Michael Pearce

January 2, 2011

Best of 2010: Record fish top busy year

From clouds of tiny birds to gargantuan fish breaking state records, a lot happened in the Kansas outdoors in 2010.

Michael Pearce

The Eagle's outdoor reporter highlights the latest hunting, fishing and wildlife news.

From clouds of tiny birds to gargantuan fish breaking state records, a lot happened in the Kansas outdoors in 2010.

Here's a look back at some of the most memorable topics.


Kansas often goes several years without a state-record fish being caught.

Five times in 2010, state records were broken. The best was the 44-pound striped bass Paul Bahr caught on May 14 at Wilson Lake.

A wiper weighing 25 pounds set the mark when James Moore pulled it from the outlet below Perry Lake. Frank Evans Jr. caught a record smallmouth that weighed 6.88 pounds at Milford Lake.

Several trout records were also broken.


It was a great year for hunting things with feathers. Some places in western Kansas had more pheasants then they'd had in nearly 30 years.

As one hunter said about the ongoing season, "It's not a question of if you'll limit, it's when you'll get your limit."

Duck hunters got a 74-day season, the maximum allowed, and changes in the limit system that allowed them to take up to two pintails in a total limit of six daily.

Warm weather in the early fall made duck hunting spotty at best, though.


The most interesting new technique was Brian Natalini's one acre of sunflowers he plants for dove hunting.

Natalini nurtures the field all summer to keep it free of weeds.

From that small Cherokee County field, Natalini and friends have shot nearly 1,000 doves some seasons.

In 2010, they shot about 550 but killed equal amounts at two other small fields in the area.


Nicholas Santonastasso wins the crown as my favorite person. The 14-year-old from New Jersey was born with no legs and one arm with one finger.

Nicholas is super-positive, never complains and finds good and fun in all things, including the trophy-class buck he shot Dec. 10.

He was in Kansas for Larned's Life Hunt for kids with life-threatening diseases or severe handicaps.

If I were to pick a top town it would be Larned because of the way they support and treat the young hunters. The young hunters are 100 percent on trophy bucks and the town raises enough funds to pay all expenses. Tim Schaller, who started the hunt, said about 75 locals help with the event.

Wildlife issue

Kansas continues to host growing numbers of invasive species. The big news in 2010 were the millions of Asian carp coming into Kansas waters from the Missouri River. Zebra mussels continue to spread.

It's alarming how little attention the general public gives these species that can permanently change our outdoors.

But in many minds, 2010 will be known as the year of the big cats in Kansas.

Three mountain lions were documented. Two were caught on trail cameras and another's travels were traced via a GPS collar.

We had one in 2009 and another in 2007. It was more than 100 years before that. A jump to three in one year is a heck of an increase for a species that draws more interest and debate than any other.

Wildlife viewing

The Quivira National Wildlife Refuge is known world-wide for its diversity and quantity of wildlife to be watched.

Within the last month, more than 200 bald eagles were seen in one day feeding on drought-killed carp on the shallow Big Salt Marsh. Whooping cranes were seen near roads doing the same in November.

But my pick for the best wildlife event of 2010 was the tens of thousands of mid-summer purple martins gathering at dusk to roost in a line of trees along the parking lot of Via Christi Hospital on St. Francis.

They gather like clouds and at sunset jet over the area in huge flocks that snake back and forth as they pass a few yards above the pavement.

It's usually happening a week or two on both sides of Aug. 1. You can watch the show from inside a car or in lawn chairs, if you're wearing a hat.

Most who have seen it agree it's one of the top wildlife displays in the Midwest.

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