Gone fishin’

Published 7:17 pm Friday, July 19, 2013

Blake Hardy, of Bay Minette, admires his catch at Steve's Farm in Walnut Hill Friday morning.

Blake Hardy, of Bay Minette, admires his catch at Steve’s Farm in Walnut Hill Friday morning.


You may not immediately see it from the road, but it’s there and it’s been a welcome profit center for a family-owned farming operation in Walnut Hill.

Steve’s Farm, which offers various produce items, like butter beans and some melons, also offers a price to fish 10-acre lakes stocked with catfish.

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Owner Steve Hiebert said the family started the fishing operation in 2009 after a downturn in the economy because of Asian imports.

“The economics of commercial catfish farming went really south,” he said. “It was because of Asian imports due to the high feed prices driven by the development of biofuels. The economics of raising catfish for the producer no longer made sense.”

The farm decided to expand its customer base and offer fishing, bait tackle and rentable poles.

“We already had retail produce customers already coming and we decided to tap into that customer base,” Hiebert said.

While produce customers will fish and fishing customers will buy produce, the two bases are different, Hiebert said.

“Fishing has been good,” he said of this year. “Hot days and bright sun in the middle of the day slows us down. Early mornings are our busiest times for fishing.”

The fishing itself has been good, he added.

“Coolers have been full,” Hiebert said. “It’s a rare person who comes out here and doesn’t leave here without a fish.”

The farm charges $3 admission to fish, but free for children 4 years old and younger. There’s an annual pass for $12. Fish is $1.75 per pound not cleaned, $2.25 per pound cleaned and $2.50 filleted.

Tackle rental is $4 per pole, $1 for five hooks, $1 for two floats and $1 for four weights. Bait is $3 for a cup of beef liver, hearts and shrimp.

That type of bait is important because lures don’t work well for catfish. The fish are more interested in the smell of the bait, Hiebert said.

“Lures don’t work as well as if you have something stinky that they can smell and find,” he said.

Hiebert also suggested not reeling in and out with the line and instead keeping it stationary for catfish.

Ron Hardy, of Bay Minette fished on a pond on the farm Friday morning with his son Blake. The pair had reeled in two catfish within the first 15 minutes of being there. One of the fish was more than five pounds and eventually lost its battle to a very excited Blake.

“I’m telling momma I caught that one,” he told his dad as the elder Hardy scooped it out of the net.

Ron Hardy enjoyed his time fishing with Blake.

“We enjoy it out here,” he said. “It’s fun.”

Wade Cooper was on his third trip to the farm for fishing with his family.

“It’s nice,” he said. “It stays clean. They keep it clean. It’s a good place to bring your kids and enjoy the day.”

The farm is open six days a week from April to October, Monday-Saturday 7 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. It’s open Fridays and Saturdays November to March from 7:30 a.m. until a half hour before sunset.