Within a strong cast: Some of Kansas’ best fishing waters close to Wichita
Go ahead and dream big, you Wichita-area anglers who are tired of winter and find yourselves thinking about spring and summer fishing trips. Some of Kansas’ best fisheries, for nearly every popular species of fish, are waiting within about 100 miles.
So says Sean Lynott, a Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism fisheries supervisor, after gleaning information from the agency’s annual fall test netting surveys on state reservoirs and community and county lakes.
Central Kansas pretty much struck out when it comes to having good bass fishing within a major reservoir. Lynott said we hit a home run, though, for those who like fishing for largemouth bass on smaller county lakes.
“Butler State Fishing Lake had the highest catch rate of any small lake in the state,” said Lynott. “It’s No. 1 when you look at the catch rate and density, so that means it really has an excellent (largemouth) bass population. Last fall’s best bass weighed 5.29 pounds, and that’s a nice fish.” Spring electro-shocking surveys have stunned up larger fish.
Almost as good is McPherson State Fishing Lake, which is gaining in angling popularity because of its largemouth population. Last fall’s surveys showed McPherson had the second-highest concentration of largemouth bass of more than 20 inches in the state.
Cowley State Fishing Lake isn’t as well-known for largemouths as the other two lakes, but holds one of Kansas’ best bass populations.
Blue catfish are the new kids on the Kansas angling block. The species has been stocked in many reservoirs to help control zebra mussels and white perch. They’ve also been added to give Kansas anglers a chance at fish that are great-tasting and can grow to impressive sizes. Biologists are hoping several area lakes eventually rival Milford Reservoir, where blues of more than 80 pounds have been caught.
El Dorado Reservoir has this area’s best population of blue catfish. Last year, several were caught longer than the lake’s 35-inch minimum length limit. It’s possible the length limit may be removed once the population is deemed self-supportive in the near future.
While most public waters have good channel cat populations, Lynott said Marion Reservoir has the highest density within the region. Last fall the biggest channel cat netted at Marion was more than 10 pounds. He pointed out that the channel cat population at Fall River Reservoir is strong, with many fish between 24 and 28 inches.
Flathead catfish information isn’t readily available, though Lynott said the fish are common in most reservoirs.
Northeast Kansas reservoirs such as Perry and Clinton get much of the state’s attention when it comes to crappie waters. Further south, and much closer to the Wichita area, Lynott said Toronto and Fall River reservoirs should be impressive this year, too.
“Toronto definitely looks like it should be solid again, especially for size structure,” Lynott said. “It has one of the state’s highest lunker (crappie larger than 12 inches) ratings and the biggest fish netted last fall was 1.98 pounds.” The biologist said the crappie population at Fall River isn’t up to Toronto’s standards for numbers or trophy fish, but that the lake still ranks well.
Closer to home, El Dorado Reservoir doesn’t have the long-term crappie reputation of Toronto or Fall River, but things look impressive for the coming year, with good numbers of crappie in the 10-inch range.
For those looking for a place to take the kids for some fast action on bluegill, Eureka City Lake has good numbers of fish to 8 inches. Butler and Cowley county fishing lakes have nice populations of bluegill and other panfish.
Lynott described it as “almost a hat toss” trying to pick the best walleye lake in central Kansas, amid Marion, El Dorado and Cheney reservoirs. Last fall’s test nettings rank them as the fourth-, fifth- and sixth-best walleye reservoirs in Kansas. The biologist said much depends on what the angler would like to find.
“Cheney and El Dorado have higher (21-inch) length limits because of the white perch issues,” he said, referring to the state’s plan to let predatory fish grow larger in those lakes so they can better prey on the invasive species. “So that naturally means they’re going to have the biggest walleye.”
Indeed, the two lakes are tied for the best populations in Kansas of walleye of more than 25 inches. The downside to the lakes, though, is the daily limit of two.
Lynott said Marion has an 18-inch minimum length limit and good numbers of walleye of more than 15 inches. He also said that the saugeye population at Kanopolis Reservoir remains strong and should offer good fishing, with a 15-inch minimum size limit. The limit is five per day at both reservoirs.
If you’re the kind of angler that likes bright, silvery fish that strike like torpedos and fight like speed boats, things look good for you in central Kansas. Three of the state’s top lakes for wipers, the man-made hybrid between white bass and striped bass, are within an hour of Wichita.
“Again, it depends what you’re looking for,” Lynott said. “El Dorado has the best numbers (second in Kansas) but if you’re wanting bigger fish then Cheney has more of them.” In fact, Cheney is second-best in Kansas for wipers more than 20 inches long. Both lakes have a 21-inch minimum length limit on the fish, hoping they’ll prey heavily on white perch and a limit of two per day.
Though not as known for wiper fishing, Lynott said anglers may find they can get more results from Marion Reservoir.
“Marion is right below El Dorado for overall density, but it has a higher lunker rating for fish 20 to 25 inches,” he said. “Those are nice fish, plus at Marion you have a daily limit of five and no length limit to worry about. It can offer a lot.”
Fans of white bass, especially the spring spawn fishing up rivers and along rip-rap dams, are in the right place. Kanopolis Reservoir is rated as Kansas’ top white bass lake for this year. Cheney and Marion aren’t far behind.
“White bass are as dense as they’ve been at Cheney in quite a long time,” Lynott said. “A lot of those are 15-inch white bass, too.” ___
This article was written by MICHAEL PEARCE from The Wichita Eagle and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.