Statewide summary helps anglers find best spots to fish
PRATT -- Winter still paints the Kansas landscape, but spring is just around the corner, and with it, anglers' dreams of full creels and lunker fish. To help improve angler success, the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks (KDWP) annually prepares a forecast of fishing prospects in public waters throughout the state.

Called the 2007 Kansas Fishing Forecast, this brochure assembles results of biologists' sampling efforts into a format that can help anglers select lakes that will most likely provide the best opportunity to catch the kind and size of fish they prefer.

The information is formulated from data collected by fisheries management biologists through annual lake monitoring (which includes test netting and electroshocking). Not every lake is sampled each year, so some lakes are not included in the brochure's tables. The data is separated into two categories -- reservoirs (those larger than 1,000 acres) and lakes (those less than 1,000 acres) -- because sampling on small lakes may not be comparable to larger reservoirs.

Table categories have been created for popular species and include a Density Rating, Preferred Rating, Lunker Rating, Biggest Fish (the largest fish taken in sampling), Biologist’s Rating, and Acres (size of impoundment).

The Density Rating is the number of fish that were high-quality size or larger sampled per unit of sampling effort. Quality size, listed in parentheses at the top of the Density Rating column, is the length of fish considered acceptable to most anglers and is different for each species. The higher the Density Rating, the more high-quality or larger fish per surface acre in the lake. Theoretically, a lake with a Density Rating of 30 has twice as many quality-size fish per acre as a lake with a Density Rating of 15.

The Preferred Rating identifies how many above-average-size fish a water contains. For example, a lake may have a good density of crappie, but few fish over 10 inches. The Preferred Rating tells which lake to go to for a chance to catch bigger fish.

The Lunker Rating is similar to the Density Rating, but it shows the relative density of lunker-sized fish in the lake. A lunker is a certain length of fish considered a trophy by most anglers. It also differs with each species and is listed in parentheses at the top of the Lunker Rating column. For example, most anglers consider a channel catfish longer than 28 inches a lunker. Many lakes may have a lunker rating of 0, but this does not mean there are no big fish in that lake. It just means that no lunker fish were caught during sampling, and they may be less abundant than in lakes with positive Lunker Ratings.

Anglers can use the Density Rating and Lunker Rating together. For those who want numbers, go with the highest Density Rating. For those who want only big fish, go with the Lunker Rating. Somewhere in the middle might be a better choice. A lake with a respectable rating in all three categories should provide the best overall fishing opportunities.

The Biggest Fish column lists the weight of the largest fish caught during sampling. A heavy fish listed here can give the lunker angler confidence that truly big fish are present.

The Biologist’s Rating adds a human touch to the forecast. Each district fisheries biologist reviews the data from annual samplings of their assigned lakes. This review considers environmental conditions that may have affected the samplings. They also consider previous years’ data. A rating of P (poor), F (fair), G (good), and E (excellent) will be in the last column. Sometimes the Density Rating may not agree with the Biologist’s Rating. This will happen occasionally and means the Density Rating may not accurately reflect the biologist’s opinion of the fishery. The Acres column is included for anglers’ convenience.

For anglers willing to travel and increase their odds, the 2007 Kansas Fishing Forecast is available at the KDWP website, Click "Fishing" at the top of the home page, then "Fishing Forecast" in the left-hand column.

Whether the angler is after big fish or more fish, the forecast is an invaluable tool. Weekly reports on fishing conditions at waters throughout the state are also posted on the website and complement the forecast. Hard copies of the 2007 Fishing Forecast are also available at KDWP offices.