EAT 2 eight-ounce servings per month

Village Creek

Due to unhealthy levels of mercury

Species Affected Women Who Are Nursing,
Pregnant, or May Become Pregnant
Children Under 12 Adults
Crappie DO NOT EAT 2 four-ounce servings per month 2 eight-ounce servings per month
Gar (all species) DO NOT EAT 2 four-ounce servings per month 2 eight-ounce servings per month
Largemouth bass DO NOT EAT 2 four-ounce servings per month 2 eight-ounce servings per month
trees growing along the bank of the bayou
Pine Island Bayou at Edgewater Day-Use Area

NPS Photo / Mary Kay Manning


Aquatic Invasive Species

Imagine your favorite fishing spot and the wonderful memories. Things may look fine but underneath the surface there is a serious threat. Everything you remembered is now cemented together in a sharp, smelly mess. Invaders have wiped out the fish species you used to catch.

Aquatic invasive species are not native to an ecosystem. Their introduction causes, or is likely to cause, harm to the economy, the environment, or to human health. Aquatic invasive species are a growing risk to parks and their values. In the United States alone, there are more than 250 non-native aquatic species.

For many centuries, humans have contributed to spreading non-native species around the globe. You can make a difference. Learn more about aquatic invasive species in the national parks.

How You Can Help – Stop Aquatic Hitchhikers

  • Drain all retained water and clean your boat after use. This applies to all kinds of boats, including kayaks and canoes.
  • Don't transport invasive species. Keep an eye out for these invasives: Zebra mussel, common salvinia, giant salvinia, alligator weed, water hyacinth, and crested floating-heart.

Visit Texas Parks & Wildlife for more information about exotic aquatic species in the state of Texas.

Fishing Throughout the National Park System

We invite you to visit the Fish & Fishing website for more information about fish and fishing in the National Park System. You will learn about conservation, different fish species, and parks that offer fishing.

Last updated: April 20, 2021

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