Summary helps anglers mesh personal preferences with most promising fishing locations

"Where can I find the best fishing this spring?" The Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks (KDWP) has the answer.

Annually, KDWP prepares a forecast of fishing prospects in public waters throughout the state, an indispensable tool when planning fishing trips. The 2008 Kansas Fishing Forecast 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), and Biologist’s Rating. 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 high-quality 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 helps an angler find waters with more big 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 16 inches a high-quality fish, a 24-incher "preferred," and a 28-incher a trophy. 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 2008 Kansas Fishing Forecast is available at the KDWP website. Whether the angler is after big fish or more fish, the forecast will help find them. Weekly reports on fishing conditions at waters throughout the state are also posted on the website and complement the forecast. Printed copies of the 2008 Fishing Forecast will be available at KDWP offices the first week in March.