1969. The St. Louis Blues were in the Stanley Cup and Neil Armstrong walked on the moon. There was civil unrest across the nation and a rent strike in St. Louis. To help ease social tensions and bring people together through outdoor opportunities, the the U.S. Bureau of Sport Fisheries and Wildlife began a national pilot program in six U.S. cities.
The Urban Fishing Program took off in St. Louis and its popularity has been growing strong for 50 years. In time, MDC took over the program, renovated city lakes, and partnered with St. Louis city and county, Ballwin and Ferguson to expand opportunities for close-to-home fishing. In later years, Kansas City started a program, and today it runs statewide.
For St. Louis Fisheries Management Biologist, Kevin Meneau, who's been with the program for more than 30 years, it's a source of pride and accomplishment. He noted surveys where over 60% of people ranked fishing as the most important activity outside of family and jobs. "Its pretty gratifying to know that you're an important part of someone's life, and that you're providing a service they really like and enjoy."
During stocking days at city lakes, we found people fishing on their lunch hour or after work, families spending time together, and a homeless man hoping to hook a trout. City partners noted that regulars form a community, help care for the parks as they fish, and that no special age or ability is required to enjoy urban fishing. (Catch the story in the video below).
Select lakes are stocked with catfish and hybrid sunfish in the spring and summer, and trout in the winter. Thanks to habitat improvements, populations of bass, crappie, and bluegill survive and reproduce in city lakes. Parking lots, fishing docks and platforms provide easy access.
This year, there will be special events and extra stocking to celebrate 50 years of bringing people together through urban fishing. No matter where you live in Missouri, there are places to wet a line close to home.
Catch some special events at St. Louis lakes. You may also find a prized catch on your line with special stockings to mark the golden anniversary of close-to-home fishing in the Gateway city.