Please understand we FULLY support paylake's that ONLY stock farm raised catfish.
Exposing Paylakes
The "Stocking" Truth Revealed

By: ExposingPaylakes | December 02, 2018

Paylakes & Paddlefish

On Nov 27, 2018, commercial fisherman David M. Cox was sentenced after a United States District Court accepted his plea agreement. Cox was charged with several counts, one being a violation of the "Lacey Act" - a federal law protecting wildlife - a violation he's been charged with in the past.

Cox, of Midwest Caviar, is mainly known for harvesting and selling paddlefish caviar netted from the Ohio River. By-catch of large catfish caught in Cox's nets, have been known to be stockpiled in his pond, for future sales to paylakes.

In 2001, Cox, a previously convicted wildlife felon - sat on a special board aimed to help Kentucky Fish and Wildlife rewrite the fishing rules and regulations.

Below a Facebook screenshot shows Cox seining catfish from his holding pond, with well know paylake owner, James Reed of Catfisherman's Paradise. Another Facebook screenshot shows a 73lb flathead Cox caught - that will - "go to a paylake for sure".

James Reed and David Cox seine catfish from Cox's Holding Pond - these fish are bycatch from Cox's paddlefish nets.
Facebook Post with Cox

The Undercover Investigation

Cox faced charges after an extensive investigation, in which an Indiana Department of Natural Resources Officer worked undercover as a “helper” in Cox's commercial fishing operation. The officer was able to witness and covertly record numerous fishing violations, as well as, gun ownership violations.

Cox, a convicted felon, is no stranger to wildlife offenses. Some past convictions include - a felony, under the Lacey Act; and a misdemeanor, for illegally fishing for paddlefish. These old convictions mimic his latest disregard for the law, with the addition of illegal possession of firearm(s) by a convicted felon.

 According to the prosecution, Cox's disregard of commercial fishing regulations extended beyond simply keeping and killing undersized fish. The prosecution said, "he fished wherever and however he wanted". They stated he fished in closed areas where fish congregate, contributing to overfishing. Adding, he also "underreported the fish that he caught or that died in his nets" - affecting biologists’ ability to accurately assess the health of fish species.

The Tattoo

Cox was very forthcoming and seemingly proud of his past convictions with the undercover officer. He was particularly proud of his past assault of a conservation officer - touting his tattoo of a game warden hanging from a noose. Cox even went on to describe to the undercover, how he lured the wildlife officer into his fishing boat, drove off with the agent against his will, and after finally bringing the wildlife officer back ashore, roughed him up and took his gun.

Pictured in Red is David M Cox of Midwest Caviar Fish Processing


Despite friends and family submitting more than 80 support letters to the court, Cox was sentenced to a two-year term on the charges. Cox was also ordered to pay restitution to the Indiana Department of Natural Resources Fish and Wildlife Fund, in the amount of $1,000.00. Along with, a special assessment of $200.00 to the United States and forfeiture of property - including his fishing boat, trailer and motor. Upon his release, Cox will be supervised for 3 years.


Commercial fisherman and paylakes operating within the Ohio River Valley have found themselves, time and time again, on the wrong side of the law. Last April, the President of Kentucky's Commercial Fisherman's Association was arrested on attempted murder charges. In 2012, a Kentucky Conservation Officer - who was also a licensed commercial fisherman, was charged with wildlife crimes. And over the last four years, paylakes in both Ohio and Kentucky have been charged with numerous violations, such as, but not limited to - guns, drugs, stolen goods, gambling and laundering.

Meanwhile, the state of Kentucky - the "gateway state" for these commercial fishermen and paylakes, and the state which dictates and controls most of the Ohio River - cite a couple of  "bad actors" in Ohio. 

By: ExposingPaylakes | November 22, 2015

Some things just can't be covered in a simple one paragraph Facebook post. With that said, welcome to our first blog post.
Today, we're gonna cover something we've yet to cover. The influence trophy catfish paylakes have had on local fish markets.

"That commercial fisherman's catfish haul would have died at the fish market anyway. Our paylake saved them from that." 

That's something you might hear a paylake supporter say. An while there is some truth in that. It should be noted. Paylakes are the main reason for both commercial fishing and fish markets excessive demand for trophy catfish.


You see, thirty years ago fish markets mostly filled food orders. Commercial fisherman were asked to catch the needed fish. Trophy catfish normally didn't top that list. Therefore were typically discarded back into the water. Why waste time and space keeping something that likely won't sell.

Around that same time. Paylakes were a place to have fun catching a mess of eaters to take home. Therefore they primarily stocked farm raised eaters. Most stayed away from river catfish, especially the larger ones. As they were thought to be "dirty" in comparison to farm raised catfish. No paylake wanted to be labeled as having dirty eater fish.  So the demand for large catfish was relatively low. Whether it be paylakes, commercial fishers or fish markets. But that was all about to change.

PICTURED ABOVE: A fish house forgoes the lesser profit, for a more substantial profit of selling a large, live catfish to a local trophy paylake.

In the early to mid 90's, the paylake model began to change. "Trophy paylakes" started to emerge. These paylakes offered big catfish, and big cash pots for catching one. The public's demand also began to change. Instead of catching a mess of eaters. Patrons now wanted a chance to catch a once in a lifetime catfish, and win money doing so. Farm raised paylakes quickly became the exception, and trophy paylakes now became the norm.

PICTURED ABOVE: Commercial fisherman looking for holding ponds on Craigslist. The catfish will be seined out of the lake(s), as they are needed.

These large trophy catfish now being stocked at paylakes, were decades old. Fish farms couldn't produce such fish. Even if they could, the cost would be outrageous. So there was only one way to obtain them....the local river systems. In order to meet this new demand, paylakes hired commercial fishers to net these trophy river catfish. This new style paylake had now created a trophy catfish demand from commercial fishers, and subsequently the fish markets.

Previously, commercial fisherman discarded most of those large, unneeded trophy catfish. Though with the emergence of trophy paylakes, there is now no reason to do so. Commercial fisherman have a thriving market for those fish....paylakes. So much so, their willing to stockpile the fish in "holding ponds" to eventually be seined out, and sold as needed.

Now here's where the post comes full circle. Say your a commercial fisher and you don't have a holding pond. Or you don't have an immediate buyer for those large catfish. No problem, the fish markets have also gotten in on the trophy paylake money train. They'll gladly pay a discounted CASH price and take those live trophy river catfish off your hands. They'll stick them in holding tanks. What they can't sell to a paylake, they'll try and sell as food.

So next time you hear someone claim paylakes save trophy catfish from being sold at the fish market. Tell them that fish market demand wouldn't exist nearly like it does. If is wasn't for paylakes.

And guys, please practice CPR of these medium to large catfish.  State studies don't lie. People with a vested financial interest do lie, and stretch the truth. Exposing Paylakes has NO financial interest. Our interest solely lies in the in the protection and future of this awesome, God given resource. Nothing more!


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