Money In The TankMoney In The Tank In addition to income, offering your private lake to paid fishing has additional benefits. We explain inside.
By Steve Alexander
Paying money to fish private lakes has been a long standing tradition, from fishing clubs to pay lakes. There are lots of places that allow an angler to pay to fish. Most of those in existence today are places that charge by the pound for fish caught during your visit, usually channel catfish, stocked specifically for the purpose of sale.
Thirty years ago, if you wanted to go bass fishing, most folks knew a landowner who would allow it, or he charged a nominal fee for a day of fishing. However, in most parts of the country, putting $5 in the Folgers coffee can at the front gate are over. Times are a-changing.
There has never been a shortage of bass fisherman wanting access to fish private lakes, but there has been a supply issue. That is changing, too. There are more and more pay private bass fishing lakes popping up all over the country. And many are charging big bucks.
Camelot Bell is a private lake in Central Texas that offers day fishing for $1500 per day for two people. The owner guides the trip, and the 40- acre lake is fished in excess of 60 days a year, according to owner Mike Frazier. Mike explained, "We might fish 6 days in a row and then we might not fish for weeks. When these Florida's bite they bite, and when they shut off they shut off." Mike went on to explain the type of people who fish the Bell. "The folks that come to my lake are not looking to catch a lot offish, they are looking to catch big fish. In the past 4 years, customers of Camelot Bell have caught 8 fish over 15 lbs and 4 fish over 16 lbs." The lake record is 16.8 lbs. All fish were weighed on Boga Grip scales. Mike recently purchased an IGFA certified scale and hopes to use it on a state or national record bass.
New to the market (opened to fishing in 2014) is La Perla Ranch near Laredo Texas, very close to the Mexican/Texas border. La Perla Ranch has long been known for growing huge whitetail deer, but the owner, Dr. Gary Schwarz, now wants to grow a world record largemouth bass. He has employed the latest bass growing techniques, and hired consultants and biologists to help bring his goal closer to reality. In addition to having a long growing season for the fish, the lakes boast many innovative ideas to make it great for the fish and the fisherman. Forage ponds, often called nursery ponds, grow prawns year round in that climate. Schwarz is convinced this innovative approach, plus stocking tons of crawfish, has already taken the original 90-acre lake with fish weights of 10% below relative weights to 10% above relative weights. In 2014 Schwarz added another 60-acre lake to his program, with 30 fish feeders, according to a feature article in the April 2014 in Bassmaster magazine. In the spring of 2015 a La Perla Ranch angler boated a 14.3 lb largemouth bass from his 90-acre lake, and donated the fish to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Share-a-Lunker program. La Perla Ranch offers a turnkey luxury fishing package and charges $4,000 per person for two full days of fishing that includes the use of the lake boat, all meals, and stellar accommodations.
B. A.S.S. founder, Ray Scott, offers pay fishing at his ranch in Pintlala, Alabama, just south of Montgomery. Ray's property offers anglers the opportunity to fish on any of his 3 lakes. The lakes are 14 acres, 18 acres, and 55 acres. Anglers pay $1575 for 2 days of fishing, 3 nights of lodging; all meals served family style, and comfortable accommodations. If you just want to fish for the day, the cost is $495 per person, and includes breakfast and lunch. His lake record, caught some years ago by famous angler Rick Clunn, is 15.3 pounds. Numerous double-digit bass have been caught during recent months and years.
In most every state in the country, someone is paying to bass fish on private lakes. Not all lakes are trying to attract the Trophy bass fisherman, but most promote that they have bass 10+lbs in their waters. Bienville Plantation in northern Florida offers day fishing for $325 per person. Little River Plantation in southern Georgia charges $150 per person for a day of fishing.
Flint Oak, in Fall River, Kansas, offers day fishing for 2 people for just $40, and VIP adventures in South Carolina offers 6 lakes for $200 per person per day.
For many, these examples may seem extreme, and the thought of offering lodging, meals, guides, or attempting to market your own property may seem daunting. In this case, there are options. Private Water Fishing in Texas leases more than 70 private lakes on private ranches and has paid memberships who pay to fish on these leases. Rates to fish on these bass lakes have more than doubled in the last 5 years. Rocky Mountain Anglers in Colorado has a similar model, and leases access to private streams from private landowners. In these cases the leasing company takes care of collecting monies, marketing your property, and communicating with the anglers. You simply grant access to an exclusive membership and they handle the details.
In addition to income, offering your lake to paid fishing has additional benefits. Most private lakes do not have enough fishing. Enough fishing? Yes, enough fishing. Ask your anglers to share their catch rates: What they are catching, plus fish sizes, weights, and dates. Biologists nationwide will tell you this information can really help you make sound decisions in your pond management practices. Moreover, bass harvest, or lack thereof, may be the single biggest mistake pond owners make. Most pond owners simply do not remove enough fish each year. Require your paid anglers to remove small fish or create a slot limit until your goals are met each year.
Public lakes in many states are overcrowded, overfished, and frankly do not offer the solitude that fishing on private land offers. Consequently the market to fish on private property is growing. Demand drives higher and higher pricing, which can lead to profits for the landowner.
Reprinted with permission from Pond Boss Magazine
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