Building a private fishing lake may seem like a big project just for something to share with friends and family. Many fishing enthusiasts have dreamed of making the investment, but they just can’t justify the costs for a personal endeavor. Building a public fishing spot, often commonly referred to as a pay lake, is a great way to offset your costs while still getting to enjoy your very own custom-designed bass or crappie hole. However, turning a lake into a business is a little more complex than just putting up a sign and charging an entrance fee. Find out what you need to consider before deciding to build a fishing lake that’s intended for more than just private and personal use.
Access Roads and Parking
First, consider how paying guests will access the lake. If the property doesn’t connect to any public roads, you’ll have to pay out of pocket to establish a route to the water. Don’t expect visitors to walk more than a short distance from a pull-in and parking area to the water, even if you keep a trail cleared and clearly marked. Try to get the road as close to the water as possible for the ease of stocking as well. Make sure that any roads and parking areas are at least paved and not allowed to get bare and pot-holed between applications of gravel. Eroded and damaged roads can allow extra sediment and vehicle chemical runoff to enter the lake, while a well-covered gravel or paved road is less likely to cause problems with water quality.
Tracking Harvests and Stocking Rates
It’s relatively easy to keep track of how many fish you’ve added and caught when it’s just you and some family members visiting the lake. When you’re charging people for the pleasure of catching fish, or even just offering access for free, you’ll be expected to keep the stock levels healthy. Yet this isn’t always easy unless you have a way to track how many people are actually catching fish. If you want to maintain a popular fishing destination, you’ll need to either keep meticulous customer records and make estimations based on traffic or try to conduct population surveys a few times a year. Catching a representative number of fish with the help of nets or an electro boat can give you a clear view of when it’s time to restock or encourage more thinning of the population.
Speaking of fish management, visitors to a pay lake will expect large and healthy fish regardless of the species. This means you’ll need to watch for signs of any illness or disease and deal with predators that are likely to wipe out the largest fish. Hanging netting or putting up fencing can scare away predators, but it also makes for difficult fishing. You may need a comprehensive system of predator controls that keep animals and birds far from the water without actually interfering with the surface. This can be a problem even for private lake owners who keep losing all their prize largemouth bass to greedy raccoons, but it’s a little easier to rely on methods like nets when you’re the only one using the lake.
Safety Hazards and Liability
Finally, inviting people to visit any body of water opens you up to a wide range of liability issues. Any open body of water, from a pool to a fishing lake, is a drowning and injury risk. Even a private pond can put you at risk for lawsuits if there are any local laws regarding warning signs or fencing for visible bodies of water. Creating a visual screen between any roads and public areas and the lake is a good idea even if it’s publicly accessible. Children, in particular, are often drawn to visible bodies of water, while adults wanting to fish can use signs or advertisements to find out about the attraction. Offering free access may not absolve you of liability, so check with a lawyer about insurance before opening your lake to the public.
A pay lake can generate a steady income while allowing you to focus on your love of nature and fish in particular. However, it can also be stressful and is a business with plenty of risks. Make sure that whether your fishing lake is for public or private use you line it properly with the help of BTL Liners.