Statewide summary helps anglers find fishing hotspots
PRATT — Each year, the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks (KDWP) posts an online tool that answers every angler's most pressing question: "Where can I find the best fishing?" For some, this means the best shot at a species-specific lunker of a lifetime; for others, it may just mean catching a lot of fish, no matter what size or species. Whatever your angling goal, the 2011 Kansas Fishing Forecast is an indispensable tool that forecasts fishing prospects in public waters throughout the state.

Results from fisheries biologists' fall sampling efforts make the 2011 Kansas Fishing Forecast possible. This information is formulated from data collected through annual lake monitoring, which includes test netting, electroshocking, and creel surveys.

Because sampling techniques differ depending on the size of water body, there are three categories — reservoirs (waters larger than 1,200 acres), lakes (waters from 20 to 1,200 acres), and ponds (waters smaller than 20 acres).

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. Not every lake is sampled each year, so a separate category — Three-Year Density Average — provides information on those lakes not sampled the previous fall.

The Density Rating is the number of high-quality size or larger fish 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.

A downloadable version of the 2011 Kansas Fishing Forecast is available at the KDWP website, www.kdwp.state.ks.us. Click "Other Services/Publications/Fishing." Printed copies of the forecast will be available at KDWP offices by the end of February, and the March/April issue of Kansas Wildlife & Parks magazine will present the forecast as a full-color article. (For subscriptions, phone 1-800-288-8387.)

Whether the angler is after big fish or more fish, the forecast will help find them. Weekly Fishing Reports on fishing conditions at waters throughout the state are also posted on the KDWP website and complement the forecast.