The McPherson State Fishing Lake has weathered the region’s recent drought better than other water bodies in Kansas.
Water levels are back to normal and new species of fish are growing in size and population. Because of this, the lake has seen an increase in visitors so far in 2013.
Cliff Peterson, public lands manager at McPherson State Fishing Lake and Maxwell Wildlife Refuge, said declining conditions at other water bodies in the state have brought in anglers who couldn’t even get their boats into the water at other locations. Although visitors have decreased in the last five years, 2013 has brought those numbers back up.
“We’ve got fishermen that would normally go to Cheney Reservoir or Kanopolis or Butler State Lake,” he said. “Some of those people got on our website and checked out our algae levels. They had never been here before. It’s nice to draw people from a bigger area and have more people become aware of not just the lake, but the prairie and the buffalo herds. Then they bring friends and family later back with them.”
has been more resilient to the drought because of springs that run into the lake. Although water levels were down two to three feet in the summer of 2011 and 2012, they always replenished in winter and were conducive to spawning in the spring. That is also true for this year, although more rains are needed to sustain its current condition.
“Over the years (the springs) have been a big plus to the area,” he said. “That’s why the site was chosen for the lake, because the creek was known to flow year-round.”
The replenishing water levels and high levels of vegetation at the state lake have allowed fingerlings to stay protected, as opposed to other lakes.
The McPherson State Fishing Lake continues to provide excellent fishing for channel cat and largemouth bass, but Peterson said crappie and saugeye populations also have grown in recent years. This, he hopes, also will be a draw for visitors.
“It took a while to get them to a catchable size,” he said, noting some are now above the 18-inch catch and keep limit. “We have more and more anglers asking about the saugeye, and so there’s people that are definitely wanting to catch and eat them. Hopefully, we’ll be able to sustain a good saugeye fishery, and they’ll be able to have them on the dinner table.”
Although an increase of visitors is indeed a good sign, Peterson said he has found evidence of a few bad habits. This includes an increase in trash and transferring of fish species from other bodies of water, which is illegal.
Page 2 of 2 - “We went for years without having that problem, and all of the sudden we’ve had unauthorized stocking of flatheads and small mouth bass,” he said.
This hurts the progress and defeats some of the hard work of lands managers like Peterson, who test and monitor the water to ensure populations are right for the size of their lakes. When others bring in unauthorized fish species, this could negatively affect fish populations.
“We want fish on the anglers’ hook and not in the belly of other fish,” he said. “It’s not a good thing, and they need to knock it off, because they could cause a lot of problems.”
In addition, the moving of the fish brings the danger of transferring blue-green algae. The McPherson State Fishing Lake developed its first case last year, and Peterson said he saw some signs of it for the first time this year on Tuesday.
“If we get a big rain, it might flush it out and avoid the problem, but if it doesn’t, it could increase,” he said.
As of the beginning of the month, public health warnings for blue-green algae have been issued for four bodies of water in Kansas, including Marion Reservoir in Marion County. An advisory has been issued for a fifth lake.
Peterson said he thought the local lake will eventually receive a declaration.
Regardless, the land manager thinks the lake will remain an excellent spot for anglers.
“We’re trying to provide a high-quality fishery here, and I think we’re doing that,” he said. “It’s been a top one for a number of years. I think that would be our big drawing card for the lake.”
Contact Jenae Pauls at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow her on Twitter @PaulsSentinel