As Texas reopens following the coronavirus shutdown, one sure sign of an attempted return to normalcy in the Lone Star State’s outdoors world is overnight use of state parks beginning again.


That started again earlier this week on Wednesday, May 27, when TPWD said that visitors were once again able to make camping reservations at parks with arrival dates between June 1 and Sept. 7.


Do note that this measure is only a gradual resumption of overnight reservations. TPWD says in a news release that such reservations will be limited to different degrees at individual parks, all such actions designed to align with safe business practices that are currently being followed in Texas.


“No one is more pleased than us to welcome more outdoor enthusiasts back into state parks as part of the continued reopening of Texas,” said Carter Smith, TPWD executive director, in a news release. “Our careful and deliberate approach to phasing in the reopening has served our visitors, volunteers, and staff well as we have continued our emphasis on the safety of everyone in the parks.


It’s not a complete return to normalcy, but Smith says it’s a start in that direction.


“Even in this limited capacity, we are glad that we can get more Texans and their families safely back on the trails and in the campsites to enjoy all the many unique spaces and places that make Texas state parks so special,” he said.


According to TPWD, all state park guests, including annual pass holders, need to pre-purchase day passes and overnight reservations in advance through the Texas State Parks Reservation System. Such reservations can be made online at www.texasstateparks.org or by calling 512-389-8900.


As with many other things in the COVID-19 pandemic, TPWD advises that callers should expect longer than normal wait times when trying to make reservations. Visitors are encouraged to use the online system to help reduce the volume of calls to the customer service center.


Texas Game Wardens busy


If you visited Lake Texoma or one of the other lakes in the region, you probably know that it was a busy Memorial Day weekend. And that was true for not only boaters, anglers, and other outdoor recreation enthusiasts – it was also true for Texas Parks and Wildlife Department game wardens.


According to a TPWD news release, state game wardens issued 1,196 citations and 1,212 warnings for various boating safety law violations over the holiday weekend. In addition, despite the repeated and annual warnings to avoid alcohol use and boating, some persist in the activity and pay the price. According to TPWD, game wardens arrested 38 individuals for Boating While Intoxicated over the Memorial Day timeframe, along with filing another five charges for Driving While Intoxicated.


TPWD says that state game wardens also arrested another 31 people over the holiday weekend for various criminal offenses, which weren’t specified.


One of the biggest jobs for TPWD game wardens last weekend was to help boaters, anglers, and campers avoid the rounds of severe weather that plagued portions of Texas. According to Cody Jones, TPWD’s assistant commander for marine enforcement, wardens helped warn of a slow moving tornado on the ground near Lake Alan Henry last weekend, rescued two teenage swimmers at Lake Mackenzie, and performed multiple boat rescues around the state due to inclement weather.


Pro fishing ready to resume


Despite the COVID-19 lockdown, it’s been an exciting few days in the professional bass fishing world.


For starters, as reported here in the Herald Democrat sports section yesterday, officials with the Birmingham, Ala. Based Bass Anglers Sportsman Society (B.A.S.S.) announced on Wednesday that the 2021 Bassmaster Classic would be held on nearby Lake Ray Roberts next March.


Pro fishing anglers and fans are also enthused by a restart to their tournament schedules in upcoming weeks.


For Major League Fishing’s Bass Pro Tour, that start comes next month with the June 7-12 Heavy Hitters event on the Kissimmee Chain of Lakes near Orlando, Fla. The unique event, which will center on catching the day’s heaviest single fish, will be live streamed at www.majorleaguefishing.com .


Meanwhile, the FLW Pro Circuit will reboot its 2020 slate of tournaments with the first of three Super Tournaments featuring FLW touring pros and a good number of MLF’s BPT anglers as well. Look for live streaming action at www.flwfishing.com when the first Super tourney is held next month at Tennessee’s Lake Chickamauga from June 23-26.


Finally, don’t forget the B.A.S.S. tournament restart, also slated for next month. The Elite Series will get its reboot with the 2020 DEWALT Bassmaster Elite event at Lake Eufaula in Alabama. That tourney is slated to happen from June 10-13.


And a week later, the B.A.S.S. pros will visit the Arkansas River near Muskogee, Okla. for the 2020 Basspro.com Bassmaster Central Open. That event will be held from June18-20.


To find live streaming for the various B.A.S.S. events, visit the organization’s website at www.bassmaster.com.


Evinrude Motors folds, cites COVID-19 hardships


With job loss and bankruptcies mounting around the country as the COVID-19 pandemic shutdown fallout continues, the fishing industry suffered one of its first major blows earlier this week when officials with Evinrude announced that they will cease production of outboard motors.


Founded in 1907 in Milwaukee, Wis. by Ole Evinrude, the company survived the 1918 flu pandemic and became one of the nation's leading manufacturers of outboard engines. Owned by Outboard Marine Corporation from 1935 until OMC's bankruptcy in 2000, Evinrude in recent years had become a working subsidiary of Bombardier Recreational Products.


That changed on Wednesday when the company made the surprising announcement.


“BRP (TSX: DOO; NASDAQ: DOOO) announced today it has re-oriented its marine business by focusing on the growth of its boat brands with new technology and innovative marine products,” said a news release. “We will discontinue production of Evinrude E-TEC and E-TEC G2 outboard engines. Our Sturtevant, WI, facility, will be repurposed for new projects to pursue our plan to provide consumers with an unparalleled experience on the water.


“We remain committed to our Buy, Build, Transform Marine strategy which has been underway since 2018 with the acquisition of Alumacraft and Manitou boat companies in the U.S., followed by the acquisition of Australian boat manufacturer Telwater in 2019.”


Why the decision?


“Our outboard engines business has been greatly impacted by COVID-19, obliging us to discontinue production of our outboard motors immediately. This business segment had already been facing some challenges and the impact from the current context has forced our hand,” said Josť Boisjoli, president and CEO of BRP, in the news release. “We will concentrate our efforts on new and innovative technologies and on the development of our boat companies, where we continue to see a lot of potential to transform the on-water experience for consumers,” he added.


Boisioli also added: “Following our decision to discontinue E-TEC and E-TEC G2 outboard engines, we have signed an agreement with market leader Mercury Marine to support boat packages and continue to supply outboard engines to our boat brands.


“We will continue to supply customers and our dealer network service parts and will honour our manufacturer limited warranties, plus offer select programs to manage inventory. These decisions will impact 650 employees globally.”