FRANKFORT – Most anglers are beneficiaries of the “pay it forward” philosophy. That is to say, somebody once took time to introduce them to fishing.
Spring is an opportune time to further the legacy, and any of the 40 lakes across Kentucky that comprise the Fishing in Neighborhoods (FINs) lineup make great places to teach a beginner the basics.
These conveniently located smaller lakes offer good access and open shorelines but also fantastic odds of catching fish. The Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources keeps the FINs lakes well stocked with rainbow trout and channel catfish. Sunfish populations also are supported by stocking.
“Surveys tell us some of the biggest barriers to getting into fishing are not having a place to go or not having the time,” said Dane Balsman, urban fisheries program coordinator for Kentucky Fish and Wildlife. “We provide an opportunity nearby where you don’t have to travel far and it’s as unintimidating as can be.
“It’s not like going to a huge reservoir or a big river and figuring out where to fish and where it’s safe to fish. Grab a fishing pole, a bobber, a hook and some worms, and go to the FINs lake. There’s a pretty good chance that you’ll catch fish.”
Kentucky Fish and Wildlife plans to stock a total of 137,500 rainbow trout, 116,350 channel catfish and roughly 30,000 hybrid sunfish in FINs lakes this year. The newest addition to the FINs program is 5.6-acre Rolex Lake at the Kentucky Horse Park in Fayette County. Anglers should note there is a $5 per vehicle parking charge from March 15 through Nov. 1 and during special events. One other change is Watterson Park Lake in Jefferson County no longer is part of the FINs lineup. It has proven to be too shallow to sustain a fishery on par with other lakes in the program.
Trout stocked in FINs lakes average 9 inches and the catfish average 1 pound. Hybrid sunfish will average 6 to 8 inches. The majority of FINs lakes receive trout in February and March. Catfish will be stocked in early March and hybrid sunfish will be stocked in early June. Stocking schedules are posted on the department’s website at fw.ky.gov. A link to the trout stocking schedule can be found on the homepage. Additional information for FINs stockings is available by clicking the “Fish” tab on the homepage and choosing “Recreational Fishing” from the dropdown menu.
“March is our big kick off,” Balsman said. “The new license year started March 1 and we know everybody has cabin fever.”
A novice angler doesn’t need the latest and greatest fishing equipment to have success at a FINs lake.
“Go simple,” Balsman said. “You don’t need expensive gear to catch fish at these lakes.”
A mentor may have some equipment to spare after organizing theirs in preparation for the spring fishing season. If assembling a starter kit for trout and sunfish, consider including a pack of clip-on bobbers, an assortment of split-shot weights, either No. 6 or No. 8 Aberdeen hooks and spool a reel with 4- to 6-pound monofilament line. A beginner looking to catch catfish should consider using a 1/0 or 2/0 circle hook and enough split shot crimped on the line to sink the bait to the bottom.
“One of the biggest mistakes that I see made by people new to fishing is using gear that’s too big,” Balsman said. “More times than not, you’re better off downsizing so you can catch a little bit of everything.”
Brightly-colored dough bait or imitation salmon eggs, corn and red worms fished on the bottom or beneath a bobber are proven producers for trout. In-line spinners or spoons weighing 1/8-ounce or less also work. Live worms and chicken, shrimp or hot dogs marinated in strawberry-flavored drink mix can entice catfish while wax worms and red worms fished under a bobber are like candy to a sunfish.
Anglers ages 16 years old and older will need a statewide fishing license, unless license exempt. Licensed anglers who intend to keep their trout will need a trout permit. It is included in the resident-only Sportsman’s License and Resident Senior or Disabled Combination Hunting and Fishing licenses.
Daily limits for FINs lakes remain five rainbow trout, four catfish, 15 sunfish and one largemouth bass over 15 inches.
Want to learn how to fish but don’t know how or where to get started? A new offering from Kentucky Fish and Wildlife is worth checking out. The Angler’s Legacy program for people ages 16 and older will provide classroom instruction covering the basics of fishing and an opportunity to put those skills to practice all for the cost of a fishing license. FINs lakes will be utilized as often as possible for the program. Details about the Angler’s Legacy program, including class dates, will be advertised on the department’s website and via its social media accounts.
FINs lakes aren’t only for teaching beginners. They’re also a great place for an experienced angler to practice new techniques, test new equipment and sharpen skills that may have dulled from a winter of inactivity. Most of all, a FINs lake offers the kind of action that appeals to anglers of all ages and experience levels.
Author Kevin Kelly is a staff writer for Kentucky Afield magazine, the official publication of the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources. Get the latest from Kevin and the entire Kentucky Afield staff by following them on Twitter: @kyafield.