Rock Port, Mo. – A community’s generosity gave Charity Lake its name. Fifty years of good fishing followed, thanks to a healthy watershed and a partnership with the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC). Since 1966, anglers have enjoyed this 13-acre lake cradled in a valley in the Missouri River bluffs of the state’s northwest corner.
On June 4, the lake’s history will be celebrated with a dedication and a fishing event supported by MDC. Festivities begin at 11 a.m. People who live in the Rock Port and Watson communities will remember the Atchison County people who donated labor, equipment, money and time to build a lake for the community to enjoy. Today, Charity Lake is part of MDC’s 2,256-acre Brickyard Hill Conservation Area.
“Everything was donated,” said Connie Minter of Rock Port, whose father helped haul heavy equipment to build the dam. “It shows how a team can come together and make things happen.”
Ronald D. Bradley, 78, of Rock Port, donated his bulldozer-driving skills to build a road around the lake when it was built. Many others in Atchison County made donations. Back in the early 1960s, Conservation Agent Glen McCloud helped lead the planning and arrangements.
“We had a lot of fun building it,” Bradley said. “Everybody chipped in.”
The lake is fed by a spring, he said. Water used to bubble up from a pipe placed in the spring before the lake submerged it.
Today, the water remains clear, thanks in large part to forested watershed that also feeds the lake, said Tory Mason, MDC fisheries biologist. Banks are steep and water depths deep. Trees shade the lakes shores to help keep water cool. On May 25, Mason and crew used electrofishing gear to sample the lake’s fish population. Largemouth bass, bluegill, redear sunfish, and catfish were were netted, weighed, measured, and released.
“The lake is dominated by largemouth bass, most 12-to-13 inches long,” Mason said. “But the lake has big bluegill. Anglers have a chance of catching a bluegill over nine inches. We also re-stock channel catfish every year.”
Charity Lake also produces large redear sunfish. Crappie are few in number, but those that are caught are usually big fish. Freshwater shrimp in the lake provide a food source that helps produce big fish, especially the large bluegill.
Bradley said the fishing’s been excellent ever since the lake filled in 1966. He’s caught his share. Though these days, he spends much of his time as the assistant manager of the Do It Right hardware store in Rock Port.
“A guy across from me fishes out there all the time, and he catches fish all the time,” Bradley said. “He loves it.”
At the June 4 event, MDC staff will provide fishing gear and tips on how to fish for anyone who would like to give angling in Charity Lake a try. For information about Brickyard Hill Conservation Area, visit http://on.mo.gov/1THJvEd.