Phil Durocher, longtime head of Inland Fisheries at Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, is ending his 35 years at the agency. He doesn’t go alone, however. His wife, Jean, also retired on December 31, ending a 35-year run as a nurse in one doctor’s office. Durocher walked away from the top fisheries job at TPWD a little scarred from past fights, but knows he played a role in pushing Texas to the top of bass fishing in North America.
He spent more than a few hours standing before hostile crowds and commissions, quietly offering up his positions, often using his gun bang-damaged ear to pretend he didn’t hear the semi-silent cursing and complaining from his audience. That was especially true in 1986, when Durocher was TPWD’s front man traveling the state promoting a change in bass fishing regulations that would forever alter the world of fishing.
“Five-14, no question. That was our biggest fight,” he said of the change from 10 bass per day and a 10-inch minimum size limit to the statewide five bass limit and 14-inch minimum that would help catapult largemouths from the frying pan to the front page.
“There were so many people against that because it was a big change in philosophy,” Durocher said. “Lots of fishermen had trouble understanding that. I took a lot of (stuff) but time has healed a bunch of that. If we tried to go back now, they’d kill us.”