An informal survey of eastern Kansas fishermen revealed that the first half of 1999 was a dispiriting time.
Even the best and most ardent angler in these parts struggled. For instance, Charlie Compton, a talented crappie and white bass angler from Wellsville, called it a miserable winter and spring.
Compton said that main culprit was the rain, which muddied the reservoirs and took them to unfishable depths. Then once the reservoirs returned to normal levels, they were afflicted by a horrible alga bloom that endured most of the winter. According to Compton, it was nearly impossible to catch a crappie at Melvern Lake. To Compton's chagrin, it didn't get any better at Melvern once spring arrived.
April and early May was the rainiest and coolest in living memory. All that cold rain fouled the crappie spawn and fishing at most of the area reservoirs, and it was especially harsh at Melvern and Pomona lakes.
The sorry crappie fishing of 1999 is quite a contrast to the superb fishing of a decade ago. Then the winter and spring crappie fishing at the big reservoirs in these parts was the best in the world. Throughout the 1990s, however, it has become progressively worse. Now the fishing is less than mediocre. Some of this has to do with the weather and alga blooms, but a lot of it has to do with too many fishermen killing too many crappie.
Despite all the woes, anglers persevered and caught fish.
For instance at Clinton Lake, there was a spell of good ice fishing for crappie and white bass fishing. And once the ice melted, the fishing remained good for a week or so.
Late in the winter, a delightful, but short-lived, run of excellent crappie fishing erupted at the Rock Creek arm of Perry Lake. Likewise, the crappie fishermen at Pomona enjoyed a brief spell of good fishing in the Marina Cove.
In the piscatorial annals that lots of anglers compile, the first part of 1999 will be remembered as the time that fishing at the outlets below the reservoirs was exceptional. As the reservoirs discharged all of the excess rain, an inestimable number of crappie, walleye and wipers escaped the confines of the reservoirs. And anglers caught thousands of these fish.
During much of March the white bass fishing in the streams and rivers that feed several of the reservoirs yielded some spectacular white bass fishing. Then the cold April rains spoiled the angling for prespawn white bass at most of the reservoirs. Moreover, scores of white bass and wipers died prematurely at Pomona in June.
Also in March a couple of walleye fishermen from Lawrence tangled with some big walleye along the face of Clinton Dam. Then in June some more big walleyes were caught on the flats and humps around Clinton Point.
The best fishing occurred at Coffey County Lake, Banner Creek Lake, Milford Lake, La Cygne Lake, Bone Creek Lake, Centralia Lake, Lone Star Lake and Woodson State Fishing Lake.
Blair Flynn of Overbrook and his family enjoyed day after day of phenomenal wiper fishing at Milford in May and June. They caught them as big as 10 pounds on a jigging spoon, but the bulk of the fish were caught by drifting live shad in water as shallow as 12 feet and as deep as 25 feet.
At Coffey County Lake, anglers caught a multitude of walleye and a surprising number of smallmouth bass.
The most successful Lawrence angler was Bob Laskey who discovered the powers of an 1/8-ounce jig. With this jig, he savored several 101-bass days at several lakes and many of those fish were lunkers. And he hopes the rest of 1999 is as fruitful.