State lake set to reopen Saturday
Three-year restoration project comes to close on schedule
After three years of waiting, anglers will once again be able send lines into the waters of Douglas County State Fishing Lake Saturday.
The lake has been closed to fishing since it was drained in 2006 to allow for repairs to the dam and other improvements. As the lake started to fill back up, Kansas Wildlife and Parks Fisheries Biologist Richard Sanders began a restocking program that included largemouth bass, channel catfish and crappie.
Everything worked out as planned, said Chuck Bever, regional fisheries supervisor for Wildlife and Parks.
“We’re there almost,” Bever said from his Topeka office Monday. “We sampled the fish population in October. “The survey shows there are channel catfish ready to harvest, but not largemouth bass, although you could catch and release those.”
There are length limits on those fish, 18 inches for bass and 15 inches for channel cat. Longtime Baldwin City resident Gene Nelson, who runs the Sports Cache Bait and Tackle Shop, is ready to get back to fishing.
“I’m real happy,” said Nelson. That’s great. You might well find me there Saturday.”
Before it was closed, Nelson was a regular at the lake just north and east of Baldwin City.
“I got out there three or four times a week,” he said. “The crappie fishing was excellent. You could be out there for 30 minutes of fishing and be back in town in an hour.
“We missed it,” said Nelson. “It contributed quite a bit to tourist spending — gas sales and food sales.”
In October of 2006, Sanders stocked 200 to 250 largemouth bass ranging from six to 12 inches long. There had already been 15,600 bluegill fingerlings, 4,000 redear sunfish and 1,250 channel catfish stocked the previous month. Fathead minnows were stocked in August of that year.
Nelson has seen similar projects at other area lakes and knows it will make a difference here.
“I think it’s going to be very attractive,” said the longtime Baker University biology professor, who is retired. “Similar projects have done that for other lakes. This will make this a better place to fish, hopefully for a long time.”
Improvements to the lake also included establishing fish habitat areas throughout the lake. Those included projects done by the Free State Fly Fishers Club that used PVC pipe configurations for fish habitat.
On Saturday, the hardiest of fishermen could be in place to see if all the improvements have paid off. The reopening had tentatively been set for Thursday, but that was changed to Saturday.
“I tried to talk them into opening it with fireworks on the First, but it fell through the cracks,” joked Bever, the fisheries supervisor. “The reason (for Saturday) is if someone wanted to go out there, Jan. 1 is a holiday. If we sent someone there to check licenses, etc., we would have had to pay them double time.
“It’s Saturday, it’s a weekend,” he said. “It looks nice and it went well. It’s good to get it open and Richard is wanting to get it open.”
Nelson is, too. He doesn’t care what cold, snow, ice or whatever the Kansas weather will have in store on Saturday.
“I’ve fished out there when my coke would freeze over in a half hour,” said Nelson.
Anglers and others should also be reminded that there’s another big change at the lake. When it was drained, alcohol was prohibited. That’s any kind of alcohol and is the result of continued problems with trash.