The Fort Knox Conservation Office reported increases in illegal activities that have resulted in on-post lake fishing sites being trashed and natural habitats being harmed.

Fort Knox Conservation Officer Gerry LaPlace said the confusion concerning on-post lakes could come from a misnomer.

"Many people assume that our lakes are open recreational areas like any state lake," LaPlace said. "The installation has several lakes, creeks and rivers, and all of them are located in the training areas and subject to installation safety regulations which means the only authorized activity is fishing."

LaPlace said that there is only one lake exempt from the rule, and that's by special agreement.

"The only exception is Camp Carlson Lake which is open to the public, and is in the FINS (Fishing in Neighborhoods) program. It only requires a Kentucky fishing license," said LaPlace. "Our five managed lakes and Otter Creek [which runs through Carlson] are accessible for fishing only. All personnel must have an iSportsman permit and a Kentucky fishing license prior to entering any of the training area lakes."

LaPlace said that many people do not get the required iSportsman permit because they're not at the recreational lakes to fish.

"The iSportsman permit is needed to even get into the training areas because the only activity that's allowed [at the lakes] is fishing," LaPlace explained. "All bodies of water on the installation are off limits to swimming, wading, waterskiing, ice skating or ice hockey. [None of it] is authorized on installation ponds, lakes, streams or rivers.

"But we're seeing everything from floating and sport kayaking to mud bogging in the training areas. If we don't see the pass, they're probably up to something else."

Some of the extracurricular activities are resulting in risky mishaps.

"Last year, 13 individuals who were floating on the Salt River bypassed the 'get out' signs, and they floated into our training area and were stuck. They were on the water for about eight hours," LaPlace said. "There are no cell towers out there, and they were lucky to finally get a call out."

While sport boating is not permitted, LaPlace said that fishing from sport boats is authorized so long as the proper permits are in hand.

"Fishing from boats is encouraged, and kayak and canoe fishing has become increasingly popular in the fishing community. But, it comes with serious safety concerns," he said. "Kentucky requires children under 12 to wear a proper personal floatation device and adults to have one within reach. This doesn't mean locked up behind the seat. If they can't keep them easily accessible, they need to wear them."

LaPlace said that joyriders in the training areas are a growing concern, too.

"We've heard about people fishtailing on backroads in the training areas, and we've seen the damage they do to habitat," he said. "We've found damaged vehicles in the area with no one around, and that means we have to stop training until they're accounted for. I've placed signs in the middle of their mud holes but they just go around them."

Fishing is the only permitted water activity in the training area, but LaPlace said some things just don't mix with fishing at the recreational lakes.

"We realize that there are many people who drink to relax, and we find evidence of that with the beer cans we see around campfires," LaPlace said. "That really concerns me because fires are so dangerous in the wooded areas at the training sites. We don't want to see alcohol with fire or at the lakes.

"All three together is a recipe for disaster."

LaPlace added that signs at nearly every point of on-post lakes reference Regulation 385-10, which covers safety in the training area as well as what is off limits.

"We prefer to educate and assist the fishing and hunting communities," he said. "Unfortunately, sometimes that education [calls for] citations and suspended privileges. Without their fishing license and the iSportsman permit in their possession, patrons could be fined up to $180 and have their fishing privilege suspended."

To purchase a Kentucky fishing license, visit Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife at https://app.fw.ky.gov/solar/ for more information. An iSportsman account may be started at https://ftknox.isportman.net or by visiting the Fort Knox Hunt Control Office located in Building 9297, 4916 Wilson Road, Fort Knox.