ATHENS – The Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center is pleased to announce a return to full operational status. Due to the public health situation, TFFC, located in Athens, had limited operations and visitor services since March 2020. During the pandemic, in anticipation of reopening, TFFC personnel utilized the partial closure to focus efforts on renovations and upgrades to enhance the visitor experience.
“We are excited to again be able to provide the opportunity for Texans to see and experience our fisheries and aquatic resources, and the vital work of TPWD fish biologists firsthand,” said Tom Lang, TFFC Director.
Tram tours of the TFFC hatchery were a highlight for visitors but had to be suspended during the pandemic. The previous tram toured more than 400,000 visitors around the facility but had endured significant wear and tear. The Friends of the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center utilized this opportunity to purchase and donate a beautiful new tram, which has been dubbed the “Ethel Express.” The Ethel Express is wrapped with beautiful artwork of Texas freshwater fishes, fish habitat, and hatchery ponds and will provide an enjoyable experience for visitors for many years.
“During the closure, the TFFC team stayed focused on the mission and worked diligently to prepare the facility for families to return, to learn, and to make wonderful memories,” Lang said. “There’s nothing like seeing someone catch their first fish here, seeing their eyes get big when their face to face with a giant Alligator Gar, or hearing the oohs and aaahs that occur during the dive show.”
The indoor portion of the visitor center, including the dive theater and gift shop, and the Texas Game Warden museum are now re-open to visitors. While these areas were closed, TFFC personnel worked diligently to refresh the space and update and develop new exhibits. Many of these enhancements are complete but TFFC personnel will continue to regularly add and upgrade exhibits to enhance the visitor experience. Long-term, substantial upgrades and renovations are currently being planned for the TFFC aquariums by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation.
Group reservations have also resumed along with tours of the hatchery facilities. Visitors to the TFFC can also enjoy all outside aquaria, recreational fishing, the Angler’s Pavilion, antique lure and fishing equipment exhibit, and wetland trail. Guests are still encouraged to wear masks, maintain appropriate social distances from others outside their party, and use hand sanitizer and wash their hands regularly.
Built as a joint venture between TPWD, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation and the Athens community (Athens Economic Development Corporation, City of Athens, and Athens Municipal Water Authority), TFFC combines a Visitor Center, educational programming, recreational fishing ponds, Angler’s Pavilion, and a production freshwater fish hatchery. Developed on a 106-acre site, the facility includes more than 300,000 gallons of indoor and outdoor aquariums displaying dozens of species of native fish, waterfowl, alligators, and amphibians in recreated habitats. A 14,000-sq. ft conservation center completed in 2007 provides space for meetings, special events, and outdoors educational classes.
Operational hours for TFFC are 9:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and 1:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m. on Sunday. Regular admission rates are $5.50 for adults, $4.50 for seniors 65 and older, and $3.50 for children ages 4 through 12. Season passes valid for one year from date of purchase are available for $15 for adults, $12.50 for seniors and $8.00 for children. Season pass holders are eligible for a 10-percent discount in the gift shop.
Discounted rates are available for youth/school groups of 10 or more. Reservations must be made at least two weeks in advance to receive the discounted rate. An online reservation form is available or visitors can call (903) 676-2277 for additional information and to make a group reservation by phone.
For more information and to plan your visit, visit the TFFC website.