Fall fish sampling data used for 2009 Kansas Fishing Forecast; improvements coming

PRATT -- Each year, the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks (KDWP) raises and stocks millions of fish throughout the state, providing anglers with special opportunities to catch a wide variety of species. To monitor the health of fisheries and help anglers find the best places to fish, KDWP fisheries biologists spend most of each fall sampling lakes throughout the state. Fall is the best time to sample fish because it’s the end of the growing season.

"While the sampling process has been a great help to anglers, one shortcoming has been that the agency does not have enough biologists to sample every lake every year," says KDWP Fisheries Section chief Doug Nygren. "Some lakes may only be sampled every three years. To address this issue, fisheries staff are developing a three-year average for lakes that will be posted online with the KDWP Fishing Forecast. In this way, lakes that have not been sampled the previous year will still have valuable data to help anglers decide where to fish."

Across the state, 18 district fisheries biologists are responsible for 26 large reservoirs, 40 state fishing lakes, and more than 230 community lakes. KDWP biologists have completed the 2008 sampling and are in the process of compiling results. This data will be used for next year's stocking requests, recommendations for future length and creel limit regulations, other management recommendations, as well as the annual Fishing Forecast upon which anglers rely.

In September, fisheries biologists may use electroshocking for bass, and in October and November, gill-nets and traps 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.

Another innovative tool fisheries biologists use is the 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 not only take much of the guesswork out of managing a lake, they allow biologists to spend more time on other projects, such as habitat development.

Now that sampling is complete, anglers across Kansas can look forward to the 2009 Kansas Fishing Forecast, which will be available on the KDWP website,, in early January.