Today, I'm introducing you guys to Meadow Lake, mostly known as the "FDR Park" (Franklin Delano Roosevelt), or "The Lakes."
The FDR park is located in a very convenient spot in South Philadelphia, just next to the AT&T station - the last stop of the Broadstreet line (Orange line). When it comes to man-made Lakes, Meadow Lake is a very well designed one, nowadays still holding a good amount of aquatic biodiversity.
Personally, I used to refer to this Park as the "Sunfish Paradise". It's a very exaggerated term to be used nowadays, since a huge portion of fishes are gone due to over harvesting; however, this particular place in Philadelphia was a good spot for many different species of Sunfish (including Largemouth Bass as well). The fact is that Meadow Lake is slowly dying due to over harvesting - people are taking way too many fish for consumption, legally or illegally (poaching), not following the Seasons, Sizes, and Creel Limits proposed by the Fish and Boat Commission.
Even though, the Lake is strong. There's still life in Meadow Lake. Therefore, if you are an angler that doesn't only fish for size, but loves fishing for different Species of fish, Meadow Lake is a good spot for you in the city. If you have kids, even better - bring them with you! A simple "worm under a bobber" set up will give your kids a lot of happiness. Also, it's good to remind the public that any kid below 16 years old does not need a fishing license in order to fish.
I've used Google Earth to capture a satellite picture of the entire park, which can be seen below. I've divided the lakes one by one - number 1 through 5. It's easier for me to introduce you to this spot using these numbers, since different species of fish are found at different spots. There's a sixth body of water at the FDR, which is part of the golf course (kind of private). It's "fishable", and it does hold big fish at certain seasons of the year. If you never heard about the FDR Park before, you can read its history on wikipedia.
Below are a couple sample videos of my fishing sessions down at the FDR Park:
The different types of fish that I've seen inside the multiple lakes of the FDR park are:
Largemouth Bass: the locals state that they used to be abundant in "The Lakes." They are still present these days; however, in much lower quantities. If you work out your artificials during the beginning of Spring until the end of Fall, and put a lot of determination in it (cover as much water as you can), you will certainly catch some! It's a shame that certain people take them illegally during spawning season, greatly cutting the numbers of future generations of Largemouth Bass in Meadow Lake. Unfortunately, and also the reality of the place, Meadow Lake lacks environmental enforcement. In three years that I've been fishing there, I have never seen a single Game Warden, which is truly a shame.
"Sunnies" (Bluegill): Mainly Bluegills. There are some big ones in the small tributaries of the Meadow Lake (ranging from 5-9 inches)! Even though these fish don't get very big, they are still good entertainment when nothing else is biting. On an ultralight set-up (ultra-light rod, 4lb test line, small hook, no sink or split shot), the big ones put up a great fight! Also, when it comes to family fishing, Bluegills are the best option for Meadow Lake. They are abundant, and they can be fished at all seasons of the year.
Black Crappie: the "Ancient Ones", as some locals prefer to call them. They are highly contaminated; They are old; They are not edible. Guess what? Because most people don't take them (there is still a small population of anglers that will take them home, even knowing that they are contaminated), and also because a lot of people don't know how to fish for them, they get very big in The Lakes! They used to be in greater numbers just like any other Species of fish, but we should truly be glad they are still present in the Lake these days. Recall that Black Crappies will never bite on "dead" bait. Therefore, when fishing with a live nightcrawler, make sure to give it a couple twitches - give it some more life. Minnow imitations work best, of course! I've also seen people catching them on small plugs.
Common Carp: Carp anglers, be aware that there are plenty of Carp in the Meadow Lake! I've carped there only a few times personally; however, I've seen many Carps swimming by! The biggest one that I've seen in person was a chunky 20lbs Common Carp pulled out of the main Lake. Also, my greatest achievement there was a 3lbs Partial Mirror Carp. So, they are in there! Bring your can of corn, chum, and wait. If you are more sophisticated, feel free to bring your own home-made dough, your 12 feet rods and rod rack. =) Be patient, and you should end up with a couple nice Carps.
American Eel: There's a minimal population of American Eels in the Lakes. I've caught some close to bridges, fishing on the bottom with small pieces of fish. If one is really interested in catching them, just place a small piece of fish (or another type of meat) on the bottom and wait a couple minutes.
As mentioned above (and in my incomplete article)...the only problem with the Snakehead Species is that they are an invasive Species in Philadelphia; and again, they are one of the top predators in the aquatic food chain (together with other Species of game fish). As a lie-in-wait predator, the Northern Snakehead can eat basically anything that passes in front of it -- from small fish to vegetation, from vegetation to garbage. Nobody knows exactly when they were introduced in Philadelphia's waters; however, there are speculations that someone released these fish in "The Lakes" about a decade ago. Since then, they have adapted and reproduced.
The Northern Snakehead fish is not only found in the FDR park nowadays, though. It's certainly an abundant species in the park, but it was also seen in other local bodies of water. Summer of last year, for example, one of my friends caught a small Snakehead at the Schuylkill River, between the Walnut and Chestnut bridges. Also, Mike H. caught one of them next to the Fairmount Dam (the photo is below). Just by seeing ONE of them out there, a person can come to the conclusion that this species has successfully propagated in Philadelphia, and it's proliferating at a fast speed. They are already in open waters, guys, and there's nothing we can do about it.
As a reminder, the Boat and Commission does not allow the transportation of live Snakehead fish. It's illegal to keep Northern Snakeheads alive because they are an invasive species. Thus, it's also illegal to sell them, etc. You can see all the details here.
Flathead Catfish: I truly believe that the Flathead Catfish will become the new "fever" of Meadow Lake in the next decades or so. First acknowledged in 1999 by the PA Fish and Boat Commission, the Flathead Catfish spread wildly around Philadelphia! They started in the Delaware River (~1995), eventually swimming to its tributaries. The Schuylkill River (~1999) is a good example -- there's a fixed and reproducing population of Flatheads in the non-tidal Schuylkill River nowadays (above the Fairmout Dam). And now, ~2014, they have been found in Meadow Lake. Note that I have not yet attempted to catch them there; however, friends have been keeping me updated.
Important note: Flathead Catfish were considered to be an invasive Species of fish by the PA Fish and Boat Commission around 2002. Thus, officers recommended anglers to get rid of the fish. However, as for 2014, I've personally contacted a game warden about this topic and I have word from them that the disposal of Flathead Catfish is no longer mandatory! Therefore, Catch-Photo-Release is a plausible approach. :)
Preferentially, fish for them with live bait on the bottom. Circle hooks and heavy-test line works great for them. They will also bite on fresh cut-bait. Below are a couple photos of FB reader Visal R. with recent Flatheads from Meadow Lake. Thanks for your contribution, Visal!
Now, back to the fishing...
Long Days and Pleasant Nights,