Marquette Lake Fishing Hole

Families and guests of employees of the old Marquette Cement Plant could go to the Marquette Lake to fish when I was a kid. I was taken on a late-afternoon visit to the lake on a day when the setting sun gave everything an orange glow.

The private lake is located behind what is now known as Buzzi Unicem on South Sprigg Street.

Anybody ever lucky enough to fish there?

10 Replies to “Marquette Lake Fishing Hole”

  1. I well remember sixty and more years ago my grandfather
    Art (“Pop”) Stein taking my brother and me fishing here. We
    would stop at a shack in Smelterville to buy minnows
    and worms for bait and sometimes have BBQ sandwiches
    from Blue Hole Garden. What a treat!! Sadly
    I also remember eating at Blue Hole the last day
    of it’s existence after it moved up onto Kingshighway.

    Thankfully, Wibs BBQ is still going strong for
    we lovers of the real McCoy.

    1. When we’d go fishing, we’d stop by the Blue Hole, then Dad would drive up this narrow gravel road that went straight up right next to the sheer dropoff into the Blue Hole Quarry.

      At the top of the hill lived “The Worm Man,” a fellow who raised or dug the biggest, most active wiggly worms that ever tempted a fish.

      The trip up wasn’t so bad, but the passenger side – my side – of the car was next to the pit on the way down. I don’t know about the worms, but I did a lot of squirming. I said more prayers there than I ever did in church.

  2. My uncle took my sister and me out in a rowboat there when I was around 5. I was so terrified of the water that I don’t know if we were supposed to fish or just “enjoy” the day. I remember being in tears the whole time. Grandpa worked at Marquette and I’m thinking we were probably having a family get together down at the lake. You said it’s private. What a shame for such a beautiful site.

  3. Yes, I fished there quite a few times since my dad was an employee of Marquette Cement. It was a pretty good place for crappie and catfish.

    Now for the rest of the story and railroad connection, as Ken has come to know me for.
    The Marquette Lakes were formed as Marquette Cement dug the clay and silicate rich soil, known in the plant as gumbo, to be ground up, mixed with crushed limestone from the quarry, and powdered iron, then run through the kiln to make clinkers. The clinkers were ground and powdered, then mixed with gypsum to make Portland cement.
    Marquette used an American clamshell bucket rail crane to dig up the gumbo and load it into small drop-bottom hopper cars (called gumbo cars). As the hole dug into the ground expanded along the tracks, the tracks would be moved away from the hole and more gumbo was dug up. This process repeated over and over through the years. The resulting hole(s) filled with rainwater and floodwaters when the river got high, resulting in lakes that were self-stocked.

    Anyone interested in more pictures of Marquette’s operations and of the gumbo cars or of rail-related pictures of Cape can check them out in my posts on the website:

    1. Keith,

      Thanks, as always, for the additional info.

      FYI for other folks, the Frisco site required me to register to be able to view photos. I’ve been registered on the site for some time and haven’t gotten any spam as a result of it. If you’re interested in the history of the Frisco Railroad, it’s worth it.

      Non-rail buffs don’t realize how important railroads were to the development of the area. I’ve done a lot of train stories over the years and live within a couple of blocks of what used to be the Florida East Coast mainline, but I take trains for granted, too.

  4. My uncle Oscar “Newt” Hopper who worked at Marquette used to take my dad (Clarence “Doots” Hopper)and I to the lake fishing. Uncle Newt usually caught the most fish. He chewed tobacco and would spit tobacco juice on the bait worms, clainimg that was his secret to catching fish. Great experience!

  5. Dad, as an employee of Marquette Cement, joined the Hunting and Fishing Club. The Club took care of the lakes. There were the upper lakes that you entered just below the plant off of Sprigg Street. The lower lakes you had to go thru Scott City, then known as Fornfelt, to get to them. All the lakes as previously mentioned were formed after they dug out the gumbo. The lakes, or bar pits as they were called were then filled with water when the Mississippi River flooded into them. The lower lakes were usually locked but all the club members had a key. My family preferred to fish the lower lakes and did so many times. Later when I was in high school, John Hirsch, Charles Wilson and I would fish the lower lakes.
    One time I remember Dad and I going to a fish fry the club had. They had seined the lower lakes, legal if you keep the rough fish. It was the only time, before or since, that I ate buffalo and carp. That was the best fish fry I ever attended!

  6. Ken: I was lucky enough to get to fish there because of my Great Uncle that was a foreman for Marquette Cement. His name was James Caraker (he worked at Marquette for 37 1/2 years from 1912 to 1949) and I remember well when I was young (probably back in the early 60’s) that he would go there and fish off the bank with cane poles. He caught a lot of Buffalo, Carp and Catfish. I always wondered how to get there because I had forgotten where it was. I also went with him many times to some ponds just behind the Plant and most of the water in there was from the Diversion Channel floods and fish would get trapped in there and it made for some great fishing. There used to be a “House” there too if I remember right but you said there was a entrance to this lake in Illmo or fornfelt ? I would like to know where that is too and can anybody get into this opart you have shown here?
    Thanks for a great memory!!!!!
    Lyndel Revelle

  7. Lyndel-I think I could find it, if the road still exists but I wouldn’t know how to tell you to get there. The best I can tell you is that we went in the main road along side the Cotton Belt tracks, when you got into downtown Fornfelt business district you turned left and went up a hill, when the paved road ended, you turned right on another paved street and when it ran out, you turned left onto a gravel road that ran to the north. That road went to the locked gate. I believe a Marquette employee, Willis Hoffman lived on that road because Dad would stop and chat with him as Willis kept an eye on the lower lakes. I haven’t been to the lower lakes in over 30 years and this is the best that I can remember about how to get there.
    Here’s some more info-I was in Cape last month the subject of the the fishing lakes came up. I was told the levee blew out and the bar pits are empty. I don’t know if that is true and if it affected both the upper and lower lakes. That would be a loss if true, but I have great memories of fishing there.
    There was another activity that our family enjoyed. South of the plant along the railroad tracks there was a grove of pecan trees. We use to pick lots of pecans.

  8. Lyndel-I forgot to mention that yes there was a Clubhouse on the site. It was on stilts so it wouldn’t flood. It wasn’t used much and probably has fallen victim to age and time.

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