There's usually a catch when you must pay to fish


Mar 11, 2001
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There's usually a catch when you must pay to fish

By Tim Renken, St. Louis Post Dispatch


You'd think that fish raised in a hatchery lake would be as dumb as a post and would bite all the time.

They don't. Even in a small lake stocked full of fish raised in a life of luxury, fishing is sometimes poor. Sometimes anglers can't buy a bite, which is the reason for going to a pay lake.

However, pay lake fishing is usually a lot better, and easier, than the fishing at most other places. That's why such fishing is so popular around here.

The area has a number of pay-to-fish establishments. Fishing is dependable enough that an angler can pretty much figure on taking home fish for supper. And, usually, no special skill is required. Even kids can often succeed.

Here is the annual Post-Dispatch Pay Lakes list, which includes such establishments within an hour or so from St. Louis.

Pay lakes, unfortunately, come and go. This season Hickory Hollow, near Pevely, apparently is closed again. So, too, is Lakeside Lake in Granite City.

These kinds of lakes used to be called carp lakes and some do, indeed, contain carp. Most successful pay lakes, though, contain channel cat of 1-2 pounds, the size which is the best eating.

Channel cat are omnivores and, when hungry, will bite on almost anything.

Most fishermen fish tightline with a rig that includes a hook at the end of the line and a weight of some kind up the line a foot or so. Sometimes anglers have better luck floating this rig a foot or so below the surface under a bobber.

These aren't the only lakes stocked with catfish. Most city and county park lakes are stocked periodically with catfish. Most also contain carp, which apparently can maintain themselves without stocking.

If you know of other pay lakes, please let us know about them at (314) 849-4239, or at the Post-Dispatch South Zone office, 9966 Lin Ferry Dr., St. Louis, Mo., 63123, or


Ramona Lake: Between North Hanley Road & Interstate 70 in Berkeley. 4.5 acres. Stocked Wednesdays or Thursdays with catfish. Open Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday in May and September. Open every day but Tuesdays in June, July and August. Admission: Adults, $3.50; seniors, $2.50; children 10 and under, 50 cents. $1 less for Berkeley residents. Playground equipment and picnic sites. 314-506-0226 or 506-0231.

Chip-Away Lake: One lake of 4 1/2 acres. On Missouri 21 one-half mile north of Missouri Highway 141. 6:30 a.m.-8 p.m. weekdays. Open 24 hours Friday and Saturday. Admission: $8.25 day or night; seniors, $7.25; children ages 7-11, $6.25 Bait, snack shop. 314-849-8200.

Dardenne Lakes: Two lakes totaling 15 acres. On U.S. 40-61, 2.8 miles west of Missouri 94. Open 6 a.m.-9 p.m. Admission: Adults, $8.50: seniors $7.65. Ages 5-11, $4; all night Friday and Saturday, $10. Campground. Swimming lake. 636-926-9820. Stocked biweekly with channel catfish. Bait shop.

Pinewoods Park: Four small lakes. South of the Interstate 70 south service road at the Pierce Boulevard Exit near Wentzville. Open 6 a.m.-10 p.m. on weekdays, 6 a.m.-11 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, and 6 a.m.-10 p.m. on Sundays. Admission: Adults, $8.50; seniors, $7.50 for seniors; ages 8-15, $4.50; children under 8, $2.50. Stocked at least once a week, sometimes twice. Campground, swimming pool, bait shop. 636-327-8248.

Ward's Fish Farm: Take Interstate 55 south to Exit 150 (Missouri 32), go west 70 feet to Ste. Genevieve County Route B. Go south 13 miles and see sign. Two lakes totaling 4 acres. Open weekends only, 7 a.m. -7 p.m. Keep what you catch and pay $1.50 per pound for catfish 573-756-3884.

Busch Conservation Area: From U.S. 40-61 at Missouri Route 94 go 1 1/2 miles south on 94 to St. Charles County Route D, then west on D 1 1/2 miles to entrance. Lakes 3, 4, 5, 7 and 24 aren't commercial pay lakes, but they are stocked twice a month May-September with one-pound catfish and usually offer good fishing.


Cottonwood Lakes: Six lakes totaling 20 acres. 3 miles east of Millstadt on Illinois Route 158, then 1-mile south on Roachtown Road to sign. Open 6 a.m.-9 p.m. Tuesday-Sunday. Admission: Adults, $8; children 12-and-under, $3; boat rental, $5 day. Bait shop. 618-277-1129.

Trapper's Fall: One 3-acre lake. 3 miles south of Fults on Bluff Road. Open sunrise-sunset. Bait shop. Admission: Adults, $8; Children under 12, $4. 618-458-7270.

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