Quick Takes

Crowding led to catfish deaths in some pay lakes cited by Kentucky Fish and Wildlife

By: - September 22, 2023 9:25 am

(Kentucky Fish and Wildlife photo).

Kentucky’s Department of Fish and Wildlife has cited 28 catfish pay lakes for violations after a three-year investigation sparked by concerns raised by members of the public, the department announced Thursday. 

The investigation “produced a victory for conservation and sustainable public fishing opportunities,” Commissioner Rich Storm said in a news release.

Violations included operating pay lakes without a proper license and failure to document catfish purchases or maintain required records. Charges are pending against a 29th lake. At some lakes, multiple people were cited. 

Some running pay lakes bought fish 40 pounds and heavier, investigators found, though most were around 20 or 30 pounds. 

“Over time, some of these lakes become overstocked, resulting in crowding and untimely death of these fish,” Storm said.

The KDFW news release explains that the more large catfish in a pay lake, the more alluring it may be for anglers and thus more profitable for pay lake owners. In many instances, trophy fish – typically around 15 pounds or more – cannot be removed from these lakes by the paying customers as they are required by the pay lake owner to catch and release.

“There are fish and wildlife regulations for a reason,”  Storm said. “The protections in place today ensure opportunities exist tomorrow and for generations to come.” 

If you suspect illegal fish, wildlife or boating activity you can report it anonymously using the KFWLaw smartphone app. Tips can also be submitted by texting the keyword “KFWLaw” along with a message to 847411 (tip 411) or by calling 800-25-ALERT.​


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Sarah Ladd
Sarah Ladd

Sarah Ladd is a Louisville-based journalist from West Kentucky who's covered everything from crime to higher education. She spent nearly two years on the metro breaking news desk at The Courier Journal. In 2020, she started reporting on the COVID-19 pandemic and has covered health ever since. As the Kentucky Lantern's health reporter, she focuses on mental health, LGBTQ+ issues, children's welfare, COVID-19 and more.