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'Do the things you need to do to be safe': Local Park Rangers warn those going to lakes and rivers

Posted at 12:19 PM, Jun 09, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-09 14:31:56-04

WACO, TX — For the past few weeks, Central Texas has experienced rain, rain and then more rain.

All of that rain found a home in the local lakes and rivers, causing the bodies of water to rise to dangerous levels.

However, when the thunder and lightning ceased, and everything seemed silent again, the sound of casting a fishing line could be heard at Belton Lake.

“I'm fishing in the rain, lightning, thunder, and it's clearing up,” Frank Merolillo, a fisherman from Temple said. “So I'm getting a little bit happy.”

Not a family could be seen on Tuesday morning, braving the newly created shorelines at Temple Lake Park.

Instead, anglers just like Merolilo could be seen near boat ramps at the park, hoping for a big catch.

“Being flooded has its options of good and bad,” he said. “The fishing gets good, and then sometimes, you know, it declines because of the weather… weather plays a big part of it.”

The lack of common folk looking to enjoy the lake on land is partially due to the closures of many of the parks surrounding the lake.

“We're placing closures for a reason,” Park Ranger Sean Jones said. “When people go around them, it's just, it's dangerous and that's at their own risk."

Jones said parks get closed for more reasons than just higher waters; he explained when the water rises structures appear hidden and debris is harder to see, making it dangerous for folks to use.

“There's a lot of things at play... we're placing closures for a reason,” Jones said.

Many of the parks at Temple Lake Park are closed off, with one park and one boat ramp at Stillhouse Hollow Lake closed.

Four parks at Waco Lake in McLennan County are completely closed, with five partially closed and two fully open.

These closures are prompted by high water levels.

Tuesday morning, Belton Lake was recorded about 9 feet over flood level.

Stillhouse Hollow Lake was over by 3 feet, and the Brazos River was about 8 feet under the flood stage, which is set at 45 feet.

However, many boat ramps are still operational. In fact, Park Ranger Jones encourages folks to use them while the sun makes its appearance, but he has some advice.

“Check the weather, check what's going on with the lake that day, plan ahead, do your part to be a safe person out recreating,” Jones said. “You're still more than welcome to get out on the lake, boat, swim, and enjoy. But please, wear life jackets, you know, do the things you need to do to be safe.”

So, whether it's raining or sunny, one thing is for certain, Merolilo will still cast his line, looking to catch anything he can.

“I love the fish, and it's just great to be in the great outdoors,” Merolilo said with a smile spanning across the bottom half of his face.