Anglers anticipating good spring fishing shouldn’t have long to wait or far to travel. Lake and reservoir testings made last fall show there should be some good angling, for most popular species of fish, within an hour or two of Wichita this year.
What south-central Kansas lacks for good bass fishing in reservoirs, it makes up for with some good bass fishing in some smaller lakes.
Doug Nygren, Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism fisheries chief, was quick to recommend McPherson State Fishing Lake, saying it has quantity and quality of largemouth bass.
He also suggested people who like small waters check out Sedan Old City Lake, where people have a decent shot of catching largemouths of about five pounds.
Butler State Fishing Lake was described as “top notch” by Craig Johnson, the lake’s biologist, with some big bass, thanks to catch-and-release fishing by anglers.
Once a nice spot for nice largemouths, Kingman State Fishing Lake was drained last year for repairs but Nygren said it’s filling nicely from ground water sources and has been re-stocked.
It will be catch-and-release fishing for bass that could be lucky to reach 12 inches by mid-summer.
Thanks to an active stocking program in smaller public waters, and great reproduction in reservoirs, good channel catfishing abounds at most waters. Nygren said Marion Reservoir may have a slight edge over other area lakes. Scheduled to soon be stocked with fish used for hatchery reproduction, Kingman State Fishing Lake could offer catfish to 10 pounds this year.
Toronto and Fall River reservoirs continue to have good numbers of crappie, some of which are impressively sized.
Nygren said both lakes are low enough to make access by boat a concern, but added a little rain could change that quickly.
Council Grove Reservoir has some nice crappie this year, with some caught last fall weighing two pounds. The spawn fishing could be something this spring.
Closer to Wichita, El Dorado Reservoir has a lot of small crappie from the previous two spawns, and decent numbers of fish 11 inches and longer.
A pair of smaller lakes seem to hold the region’s best densities.
“If you have a kid you want to catch a lot of crappie, Sedan Old City Lake has quite a few 10- to 12-inch fish,” Nygren said. “Eureka City Lake also has a lot of crappie, but not many really big fish.”
Nygren said Eureka is a good place to take beginners to use bobbers and worms for bluegill later in the spring.
Last year’s drought and extreme heat kept many anglers off Cheney Reservoir, which means the lake has a good population of walleye. About 20 percent are more than 20 inches long, too.
As of now, though, getting to those fish could be a problem as the lake only has one open boat ramp, and it leads to water too shallow for some boats.
“I wouldn’t hesitate to go to Cheney and fish off the dam for spawning walleye,” Nygren said. “That’s an easy way to get at the fish.”
El Dorado Reservoir is rated as Kansas’ second-best walleye lake, with good numbers and enough fish over the 21-inch length limit to keep things interesting.
Nygren recommends Council Grove Reservoir because it’s saugeye population has quality and quantity, with some fish to seven pounds.
“Saugeye are generally a pretty shallow fish, so those fish are often vulnerable to fishing from shore,” he said. “People really should consider trying there for saugeye.”
Marion Reservoir is probably as good as it gets for white bass in this part of the world.
Nygren, and anglers, say the lake’s holding a lot of white bass, with decent numbers of more than 15 inches.
Well-timed rains could make for good spawn fishing along the dam and up the Cottonwood River in a few weeks.
Nygren said Cheney has the most wipers for a local reservoir, though not many will top the lake’s 21-inch length limit.
Marion Reservoir has good numbers with a lot in the 15-20 inch range. It has no length limit on wipers, and the creel limit is five per day instead of two at most lakes.
Don’t overlook El Dorado’s wipers, either. This could be the year legitimate 30-inch wipers are caught. There are good numbers, too.