ELK COUNTY — Josh Butler stood in a boat floating amid enough standing timber to make it seem like a flooded forest.
In is mind was the recent memory of catching dozens of largemouth bass. In his fist was a wiper that stretched from his belt to well below his knees.
“It’s at least eight (pounds), it’s so thick and fat,” Butler said. “It seems like we get at least one of these every trip. There are bigger in here, though, for sure.”
A few casts after the wiper swam free and Butler was fighting a largemouth of a solid three pounds.
The fishing was in a place known for excellent private hunting.
Wednesday morning, Butler was giving a tour of 110-acre Indian Lake, one of several fisheries open to the paying public at a variety of prices, within the 5,000-plus acre Flint Oak operation in northern Elk County.
Since its beginning in 1978, the brain child of the late Ray Walton has been regarded as the finest shotgunning facility in Kansas, if not the nation.
It’s received five-star rankings on about every sporting list imaginable for the quality of its released bird hunting, hunting dog kennel, meals, lodge and clay target courses.
Jeff Oakes, Flint Oak’s general manager, said their angling program began to get serious about 10 years ago with the creation of Indian Lake, the 1 1/8-mile long water that has as much planning as the club’s famed sporting clays courses.
Oakes said enough standing timber was left to make for great largemouth bass habitat. Below the surface is sculpted with brushpiles, rock piles, deep channels, old car bodies and stripped-down farm implements.
“It looked like the surface of the moon down there before there was all that water,” Oakes said. “There’s a lot of habitat.”
After being well-stocked with baitfish and blue catfish in 2004, about 8,000 bass that average two pounds were added in 2005, as were about 2,000 wipers. All had been specially trained to eat fish food pellets.
Within two years, some of the bass and wipers were up to four pounds and many of the catfish twice as large.
The lake was restocked after about 26 inches of rain fell in a few days in 2007 and flushed most of the fish downstream.
Butler, Flint Oak’s big game and fishing specialist, says the lake now has largemouth bass to eight pounds, wipers to about 12 pounds and catfish more than 20 pounds.
A dozen feeders help the fish population maintain quality and quantity. Wednesday morning, Butler spent about three hours of rare personal fishing time as he checked the lake and gave a media tour.
Less than 10 casts into the day, a bass of about a pound nabbed Butler’s spinnerbait. One slightly smaller came about 30 yards down the lake.
The action was steady but not blistering for Butler and a guest as he moved the bass boat down the lake’s east shore.
As well as the feeders, Butler stopped and checked several submerged aerating pumps placed to keep the lake’s oxygen levels high. As well as helping keeping high fish densities healthy, they sometimes make for memorable angling.
“During the heat of the summer, when it’s really hot, you can cast into these aerators and it’s fish after fish as soon as the bait hits the water,” Butler said. “Everybody in the boat’s catching fish.”
After less than three hours of fishing, Butler figured the boat had seen about 70 bass from one-half to a tad more than three pounds. Most were 10 to 14 inches.
“That was pretty average as far as numbers,” Butler said. “The average size was down but the bigger fish may be on nests, or we maybe we should have tried some plastic lizards or other (big bass) baits.”
The highlight was when the wiper of about 28 inches grabbed a slowly fished plastic lure and headed to the middle of the lake with the boat in tow. So it’s how trips to Indian Lake ideally go.
“Two guys can go and catch and catch 70 to 80 bass from 2 1/2 to five pounds, and if they catch one big wiper, that’s all they talk about,” said Oakes.