Kingman lake to be drained, restocked with better fish

Kingman State Fishing Lake will soon be drained in a bid to improve future fish populations.

Jeff Koch, Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism fisheries biologist for the lake, said the process could begin within a few days.

The goal is for all fish within the lake to die, including high populations of problematic common carp, gizzard shad and invasive white perch.

The 144-acre lake west of Kingman has long been popular with area anglers.

It holds Kansas’ only known self-sustaining northern pike population.

It is also popular with bass fishermen and has had good crappie fishing in past years.

Koch said he knows many will be disappointed.

“If they’d been out there helping us pull (sampling) nets last fall, they’d have understood,” Koch said. “It was pretty depressing to see what’s happened to the crappie, bluegill and redear fisheries.”

First found in the lake about 10 years ago, white perch numbers have grown far too high.

The fish, which are native to Atlantic estuaries, outcompete native fish for food and can wipe out spawns for years with their voracious appetites.

Carp have become so common that their rooting on the lake’s bottom leaves the water cloudy much of the year.

“Sport fish can’t survive and thrive in water like that,” Koch said. “I know we’re doing the right thing.”

Killing off all fish and starting over isn’t uncommon on Kansas state fishing lakes.

Koch said this is the sixth time Kingman has been rehabilitated since it was built in the 1930s. The last time was in the mid-1990s.

Unlike in the past, the public will not be allowed to salvage fish as the lake level drops. Koch said that is so white perch aren’t spread to more waters.

“We don’t want people getting a cattle tank full of fish and getting a few white perch, thinking they’re white bass,” he said. “We’re not going to go down that road.”

Surveys have shown angler success and usage have dropped significantly in recent years at the lake.

“We were actually planning on doing this thing a couple of years down the road, but since it’s this dry, we made the decision to go for it.”

Being about two feet below its normal depth, the lake will drain faster than in most years.

With feeding creek and marsh systems currently dry, the odds of getting a 100 percent kill are increased.

Koch said once water levels are low, the fish will be poisoned with rotenone to guarantee a total kill.

Koch said the lake’s water-control structure will be opened to release water.

A screen will be installed to keep from dumping fish into the nearby Ninnescah River.

He estimates the draining process will take a few weeks.

Some adult pike and bass may soon be restocked into the lake to help control fish that somehow survived the poisoning.

The lake will eventually be restocked with northern pike, largemouth bass, channel catfish and bluegill.

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