Looking for a great spot to catch some fish? Here are five of the state’s best spots for this year. Smaller than our sprawling reservoirs, they’re more easily fished from shore or small boats. Most have good panfish populations so they’re ideal places for beginning anglers, of any age, to catch fish.
All offer more than fishing. Some are close enough that you could easily fish three spots in a day. One’s a bit of a drive but a great place to catch some fish while spending a long weekend in one of the prettiest lakes in the country.
Severy City Lake
At 10 acres, the lake 64 miles east of Wichita is just south of the small town of Severy, which is few miles south of the junction of Highways 400 and 99. Signs on the latter will take you to the well-kept area that includes picnic shelters and a boat ramp. No gas-powered motors. The lake’s perfect for kayaks and canoes and shore fishing.
The quiet waters have good numbers of bluegill and redear sunfish. Neither is huge, but they are plentiful. Bluegill will probably be close to shore, especially around any kind of brush and in shady areas. Redear sunfish are normally farther out. If you’re in a kayak, try drifting 20-30 feet from shore with worms on a small hook, and just enough weight to keep the bait near the bottom.
The lake has nice populations of largemouth bass and channel catfish.
Toot’s Drive-In, in Howard, is 15 minutes south on Highway 99. It’s an old-fashioned burger joint that also serves great breakfasts and dinners.
Another fun option is to drive another 25 minutes south on Highway 99 toward Sedan. Look for signs to the Red Buffalo Ranch a few miles north of Sedan. Signs will point you toward Butcher Falls, about two miles west of Highway 99.
It’s Kansas’ most spectacular natural waterfall, when the small stream is running after a nice rain. Fishing is allowed in the pool below the falls. Be sure to use stout fishing line because you’ll need to winch your catch up the vertical face of boulders the size of bulldozers. Try a gob of worms under a bobber, drifting in the current. Experiment with how far you set the float above the bait.
Sedan has several places to eat. Bucks BBQ, on the west edge of town, is good. If you want to try another fishing spot on your way back toward Wichita, head west on Highway 166 for about 35 miles and you’ll find Cowley State Lake. It’s also on our can’t-miss list.
Scott State Lake
Most who’ve been will agree the 240-mile drive from Wichita is worth the time and trouble. The fishing, and overall experience, can be that good.
This 115-acre lake snakes its way through steep canyons reminiscent of old John Wayne Westerns.
The lake ranks as the top bluegill lake in Kansas for those who want action. Try the back of most little bays and coves. Fishing directly in front of the dam, early and late in the day, can be good. Try casting a small piece of worm below a small bobber.
Scott Lake is the second-best saugeye lake in Kansas, with fish to seven pounds. Casting diving lures from shore can work, sometimes, as can beetle-spins. Kayakers can do the same or try drifting with a large nightcrawler dragging across the bottom. There are channel cats, though most don’t get large. Traditional bait like chicken livers, stink baits and cut bluegill can work well.
Fish or no fish, there’s a gorgeous state park at the lake that’s repeatedly ranked as one of the most beautiful in the nation. Most of the campsites are shaded, and many have utilities. Two cabins have great views of the lake but often have to be reserved well in advance. (For reservations, go to www.kshuntfishcamp.com.)
There are good hiking trails, although just walking the park’s roads also provides a great chance to see wildlife early and late in the day. Take binoculars to check out some songbirds you probably won’t see around Wichita.
Scott City is nearby for supplies and food. The Majestic, located downtown, is a great dining experience within a grand theater built nearly 100 years ago. The interior has been restored, and food is usually great.
The Chalk Pyramids are northeast of the lake about 25 miles. Stay tuned: The Nature Conservancy of Kansas will soon be opening the Little Jerusalem rock formations on nearby Smoky Valley Ranch. They’re spectacular.
Chase State Fishing Lake
This lake of 109 acres is 75 miles northeast of Wichita in a gorgeous Flint Hills valley, about 3 miles west of Cottonwood Falls on the county road that runs to Elmdale.
First, note that the lake has zebra mussels, which means all boats and anglers need to take precautions and not transport any water, or live fish, from the lake to other bodies of water.
The super-clear water and a rock shoreline offer above-average fishing for largemouth bass, and it’s one of few public lakes in Kansas with a nice population of spotted bass. That’s the species of bass native to the pristine streams of the Flint Hills.
There are also nice populations of bluegill, saugeye and channel catfish. The largest catfish sampled last fall was more than 10 pounds.
There are eight fishing piers, some with fish feeders. Kayaking or hiking to the other side of the lake can pay off, but go prepared for chiggers and ticks.
If you visit after a rain, head across the dam, then walk down an obvious path to check out the multitiered waterfall. It’s one of the most photographed waterfalls in Kansas. Abundant wildflowers are often around the lake.
You’re also just a few minutes away from the 40 miles of hiking trails at the Tallgrass Prairie Preserve, near Strong City. If you want to combine some hiking and fishing, check out Fox Creek, across the highway from the preserve’s visitors center. They can tell you other access points to the small stream. Plan on using tiny lures on light line. The fish are easily spooked, so it’s best to sneak along quietly and fish in low light conditions like dusk and dawn.
There are a number of eating options in nearby Cottonwood Falls and Strong City, including such noted places as Ad Astra Food and Drink, Keller Feed and Wine and the Grand Central Hotel. They have limited hours so call ahead or check online.
Cowley State Lake
These 84 acres of water are 75 miles south of Wichita, about 16 miles east of Arkansas City, on Highway 166. It’s a gorgeous public property with a neat mixture of timber and grasslands.
For bass fishermen, the lake is rated the third-best of the scores of state and community lakes in Kansas. The best sampled last year was close to five pounds. Bigger fish are there but are earned.
The bluegill population is above average for Kansas lakes, and the redear sunfish angling is some of the best in Kansas. Try the shady shallows for bluegill and slightly deeper water for the redears. Crickets, worms or small spinners and jigs should work. The channel catfish population is nice in terms of numbers and size.
There is a boat ramp and loading dock, and biologists have done a good job of submerging several fish-attracting structures, so look for them. Some primitive campsites are available.
If the lake’s at normal levels, or above, check the possible 30-foot waterfall at the base of the dam. The path can be a bit slick, so you may want to take photos from above.
If you want to make a day of it, you can drive the 35 miles east to Sedan and then head north on Highway 99 and fish below Butcher Falls and then to Severy City Lake. (See the information listed with Severy City Lake for more details.)
Eureka City Lake
This impressive 259-acre lake is about 70 miles east of Wichita, and about 4½ miles north of Eureka on Road 7, just north of the small airport.
For years it could only be fished by special permit. Now, Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks has leased fishing rights so it’s open to public fishing. It holds a lot of piscine promise.
First, it’s ranked as Kansas’ top lake for white crappie, with fish up to 1½ pounds. The spawn may be about over by the time you get this, but file that away for next spring.
Those who can find the brush or man-made fish attractors might still find crappie as the water warms. The lake also has a heated fishing dock that can produce in the dead of winter.
It’s a great place to take kids because it has one of the better bluegill populations of any state or community lake. In fact, it’s ranked fourth out of more than 80 lakes, and also has an abundance of green sunfish.
The bass fishing is also ranked as “good,” by the lake’s biologist. Eureka City Lake also has decent numbers of saugeye. You’ll notice that much of the lake’s immediate area is developed, and some of that private property goes to the water’s edge. There are nice spots for general public access and a nice ramp.
Fishing from kayaks could be good when it’s not too windy.
When the lake is releasing water, there’s a nice waterfall at the outlet area, below the dam.
If you want to mix another lake in to make it a full day, Severy City Lake is about 30 minutes south on Highway 99. Check the Severy City Lake section, especially the part about Toot’s Drive-In, at the top of this story.