Texas Game Wardens working in coastal waters near Rockport now have access to a custom-made shallow water skiff that will allow them to better patrol hard-to-reach marshes and bays. The new boat was exhibited to the public and put into the water for the first time Thursday, March 12.
The vessel was funded through a partnership between FlatsWorthy and the Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation’s (TPWF) Gear Up for Game Wardens program.
FlatsWorthy is a nonprofit that promotes boating courtesy among all who enjoy Texas’ shallow bays. The core founders and followers are guides, paddlers, air boaters, fly-fishermen, wade anglers and those who drift-fish or enjoy poling the flats. This diverse coalition of anglers is engaging in conversations to encourage mutual respect. The shallow water areas are rich in fish and wildlife resources and are also environmentally sensitive. Care must be taken not to disturb sea grasses and other ecological resources necessary for a healthy ecosystem that supports fish and wildlife populations. Veteran fly-fishing guide Chuck Naiser led the effort to create FlatsWorthy.
“We are thrilled at the success of the fundraising partnership that will provide this tool for our game wardens,” said Naiser. “It’s a sign that the public is ready to move forward in a positive way to change the culture on the water, and it’s a sign that users and regulators can come together in agreement and accomplish something that will benefit us all. It is validation for FlatsWorthy and validation for Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD). We can accomplish good things by working together.”
The shallow water skiff, called a Curlew, maneuvers in areas that conventional boats cannot reach. The boat is designed to have minimal environmental impact on the shallow waters it will traverse. Having a better patrol presence in areas where there have been user conflicts will benefit all who use and enjoy the coastal flats.
“It’s a fantastic partnership,” said Major Ellis Powell, who leads TPWD’s Law Enforcement Region 8, covering the lower Texas coast from Port O’Connor to the Rio Grande Valley. “The problems we are having out here are everybody’s problem, and no user group is being singled out. We need to find common ground, and that’s exactly what game wardens do. We are extremely grateful to FlatsWorthy and TPWF’s Gear Up for Game Wardens program for providing this critical piece of equipment that will allow us to effectively patrol the shallow waters without disturbing the resources and with very little impact on these environments.”
More than $60,000 was raised to fund the new Curlew.
“I was proud to support this effort, and it is heartening to see so many others support it, too,” said former Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission Chairman Chuck Nash, who serves on FlatsWorthy’s Advisory Board. “We all need to treat each other with respect. A Texas Game Warden presence in these shallow water areas will make a big difference.”
The custom-made boat was manufactured by Pro-Line NewWater Inc., a Texas company that provided a substantial discount on the boat’s construction.
“I was a fisherman long before I was a boat builder,” said company president Tim Clancey. “I developed these boats to get to remote and special places where you can find more wildlife and more fish. That’s what has inspired me. I am very honored to be able to outfit this boat for Texas Game Wardens to patrol these areas and keep them pristine for future generations.”
TPWF’s Gear Up for Game Wardens program has raised more than $1.2 million to secure specialty equipment and gear for Texas Game Wardens all over the state. While the state provides the necessities for game wardens to do their jobs, there is still a critical need for additional equipment. The program has received support from all corners of the state.
“It’s gratifying to see how Texans come together to support their game wardens,” said TPWF Executive Director Susan Houston. “Through the Gear Up for Game Wardens program, Texans are helping to conserve the lands, waters and wildlife of our state for generations to come.”