Unprecedented amount of information available to find and catch fish in Kansas
PRATT — If you combine a library, a breaking news website, a 24-hour weather channel, and the latest insider information into one handy tool for the angler, what would you have? Answer: all the tools the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks (KDWP) offers today's fishermen.

Start with the Fishing Forecast. Each year, KDWP prepares a tool that answers every angler's most pressing question: "Where can I find the best fishing?" Called the Kansas Fishing Forecast, this indispensable tool helps 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 biologists through annual lake monitoring, which includes test netting, electroshocking, and creel surveys. Table categories for the most popular species include a Density Rating, Preferred Rating, Lunker Rating, Biggest Fish (the largest fish taken in sampling), and Biologist’s Rating. Not every lake is sampled each year, so a separate category, Three-Year Density Average, is included.

Each year, a new Kansas Fishing Forecast is published in the March/April issue of Kansas Wildlife & Parks magazine and is available at the KDWP website by late February. Click "Fishing" at the top of the KDWP home page, www.kdwp.state.ks.us, then "Fishing Forecast" in the left-hand column. Printed copies of the forecast are available at KDWP offices.

The fishing forecast lets you know where the fish are, but you want to know where the fish are biting now. No problem. One of the most popular and useful tools provided by KDWP is the weekly lake-by-lake fishing reports posted on the agency's website. While these reports complement the fishing forecast, they provide more timely information for the angler wanting to know where the fish are biting. Updated weekly by KDWP fisheries biologists, these reports provide the latest ratings on fishing conditions at many department-managed lakes. Information includes a general rating of what the fishing is like — from poor to excellent — as well as the size range of fish being caught, and a description of successful baits, methods, and locations where anglers are having the most success. This detailed information is included for each species of sportfish in the lake. Water temperatures and lake elevations are also included, along with tips each biologist thinks might help anglers catch fish.

This is great information, but that's not all the biologist has to offer. For the personal touch, click on "Newsletter Request Forms" in the right-hand column of KDWP's home page, and you'll be taken to a sign-up page to receive periodic newsletters by email from district fisheries biologists across the state. Pick the area or areas you are interested in, type in the requested information, and you'll receive regular reports on your favorite lakes directly to your email inbox. Read them over or print them out and put them with your fishing gear. You may find just the tip you've been looking for.

Most anglers acknowledge that fisheries biologists have the best overall general knowledge of fishing conditions, but they can't be everywhere at once. Sometimes, the avid angler has immediate tips to share, and wouldn't it be nice if there were a clearinghouse for such "insider information"? There is. In addition to the Fishing Forecast and the Weekly Fishing Reports, a web blog entitled "Public Fishing Reports" enables anglers to share timely reports and tips local biologists may not have heard about. Combined with the fishing forecast and the biologists' weekly fishing reports and newsletters, the public fishing reports provide the most complete picture of angling conditions short of being on the lake.

All these tools are available on the KDWP website, but there are two more essential angling tools: the Kansas Fishing Atlas and the Kansas Fishing Regulations Summary. These are also available on the KDWP website and in printed form wherever licenses are sold. The Kansas Fishing Atlas pinpoints a variety of public fishing areas, including Fishing Impoundment and Stream Habitats (F.I.S.H.) waters. F.I.S.H. waters are privately-owned ponds or streams KDWP has leased and opened to public fishing. F.I.S.H. sites are numbered in red on each map. Each map also shows all federal reservoirs, state fishing lakes, river access, and community lakes. With this atlas, anglers can locate just about any type of fishing desired.

The Kansas Fishing Regulations Summary booklet, updated every January, lets anglers know what new regulations take effect for the coming year, and includes other essential laws and regulations. The booklet also features state park information and detailed regulations for each body of water managed by KDWP. Anglers who want to contact a district fisheries biologist will find a listing of names and phone numbers of the nearest biologist, as well as regional supervisors. A listing of natural resource officer contacts is also included.

The modern angler has fish-finding tools that past generations could only dream of, and none are more comprehensive than those offered by the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks. Take advantage of them today. The fish are biting, and it's time to hit the water.