Archive for Sunday, September 5, 1999

NED KEHDE

September 5, 1999

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Vic Oertle grew up in Pittsburg during the 1940s and '50s, and cut his teeth on the fish in Bull Shoals, Table Rock and Grand lakes.

In 1963, Oertle moved to Manhattan, where he taught school, raised a family and became an inveterate angler.

Oertle's transition from the crystalline waters of the Ozarks to the stained impoundments on the Kansas plains proved difficult. For several seasons he struggled to employ Ozark tactics in Kansas. Then Oertle crossed paths with the godfather of Kansas fishermen, Blair Flynn of Overbrook.

In the mid-1960s, Flynn took Oertle under his wing for a spell and taught him about the puzzling habits and hideaways of the white bass, crappie, walleye and largemouth bass that inhabited Pomona, Council Grove, Tuttle Creek and Milford reservoirs.

The lessons Flynn imparted quickly became part of Oertle's angling repertoire. To this day, Oertle fishes many of the same spots that Flynn revealed, and he employs many of the same lures and techniques Flynn espoused back in the 1960s.

Along the way, Oertle became involved in the tackle business, designing and manufacturing lures for catching the fish that inhabit the waterways of central and western Kansas.

First it was the Bug Eye Lure Co., and now it is Fishtech Lures, where Oertle crafts a buzzbait for bass called the Dinner Bell, and jigging spoons for walleye, white bass and wipers named the Double W Shad.

Like Flynn, Oertle's forte is catching white bass and wipers, and he catches and releases boatloads of them, especially at Milford, which Oertle calls his home lake.

In the annals of Kansas angling, there is no better place than Milford to be a fisher of wipers and white bass. This year at Milford, the anglers who probed the deepwater haunts of the wipers with live gizzard shad caught hundreds of plump wipers.

Flynn classified it as the best wiper fishing he has ever seen in Kansas.

Oertle, however, doesn't use live shad; he prefers to wield a spoon. Consequently, his wiper catches have been scanty.

While the wiper fishing has been stellar at Milford, the white bass anglers have been confounded for much of 1999, baffling even Oertle.

For a spell, he was even worried about the health of the species. The few that he could entice to taking his spoon were thin and carried a sickly pallor. Oertle worried they had become affected with the same bacteria that killed thousands of white bass at Pomona and Melvern lakes.

What's more, the awful white bass fishing set back Oertle's new career as a fishing guide.

As a guide, Oertle wants to do more than just take folks fishing. He has his heart set on teaching them, as Flynn taught him, how, where and when to catch white bass and wipers on artificial lures.

But if the fishing is dreadful, Oertle can't teach. And in his mind, it would be reprehensible to take money from a novice angler and not teach them more than the rudiments.

Fortunately for Oertle and those who want to learn about the art of angling, the white bass at Milford and Tuttle Creek lakes started feeding about two weeks ago.

At Tuttle Creek, Oertle can catch about 40 big white bass, measuring as long as 18 inches, an outing, and at Milford, he can tangle with a 100 white bass that measure from 10 to 13 inches.

According to Oertle, the fishing, especially for the wipers, should improve throughout September and October.

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