Wildlife and Parks commissioners increase camping fees, spare fall turkey season

Campers will pay more to stay overnight at state parks next year after the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism commission passed a rate request by state parks director Linda Lanterman.

Lanterman said camping rates had not been raised in more than 10 years. The increase will make it easier for the parks to be weaned from annually declining amounts of state general fund money.

▪ Annual camping permits increased $50 to $250 when purchased in April through September or $200 if purchased in October through March.

▪ Fourteen-day permits will cost $110, up from as low as $85.

▪ Daily permits will cost $9, up from as low as $6.

The commission also passed a request to legalize golf carts and tandem utility vehicles within state parks. A $50 annual permit will be required.

Turkey season spared

Commissioners rejected the agency’s request to close fall turkey season over most of Kansas during the 2017 season. An amendment offered by Gerald Lauber, commission chairman, set the season with a limit of one turkey. Department biologists wanted to close the fall season for two years, based on declines in the spring turkey harvest the past two seasons.

Re-opening the fall season would have required spring success rates to increase dramatically. Lauber and several other commissioners feared spring success rates would never get high enough to re-open the fall season, and said the fall harvest wasn’t a determining factor for the state’s wild turkey population.

Commissioners Tom Dill and Aaron Rider requested the fall season be for toms only, to save hens for breeding. That amendment did not pass.

Fishing limits changed

Doug Nygren, Wildlife and Parks fisheries chief, got unanimous support for a regulation change that will remove length limits for walleye caught from streams, rivers and outlet areas below reservoirs. The biologist said the change will help shoreline anglers keep more walleye, without hurting populations in reservoirs. Most Kansas walleye are caught from anglers in boats out on lakes.

Also, the striped bass limit was increased from two to five at Wilson Reservoir, hoping to lower the numbers of predatory fish in the lake that’s been lacking food for gamefish. As much as 10 feet low earlier this year, Nygren said summer and fall rains have again filled Wilson.

Properly licensed bass tournament anglers will be able to keep up five bass 15 inches or longer for the contest’s weigh-in. Then they will be released immediately. The new fishing regulations start Jan. 1.

Deer biologist to retire

Lloyd Fox, Wildlife and Parks deer biologist who started with the agency in the early 1970s, announced he will retire Dec. 16.