About Kansas Fishing

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Fishing Guide to Kansas (PDF 4.42 MB)

Kansas Fishing : We've come a long way, baby!

That's right. Kansas fishing isn't what it used to be. It's much more. Oh, we still have some of the best channel, flathead, and blue catfishing to be found, but today Kansas anglers have great variety.

If you're an old-school angler and still want to catch the whiskered fish native to our streams and rivers, you have more opportunities today than ever. Channel catfish are found in nearly every stream, river, pond, lake, and reservoir in the state. They remain one of the most popular angling species.

To keep up with demand, state fish hatcheries produce millions of channel cats each year. Some are stocked into lakes as fry, but more are fed and grown to catchable size, then stocked into one of many state and community lakes around the state. Our reservoirs hold amazing numbers of channel catfish, and for the most part, the reservoir cats are overlooked by anglers fishing for other species. Fisheries biologists consider channel cats an underutilized resource in most large reservoirs.

For sheer excitement, flathead catfish is still king. Monster flatheads weighing 60, 70 and even 80 pounds are caught each summer. Most of the truly large flatheads come from the larger rivers in the eastern half of the state, where setting limb and trot lines is a tradition.

There are 24 large reservoirs in Kansas. Most were built in the 1960s for flood control, water supply, and recreation. The reservoirs range in size from 1,200 to 16,000 surface acres, and most offer park facilities. Fishing is the number one attraction, and reservoir anglers have a variety to cast to. Depending on individual reservoir characteristics, each has its own specialty. In the northeast, reservoirs are known for producing crappie, white bass, and channel catfish. In the southeast, crappie, largemouth bass, white bass, and catfish are tops. In the central part of the state, reservoirs draw anglers looking for walleye, white bass, striped bass, wipers, and channel cats. In the west, reservoirs are known for walleye, largemouth bass, wipers, and crappie.

For those who prefer smaller waters, there are plenty to choose from. The department owns and operates more than 40 state fishing lakes. These impoundments can be as small as 50 acres or as large as 300. Some primitive facilities are available, and boating is allowed for fishing only. State fishing lakes are great places for family trips and provide good fishing for largemouth bass, crappie, and channel catfish. More than 200 community lakes are owned by local governments, and these jewels can provide outstanding angling opportunities. The Community Fisheries Assistance Program has leased fishing rights to most of these lakes to allow fishing from the shore or a boat with no additional fees. All you need is a Kansas fishing license. Less than 10 percent of community lakes still require daily or annual fees. They may establish creel and length limits more restrictive than state regulations, so it's a good idea to check locally before fishing.

There are more than 10,000 miles of streams and rivers in Kansas, most of which are privately owned. The three navigable rivers - the Arkansas, Missouri, and Kansas - are open to the public, although one must have permission to access the river through private land. The rest of our streams are privately owned, but some reaches are leased by the department through the Fish Impoundments and Stream Habitats (F.I.S.H) Program, while other reaches are in public ownership. Many streams provide excellent channel and flathead catfishing, and those in the east and southeast may also hold spotted bass. A little research using the Fishing Atlas and legwork visiting with landowners could open some great stream fishing.

More than 150,000 privately-owned farm ponds also provide outstanding fishing opportunities. Tucked away in beautiful prairie settings, these secret fishing holes are largemouth bass, crappie, bluegill, and channel cat hotspots. Permission from the landowner is needed to fish on any private water, except those waters enrolled in the department's F.I.S.H program.

The F.I.S.H. program works like the popular Walk-In Hunting Area program. The department leases pond and stream access from private landowners and opens it to public fishing. The leases run from March through October and allows fishing only from sunrise to one half hour after sunset.

Other special programs include the trout program, which provides catchable-size trout in select waters across the state from October through April. A trout permit is required of all anglers who fish for trout during the season. The urban program stocks catchable-sized channel catfish in select urban lakes. Check out the Fishing Forecast, which is a compilation of biologists' sampling efforts and can help you decide where to fish according to the type of fishing you prefer. For up-to-date information, look up the fishing report for the lake of your choice. Field staff update the fishing reports each week through the fishing season, reporting on fishing success, lake levels, water temperatures, and other important information.

There's no doubt that Kansas fishing has come a long way. Anglers can specialize in catfish or crappie, wipers or walleye, or better yet, they can fish for them all! Use this guide to find a lake, stream, or reservoir that fits your style. Then, hang on and have fun.

Fishing Guide to Kansas (PDF 4.42 MB)