Archive for Saturday, April 9, 1994

ANGLERS OUT OF LUCK AT LAKE

April 9, 1994

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— Leavenworth State Fishing Lake, drained for dam repairs and a restocking program, looks more like a pond lately.

There hasn't been a lot of water in the Leavenworth State Fishing Lake since last October.

Later this year there won't be any fish either.

A restocking program by the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks will keep anglers from dipping their hooks into the lake until 1997 at the earliest, a state biologist said.

The lake is being drained so the wildlife and parks department can rebuild the earthen dam, which is showing signs of deterioration, and restock the lake with sport fish. The lake is about four miles northwest of Tonganoxie.

Last summer's rains caused the department to delay awarding a dam repair contract because bids from contractors, who were tied up with flood-related work, came in too high, said Peggy Sneegas, the department's chief engineer.

A construction contract was recently awarded to King's Construction of Oskaloosa for $531,000. The total project, including engineering and permits, has a budget of $727,000, Sneegas said.

A subsurface drainage system will be installed at the same time, she said.

The department originally planned to repair the dam after September 1992 so the lake could reopen the next year. But biologists, concerned that sport fish were being crowded out by "undesirables" -- gizzard shad, carp, drum, stunted crappie and bluegill -- recommended a restocking program occur concurrently with the construction project.

The lake was drained and the department declared a public fish salvage, allowing anglers to use formerly prohibited methods, including limblines, trotlines, bow and arrow and seines, to increase their catch. Fishing licenses are still required.

The salvage is continuing this year while department officials decide whether to pump out lake water before killing any remaining fish with the toxin Rotenone, or use larger quantities of the toxin, said Richard Sanders, a district fisheries biologist for the wildlife and parks department.

"Hopefully we'll get a decision that will allow us to utilize one of the options by this summer," he said.

The remainder of the lake still stretches across 32 acres and is about 15 feet deep, Sanders said.

Before draining began, the lake covered 175 acres and was 40 to 45 feet deep.

Lake water is trapped in the basin because the outlets, installed when the lake was built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in 1931, are too high.

The lake will be closed to fishing once the toxin is pumped in, Sanders said. Although it only takes a few weeks for Rotenone to detoxify, it will be years before the fish population returns to normal, he said.

The department plans to stock fingerling-size sports fish, including red ear sunfish, intermediate-size channel catfish, bait fish such as fathead minnows, emerald shiners and brook silversides and some crayfish the first year, Sanders said.

Next year's restocking will bring walleye, sauger, smallmouth and largemouth bass and black crappies, he said.

There will be restocking in subsequent years, and if all goes according to plan the lake should reopen Jan. 1, 1998, Sanders said.

"If it were to get rapid growth, we might be able to lop a year off the opening date," he said.

Area anglers complained loudly when the lake levels first dropped after a drought five years ago, but they've quieted in recent years, caretaker Larry Lentz said.

"They've been calm the last couple of years," he said. "But the first couple of years I was ready to head for the hills. This lake is this area's pride and joy."

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