City Slicker Fishing

By Cindy Borgwordt and Brian Nodine | January 2, 1996
From Missouri Conservationist: Jan 1996

If you live in a city and you fish, or want to, you're not alone. A national survey recently identified interesting trends in fishing. The survey found that 60 percent of all anglers live in urban areas. The survey also found that urbanites usually stay close to home, some by choice and some not.To go fishing, you need fishable water and, of course, you need fish. Fortunately, there is no lack of either in Missouri's urban areas.

Our state's Urban Fishing Programs are some of the best in the nation. We even started our urban programs before most other states. In fact, in 1994 the Conservation Department celebrated 25 years of successful urban fishing in St. Louis.

St. Louis was one of six cities included in the U.S. Department of the Interior's first Urban Fishing Programs in 1969. The five other pilot project sites were Ft. Worth, Texas; Atlanta, Ga.; Boston, Mass.; Washington D.C. and Portland, Ore. In St. Louis, the Urban Fishing Program began with five lakes. In 1975, the program was expanded to nine lakes. In the 1980s, the program was expanded to suburban areas, bringing the total number of lakes to 22.

In 1978, Missouri's Urban Fishing Program was expanded to Kansas City. Urban fishing opportunities were brought to Springfield, St. Joseph and Sedalia in 1981.

Urban fishing lakes are stocked with channel catfish, bullheads and carp on a monthly basis throughout the summer. The fish are easy to catch, fairly inexpensive to obtain and can tolerate the conditions the urban lakes provide.

To improve an already outstanding fishing program, the Conservation Department began to stock rainbow trout in suitable urban lakes in 1990. These cold water species offer additional fishing opportunities to urbanites during the winter. Nearly all of the fish are harvested by the time the water warms in the spring.

Missouri's Urban Fishing Program is one of the Conservation Department's most successful programs for anglers. Creel surveys conducted during 1990 and 1991 show that summer fishing pressure averaged 2,822 hours/acre in St. Louis alone. This fishing pressure is 15 times higher than at any of our major reservoirs. The winter trout stockings added an additional 1,429 hours/acre in St. Louis.

The creel surveys revealed that about 25 percent of the anglers interviewed lived within 1 mile of the lake they fished - that's close to home fishing! Eighty-nine per cent of those anglers lived in St. Louis City or St. Louis County. Over one-third of the anglers caught at least one fish and, in fact, anglers averaged nearly one fish for every two hours of fishing.

The Conservation Department makes multiple stockings during both the summer and winter seasons. Stockings are provided in cooperation with local government entities.

In April 1993, the Conservation Department formalized agreements with St. Louis City and County allowing further improvements. These agreements will allow habitat improvements in 18 of St. Louis' urban lakes. The Conservation Department plans to spend about $1.9 million over the next 5 to 10 years deepening and aerating lakes, controlling erosion and building disabled user trails and fishing platforms.

Providing good fishing for urban anglers has not been easy. City lakes frequently contain little habitat and most do not support self-sustaining fisheries. The Conservation Department evaluates native resources and develops plans to create good fishing. Sometimes this means building small inner-city lakes, constructing habitat, introducing new species and developing access sites. Once the resource has been established, the Conservation Department conducts fishing clinics for children, disabled anglers, hospital patients, seniors and other likely anglers.

If you are planning to take advantage of Missouri's urban fishing, you need to be aware of regulations and advisories. Missourians between the ages of 16 and 64 must have a valid fishing permit, and a trout permit is required to possess trout. Fishing regulations vary from lake to lake, based on the condition of fish populations, fishing pressure and other factors.

Many lakes have their regulations posted, and regulations for any specific lake may be obtained by contacting the regional Missouri Department of Conservation office. Statewide regulations apply to anglers fishing at urban stream and river accesses.

Thanks to Missouri's Urban Fishing Programs, anglers are able to wet a line in their own backyard. Fishing is now accessible to people who would otherwise not experience the joy of the sport. Many folks who work in urban areas now spend their lunch time fishing at a nearby lake.

The Conservation Department is striving to continue to make fishing accessible to more people and to educate them about Missouri's aquatic resources.

For information about urban fishing opportunities in your area, contact your nearest Missouri Department of Conservation office or local recreation department.

This Issue's Staff

Editor - Kathy Love
Assistant Editor - Tom Cwynar
Managing Editor - Jim Auckley
Art Director - Dickson Stauffer
Artist - Dave Besenger
Artist - Mark Raithel
Composition - Kevin Binkley
Photographer - Jim Rathert
Photographer - Paul Childress
Staff Writer - Joan McKee
Staff Writer - Charlotte Overby
Composition - Libby Bode Block
Circulation - Bertha Bainer