Category Archives: Fishing

bass, a boy named

Hot temperatures – hot wiper fishing

The first wiper of the morning came within about the first 10 minutes of angling.

The first wiper of the morning came within about the first 10 minutes of angling.

I wasn’t surprised to hear from Mark Fowler last week. The extended forecast told me he’d probably be giving me a call, text or e-mail.

Every summer that we get a run of warm, stable weather, avid wiper fishermen like Mark find the fish hungry and in stable patterns. For Mark that means dragging big crankbaits and plastic jigs behind downriggers at Cheney Reservoir. Monday morning Mark and his father caught 10 wipers, the best of which was up to about eight pounds.

Tuesday morning he took Jacob Holem, a 12-year-old friend of mine, (and now Mark’s) and me.

Mark Fowler pilots the boat while Jacob Holem puts the finishing touches on rigging a downrigger.

Mark Fowler pilots the boat while Jacob Holem puts the finishing touches on rigging a downrigger.

Conditions were perfect when we met at 7 a.m. at Cheney State Park. It was already getting warm, the wind was about 10 m.p.h. and had been from the southwest for hours.

After a short ride, we put the downriggers down near a hump where Mark has caught wipers for years.  He’d just said they’d fished for an hour Monday before getting a fish when one of the rods started bucking and  Jacob was giggling and fighting his first wiper. When the fish measured 22 inches, it went into the livewell.

Ten minutes later we were trolling when Mark pointed to a bright blog on his electronics and said, “That’s a big blob of shad and we should catch a fish there.” Seconds later the left rod bent deep and the reel started spewing line. Rather than just one nice wiper, the line had one on the bottom crankbait and another on the swimbait a few feet up.

And so it went for the first 90 minutes of trolling. Fish after fish, Mark predicting when they would strike based on what he saw on his fish finder…and his few hundred mid-summer trips to Cheney through the years.

Since we hadn’t fished together in several years, Mark and I largely visited as Jacob took on more and more of the work with the downriggers. That included letting 80 feet of line from a rod, then attaching the line to a clip near the downrigger’s lead ball, and lowering the ball to the exact depth Mark wanted to be trolling.

A boat seeing our success at the original hump fouled things up by anchoring in the exact path Mark needed to keep us on the spot, which cut our

A pair of wipers that hit lures attached to the same line, at the same time.

A pair of wipers that hit lures attached to the same line, at the same time.

success. Still, the clicker on the boat’s dash showed we boated 17 fish, of which 14 were wipers, of which at least nine were over the lake’s 21-inch minimum length limit.

Mark Fowler's license plate leaves no doubt as per his favorite kind of fish.

Mark Fowler’s license plate leaves no doubt as per his favorite kind of fish.

At the cleaning dock we worked up our limits of two wipers, each, being careful to trim away every speck of strong-tasting red-colored meat. By then it was downright hot walking across the parking lot.

A little sweat seems a very small price to pay for fishing that’s even hotter than August in Kansas.

Short notice, short trip – great catfishing

Warren Kreutziger carries a channel cat to the cooler, one of many caught Friday morning.

Warren Kreutziger carries a channel cat to the cooler, one of many caught Friday morning.

I’ve spend as much as a year looking forward to a fishing trip. Planning them several months ahead of time is pretty common, especially for those out-of-state or out-of-country.

But I’ve noticed a lot of planning and anticipation does nothing to get the fish to bite. Nada.

Some very enjoyable trips, though, have had almost no planning.  A few hours early Friday morning at Marion Reservoir was a prime example.

Deadlines have been hitting me as hard and as fast as a BAR this summer. I’ve probably fished less this year than any of my life.

Warren Kreutziger, left, nets a channel cat caught by Marc Murrell. The fish was one of about a 15 Murrell caught Friday morning.

Warren Kreutziger, left, nets a channel cat caught by Marc Murrell. The fish was one of about a 15 Murrell caught Friday morning.

But heading home from work Thursday evening I realized I needed some catfish fillets to photograph for something I’m writing about cooking. Knowing I could spare a few hours Friday morning I called Warren Kreutziger, a friend who does a little guiding and a whole lot of fishing at Marion Reservoir. Warren invited me up, saying he had to go pour some soured soybeans in some of his chum spots in the morning, anyway. I told him I couldn’t fish long and he was fine with that.

Up at Marion, at Warren’s house about a mile from the lake, I met him and mutual friend Marc Murrell. Marc knows Marion as well as Warren, and he and his family were camping at the lake for a few days.

I told both of my hosts, what I needed was a fish or two for photos.

Marc had the first one in the boat within about five minutes of anchoring near one of  Warren’s chum holes. A few minutes later he caught an even bigger channel cat.

We were fishing about seven or eight feet of water, over some brush where Warren had been dumping raunchy-smelling, water-logged soybeans to attract the fish. Marc and Warren were using special dip baits they’d made themselves. The ingredients were varied, putrid and the cool part was how they used cattail seeds to help bind the gaggish, poo-like material on a treble hook.

Warren occasionally “freshened” the chum hole by dropping a few cups of beans overboard.

Rotten, putrid soybeans are used to attract channel catfish during the summer time.

Rotten, putrid soybeans are used to attract channel catfish during the summer time.

The morning was stunning, especially for early August. There was a bit of breeze but not too much. Long sleeves felt nice when we hit the water at about 7:30 a.m. And the fish were downright friendly.

Marc had the hot hand, catching 9 keepers before we packed up after about three hours of fishing. He also released several that were more than big enough for most folks. The limit is 10 per day, with no size minimum at Marion Reservoir.

As well as numerous, the channel catfish were pretty big. I’d say the average fish was probably around four pounds. We had a couple around six pounds, and one that may have passed seven by a cup of soured beans or so.

Catfish await cleaning in an old cooler.

Catfish await cleaning in an old cooler.

We…meaning Marc and Warren…cleaned 16 or 17 nice catfish. They were kind enough to let me take the fillets. I was back home in Newton before noon.

In a few weeks I’ll head to Montana for some fishing that’s been in the plans for more than a year. Even if it pans out, it probably won’t be any more fun than the unexpected success that came Friday morning.

So it often goes with fishing.

Father-in-law’s advice comes through, three decades after he’s passed

It’s been 30 years since one of the few times I fished with my father-in-law, Bill Johnson. He and his wife, Lois, were in Kansas after the recent birth of our daughter Lindsey. She turned 30 earlier this month.

Tiny black and yellow jigs have been a proven fly at Bennett Sprigs State Park for many years.

Tiny black and yellow jigs have been a proven fly at Bennett Sprigs State Park for many years.

We were talking fishing, and I mentioned I was just getting into fly-fishing, a sport he enjoyed well. Bill reached into his fly vest, pulled out a small fly box and plucked out three flies. They were all the same.

They were tiny 1/100th or 1/80th ounce marabou jigs, with equal parts of yellow and black in the feathering. He said they were his go-to fly when he fished for trout at Bennett Springs State Park in Missouri, a place he enjoyed several trips per year.

Bill died before we could fish together the following year. Several years ago I gave Jerrod, and my nephew, Brian Elliott, each one of the flies Bill had given to me. That was as close as they’d ever come to fishing with that grandfather.

Last weekend I finally made it to Bennett Springs to mix a little work with a lot of play. I took along Jake Holem, my 12-year-old outdoors partner. Back in October we’d agreed that if he could raise his then poor math grade to a B or better I’d take him on a fly-fishing trip. He ended up with an A in math and I ended up with an excuse to go trout fishing.

The first full day he attended, and I mainly photographed, a fly-fishing clinic given by Jim Rogers, an Ozark legend of trout fishing at Bennett Springs. At the end of the class Rogers handed everyone a tiny fly box with five or six recommended flies. Tiny black and yellow marabou jigs were in the selection of every box. When I asked Rogers about the selection, he said they’ve been a popular, and productive, trout fly at Bennett Springs for many, many years.

Sunday morning I shot a few photos early, then grabbed my fly rod and waded through the dozens of people and out to a spot in the stream. I caught two quick trout on a salmon egg pattern fly, then the trout went cold. After ten minutes with no takes I tied on one of the tiny marabou jigs. I caught, and released, three nice rainbows within a few minutes then grabbed my camera to take advantage of good photo light.

Jake Holem with a nice Missouri rainbow trout fly-caught on a tiny marabou jig.

Jake Holem with a nice Missouri rainbow trout fly-caught on a tiny marabou jig.

Monday morning Jake and I tried the angling at Roaring River State Park. It was crowded, and several times we had spin-fishermen step right up and start working the hole we were plying with fly lines.  Within about 20 minutes the fish seemed to get lockjaw, probably from watching their brethren writhing, panicking and jumping after eating something in the water.

After a few popular patterns, I tied on one of the black and yellow jigs and began letting it drift down with the current, then slowly jerking it back. I had two strikes on the first cast. and caught two nice rainbows in about 30 minutes.

I’d gone into the day largely wanting Jake to fend for himself. On Sunday some kindly elderly gentlemen – and that’s an accurate description of the very polite and helpful guys – had selected and tied on Jake’s flies. He’d caught five or six trout that morning.

But Monday morning was much more of a challenge to the kid, between difficult casting locations, nasty knots his line and the finicky fish. Finally at about 8:30 I heard him say, “Hey, Mike, I’ve got one.” Looking over his fly rod was bowed and his smile was wide. Eventually he led a very nice rainbow to the net, removed the hook, held it in the current until it was strong and watched it swim away.

Half-way through the fight I asked Jake what fly he’d been using when he hooked the fish. He flashed a huge smile, and said, “The black and yellow, of course.”

Of course.


Farewell to a favored angler

Through the decades I’ve shared time outdoors with billionaires, Hollywood heavies, true television stars, All-American athletes, beauty pageant winners and world-class anglers and hunters.

Dorothy Jacobs catches fish, happiness and health at Wichita lakes.I just found out one of my all-time favorites died about two weeks ago. Dorothy Jacobs was from Wichita and seldom ventured beyond the city limits for her beloved fishing. She was the mother of 11 and once joked she almost had more grandkids than she could count.

I could say the same for the times she made me smile during a few phone conversations, and a few hours fishing the north lake at Chisholm Creek Park.  She had me smiling, she had me laughing and she had me thinking “wow,” so many times.

We’d met through Paul White. One day at his multi-purpose store I’d mentioned I’d wanted to do an article on someone who really fished the urban lakes a lot. Preferably, I was hoping to fish with a female to add even more uniqueness to the story. He mentioned Dorothy, but mentioned she could be pretty private. I called her that afternoon and the talk was a bit hesitant for a few minutes, and then it flowed and flowed.

I learned that she fished almost daily when the weather was decent, but also that catching fish was only part of the reason why she went to the water so often. To Dorothy, fishing and all it entails, was better therapy and medicine than could have been administered by the best of hospitals, and the woman had plenty to heal.

At the time she was 68, had survived cancer as well as a broken back. She’d buried two beloved husbands and nine family members, including a daughter and grandson, had died the year previous to when we met in 2008. She was also caring for a very ill granddaughter at the time. Her family, unfortunately, has had more than their share of sickle-cell anemia.

“I always do my best praying when I’m by that water,” is one great quote she gave me.

“Old age doesn’t mean you have got to act old. I’m going to get all the joy I can out of my life.  All I need is my poles and a lake,” was another gem.


That morning at the park hardly anyone was catching fish, but Dorothy caught about 20. She had this beat-up old car, from which she pulled-out a beat-up old shopping cart that she packed with aged equipment. I found out later her loving family had offered, several times, to buy her better gear. She laughed as she told me that, and said newer stuff wouldn’t help her catch more fish or make her any happier at the lake.

As I watched, it was obvious Dorothy caught more fish from experience and intelligence than most people with fancy gear. She kept her baited hooks close to shore, and said, “I don’t know why people think they should cast way out to the middle of the lake. Most of the fish are feeding by shore.”

Dorothy Jacobs catches fish, happiness and health at Wichita lakes.Time after time she’d watch her bobber start to dance, and accurately predict the species of creature below by the way it was taking the bait. She was right 100 percent of the time on a day of bluegill, green sunfish, bass, small channel catfish and a turtle.

“Just to see my line tighten up, or that bobber moving, it’s something I love to do,” she said. I don’t see how people can’t.”

According to her daughter, Janet Radig, Dorothy enjoyed a lot of both the day before she passed when she caught, cleaned and ate some of the 60 fish from that morning.

I’m glad her last trip was a great one.

Underwater view of the walleye spawn

Craig Johnson is a friend of about the past five or so years. He is also a good fisherman and a Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism fisheries biologist.

Now, I find out he’s a pretty good amateur film maker.

Fisheries biologist Crag Johnson is good at catching fish. He's also pretty good at videoing them, too.

Fisheries biologist Crag Johnson is good at catching fish. He’s also pretty good at videoing them, too.

A few weeks ago Johnson, the fisheries biologist for El Dorado Reservoir, sent me a link to a video he’d shot of the fisheries crew netting female walleye along the dam at Milford Reservoir earlier this spring. Sounded cool, but I wasn’t expecting anything like what came across my screen when I finally got around to opening the link.

The underwater footage of down in the nets is nothing short of flat-out neat, as is the knowledge that Johnson did it all with a single GoPro camera, at times attached to a stick of sort and placed under the water.


Johnson said a sequel is coming soon, also dealing with the walleye spawn.

Should be fun stuff, too.



The crappie spawn is on!

ELK CITY STATE PARK – Born about 40 years apart, and one deep in his  aviation career and the other not far into her educational process, veteran angler J.R. Dunn and nine year-old Taylie McKlintic wouldn’t seem to have much in common.

J.R. Dunn fishes for crappie after a storm passes at Elk City Reservoir.

J.R. Dunn fishes for crappie after a storm passes at Elk City Reservoir.

But Monday evening both were wearing smiles equally wide, and both owed them to a favored rite of spring – the crappie spawn at Elk City Reservoir.

Dunn had spent much of the afternoon at a wide cove within the state park, a place he said he’d fished for about 40 years. He waded a few steps into the lake with waterproof boots, then used a pole about 12 to 14 feet long to lower a dainty crappie jig down into brush in a few feet of water.

“They haven’t been along the banks like they were before the snow hit (last week), but I hope they start doing a little better.,” Dunn said. “It’s time.” Others fishing along the shoreline agreed, it was down to a “could break loose at any hour” time of the spring.

Dunn caught five nice crappie within the first few minutes of his Monday trip to the lake, then things slowed down. A small, but intense thunderstorm on the horizon sent him to his home in Sycamore with nine. He was back as the storm passed, trying for more.

Taylie was fishing with Beau Schultz, coach of the baseball team at the local community college, and four year-old Bryor Schultz. She and the boy played in the mud and grass while minnows swimming below bobbers did the work. Schultz called one child or the other when one of those bobbers disappeared below the surface, and helped them get the fish to shore. Their first two crappie were gorgeous females about 14 inches long.

After a lull of about an hour after the storm, fishing action picked up all around the broad bay, and smaller bays that reached into the state park.

Kaylie McKlintic, left, shows a nice crappie she caught, while Bryor Schultz hides from the camera. They were fishing with Beau Schultz, center.

Kaylie McKlintic, left, shows a nice crappie she caught, while Bryor Schultz hides from the camera. They were fishing with Beau Schultz, center.

Dunn caught several more fish along a section of shoreline, while his friends did well with long rods from a fishing dock surrounded by brush.

J.R. Dunn lifts a crappie from the shallows at Elk City Reservoir.

J.R. Dunn lifts a crappie from the shallows at Elk City Reservoir.

Across a small cove from where Schultz fished with the two kids, Jon Nagel and a friend were doing well fishing close to shore and further into the cove. At one point they hollered to ask Schultz if he could spare a few minnows. He said he could, adding, “The guy at the bait shop in town is pretty generous. I know he gave me way more than I paid for, but he said it was important since I was taking the kids.”

Nagel and his friend ended up with about 20 crappie. He was back at about dawn the next morning. Dunn figured a lot of the same anglers would return Tuesday afternoon, too.

“A lot of people camp out here, but usually most of the crappie fishermen are locals,” Dunn said.  “I seem them out here every year. There’s a lot of crappie in this lake. It can be pretty danged good when everything gets right.”

Casts and Blasts from Aug. 1 KDWPT commission meeting

As well as what was listed on SUNDAY’S OUTDOORS PAGE, the following also happened at last week’s Kansas Wildlife, Parks and Tourism Commission meeting in Yates Center.

The following waterfowl seasons were set -

Low Plains Early Zone – Oct. 5-Dec. 1, and Dec. 21-Jan.5.

Low Plains Late Zone – Oct. 26-Dec. 29, and Jan. 18-26.

Low Plains Southeast Zone – Nov. 2-3, and Nov. 16-Jan. 26.

Youth seasons are the weekend before the regular season openers.

(Duck limits are up to six ducks, of which no more than five can be mallards, with no more than two hens. Included within the six daily ducks can be no more than two redheads, three wood ducks, three scaup, two pintails and two canvasbacks. The limit will be six birds daily during the special September teal seasson.)

This year the possession limit on all migratory birds will be three times the daily possession limit.

White-fronted goose season – Oct. 26-Dec. 29, and Feb. 1-Feb. 9, daily limit of two.

Canada goose season – Oct. 26-Nov. 3 and Nov. 6-Feb. 9, daily limit of six.

Light goose season – Oct. 26-Nov. 3, and Nov. 6-Feb. 9, daily limit of 50.

– Jim Pitman, Wildlife and Parks upland program coordinator, expressed a desire to reduce the fall turkey limit from four birds to one in turkey management units 4, 5, and 6 during the fall of 2014 fall season. Pitman said spring success rates aren’t high enough to warrant liberal fall limits, though only a very small percentage of fall turkey hunters annually shoot more than one bird.

– Linda Lanterman, state parks director, introduced the current Miss Kansas, Theresa Vail, and said Vail was working with some state park promotions.

Fishing with Riley or Fun fishing with a five-year-old

Five-year-old Riley with one of the white perch she caught. She let her dad reel in one, so she wouldn’t have to put down the “awesome” nightcrawler she’d just found.

CHENEY RESERVOIR – At 7:30 a.m. on Saturday mornings most kids aren’t even up, and if they are they’re watching cartoons. Not five-year-old Riley Everitt, she was watching a fish finder, occasionally yelling, “Daddy, daddy, there’s a fish on the bottom, a big one.” Sure enough, when I looked over there would be the inverted V that was the sign of a large fish on the bottom.

Most little kids, when they turn and see a three-inch-long bug near their face, one with raised wings and long pointy things coming from it’s behind, might scream or at least move away. Riley stared, pointed at it, asked what it was and if it could hurt anybody…then calmly reach over and picked the adult mayfly up by its wings and asked four or five more questions about the insect. She was good enough to trust me with the mayfly, while she went and caught another one, and another one, and…

Riley and her dad, Kacci Everitt, check the fish finder for wipers.

To say fishing was slow was to say that Riley had perfect hair, which she knew, but she managed to stay entertained. A box of nightcrawlers was as good as a box of toys as she dug a finger with the remnants of pink fingernail polish in the bedding until she found the ‘crawler of her dreams. In fact, the worm was sooooo impressive that when a white perch grabbed the bait on her line she refused to reel it in because she didn’t want put put down her ” So awesome, Daddy” nightcrawler.

She did gladly use him for bait the next time the hook was empty…who said five-year-olds are good at commitments?

Riley never met a mayfly she didn’t like, and want to hold, but she did share her insects well.

And though the little blonde did have some tomboy actions, she did have the perfect hair and enough of the fashion gene to say, “Let me see,” faster than the shutter speed, when she heard a camera’s click. (Also, she never met a photo of herself she didn’t seem to like, either.)

This five-year-old, though, was good at patience. Well, she wasn’t really that patient with the fishing but she was patient with her father, Kacci, who was determined to catch a nice wiper. Several times that morning Riley told her dad she was ready to quit, and he’d tell her they’d fish one more spot and be done…and she wouldn’t argue. One more spot turned into three or four, and Kacci never caught the nice wipers he’d been on by the scores for much of the summer.

I certainly didn’t get bored, thanks to Riley.

The boat was stopped for about 3.82 seconds when Riley decided it was time for breakfast. She set the donut on the boat’s dash, and took bites in between catching fish and capturing mayflies and nightcrawlers.

So, we have someone who can get up very early to go fishing, can read a fish finder, isn’t scared of fish, or worms, or bugs, or getting cold, or waves and is happy to share anything she has from donuts and bait to good-bye hugs…and she caught the most fish and didn’t brag about it!

The fishing world needs a lot more Riley’s,…no matter what the age.


Former longtime legislator appointed to wildlife commission

Gary Hayzlett, a retired longtime member of the Kansas legislature, has been appointed to the Kansas Wildlife, Parks and Tourism Commission by Gov. Sam Brownback.

“I got out of the legislature after 22 years, and had 16 years on the county commission, and now I’m a (Wildlife and Parks) commissioner,” Hayzlett said in a Friday morning interview. “I’ve always had an interest in wildlife, and Wildlife and Parks…I’m thrilled, make that very thrilled about it. I think it’ll be a really neat thing.”

He will be replacing Debra Bolton, of Garden City, who recently ended eight years on the commission.

The 71-year-old from Lakin was born and raised in the community where he previously owned a grocery store and Dairy Queen. A lifelong upland bird hunter, Hayzlett said he drew a permit during Kansas’ first deer season in the mid-1960s, and shot a trophy whitetail in Wallace County. He’s since traveled to a number of states hunting assorted gamebirds, wild hogs, deer, elk and antelope. He’s also an avid prairie dog shooter and has hosted fund-raising hunts in western Kansas.

Robin Jennison, Wildlife, Parks and Tourism secretary, lauded Gov. Brownback’s choice and hopes Hayzlett’s close connections to the legislature will help the department and commission work better with those in Topeka.

“I’m not really going  with an agenda, I’m really interested in going to watch the process and see what it is,” Hayzlett said of being a commissioner. “I can see there can be a need for a connection between the commission, the secretary and the legislature.”

During his legislative tenure, Hayzlett largely supported the agency but was sometimes at odds with Wildlife and Parks, and sportsmen, on the topics of deer populations and landowner’s rights.

His first meeting will be in Yates Center, on Thursday.

Mastery of the art of fishing, rod building, writing and photography

Do me a favor, and yourself as well, and read what I’ve attached to the link a few lines down.

It’s fairly long, but whatever you think you have to get done can wait. The story is moving, the writing masterful and the photography better than artistic paintings.

Dang, I wish I could do anything as well.

It’s an ESPN story about one of the finest custom fly rod makers in the world, despite the little fact that he’s largely paralyzed about from the neck down.

Those of you who fly fish will admire the man for his craft, and how well he understands our way of life.

Those of  you who don’t, may get a hint of why some otherwise sane people become so insane about things like taper, weight, tips, tippets and finding the perfect fly.

So, pour a fresh cup of coffee, grab another can of Coke or pop the top of a a favored beer and enjoy.