Michael Pearce

Public invited to outdoors event at El Dorado State Park

El Dorado State Park (file photo)
El Dorado State Park (file photo) File photo

The public is invited to spend a few hours outdoors Saturday, helping to celebrate a national theme that’s been going on all month.

Great Outdoors Day, at El Dorado State Park, is. being held in conjunction with the annual Governors Campout slated for Saturday night. Registrations for the campout are full. There’s no limit to how many can attend the outdoors day, which is from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, where they’ll be able to sample many aspects of enjoying the outdoors.

Alan Stark, Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism parks supervisor, said activities will include air gun and archery shooting, fishing clinics, K9 game warden demonstrations, plant, wildlife and insect identification, horseback rides and chances to try out canoes and kayaks, plus more.

Ben Nasta, of the American Recreation Coalition, said June has been declared Great Outdoors month for about the past 10 years by the serving U.S. president and the governors in 49 states. Two years ago his organization helped start Capitol Campouts in four states, where governors hosted about 100 campers on statehouse grounds or grounds of the governors’ mansions. Kansas was one of those original four states. This year, 17 states are participating. Gov. Sam Brownback will not attend this year’s event at El Dorado State Park.

Look for more details at kansas.com/outdoors on Friday.

Other updates

Reports are starting to come in of people seeing broods of young pheasants, but current weather conditions don’t bode well for the survival of young birds. When first hatched, most kinds of chicks lack any good way to regulate their body temperatures so recent heat could be a problem. Fortunately there’s plenty of cover which could help hens and chicks find cooler places.

It’s still too early to be seeing many, if any, quail chicks running around but some of the reports coming in on the number of hens out nesting are reminiscent of the 1980s. One report from southeast Kansas said the biologists was seeing more quail than meadowlarks in some pastures.

Fishing has been pretty good, though the recent heat has certainly put a damper on interest in angling. State park attendance seems to be running strong for this year. Seth Turner, at El Dorado State Park, said last weekend showed about as much attendance as a holiday weekend. He estimated possibly as many as 50,000 people used the park. Let that number sink in for a while. That’s more people than in some sizable towns.

Upcoming coverage

Friday’s Eagle should have a story on the Great Outdoors Day and Governor’s Campout.

Sunday’s Outdoors page is expected to have a feature on five good Kansas float trips. Some will be on waters where you have to provide your own kayak or canoe. Others will be in areas where you can rent one or the other, and hire a shuttle service to bring you back to your vehicle. Yes, I’ve floated all five waters.

Speaking of floating, I’m hoping for a feature on the Arkansas River recently being honored as a national water trail. The story would revolve around a float, with details about what the river can offer in terms of recreation.

Oh, within the next few days I’ll be putting a call out for people to send in their favorite photos of old houses, farm machinery, cemeteries or abandoned schools they’ve found on the Kansas prairies. I’d like to put together a slide show or video to go with a column I’m wanting to do on how these old relics raise my curiosity as to their past. I like to imagine the stories these old places could tell, if they could talk.

Michael’s world

The Wichita Eagle’s 15th annual Kids Fishing Clinic is in the books as a success. Our number of kids, about 190, is our lowest by a considerable amount but our success rate of kids catching fish, and having fun, was the best in several years. Jessica Mounts, of Wildlife and Parks, was kind enough to stock the pond at Chisholm Creek Park with about 400 pounds of channel cat the day before the event. Some of the fish probably weighed upwards of 3 pounds.

Those fish came hungry, put a lot of bow in a lot of those long, graphite fishing poles, and brought a lot of laughter and smiles. Catfish are always the most popular fish with kids at the clinic. Part of the attraction, I think, is their size. Kids also like the way they look. Heck, so do I.

Many thanks to the small army of volunteers, some of whom came from as far away as Fort Riley and Hoisington. The Flatland Fly Fishers, with guys like Neal Hall, are always the backbone of working with the kids. Peggy Smith, at The Eagle, worked all day at the event as well as the dozens of hours she put getting things organized while in her office.

On Monday, Sherry Chisenhall, our executive editor soon to leave for a new job in North Carolina, and I went fishing together one last time together in Kansas. Sherry has long been an avid participant in the Kansas outdoors and has fished everything from small creeks in the Flint Hills to several of our largest reservoirs.

This week’s trip was all the way to eastern Kansas to fish in a friend’s private lake. As a blog indicates, along with the accompanying photo gallery, the action was some of the best I’ve ever seen in Kansas and by far the best day of Sherry’s fishing career. We estimate we caught between 175 and 200 fish in about six or seven hours of fishing. Most were bass between 12 and 15 inches, though we had several that were larger and a lot of nice crappie.

The weather was also ideal after clouds moved into the area and a nice breeze picked up from the south. Actually, when we arrived at 9 a.m., was the most uncomfortable part of the day.

It was, though, a day with equipment issues. On my first cast with a new spinning rod the jig hit the rod and snapped about 6 inches off the end. While fighting a nice bass, I dropped my attention long enough for some of my fly line to get tangled inside the lower unit of the trolling motor. Luckily all it took was about 20 minutes of work to rescue the line.

I also had issues with my line breaking when fighting fish. No, the knots weren’t coming undone but the line was breaking inside the knot, inside the eye of the hook. The same lures didn’t break line when Sherry was fishing them. I could also test the line repeatedly with no problems, then it would snap on possibly the next fish. We also went through a dozen or more plastic, 3-inch swim baits but that was mostly because they fish were tearing them up.

And all danged day we had one sizable gust of wind that came in with a rain squall that lasted only a few minutes. It came fast enough that it blew the hat off my head, which has happened many times. What’s never happened before was that the hat sank before I could get the canoe back to the location. Between the broken rod and hat, I was out about $100 in gear, not to mention the lures lost to broken line.

But, it was a great day of fishing with a good friend. Gear can be replaced. Experiences like we had on Monday don’t come along that often.


Michael Pearce