Forest Park lake revamp will be beneficial for fishing

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Forest Park lake revamp will be beneficial for fishing.

By Tim Renken, St. Louis Post Dispatch.

09/01/2001

It's going to be interesting to see what they dig out of those lakes in Forest Park this winter. It might be artifacts going back to who-knows-when or it might be just mud. But the mud has to go.

The mud that has accumulated on the bottom of Jefferson Lake since it was built in 1928 has hurt fish survival to the point that fishing isn't as good as it could be, even for carp. Stocking has become almost a waste of time and fish.

Jefferson Lake is one of Missouri's most popular fishing spots. The last few years it has had 1,818 hours of fishing per acre per year. That compares with about 185 hours per acre at, for example, Lake of the Ozarks.

When the renovation now under way is complete, probably by next spring, Jefferson Lake is going to be prettier, more accessible and a lot more fun to fish. Actually, the fun already has started. Starting Monday, the lake and the six adjoining hatchery ponds are being drained. This will happen slowly because there is no good way to drain them.

As they shrink, though, the fish in them, carp and catfish, will be available for salvage. People can take them via pole and line, gigs and dipnets, with no daily or possession limits. Salvage will continue, probably, for weeks, maybe longer if we get lots of rain.

When the basin is dry it will be reshaped. Most of 70 years of siltation will be removed. The 9-acre Jefferson Lake, designed as a reflecting pool, was never very deep. Dredging will give it four feet most places and more than that in some.

That depth is vital to fish. It will prevent the kills that occur in the heat of summer and mid-winter due to low oxygen.

Included in the re-shaping will be rock and brush piles and submerged islands that add up to improved fish habitat.

Another step to prevent kills will be installation of aeration pumps with diffusers. Officials with the Missouri Department of Conservation and the St. Louis Department of Parks and Recreation hope that the lake's fish habitat will be good enough to sustain other fish such as largemouth bass and sunfish all year and rainbow trout in the winter.

The banks, too, will be reshaped in this $1.1 million project. A few places will become wetlands and planted in marsh flora. Also in the plans are hiking trails and fishing piers for disabled anglers.

The six hatchery ponds in Forest Park, which total about 6 acres, will continue to be used in education and therapeutic fishing programs.

Since 1971 some 44,000 urban kids and therapeutic patients have learned to fish in 2,017 clinics in Forest Park. More information can be obtained from Forest Park manager Anabeth Weil, 289-5323 or Kevin Meneau of the Department of Conservation, 636-441-4554, Ext 239.
 

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