Catfish remain strong in Ramsey Lake
By Ralph Loos
Largemouth bass fishing is king at Ramsey Lake, a small 54-acre body of water located inside Ramsey Lake State Park in Fayette County.
But channel cats and bluegills are gaining – fast.
Crappies, “have remained pretty steady over the past decade,” a DNR survey of the lake revealed.
DNR’s most recent survey of the lake’s fishery revealed the following:
• Largemouth bass – The 2020 survey showed that the size structure of the bass population had improved slightly from the previous year.
The survey found a large number of bass between 8 and 14 inches in length. However, approximately 19% of the adult bass in the sample exceeded the 14-inch minimum length.
“Average body condition decreased and catch rates increased, but both remained over their lake management plan targets,” DNR noted in its survey report. “The number of larger fish in the population is still below a desirable level, but is expected to improve further in the coming years.”
No bass over 20 inches were collected in 2020, but the percentage of adult bass between 15 and 20 inches improved from 6% in 2019 to 9% in 2020.
• Bluegills/redears – The average body condition for bluegill collected in 2020 remained below the lake management plan target. However, electrofishing catch rates remained high and the population size structure was good.
Approximately 36% of the adult bluegill in the sample exceeded 7 inches in length and 10% exceeded 8 inches.
“This lake should provide good bluegill fishing and the redear population was also in good shape,” DNR noted. “Average body condition exceeded the lake management plan target and 25% of the redear were 9 inches or longer and 6% exceeded 10 inches.
• Crappies – The 2020 survey showed that black crappie condition remained good. The size structure of the population was also good and fish over 9 inches accounted for 57% of the adult crappie in the sample.
“With good growth rates, the population should remain strong over the next few years,” DNR predicted.
• Channel catfish – Catfish are abundant in Ramsey Lake and should provide good fishing opportunities. Most fish will range from 1 to 4 pounds, with larger fish over 5 pounds.
“This lake provides excellent bank fishing opportunities. The best places to fish include the dam, the parking area near the boat ramp, the upper end of the lake, and in the backs of coves,” DNR offered in its report.
For a lake of its size, Ramsey does get a good deal of fishing pressure – probably because it is located in the center of relatively small fishing lakes in the central part of the state. Lake Vandalia is located to the south, Lake Taylorville to the north, Hillsboro and Greenville lakes to the west and Lake Sara to the east.
The much larger Lake Shelbyville is a short drive to the north and east.
Ramsey has its own identity, however, basically because of its colorful background. For years, the park was known as “Old Fox Chase Grounds” because of its use by fox and raccoon hunters. It also was the site of one of the largest dog trial events, held near the big springs at the northwest corner of the lake.
Once privately held, the site was gradually bought by the state. In 1947, 815 acres were purchased for a lake site and an additional 1,000 acres have been added since. Throughout the years, county and township officials, concerned citizens and civic groups have actively helped to secure land and upgrade and maintain the state park’s property, which now totals 1,980 acres.
As mentioned, fishing is a favorite pastime for Ramsey Lake visitors. The lake is managed by draw-down sand stocking. Some of the species involved in the stocking program include largemouth bass, bluegills, redear sunfish, channel catfish and black crappies.
Shady Grove and Lakeview picnic areas offer ideal surroundings. Both have shelters, water, tables, stoves and privies. Shady Grove also has playground equipment.
For visitors who prefer smaller, more secluded picnics, Fox Knoll, Coon Ridge and Blackberry Fork picnic areas are popular choices.
These sites have tables and stoves and are located in shady areas on knolls overlooking the lake.
Nearest town: Ramsey
Surface area: 54 acres
Avg. depth: 9 feet
Shoreline: 2.8 miles
Horsepower limit: no gas motors allowed
Primary species present:
Bluegills, largemouth bass, channel catfish, crappies,