July 31, 2013

Recent rains helping area wetlands, but more is needed

Outdoors celebrity sentenced to jail for probation violation


Recent rains have put the wet back in central Kansas’ big three wetlands.

About a year ago, Cheyenne Bottoms, the Quivira National Wildlife Refuge and the McPherson Valley Wetlands were all pretty much dry. Quivira was already pretty full heading into last weekend, thanks to some timely and steady rains along the Rattlesnake Creek drainage area.

These last rains were just icing on what was already a pretty sweet cake at Q. Some nice amounts of water have come into Cheyenne Bottoms from a variety of drainages, but it still needs much more water to really be attractive to waterfowl and other migrants later this fall.

McPherson Valley Wetlands were absolutely dry about two weeks ago and they could be full, or very close to it, by now. The state-owned wetlands complex west of McPherson hasn’t had this kind of water since the fall of 2007.


William “Spook” Spann. the professional hunter who illegally tagged a huge Stafford County non-typical buck he shot in 2007, was sentenced to 30 days in jail on Wednesday. The penalty was put in place when a federal judge ruled Spann had violated his probation by turkey hunting in Tennessee this spring. Check out this blog post for more details.

The heavy rains of Sunday and Monday were a big deal at some central Kansas reservoirs, too. Kanopolis is above conservation pool for the first time in a few years, and had been low enough to make launching a boat a real problem and, at times, impossible. No problem now.

Marion also got a very good shot of juice, too, and is expected to be near conservation pool, too.

El Dorado is up to only about two feet below normal conservation pool, which means it picked up several feet of water. Sorry, Cheney is still about four feet below normal ... and that’s a lot on a lake that has so many shallow areas.

Not many fishing reports since the big rains, though the inflow will probably leave most waters murky for a while. I’ve heard of some people who did pretty well catching catfish on the rising water in rivers and the upper ends of lakes. Prior to the high waters, El Dorado was the place for big walleyes, Cheney had some impressive wiper catches and Kanopolis was a great place for mixed-creel fishing for those that trolled or drifted nightcrawlers.

Thursday’s Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism commission meeting in Yates Center will see the setting of this fall’s duck seasons. It doesn’t look like things will be as argumentative between commissioners as last year, nor do I think commissioners will approve what agency biologists are recommending. Also at the meeting, they’ll again discuss putting somewhat of a separation between youth and archery spring turkey seasons. Basically they’re wanting to give youth a few days on their own before archers can hit the spring woods. As compensation, the archery season would get an extra few days, pushing the regular turkey season opener back past its current framework.


Sunday’s Outdoors page feature should be on the impact rains over the past month have had on the big three of central Kansas wetlands.

The page should also have some coverage from Thursday’s Wildlife, Parks and Tourism commission meeting in Yates Center. I’m also hoping for a preview of the Aug. 9-11 Midwest Hunt Fest here in Wichita. The event is scheduled to have some of the really big names from the outdoors television scene, like Michael Waddell and others.

If the weather and water levels allow, I’m hoping to do an overnight float on the Kansas River this weekend, and turn that into a story for a week or so down the road. I’m still planning on some research and a column on a possibly more eco-friendly rifle bullet for deer hunting and another on a major bullet company that’s based in Kansas.

There’s a pretty good chance I’ll be out in the Smoky Hills for the early prairie chicken season, with a Kansan who will eventually be hunting grassland grouse over much of the American west. I also may do a column on old guns. You know the kind I mean, not ancient, but old enough that the bluing’s about gone and the stock looks like it has more dings than some of those cars hit by hail in Hutchinson. We have such a rifle in our family. It’s old, beaten up, extremely functional and I’d now consider it an heirloom.


It’s amazing what a master gardener I’ve become when we got about 11 inches of rain in about a month at our house. We have tomato plants to the top of my head and squash plants chest-high. Carl, that’s our one cucumber plant, has sent out vines almost long and thick enough for Tarzan to swing on if they were hanging from trees. My green bean plants have grown into our tomatoes, and our tomato plants are crowding the egg plants, Spaghetti squash vines are spreading through the zucchini and yellow squash ... and Carl seems like he’s running amok over the entire thing.

If you happen to step outside tomorrow morning, and see a nice vine with yellow blooms stretching across your driveway —please send Carl home.

Every day I go out and re-direct vines one way or another, but he keeps breaking free, and getting his little tentacles wrapped around plants, fences, posts and about anything that’s not moving. I’ve told Ruby Tuesday, our very tiny miniature dachshund, she’d better keep moving when in that part of our back yard. Hank, our big Lab, moves slowly enough to get totally entangled, but still has enough power to break free. OK, so I’m sure the dogs are safe but the plant is growing faster than anything we’ve ever had at our place.

So yes, we’ve been enjoying some great meals with a garden flavor to them. Still not tired of BLTs, but I’m not sure that could happen, and I still like popping cherry tomato plants into my mouth straight from the vine after a rain. Sunday night we had a version of Egg Plant Parmesan, with a heavy base of our tomatoes, some fresh onions, sweet pepper and mushroom. Counting the days until we can eat it again.

During the rains over the weekend I baked 10 loaves of zucchini bread, mostly for the freezer. This year I substituted bananas for the eggs and it really turned out well. Shoot me an e-mail if you’d like the recipe. It’s seriously good.


Michael Pearce



4 - 6 oz. U.S. catfish fillets

1 tbs. olive oil

1/2 tsp. salt

1/4 tsp. ground black pepper

1/2 cup Dijon mustard

2 tbs. fresh thyme leaves

zest and juice of 1 lemon

oil, for frying

2 cups cornmeal

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 tsp. crab boil seasoning, such as Old Bay

tomato relish, recipe follows

Sprinkle the fish with the olive oil, salt and pepper, and place into a deep dish. In a small bowl, combine the mustard and thyme. Mix together and spread onto both sides of the fish. Top with the lemon zest and juice. Put in the fridge to marinate for 2 to 3 hours.

Preheat a deep fryer to 350 degrees.

In a small bowl, combine the cornmeal and flour together. Sprinkle the crab boil seasoning on top of the fish and dredge in the cornmeal mixture. Place in the deep fryer for 3 to 4 minutes, and then remove to paper towels. Serve with tomato relish.

Tomato Relish:

2 cups seeded and diced tomatoes

2 tbs. minced fresh cilantro

2 cloves garlic, chopped

2 green onions, chopped

1 jalapeno, seeded and minced

zest and juice of 1 lime

In a small bowl, combine the tomatoes, cilantro, garlic, onions, jalapeno and lime zest and juice. Cover and chill for up to 3 days. Yield: about 2 cups.

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