Kansas’ catfish resource is much like that of Nebraska. There is an abundance of channels, blues and flatheads spread out across the state, but channels are the most numerous. There is no statewide length limits on any of the three species, but you are restricted by possession limits. For channel and blue catfish, anglers can have only 10 of a single species or in combination; five for flathead catfish.
“I consider catfish like a freshwater shark,” says Kansas City native and guide John Trager (www.captaincatfish.net) “I spend a lot of time all across the state looking for giant cats, but I find some of the best fishing in plain sight of downtown Kansas City. We are seeing more and more families fishing together and catfish seem to be their primary target. This past summer, my wife boated a 50-pounder and to say she was excited about that is a huge understatement.”
There is an abundance of both lakes and rivers where trophy-caliber fish can be found. The Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism expects the 2012 season to be outstanding. While some of the major reservoirs and lakes will be many anglers’ primary destination, don’t overlook the smaller fishing and community lakes. Many of these smaller bodies of water are in urban settings and will see some pressure, but the larger catfish are seldom the primary target. Biologists feel that the resurgence in water levels in many of the lakes and reservoirs will make for some excellent fishing during 2012. For more information about the extensive catfishing opportunities across Kansas, visit the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism website, http://kdwpt.state.ks.us/.
“Blue and channel catfish are available in this lake and it is one of my personal favorites,” says Captain Trager. “It is our state’s largest lake and has been known to produce some outstanding catfishing. I have fished tournaments on this lake and seen teams win it with 180-pounds or more between five fish, which is amazing! When I take clients out that are interested in catching good numbers and occasional big fish, I like Milford.”
Milford State Park is located near Junction City, in Geary County, and is approximately 16,000 acres. There are ample boat ramps and picnic shelters, a full-service marina and seven campgrounds with 141 electric and water hook-ups. Fifty-one of those sites include sewer hook-ups. Further, there are 108 primitive campsites, and also cabin rentals. This is a catfisherman’s paradise, with all the amenities. For more information before arriving, feel free to contact the Milford Park Office at (785) 238-3014.
“Clinton Lake is my personal favorite,” Trager continues. “I really feel comfortable putting a limit together on that lake without too much trouble. I have contacted some really nice flathead catfish in this lake and believe there to be some real trophy-caliber fish available. This lake isn’t particularly large, but the amount of quality channels and flatheads that are known to come out of here is very encouraging for future seasons.”
Clinton Lake is located in Douglas County and is about 4 miles from Lawrence. This lake is about 1,500 acres and offers 460 total campsites, 240 of those have water and electricity and 220 are primitive sites. There are quality boat launches with courtesy docks and parking areas available as well. Clinton lake also has abundant shore access where anglers can often times be as effective as those fishing from a boat. For more information, contact the Clinton State Park Office at (785) 842-8562.
GLEN ELDER RESERVOIR
Glen Elder is located in north-central Kansas just outside of the Glen Elder Township. This lake is forecasted to have a tremendous year of fishing, especially for channel cats. According to local fishery biologists, they’ve “had one of our best channel catfish samples this past fall with good numbers of all sizes collected. The greatest numbers of catfish were between 14 and 25 inches, but several nice fish over 30 inches were collected with the largest fish being 16.2 pounds. Anglers should expect high success for the 2012 season.”
Glen Elder Lake is in Mitchell County and contains 12,586 acres with a maximum depth of 55 feet. There is a modern, handicap-accessible fish-cleaning station, and a full service marina, including fuel; boat and slip rental; and boating, fishing and camping supplies. There are three campgrounds totaling 121 electrical hook-up sites. Most have water available. There are over 300 primitive sites with plenty of room for both tents and RVs.
KANSAS’ FLOWING WATER
“I actually prefer fishing where the Kansas and Missouri Rivers merge, which isn’t that far from downtown Kansas City,” Trager explains. “Both rivers have been known to be very productive for all species of catfish, especially blues and flatheads. The 2011 season was a mess due to the excessively high water, but in years past the fishing has been outstanding.”
Trager said they were still able to catch fish during the high-water conditions in 2011, but it was certainly difficult and challenged most anglers. “When I was throwing for bait, I was catching more smaller catfish than in previous years and I really feel they had a great spawn and we should see some strong year-classes in years to come. Bait selection is simple; I have had great success with Asian Carp cut bait, and shad. Both are readily available in those systems and I have experienced tremendous success with each.”
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“Quality catch-and-release tactics are essential to the future of the sport,” highly decorated tournament cat angler Jerry Walker said. “We have come so far from the early years of our careers where we killed everything we caught. With the conservation mentality taking such a strong hold, the future of catfishing nationwide is looking really good. I love to eat catfish and I highly encourage selective harvest, but if you’re not planning on putting the fish in the fryer, let them go. The next generation’s opportunity to enjoy the sport as we have relies on us releasing most of the fish we catch. Plus, it feels really good to watch a giant blue or hefty flathead swim away after the battle of a lifetime.”
Catfish are not only abundant across the Great Plains, but much of the nation. Any population can be depleted or over-harvested, which means awareness and catch-and-release efforts are essential to the future of the fishery. Conservation certainly has a place among catfishing and it’s a good practice to pass on to the next generation. There’s something special about getting back to my roots as an angler and going toe-to-toe with the hardest fighting fish in freshwater, but don’t take my word for it.