Category Archives: Fishing

bass, a boy named

More Casts and Blasts from the Cottonwood River

Sunday’s column about setting lines for big catfish on the Cottonwood River netted me several e-mails and phone calls from anglers who knew and appreciated the river. The one I appreciated the most was from Bob Hoch, a retired Wichita Eagle employee of many, many years.

It turns out Bob had spent some of the best summers of his childhood with his grandparents, who owned and farmed the stretch of the Cottonwood I’d written about. Bob had even had the great fortune of fishing with legendary angler Ned Noll, his uncle.

Not only did Bob confirm what I’d written about Noll, but also about the probable presence and size of Noll’s version of a great white whale…a huge flathead he’d named “Ol’ George.”

Read on, and enjoy what Bob has agreed to let me reproduce.



I enjoyed your Sunday Outdoor feature story about fishing on the Cottonwood River.  Alex “Casey” Case is my cousin and Ned Noll was my uncle.  I spent lots of my youth on the Claude Noll farm where this story takes place.

I used to live with my grandparents there during the summer harvest time.  Back in the 1930’s, Grandpa hired someone with a bulldozer to cut wide paths from the farm down to the river and back up the bank to the field on the other side.  That saved him from having to drive his old John Deer tractor and various implements out on the highway to get to that field.  He also had that guy shove some rocks to make a short “dam” — just below where that campfire ring is.  Now he had a “deep end” and the “riffles” below.

A couple times after spending the day plowing the field across the river, Grandpa would stop the tractor in the riffles and we’d strip down to our underwear and cool off in the river before going back up to the farm house for supper.  We would often sein for bait and float some crawdads down the riffles and slowly reel back in.  Caught some nice fish that way.  And the quietness of those surroundings were, indeed, relaxing.

Uncle Ned became a doctor after he came back from World War II.  Several years later, he came down with Lupus which was fairly unknown at that time.  He spent a couple weeks in the Mayo Clinic for testing and treatment.  He actually was the one to diagnose his illness.

He taught me lots of tips to catching the big catfish.  Yes, we used what he called #12 hooks — giant beasts that would barely fit in the palm of your hand.  He was very scientific about this, too.  Before using those hooks, he would soak them in a mild acid solution to take the shine off them.  He also taught me not to bother setting lines during the days around a full moon — too much moonlight and the turtles and gar would steal the bait.

We used large carp or goldfish for bait, hooking them under the backbone.  To place limb lines most effectively, we would row up and down the river — me rowing and him probing the bottom of the river with a long stick looking for places the big catfish wallowed-out “nests” in the mud.  When we found those, we’d look for the nearest limb from which to hang a line.  Bait placement was key, too — about one foot off the bottom.

One Sunday afternoon, Ned and I were doing some limb line maintenance when we spotted what might have been “Old George”.  A huge catfish was nosing the surface of the water.  While I slowly rowed/drifted up to that fish, Ned put his arm down under the water and I watched in astonishment as he slowly ran his hand up the back of that fish.  When he got to the back of its head, he “walked” his outstretched palm twice across its head.  (Now hold out your hands away from you, stretch your fingers out and touch thumbs.  That’s about how wide across the back of its head that fish was.)  Then he spooked and took a dive.  I know that sounds like a “fish tale”, but it’s the honest-to-God’s truth.

The summer of 1962 was our most prolific fishing summer.  We caught flatheads ranging from 51 lbs, 48, 43, several in the 30 lb range and many other “smaller” ones.  We had a trotline stretched from bank-to-bank below the riffles where the water was about thigh-deep.  We were actually throwing back fish weighing 3-5 lbs because we had too many bigger ones.  Simply amazing!  (I have a picture of me with the 51-lb flathead, but I can’t get my scanner to work.)

In 1963, we got skunked.  Couldn’t catch a cold on that river that year.  Then, Ned passed away in 1964.

Ned and Dale Snelling who was the Marion County Lake Superintendent for many years, used to trap beaver on the Cottonwood.  For many years, I had a beaver skin rug that measured a little more than 3 feet in diameter that Ned made for me.

Thanks for the ride down memory lane.”


Casts and Blasts from the Cottonwood River

Central Kansas’ Cottonwood River is long and beauty and fishing tradition.

A few more details from last weekend’s time along the Cottonwood River, in Marion County.  YOU CAN CLICK HERE TO READ THE FULL STORY THAT RAN ON SUNDAY’S OUTDOORS PAGE.

– The section of the river being fished by Alex Case and his collection of about 20 college chums, local friends and family members is between Marion and Florence, and flows through private properties so it’s not legally accessible to the public. Case has had permission to fish the land which has been in his family for decades.

– Though there are plenty of stories of flatheads to 65 pounds from that section of river decades ago, in 25 springs of setting lines on the Cottonwood, Case and his crew have probably never topped about 35 pounds. Probably the largest flatheads on the Cottonwood come from the section of river just north of Marion Reservoir. Growing fat on gizzard shad and other fish in the lake, catfish pushing 60 pounds aren’t too uncommon upstream. Many believe most major lakes in Kansas are supporting numerous flatheads of more than 75 pounds.

– The Cottonwood River flows into the Neosho, which for the state’s first 100 or more years was known as the best catfish river in Kansas.

– Case and his friends have spent the past two weekends camping in a small meadow yards from the Cottonwood. For most years they camped at a campground at Marion Reservoir, but decided to move their camp when Corps of Engineers regulations changed and put more restrictions on where they used to camp.

Griffin King, left, helps Jarrett Johnson and Mark Johnson carry a load of catfish to a wire fish box in the Cottonwood River. All the fish were cleaned after the annual

– Normal procedure is to bait lines just before dark, then run them at about midnight, and again early the next morning. Case likes to run them after about 8 a.m. because some catfish feed during the first hour or so of daylight.

– All of the sets were in one pool a few hundred yards long, and included about 15 bank or limblines and one trotline with about a dozen hooks. Anglers waded the pool while setting the lines, and seldom found water that was too deep to wade easily.

– Memorial Day weekend has long been known as a great time for running lines on Kansas rivers, as the big flatheads are on the move for their annual spawn.

– Yesterday, May 25, Case and friends baited the same lines, but didn’t check them until the next morning when they found five channel cat from about eight to 12 pounds.

Ben Riedel, right, and John Aldrich add to the mass breakfast on the first morning of the annual campout/fishing trip.

– As well as the lines set on the river, some campers spent some time fishing on Marion Reservoir. The camp also regularly enjoys nighttime horseshoe games played by the light of lanterns and headlights.. Meals are usually cooked over the campfire, and served in huge portions.

Boaters Beware, some local lakes have hazardous conditions

Wichita maybe enjoying a wet spring, but beware if you’re heading to a local lake. Water conditions are low enough in many places to make for hazardous boating.

Still 6.6 feet below normal, Cheney Reservoir has more challenges than normal. El Dorado Reservoir  could be flat-out dangerous.

“Even with the rain, we’ve come up a whopping 4/10ths of a foot this spring so we’re still about 4.4 feet low. It’s been a while since we’ve been this low this time of the year,” said Craig Johnson, Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism fisheries biologist for El Dorado. “There are places where you can be a couple of hundred yards off shore and still only be in ankle-deep water. There are a lot of trees (near the surface) where I don’t remember seeing them in the past.”

Shane Eustice, who regularly boats and guides anglers at El Dorado, fears the timing for such low water could accentuate the problems.

“A lot of people are really going to be anxious this weekend to finally get out, and they’re just going to jump in their boat and go,” he said. “I’m afraid someone  could really get hurt.”

Johnson told of someone who bought a new boat last Wednesday, then wrecked the lower part of the motor in a shallow area the next day at El Dorado. He’s surprised it hasn’t happened more often.

“I see a lot of people going fast in their bass boats, ripping across some of these (hazardous) areas,” he added. “They either know the lake really well, or they’ve just been really lucky.”

Eustice and Johnson say boaters should be careful around all points of land that jut out into the water. Often the water is only inches deep. It’s sometimes the same where old roadbeds go into the lake. Easily boated over a year ago, many areas now could struggle to float a canoe.

Both lake experts said the water several hundred yards off Bluestem and El Dorado Point areas will probably be too shallow for safe boating. Eustice spoke of a sizable island about 400 yards off Bluestem Point that’s so low many boaters may not see it. Even if they do, water on both sides of the island is probably too shallow for most boats.

“You just have to respect every point you go around,” he said. “People just won’t believe you may be 600 yards from shore and still not be in safe water.”

Other potential dangers are where timber was left standing along original river and creek banks when the lake was filled. Through the years many of the long-dead trees broke at various heights. Eustice said hidden trees that once let boaters pass over with no concerns could now lead to a damaged boat, or worse if people are thrown from boats that hit the obstacles at high rates of speed.

At Cheney Reservoir, fisheries biologist Jeff Koch said boaters don’t need to worry about striking flooded timber, but some of the areas close to shore could be too shallow for safe boating. “You just have to plan on staying several hundred yards off shore on the main lake, and if you get closer, do it slowly,” Koch said. “It’s way too shallow up north, but I can’t think of anything in the middle of the lake that could be a problem.”

Simply getting a boat launched on to Cheney could be the biggest problem. Koch said the only operational ramp is in the state park on the east side of the reservoir.

Two boat ramps, the west ramp in the Boulder Bluff area and another east of Shady Creek Marina, are closed at El Dorado. Johnson said boaters should show caution around some courtesy docks because of shallow water conditions.


Crappie Time!

NIce crappie are spawning in the shallows at most central Kansas lakes.

It’s here. After probably a half-dozen half-hearted starts and stops because of weather fronts, it appears the 2013 crappie spawn is running full-speed in central Kansas.

Craig Johnson, Wildlife and Parks biologist for El Dorado Reservoir called this morning to say he saw a lot of anglers, catching a lot of fish, at the lake on Monday. Johnson, an avid angler, said most traditionally popular areas held fishermen.

Up at Marion Reservoir last evening, Alex Case said he probably saw about 60 anglers spread out along the lake’s dam, catching nice-sized crappie and white bass. Arriving late, Case said he kept a half-dozen nice crappie and released more than that number of white bass.

Bob Roberts, of Salina, traveled to Milford Reservoir with a friend just to check out the fishing conditions. Fishing from shore they caught most of a five gallon bucket of nice crappie. Roberts has heard it’s been some of the best spawn crappie fishing the lake has seen in a while. He also reports that the spawn has finally started in earnest at Glen Elder Reservoir. (Any making the trip to Glen need to remember their 20 crappie limit this year.)

Further north, former KU All-American Wayne Simien, Jr. caught a dozen nice crappie from the shore at Clinton this morning and predicts he may be a tad late for work again tomorrow morning.

Of course the great action is the result of steady weather and the water finally warming into the 60s. No clue how long the fishing will stay hot, but it’s never more than the next cold front away from turning off.



K-State fishing team wins prestigious tournament

K-State Fishing Team member Lance Maldonado shows the 1st place trophy he and partner Nate Kozlowski won in Alabama last weekend.

K-State’s bass fishing duo of Nathan Kozlowski and Lance Maldonado took first place last Saturday at the prestegious FLW College Central Conference qualifier at Pickwick Lake, on the Tennessee River in Alabama.
The college  juniors and  longtime friends from Junction City have fished together  since they were about five years old, and beat out a field of 50 boats, many from colleges much closer to Pickwick Lake. Teams finishing second through fifth place were all from nearby Kentucky.

A FLW release said two teams from Wichita State’s fishing team participated, finishing in the bottom half of the event.

Kozlowski made the 24 hour round-trip drive the previous weekend to pre-fish the lake. Maldonado joined him on the return trip to Alabama last Friday.
“It was 12 hours down, six hours of fishing and 12 hours back,” Maldonado said.

Maldonado said they weighed in five bass that totaled 17 lbs., 8 oz by fishing eddy areas around big boulders in the tailrace fishery. Having fished Kansas’ Milford Reservoir countless times in their lives, he said they were ready for the mixed-bag angling that included smallmouth, largemouth and spotted bass. The anglers boated 30 to 40 bass, total.

Ironically, they must return to Pickwick for another FLW event in about 10 days.

This is the second big win for the K-State Fishing Team in two years.
In April, 2012, Ryan Patterson, of Garden Plain won the FLW College Fishing National Championship on South Carolina’s Lake Murray. With his partner ruled ineligible, Patterson had to defeat 24 two-man college teams for the victory that gained him national media attention, including a mention in Sports Illustrated.


Record blue catfish from Milford, from a familiar family

Stephanie Stanley, left, with the 82.05 pound blue catfish she caught Saturday at Milford Reservoir. It’s the largest of its species ever caught from a lake in Kansas. Her husband Robert Stanley, right, caught the state record blue catfish of 102.8 pounds from the Missouri River last August. COURTESY PHOTO

Saturday Stephanie Stanley became the envy of anglers all across Kansas when she reeled in a 82.05 pound blue catfish at Milford Reservoir. That’s the largest of its kind officially weighed from the lake near Junction City. It’s also believed to be the largest blue catfish ever caught from any lake in Kansas.

Fish in the 40 to 50 pound range have become somewhat common at Milford, a lake that features a variety of good food sources. Most serious catfish anglers practice catch-and-release on blue catfish over about 10 pounds, too.

Stanley may have caught the biggest from the lake, but she has a long way to go to top her husband’s best. Robert Stanley holds the current state record for blue catfish at 102.8 pounds, caught from the Missouri River on August 11 of last year.

The Stanleys were fishing a Catfish Chasers fishing tournament when Stephanie Stanley caught her lake record fish on shad. They won the tournament with five fish that totalled 155.38 pounds.

The Stanleys released all of their fish on Saturday, including the new lake record, as per Catfish Chasers rules.

Casts and Blasts from March 21 KDWPT Commission meeting

As at most, too much happened at last week’s Kansas Wildlife, Parks and Tourism Commission meeting in Topeka to be included in one article. Well, technically even within two articles.



Also at the meeting -

- Commissioners Debra Bolton and Randy Doll were absent.

– Matt Peek, Wildlife and Parks furbearer biologist, began discussions to make it illegal for coyote hunters to hunt from vehicles or use two-way radios for hunting coyotes during Kansas’s 12 day general firearms deer season. Peek said the department regularly gets complaints about possibly illegal deer hunters hunting from vehicles and using radios, then claiming they’re hunting coyotes if checked by game wardens. If voted into law at an upcoming meeting, the regulation would allow other kinds of coyote hunting during the firearms deer season.

–Peek also recommend a modest reduction in pronghorn permits for the 2013 seasons because the population has suffered because of drought.

– Tim Donges, El Dorado Quality Deer Management Association, asked if the department might want to consider making shotguns with slugs the only legal weapons during the firearms deer season. He also suggested discussion on minimum antler restrictions to help insure people don’t shoot young bucks. Donges noted that several states implement both regulations.

– Wildlife and Park’s was awarded the “Outstanding Sportfishing Restoration Award” from the American Fisheries Society for the fishing opportunities opened up by their Fishing Impoundments and Stream Habitats program, which opens hundreds of private land fishing areas to the public.

– Shawn Stratton, Fort Riley wildlife biologist, said last season’s kill of about 440 deer was a new record for the military base. He estimated the population to be about 1,500 deer on the fort’s about 101,000 acres.

– Commissioners in attendance spoke of their decision to pass regulations that now allow the widespread use of crossbows during archery deer seasons, and making it legal for any centerfire rifle or handgun to be legal for hunting big game in Kansas.

– “If we make a mistake, we can correct it,” Gerald Lauber, commission chairman said of revisiting the regulations, if needed, “but if the legislature makes a mistake I’m not sure they’re going to correct it. Well, they don’t make mistakes.”

–”I think the economic benefits are great, and that we could get more youth involved is great,” Commissioner Don Budd said. “I think this is a good thing.”

– Becky Blake, state tourism director, said studies show that for every $1 Kansas invests in marketing tourism, there’s a return of $80.

– Rex, an 11-year-old Labrador Retriever in the department’s K-9 program was honored upon his retirement from law enforcement work.

Kansan wins prestigious National Wildlife Federation’s Volunteer of the Year Award

Emporia’s Phil Taunton has been named “2012 Volunteer of the Year” by the National Wildlife Federation.

Emporia’s Phil Taunton has been named “2012 Volunteer of the Year by the National Wildlife Federation”. Taunton received the award last Saturday, at the conservation group’s annual meeting in Albuquerque.

A press release said Taunton was chosen because “his service and dedication to educating America on the importance of wildlife conservation.”

Taunton has been involved in many outdoors education programs in Kansas, including ECO-Meets, No Child Left Inside and the Becoming an Outdoors-Woman programs. He was also instrumental in publication of “Last Child on the Prairie: A Directory for Parents and Teachers for Returning Children to the Outdoors.” He has also been a leading member in several programs that have promoted youth enjoying the outdoors in honor of Beau Arndt, an area youth tragically killed by a poacher while he was hunting geese with his friends.

Taunton has also been active in creating anti-poaching legislation and pushes outdoors causes on his “What’s In Outdoors” radio show on KVOE, 14000 AM in Emporia.

Time to vote in the 2013 Great Outdoors Photo Contest

From about 300 entries, Wichita Eagle Photographers have narrowed the field to 15 adult and 5 youth finalists for the Great Outdoors Photo Contest.

Now, it’s up to the public to pick the winners.


Voting will also begin at The Wichita Eagle’s booth, when the Kansas Sports, Boat and Travel Show begins on Thursday.

“Sunset Shorthair” is one of 15, 11X14″ prints taken by Eagle photographers that can be won by those who vote on the Great Outdoors Photo Contest and the Kansas Sports, Boat and Travel Show.

Those who vote at the Sports Show can register to win one of 15, 11X14 outdoors prints shot by Wichita Eagle photographers.

Voting will end at about noon on Saturday so the ballots can be counted. The winners will be announced on Sunday’s Outdoors page of the Wichita Eagle.

Those who entered the contest should have one free admission ticket to the Sports Show, at the event’s ticket window at the Kansas Pavilions. Just tell them you’ve entered the contest, give them your name and they should give you the admission ticket.





Steve Harper Scholarship renewed, to help Kansas students

The Outdoors Writers of Kansas and Kansas Wildscape are renewing the Steve Harper Scholarship.

A scholarship for Kansas students is named after Steve Harper, past outdoors writer/photographer. He died in 2000.

Harper, a longtime photo editor and outdoors writer/photographer for the Wichita Eagle, died in 2000. A scholarship in his name was suggested by Gov. Bill Graves and others. The $1,000 scholarship program was funded by donations shortly after Harper’s death from cancer at the age of  55. Funds expired after about 10 years.

Applications may be made by students graduating from a Kansas high school planning on attending a Kansas four-year college, with a nature/wildlife-based major. The student must also have career goals of staying in Kansas. College students with a similar major and goals may also apply.

The program will issue one $1,000 scholarship annually, directly to the student’s college.

Harper was known for his deep love of Kansas, and published hundreds of articles and photos about enjoying his native state. He also rated Kansans as some of the finest people  in America, especially those that possessed great deals of commitment and motivation.

Scholarship applicants will be judged by members of the Outdoor Writers of Kansas and Kansas Wildscape. Selection criteria will include past and current involvement in nature/wildlife-related projects, scholastic achievement and projected potential.

For information on applying, contact Debbie Brandt at Kansas Wildscape at 785-843-9453 or