Pratt, KS — “Statewide, I think we’re looking at a very good year for anglers in 2012,” says Doug Nygren, Fisheries Section chief for the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism (KDWPT). What leads Nygren to this conclusion? The results of fish biologists’ 2011 fall fish sampling.
To monitor the health of fisheries and help anglers find the best places to fish, KDWPT’s 16 district fisheries biologists spend the fall sampling Kansas lakes. In addition, the agency raises and stocks millions of fish throughout the state annually, providing anglers abundant opportunities to catch a wide variety of species. Sampling lakes is the best way to determine population health and stocking needs, and fall is the best time to sample fish because it’s the end of the growing season.
Although biologists can’t sample every lake in the state every year, periodic sampling results are assembled to show trends and multi-year averages for some lakes. This information is compiled into the KDWPT Fishing Forecast, available on the agency’s website (www.kdwpt.state.ks.us) in January and published in the March/April issue of Kansas Wildlife & Parks magazine. The forecast is a valuable tool that can help anglers decide where to fish. Biologists also use sample and creel survey data to help them make stocking requests and length and creel limit recommendations for the 26 reservoirs, 40 state fishing lakes, and 230 community lakes the monitor and manage.
In the meantime, Nygren gives a brief preview of what anglers can expect:
“Our crappie populations look really good,” he says, “some of the best in years because of a resurgence of water levels in several reservoirs that flooded woody vegetation and created excellent fish habitat.” According to Nygren, fall fish sampling data indicates that a number of reservoirs will provide fine crappie fishing in 2012, including Lovewell, Hillsdale, Melvern, Big Hill, Perry, Elk City, Tuttle Creek, Milford, and Clinton.
“Next year should be one of our better years for largemouth bass, too,” Nygren adds. “Wilson, Sebelius, LaCygne, Webster, Perry, Hillsdale, and Big Hill reservoirs should all provide plenty of largemouth action.”
For those who prefer bigger fish, Nygren says this outlook is good, as well. “It’s going to be an outstanding year for wipers. Sebelius, Marion, Cheney, and Clinton will likely be our best reservoirs.
“But it’s not just these three species. Walleye fishing should better than most years, especially in Webster, Kirwin, Glen Elder, Milford, and Cedar Bluff reservoirs.”
Nygren adds that outstanding fishing can also be found in the smaller state fishing lakes and community lakes. Two relatively new lakes — Critzer Reservoir, near Mound City, and Horsethief Reservoir, near Jetmore — are just beginning to mature and will offer some great fishing.
In May, fisheries biologists may use electroshocking for bass, which temporarily stuns the fish, so they can be counted and then released. In October and November, gill-nets and trap nets are used to sample all sportfish. The nets are pulled onto a boat and the fish removed. Biologists then count, weigh, and measure each fish and record this information, taking care to get the fish back in the water quickly. Netting results are recorded on waterproof paper or a laptop computer.
With a laptop, biologists can enter data on the water, then enter it directly into the department’s Aquatic Data Analysis System (ADAS) when they get back to the office, eliminating paperwork. ADAS also allows biologists to enter paper-recorded testing data into the system through a desktop computer. They can then compare results with past years’ data, which lets them know the population dynamics of the lake tested and make management decisions, from stocking plans to length and creel limits.
Biologists also use Fisheries Analysis and Simulation Tools (FAST) software program, developed in conjunction with 20 other states. This computer application allows the field biologist to use data from the ADAS system and separate age and growth testing to predict what would happen if certain length or creel limits were imposed on a given lake. Tools such as this allow biologists to better manage fish populations and enhance angling opportunities.
Now that sampling is complete, anglers across Kansas can look forward to the 2012 Kansas Fishing Forecast, which will be available on the KDWPT website early in the new year.