State lake is well on its way to returning
Baldwin City residents wanting to enjoy an evening of fishing at the Douglas County State Fishing Lake will have to wait at least a little while longer before they can dip their fishing poles in the water.
Richard Sanders, a fisheries biologist for the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks, said that the earliest the lake could be reopened for fishing would be the first of next year.
"We're going to go out and take a sample of the fish, and if they look good we'll open the lake to fishing on the first of January, 2009," Sanders said. "But if they don't look so good, we'll probably reopen in fall of '09 or spring of '10."
The lake was drained in November of 2005 so that work could be done on the dam and the fishing population could be revitalized. Before the lake was drained, the majority of the fish in the lake were carp and channel catfish, both bottom-feeding species that disturb the clarity of the water and aren't highly sought after by fishers.
Sanders said that in deciding whether or not to reopen the lake, he would be looking at the diversity and population of fish species in the lake. He said he would also work to make sure the fish were of a "desirable size."
Although the majority of the fish species in the lake have been restocked, two species are still missing: Black Crappie and Saugeye, which will be restocked in fall 2008 and spring 2009.
In addition to studying the fish, Sanders said he would also look at the other indicators of the lake's health, such as the clarity of the water and the vegetation growing in the lake. When Sanders and his team looked at the clarity of the lake last summer, they found the clarity of the water to be 6 feet, which Sanders said was a good sign that the water wasn't becoming saturated with runoff and that lake-bottom vegetation had well-developed root systems.
But Sanders also said that last year's harsh winter and delayed spring could push back opening day for fishing. The harsher the winter, the more winter fish mortalities occur. In addition, with the spring being delayed, the spawning season for fish also happened later, meaning the fish species won't be as developed as they usually are by next winter.
"If there's a real severe winter again next year, we may lose some of the young fish that were spawned this year," Sanders said.
However, Sanders also said that a few factors could mitigate the winter's effects.
First, newly restocked fish populations usually have stronger food chains than those of older lakes, Sanders said.
In addition, Sanders said the high rain levels in recent weeks would help add nutrients to the lake. The rain brings nutrient-rich soil to the lake that helps nourish the lakes vegetation, which in turn helps the fish that feast on the vegetation.
"We've been getting calls from fishers as soon as we drained the lake, and they want to go at it as soon as possible," Sanders said. "We've had a lot of inquiries and a lot of people are looking forward to it."
Although the lake is closed to fishing, Sanders said the lake still provided an opportunity
"The lake is open to the public for all uses except fishing," Sanders said. "It's open for hunting, camping, but just not fishing."
There are still a number of locations open for fishing that Baldwin residents can go to, such as Baldwin City Lake and Clinton Reservoir.