RFT Asks: What’s It Like To Fish in Forest Park?

Denny Vaninger and Kevin Burke discuss their 60-year friendship as they try to catch a fish

Jan 5, 2023 at 8:46 am
click to enlarge Two men stand in front of a lake in Forest Park with their backs turned to the camera. The man to the left wears a white hoodie and the man to the left wears a blue jacket.
Denny Vaninger and Kevin Burke tough out the cold in December to fish at Forest Park.

On a cold Monday morning at 10 a.m. in December, two people are fishing at Jefferson Lake next to Steinberg Skating Rink in Forest Park. Their names are Denny Vaninger, who once played for the U.S. men’s national soccer team, and Kevin Burke. The gentlemen wanted to talk but didn’t want their pictures in the paper.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

What are you doing out here?

DV: Trout fishing. Catch and release. Rainbow trout. That’s about it. Hanging out. Catching a couple fish. Throw them back in.

How does it work?

KB: They stocked about [3,600] fish in here about a month ago. It’s catch and release. You have to use artificial bait. You can’t use live bait. And then you have to return them. ... At other parks, they let you use power baits, it’s called, which is a dough bait. And you can keep them with the other parks, like Suson and Carondelet.

So you go to different parks?

DV: There’s a hotline — Missouri Department of Conservation has a hotline. They have a hotline you call, and then it tells you how many places, where they stock them, how many they stock. And we call that. When they stock them, we come here and just hang out. Catch fish. Throw them back. Bring our grandkids every once in a while.

So what's your process? Do you wake up in the morning and call?

DV: No, we just call occasionally when they stock them. Here, they stock them. They put 3,600 in, and you can't keep them till February 1. Then you can start keeping them. … we really don't keep them anyway.

Is it fun if you don’t keep them?

DV: It’s fun because we just catch them, hanging out. We’ve been doing this for 60 years.

Coming out here specifically?

DV: Everywhere. We’ve been buddies since we were 10. Now we’re 70.

Have you caught any today?

DV: Yeah, we’ve caught, what? Six or seven?

KB: Yeah.

Is that a good day?

DV: Yeah.

KB: It’s mostly just —

DV: — Just something to do.

Where are the best places to fish in the city?

DV: Well, we come here for trout. And then we sometimes go to Whitmore and Carondelet where they put catfish in the summer. We got grandkids, we take them there, they catch some fish catfish. It's fun.

KB: It's more fun with the grandkids.

DV: Yeah.


KB: Oh! There we go.

You caught one?

DV: He just caught one, yeah. [Fish slips away.] Well. Almost caught one.

[Both break out laughing.]

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