Hold the line: Kentucky's Fishing in Neighborhoods promotes the sport by providing the fish

Eight Northern Kentucky lakes among participants
Posted at 7:00 AM, Jun 06, 2017

The Kentucky state record for rainbow trout is 14 pounds, 6 ounces. For channel catfish, it's 32 pounds.

While you're not likely to catch anything to rival those freshwater behemoths at your local fishing hole, a handful of community lakes in Northern Kentucky are regularly stocked with both species thanks to a program sponsored by the state's Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources.

It's called Fishing in Neighborhoods, and the program aims to provide Kentuckians with quality fishing opportunities close to home. It was launched in 2006 because the department noticed a drop in the number of anglers across the state, according to Dane Balsman, Kentucky Fish and Wildlife's urban fisheries program coordinator.

"People seemed to be getting out of fishing," he said. "What we kept hearing was that (residents) didn't have a good place to fish close to home, and they didn't have the time to travel to a good spot."

The Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources delivers thousands of fish each year to lakes in its Fishing in Neighborhoods program.

The solution?

"If people couldn't get to the fish, we thought we'd bring the fish to the people," Balsman said.

That's what Fishing in Neighborhoods does in 25 counties across the state. The program has grown into a network of 43 lakes that are each regularly stocked with hundreds (and sometimes more than 1,000) catfish and rainbow trout at select times throughout the year. Bass and sunfish populations are also monitored as part of the program and stocked as needed, he said.

The list of participating lakes includes eight in Northern Kentucky: Camp Ernst Lake in Boone County, Prisoner's Lake and Middleton-Mills Park's two ponds in Kenton County, Alexandria Community Park Lake and Southgate Lake in Campbell County and both Lake Pollywag and Leary Lake in Grant County.

The regular stocking in Fishing in Neighborhoods lakes gives local anglers of every skill level a better chance of catching a healthy fish or two, even during a short fishing trip, according to Rhonda Ritzi, the recreation programs coordinator for Kenton County Parks and Recreation.

"The FINs program is great, especially for our novice anglers," she noted. "If they're successful from the start, they are more likely to stick with fishing."

Another benefit of the program, according to Ritzi: While most stocking programs in larger lakes usually stock small, juvenile fish, Fishing in Neighborhoods lakes are stocked with "keeper-size" fish.

Balsman said the average catfish stocked in Fishing in Neighborhoods lakes is 1-2 pounds and about 15 inches. The average size for rainbow trout, which are stocked during colder weather, is about half a pound.

As part of the program, owners of all 43 lakes continue to provide all the maintenance and upkeep, and each also commits to cover 25 percent of the stocking costs, Balsman said. The vast majority are city- or county-owned.

Fishing in Neighborhoods lakes have a standard set of regulations that are posted. And they're a little more restrictive than the statewide regulations to help spread the fish harvest out over a longer period of time, which extends the fishing season.

Middleton-Mills Park's two ponds each received about 300 catfish through the program recently, Ritzi said.

"They'll be busy," she said of the local ponds. "We have people of all ages fishing at Middleton-Mills Park all the time, even in the rain and cold. And that's great to see."

Fishing in Neighborhoods' stocking schedules are provided online so anglers know exactly when their local fishing spot will be stocked, Balsman said.

"They're hungry right when they go in so it's a great time to fish," he noted.

According to the schedule, local lakes in both Boone and Campbell County were just stocked with catfish as well.

For details and a full listing of this year's events, visit the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources website.