Michael Pearce

Kansas fishing will be helped by recent rains, for years

The mud’s a mess, and this spring’s rains have surely wrecked a lot of outdoors plans. But Doug Nygren predicts it will be more than worth the trouble for years to come.

“A lot of our lakes are full, with water backed up into vegetation, and that’s always great for giving places small fish can use to survive,” said Nygren, Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism fisheries chief. “We’re going to see some really great fishing, at a large number of these reservoirs for several years, with the great year classes we should be getting from a variety of game fish.”

As an example, Nygren mentioned how Wilson Reservoir had been dreadfully low, as much as 10 feet below normal, for several years. Under such conditions freshly hatched game fish, like white bass, smallmouth bass, and crappie have little chance to survive predators in wide-open water. Now, those fish have hundreds of acres of flooded weeds and young trees where they can hide and grow rapidly on the increased food they find.

While recent rains came weeks after most spawns, Nygren said most lakes were already full and offered game fish fry some cover. Now, they’re pretty well set for the summer.

The rains came perfectly for a relatively new program of stocking largemouth bass 3-5 inches long at El Dorado Reservoir. Nygren said about 60,000 such fish were released recently, and should thrive well in flooded areas.

More updates

There’s plenty of good and bad to be found from last weekend’s rains, which hit some areas with around 10 inches of moisture added to ground that was already saturated. Word from major wetlands is that it’s now about impossible for them to do any habitat management, such as mowing or removing cattails.

Some county and community lakes that have been dry, or nearly dry, in western Kansas are now full and can be stocked with fish again. Horsethief Reservoir, north of Dodge City, usually struggles to have decent water levels but now it’s full.

The jury is still out on this year’s hatch for pheasant, quail and turkeys. One reason nobody is sure is because there’s so danged much cover, which is good once chicks get big enough to move around. Young birds have faced about everything possible in the past few weeks, including savage heat, downpours, flooding, cool mornings. All can be fatal since young birds can’t regulate their body heat.

Wildlife and Parks brood surveys begin in a few weeks, and should give us some official insight.

Word from Barber County and other places that burned in March fires in the Red Hills is that the region has experienced a phenomenal amount of new growth, both in prairie grasses and wild flowers.

Upcoming coverage

I was thrown a wicked curve this week when a guy I was supposed to accompany on a fishing trip, for an article, had to cancel just because his new daughter decided to come into the world a month early. All’s fine. Baby, mommy and daddy are all well and happy. I always have other ideas for the Outdoors page.

Since the rains were so heavy, and widespread, I may mix several water-related topics into a column on the good and bad of so much water for Sunday’s Outdoors page. I may also share the style of mosquito repellant we sprayed on the yard this summer. So far, so great, and no concerns about health risk, either.

Down the road I’m hoping to spend a day, and evening, on the water with a local fishing expert for a feature on top-water fishing for bass. I’ll ask him to pick his favorite five baits, and detail how, when and where to fish them. It could make some neat video.

Plans also include an article on bow-fishing and another on a Wichita are angler who has hit it big in another part of the country, personally and professionally.

Michael’s world

Despite a few small things, I stayed around the house with Kathy for most of the holiday weekend. We only had about 2 1/2-inches of rain for the weekend, so we were much more fortunate than many. We couldn’t get a lot done outside but I was able to peck and poke at some projects.

One, of many, nice things about this job is that if it’s difficult to do anything outdoors I can always get some work done. I wrote/researched a few hours all three days, got quite a bit accomplished, but still felt like I had a good three day weekend.

We did make the 90 minute drive to have lunch Sunday at the Wheatland Cafe, in Hudson. That’s south of Great Bend. The fried chicken is always good, as are the sides, but that’s quite the drive for a buffet lunch. We decided to make the trip since we were already wanting to see the National Park documentary at the dome theater at the Cosmosphere in Hutchinson. It had some great video footage.

I’d been to about half of the national parks so some looked familiar. The video began with some pretty detailed footage of some rock climbers scaling some vertical rock in, I think, Utah. I’ve seen enough photos of Lindsey climbing similar places that such video doesn’t bother me much any more. Well, not as much as it used to.

Rather than watching fireworks I took off Monday evening to test-float a new float tube at a friend’s pond. It was about a foot higher than normal, but since it drains mostly pasture lands it was still clear. The bass in some of the shallowest water in the pond, probably chasing minnows and grabbing insects that had been washed in. I probably caught a dozen in an hour, though nothing of real size.

I did have a decent fish break my line when I set the hook, thus losing my favorite popper for my six-weight fly rod. Remembering something Jerrod had taught me, I kicked over to the general area and waited, and waited a little more. Eventually the popper suddenly came to the surface and I tied it on again. Apparently bass are pretty good at shaking such lures free from their mouth. When they do, the fly comes to the surface. Jerrod’s saved the same fly many times, through the years. I wish that worked with woolly buggers, which I lose a lot of, but they sink so I’m just out of luck.

Our garden is really kicking in, and BLTs and grilled zucchini are happening several times a week. I’ve made Ground Venison Zucchini Boats, (page 23 in our cookbook), with fresh veggies from our garden. We like that almost as much as BLTs, but it takes longer to fix but is probably more healthy.

Wednesday morning we awoke to find a sizable, probably 25 feet long and 12 or so inches across the base, limb down in our flower garden. All we had destroyed is a bird bath. The roses that we planted to honor Kathy’s late parents, and brother, appear to be fine. When I cut up the limb it was easy to see where it had been damaged in the 2005 ice storm. Fortunately I have a good chainsaw and Newton will pick the limbs up at the curb for free.

Jerrod reminded us that he and Carilyn are now in their third trimester with their baby that’s due in early October. That’s coming fast, thankfully.


Michael Pearce